Josephine 00:00:04:

Hi, I’m Josephine Hughes. I’m the mother of two transgender daughters who came out in their teens and early twenties. The personal is political. When I first came across feminist arguments during my sociology degree, I knew my life had changed forever, and I would always view society through a different lens. Since then, I’ve experienced a very personal change when my children came out as transgender. But increasingly, what was personal has become politicised. During my recording of the third series of Gloriously Unready transgender issues have never been far away from the news. Sadly, identity politics are being used as a political football with no real consideration of the impact on transgender people and their families. So in gloriously unready series three, I want to give people a voice to express their love for their transgender children and their transgender partners.

Yet the podcast cannot exist in isolation from the political situation, and all my guests describe how they are affected. What I hope from this podcast series is to share that transgender people and their families are just human, just like the rest of us, and worthy of love and support. Today I’m interviewing Marie Manley, who is married to Joanne Lockwood. Jo appeared in series two of gloriously unready, and so I thought it would be interesting to hear from Marie about how Jo’s transition affected her. Marie and Jo took part in the Channel Four documentary the making of me, which followed the family over three years as Jo transitioned. And it’s about how they came to terms with it. Marie and Jo now run an inclusivity consultancy together, and Marie helps families when someone is going through transition. So I began the conversation by asking Marie about her advocacy work.

Marie Manley 00:02:32:

For the last two years, I’ve been working with Joanne, and as you say, we run, SEE Change Happen together, inclusion and belonging consultancy. And for me, it’s a completely different job. I was in administration and compliance before. I used to sit in the back office team, and now we’re sort of out and about. So I do everything from business development, billing, and we also do our speaking together, which is one transition to perspectives. So we try and give a point of view of somebody that is transitioning, like Jo did. And I try and show the other side of how the family are affected, because all the family were affected completely. We were all on different, in different books and different pages.

So now we try and show that the different aspects of it, how it can affect a family and how you can survive and you can move forward and you can have a lot of joy. We do that by doing our fireside chat, sort of promoting any awareness days, sort of trying to help people. I’ve had families and people ring up and speak to me on the phone and ask how I survived what I did. And now we talk about, well, I talk about, especially allyship, how microaggressions at work, in the workplace affected me and how I survived them. So there’s lots of different aspects of things that happened to me personally over the last few years and now how I can help other people during this time at SEE Change Happen.

Josephine 00:04:05:

What I really liked actually, about something that Jo said is she just acknowledged the impact that it has on families. And obviously, you know, I think one of the things that I felt guilty about at the start was people would say to me, but it’s not about you, it’s about the person who’s going through it. And that was actually quite difficult to hear because I felt guilty as a result that I was feeling difficult feelings. You know, I felt sadness and, you know, on the one hand, you know, you’re feeling sad and the transgender person could feel a sense of relief because they’ve come out and they’re being who they are. But it was difficult for me and I felt really guilty that I was feeling bad, really.

Marie Manley 00:04:51:

I think, looking back on it, I suppose now I think I didn’t handle it very well because I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t really know what transgender meant and I certainly didn’t understand Joanne’s feelings. Now when I sit quietly and I think about it, a person to say that they feel that they’re in the wrong body for whatever reason, and I look at Joanne, I can see she’s so much happier now. We used to call her sort of grumpy before, but now she’s in a happier place. I think it does affect the whole family. For me, after Joanne came out, it was like I’d been hit by a bus, so my whole world had broken apart. I was sort of like everything was in pieces. And I think that happened at the same time to our family, our children.

It wasn’t what we were expecting, you know, our life, you know, they wanted their dad, my brother in law, you know, thought he had his brother and now he’s confronted with a sister. So everything changes for all of us. So it wasn’t just about the transgender person, it wasn’t just about Joanne. And I think earlier in our relationship there, Joanne did realise that because we used to have a wiggly red line and we wouldn’t pass this wiggly red line. And every time in the making of me, the lady used to film us, Emma. She would come along and I’d be very, I suppose, sad. I’d get a way of masking that was to shout and scream and run off and cry. But Joanne was always there.

She’d always give me a cuddle. She’d always say, we could be there forever together. So I think it does affect everybody in the family, not just the transition person, transitioning, but I think over a period of time, I’m a great advocate for time, and that’s what’s healed me and sort of understanding my own research, my own thinking about it, and it does happen. I did feel guilty, and I look back now and I think I didn’t behave particularly well. And if I could turn back time, I would try and do it differently. But there’s a lot of emotion in there, you know, it’s like. Like my husband had just disappeared before my very eyes, and I’ve got this whole new person. It’s like having a best friend, and my husband’s just disappeared.

Now, over time, it has got better. There’s a lot more joy now. We laugh and we talk all the time. I mean, it is like having a best friend. I love the fact that she always has a mirror and a hairbrush, and I never do. And I’ve learned that there are perks, there are some really good things, and it’s just different. And nobody likes change, do we? As human beings, we don’t like anything to change. But I can’t sit here and say, you know, I wanted my family to embrace it because we were all on a learning curve, you know, we’ve all had to get used to that new person.

And I think mostly we have. Our family’s fairly normal. We have christmases and Easter and birthdays together and things. So, yeah, so we did get there, but it did take a while. And it wasn’t just about Joanne, it was about the whole family. And she did instigate that sort of feeling, I think, from the very off.

Josephine 00:07:57:

I think that that’s what I liked about what she said is she said, I realised that it wasn’t just me that was affected, it was everybody around me. And I just found that such an affirmative action,

Marie Manley 00:08:06:

I think because she wanted to stay within the family unit, she didn’t want to be on her own and start again, you know, she wanted, although her life was different and she would have maybe made some difference, life choices. She wanted us, you know, her children, like myself, you know, and our parents. So, yeah, it was difficult, but we did get there.

Josephine 00:08:27:

Yeah. Yeah. Because what I’m hearing from you saying is that I suppose there’s sort of like almost two things. Well, more than two things going on. There was your own feelings and your own loss of losing your husband, as you knew Jo to be at that point. And so you were handling that, but also handling perhaps other people’s reactions as well, that perhaps other people felt that, you know, they could talk to you about it, but not necessarily talk to Jo about it. Did you find yourself sort of.

Marie Manley 00:09:02:

I suppose it was strange, really. It was like, for the family, I felt that I was the hub, so I had to be the one keeping going. So I was looking after Jo, and very originally, it was like, you know, made sure she had a doctor’s appointment when she didn’t know what her name was going to be, protecting our son, who still lived home with us at the time. So talking to our daughter, who didn’t really want to know. So all of those sorts of things. And also, I suppose, really, it was like friends and family at the time, I felt, and I suppose I still do now, that everybody wanted a transgender friend. So people sort of seemed to warm to Joanne, but they didn’t want to talk to me because it was like a death. I had had a death in the family because it felt like my husband had died.

I suppose some of my work colleagues, they were all very interested. We talked all the time about it, but there was no real resolve from my work at the time. There was no help or support. And my close friends all really thought, even I’ve had some counselling, and even my counsellor thought that we would divorce. That was the answer. So it was a very mixed bag from colleagues and friends and family. But, yeah, it seemed like I was the one suffering the death in the family, and everybody wanted to be Joanne’s friend. So it was strange. Very strange.

Josephine 00:10:25:

That sounds quite isolating, in a sense. So quite a lonely place to be

Marie Manley 00:10:29:

When I look back on it, it was very isolating. I remember Joanne would go out with friends and obviously that was just the thing that she did. And, you know, I wasn’t worried, but there was wine involved, there was a lot of dark thoughts. I thought at the time, I suppose, that nothing would ever. I’d never be able to go out with my husband again. Everybody would be looking at us. I even thought there was big arrows pointing down at us saying, you know, your husband’s now trans, but now over seven plus years, I can say safely that Joanne does feel like my wife, and that’s only just recently.

So a lot of things have changed. Definitely.

Josephine 00:11:11:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I sort of find this with my daughters now, in that I do think of them as my daughters. I just don’t think of them as they were. They’re women. They’ve always been women. And it’s like it’s just clicked through. But that process, it does take time, doesn’t it?

Marie Manley 00:11:30:

I think it’s because you naturally, I would naturally would say, you know, we got married in 87, the week before the great storm, you know, and that’s a story in itself. And you sort of like, say, you know, I married a man. You know, it’s just like now in 2024, I have to say that I’m married to a woman. It’s, you know, how did that happen? You know, it was through no choice of my own. And I think that’s the painful bit. That’s where it was very isolating. But I spent a lot of time trying to work it out. And as I say, Joanne would, in really dire moments, Joanne would be there and she’d give me a cuddle and say, we can do it.

And we have proven we can do it.Definitely.

Josephine 00:12:09:

Yeah. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because what I’m hearing is that I think. I think when our kids came out, we sort of thought in a way that we’d lost them. And actually what we’d lost was that expression of them as males, and yet what we discovered underneath it was that they were the same person. I think it’s probably different from what you’re saying. It feels sort of very different. I was talking about this with my husband last night. You know, if he came out as transgender, how would I feel? Because it’s such a big change, isn’t it? And it’s a. It’s a change for you as well, because you’re like, you say you now identify as a gay woman, which wouldn’t have been the case back in 1987, for example.

Marie Manley 00:12:57:

Yeah. You know. Right. No, everything changes every time I sort of introduce myself. Now, I know I have to say, you know, my pronouns are she and her. So it’s like, that’s how I sort of start off. And then, you know, Joanne and I talk and it’s like I’m married to a woman. I’m sure Joanne mentioned before, but when the census.

We did the census, didn’t we, a little while ago. And that sort of. I hovered over that and thought, what am I? You know, who am I? And that was really difficult. And in the end. I ticked my bisexual because I loved my husband and now I love Joanne. So that’s, that’s where I ended up, you know, whether that be right or wrong. But it’s, it’s something very strange because I did have a loss and I still feel that loss, definitely. I can’t look at old pictures of Jo as before.

I find it really difficult. Very, very difficult. And, and even I can’t even have a picture of when we were married because it would have been the old Joanne, and I found that difficult, you know? So things have been taken away from me. But as I say, there are now we work together and I can work from home and I love it and I meet really nice people. So there are swings and roundabouts with anything, and just, I think you have one thing taken away from you, but you gain in other respects. So. Definitely.

Josephine 00:14:19:

Yeah. Yeah. Because I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? There’s sort of, like changes that we’ve got no control over. And by the sounds of what you’re saying, it’s still very painful because you perhaps loved that life of being married with a man and, you know, having Jo as the man at that point. And that was, that was, that was your life, and that life’s gone. You’ve got no control over it. This is what I was saying to my husband last night. You know, it’s such a big thing to go through, isn’t it?

Marie Manley 00:14:48:

It’s very strange. It’s quite. And little things will make me remember. And as I say, it’s like on your time hop, maybe on Facebook or wherever it is that you get, or Instagram or you get a reminder of an old picture, and that sort of sets me off. Or if we’re in maybe a supermarket or something, and I smell a man’s aftershave or a really smart chap, maybe at the Oscars or something, you know, one of the actors, and they’ve got really smart outfits, little silly things like that. And I think, oh, yeah, I used to like it when, you know, in the old days, it’s like, you know, go to black tie dinners and things, you know, so it’s, it’s a very sort of strange thing. But equally, I don’t have a best friend, so I feel Jo is my best friend. And, and it’s almost like, I mean, I do believe in God, and it’s like, that’s God’s plan for me, you know? So I didn’t have a best friend.

My husband transitioned, and now I’ve got my best friend. So, you know, it’s. It’s quite a very weird, strange feeling, but, yeah, it’s like I never thought seven plus years ago that I would be sitting here having a conversation and being quite so positive about it. I think we did a talk before Christmas. I must have been feeling down about the way things had gone and I wasn’t sort of very positive. And Jo said, well, you know, when you finish, there is lots of joy. And then I really thought about it and there is. I mean, we.

We go to National Trust, we go walking, we go on holiday, we love the cinema, we talk all the time. If we’re in a car journey 4 or 5 hours going somewhere, we will talk all the time. So there must be something I know between us that sort of shines out whatever adversity. It’s like anything, isn’t it? Everybody’s got a story, everybody has something to say. But our story is that Joanne is transgender and we are happy and it’s really good. And the best bit is that our family have joined as well, so they’re all on happier pages. We all have more of an acceptance and we can go forward and have nice days, have family outings and things like that.

Josephine 00:16:59:

Yeah, I suppose, yes. What came up for me when just listening to you then was that you’ve been through this adversity together, really, haven’t you?

Marie Manley 00:17:09:

Oh, it’s. You’ve been together. Yes. Yeah, yeah. It was Jo’s, obviously Jo’s decision, and it was very tricky in the beginning when she crossdressed and she said, and we weren’t together around about the Olympics time. I know she talked about that, but, yeah, we have done it together. I suppose it’s like now working with each other. Jo’s obviously at the forefront.

She’s run the business before it was her baby in the first place. But I do feel that I give to the business. I give a different aspect of it. I can help and talk to people that are, I suppose, spouses, you know, work colleagues, different side of it, you know. So, yeah, it’s very in depth, I suppose the person, the transgender person just wants to be themselves. But it’s not just like Joanne would say to me, you know, I’m gay and I’m divorcing you. And that would have been it, you know, it would have been a full stop. You know, this journey that we’re on has given us lots of things to deal with.

It’s like changing her name, getting a new passport, places we can go abroad and we can’t go abroad, how our family felt. So it’s like every little milestone we get over as a tick, it’s fantastic. But then there’s another one that comes and I think you have to just get used to it. It’s just normal life, you know?

Josephine 00:18:32:

Yeah, that’s a really interesting perspective. Thank you for that. Because it’s sort of, in a sense, I think people tend to think of transition as, you know, people go from male to female or female to male. But it’s almost constant, isn’t it, that there’s this sort of change happening all the time and that you’re navigating those things? . And, I mean, certainly with our kids, we’re still. Although they’ve been out now for nine years, it’s amazing. I can’t believe it. But, you know, they’re still very much transitioning and learning to be their true selves.

Marie Manley 00:19:10:

I think so, yeah. And just in the beginning, I couldn’t even walk. We used to live fairly close to the cinema, and I couldn’t walk by the lock, hold hands. I couldn’t go into the cinema together because I just felt everybody was watching me. And who cares if they’re watching, you know, now it’s like, it’s got nothing to do with them. We’re happy, healthy. We’re just going to the cinema. But I think it’s because you have what you think is your normal life taken away from you.

And as I say, nobody likes change. And you have to, like, readjust yourself, you know, to the new norm, you know, and also you need to take people around you with you. So our children, our parents had to come, and my work colleagues, definitely, because it’s just like, even the Christmas party in the originally was difficult. It’s just like, well, what do I do, you know, because Joanne will be with me. How are my colleagues going to accept her or how they’re going to talk to her? So everything was questionable in the beginning. I think I’ve learned with time that I don’t really, perhaps this is a bit harsh. I do care, but it may be their problem, not my problem.

Josephine 00:20:20:

I was going to say, because it must be. Did you find you had sort of different reactions? Because you mentioned about the microaggressions in the workplace. What sort of reactions did you have? If we start with work, and then maybe we could talk about family, but, yeah, with work.

Marie Manley 00:20:35:

So work, I suppose. I suppose I talked about it a lot, and it was very. There wasn’t anybody else in my situation, so my work colleagues were very interested and to a degree that they would listen, so that made them supportive. But there were engineers that would say, on a Friday afternoon, obviously know, and say to me, oh, what are you doing at the weekend, Marie? I’m off to buy a new handbag and a pair of shoes. And it was like, it was supposed to be a joke, you know, but it wasn’t a joke. It was very cutting. And I remember I spent a lot of time in the work toilets. Things would happen and I’d go off for a cry and then compose myself and come back again, you know.

And that particular engineer, he’s, he’s on my Facebook page now, and we chat every now and again. He’s just left the role he was in, and he’s completely different. He sees pictures of Jo and I, and he likes them. And it’s almost like, you know, what people are supposed to say in a jokey sort of environment to how they really feel when they think about it. It. So I suppose there was a lot of microaggressions. I’d walk into a room after I came out to everybody, and I would come out on a daily basis. I didn’t do it all in one, so I’d be telling one engineer or one service manager or one colleague, I’d go into rooms, they would stop talking.

Never happened before. So there was difficulty at work, definitely. And as I say, I didn’t, I didn’t feel like I was supported. I didn’t feel there was enough open communication in the workplace to talk about Marie’s husband transitioning and level of acceptance. It was all sort of, maybe they were talking about me, maybe they weren’t. It did sort of get better. Jo did come to the Christmas party, but that took myself because it wasn’t readily talked about and very easy conversation. So that took a while, I think.

And as for family and friends, as I say, my close friends mostly thought that I would be leaving Jo, We’d get a divorce. My parents at the time, and Jo’s parents were very, were elderly, so that was a different, different sort of conversation we had. And our children, they thought they were getting dad, that dad, the way dad was, and then completely different. So there was a lot of time, we had to have a lot of time to heal and then move on with the new person, because although it’s just like the cover of a book, Jo’s, like cover of a book is now different. She does have a lot of aspects that she is different. She’s less grumpy.

I think she’s sort of more chatty. We do different things together. It’s just, I suppose she’s more warmth, sort of warm sort of person, you know? And I suppose that personality, a new personality, had to come out with the children and family and friends as well.

Josephine 00:23:34:

And it took time, I guess, for her to develop that.

Marie Manley 00:23:37:

Yeah, equally, you know, the things that she was going through. And I think because you get caught up in your own things, that you’re going through your own journey. When I look back on it, as I say, I don’t think when I look back into the Making Of Me, I think she had a hair weave. And there’s a particular scene there where she’s had the hair weave. She looks fantastic. She looks really happy. But my life looks destroyed because I’ve now completely lost my husband. Because the person I’m with doesn’t take off the wig at night, you know, so I sort of vaguely see the old person.

So, yeah, it was. Looking back on it, it’s like anything, isn’t it? You always maybe wish you’d done it slightly different. But going through it at the time, it was very difficult. But now I try, and I do try and see it from Joanne’s point of view, definitely, I think, hence why I’m here today.

Josephine 00:24:34:

Which is just really interesting to hear you say that sort of change. And also just to pick up on what you said about, you know, she’s now almost like my best friend, and I haven’t had a best friend because there’s been that sort of change in her personality that allows you to connect with her at that sort of level by the sounds of things that perhaps wasn’t there before.

Marie Manley 00:24:56:

I think so, yeah. I still have. I still, as I say, I still miss the aftershave or going to a black tie dinner. I miss. I still miss that. And I’m hoping that that pain will eventually disappear. But it is like having a best friend. We went away to London at the weekend, and I was wearing an old jumper of Joanne’s.

And sometimes she lends me a scarf. She might have wear, like, an old coat of mine. So there are little things like that. Now. In the beginning, we wouldn’t. I wouldn’t talk about borrowing. People wanted to know whether she borrowed clothes, you know, and stuff.

Josephine 00:25:31:

So that’s an incredibly nosy thing to ask, isn’t it? I mean, you know, would that be something that people would normally ask, you know, does your partner, you know, borrow your clothes? I mean, it’s sort of like. It’s just I think that’s very intrusive.

Marie Manley 00:25:46:

It’s supposed, I think it is what people ask, because they don’t know what to ask. I think seven to eight years ago, you know, transgender then was very difficult. It’s like, I didn’t know anybody that was transgender. Our friends, I don’t think did, you know? So it was all sort of new to them, you know, and I suppose an icebreaker would be. Oh, do you borrow each other’s clothes? It’s much better conversation than toilets or surgery. So I guess it’s true. Yeah.

Josephine 00:26:15:

You have to take the wins while you can. And do you find that that is something that people do ask about as well, you know, has she had surgery? You know, what does she do about the toilet?

Marie Manley 00:26:28:

When we do our speaking together, so it’s one transition, two perspectives. So it’s Jo’s transition and both of us perspective. They do ask normally, sort of, is there anything you don’t want to ask? And normally I say, no, that’s fine. But I suppose that’s the sort of conversation that maybe they start with because they don’t know what to ask, or they’ve not researched anything, they’ve not done any of their own looking into things and talking to people. So it may be all new, and you see that on the television, in the tv shows sometimes, and that’s okay.

We’ll start with that conversation, you know, but. But simple little things. I know when we go to, especially, like the cinema, and Jo and I both use the toilets together. We don’t. She doesn’t speak in that because of, obviously, her voice. So I’ve learned that because I’ll just rabbit on our chat, you know, so it’s simple little things that you learn. And I suppose, looking back on it, we’ve, you know, learned a lot about each other and the new person, and there are still traits of, you know, the old Joanne, don’t get me wrong, but, yeah, but equally, I suppose, as you said before, it’s like, if I transitioned, how would Joanne feel? You know, if I want you to wear, you know, have a beard and change my name? So it’s. It’s something, I suppose you have to get your head around.

You have to learn to understand. And I suppose I empathise with how painful it was and what we, we made Jo do. I suppose. I think she used to sort of change in the car park when our son was still with us. So looking back on it now, it’s like, really? Did I make Jo do that? And I feel really bad. But it was. I was just trying to protect the whole family.

And even today, I find that it’s whatever the transgender journey is throwing at us, it’s quite painful. It’s hard. It’s like, not everybody’s on board. Not everybody wants to have that conversation. Not everybody wants to talk to you about it or empathises. You know, they might take the opposite of you. It’s not easy. It isn’t easy. Definitely.

Josephine 00:28:31:

Yeah. Yeah. Because I think there’s hostility, quite a lot of hostility towards transgender women in particular, particularly, sort of transgender women like Jo, who’ve come out in later life. I mean, obviously, at the moment, there’s a lot of hostility that’s talked about in politics and the media, and I wonder, how do you handle that? You know, how do you handle that within yourself in terms of, like, do you feel frightened? Do you feel angry? Or, you know, what? How do you handle what is quite a difficult political landscape, I suppose, for transgender women in particular?

Marie Manley 00:29:10:

If I see something on the news, I’ll be the one sitting there shouting there, back at it. Political leaders, should we say that? I feel that should be supporting us, should be supporting the transgender community. I’ve gone from not really thinking about it to being quite passionate about it, thinking that these people, they’re human beings, aren’t they? Yeah. However, they feel they have the right to feel that way, like Jo does. And when I really look at Joanne, I feel that she, and I hope she doesn’t take this wrong when she listens to it, but she’s like a better person. She’s like a whole person. She’s happier. She’s sort of found herself.

And the way she talks to me and that she expresses her love, it makes me feel that in the beginning, I felt all that had gone before when we got married and our early life together was a lie. But I don’t think it was. It was just because she came out so late in life and it wasn’t like you could, I think, the seventies, you just go to the library and get a book and, you know, find out all about it. It wasn’t like that, was it? I suppose it. It’s been. It’s been a journey for both of us. Definitely. Definitely.

And when I see things on the television that aren’t accurate or are hurtful to people and people in power that aren’t supporting human beings. Yeah. That’s when I find it very passionate. Definitely. And equally, in the early days, if I remember being in London and we were going up an escalator, and somebody was coming down an escalator, and they were, like, looking at Joanne, and they were sort of turning their head as the escalator was moving. And I thought, you know, I’ll go back on the other escalator, and I’ll confront this person. And we’ve even been known in the early days, as I say, to be at a coffee shop on a motorway, and somebody was looking, and Jo would have to, like, almost restrain me because I’d be the one to fight Jo’s corner, the transgender person’s corner, you know? So I’m real passionate about, in a quiet, sort of methodical way. I would have a stand up if I needed to, but I would.

Where is, like, when I was at work and these microaggressions would happen. I wouldn’t call them out. I would, as I said, just go off to the ladies toilet, have a cry, come back, compose, and carry on. But now I would ask that engineer, you know, why did you say that? Do you think that’s funny? Or when I walk into the room and somebody stops talking. Sorry, don’t let me stop you. You know, please carry on, you know, and if you’re saying something about me or transgender community, you know, please, please say. Please air that.

It’d be good, because we can then have an open conversation. So, yeah, I’ve definitely learned a lot. Definitely.

Josephine 00:32:02:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s really interesting, because I think. Yeah, I think I just really identify with you, with the person on the escalator. We had this thing with my daughter where we went to, we went out, and someone commented on the shoes that she was wearing, and immediately, I mean, I just. This rage came up.

My husband did put a restraining arm on me, you know, so I can really identify with that. And. But I think, actually, that sort of reaction, it is much better. The second part of what you’re saying, which was, okay, let’s have a conversation. That is better, isn’t it? But it’s. I just. Personally, I find it like you shouting at the tv or stomping around the house.

Marie Manley 00:32:48:

I’m trying to be diplomatic, but when I do see politicians sort of saying what they say, I never thought I would get passionate about it. But, you know, they’re talking about human beings here, people, you know, with, you know, thoughts and feelings. And they’re supposed to be the ones that are in the power, have power, you know, and looking after us, you know? But it’s very. It’s very painful, definitely.

Josephine 00:33:13:

It is. It is very painful. And I think, I mean, that just, I think sums it up really well, actually. For those of us that have loved ones who are transgender, it’s incredibly painful to see what’s going on at the moment. And it hurts, and it makes me frightened for their future.

And, you know, you just sort of.

Yeah, it’s really.

Marie Manley 00:33:33:

I think that’s why I really enjoy working with Jo. And I know it’s a bit of a cliche. I mean, she used to say to me, well, you know, we work together. You know, we’d be able to have our sort of lots of long weekends, and, you know, we can do things together when we want to. And she used to say, like, meet lots of great people. And it’s just because you get into this routine, and I’ve always done what I did. It’s just like. But now I see what she’s saying, you know, there are some lovely people that we’ve met, yourself included.

And even speaking today, if my little story can help somebody just to prove that you can go from it was, and I felt dire. And if you’ve seen the making of me program, you can see how bad I was to now where I embrace trying to help people. And I don’t come readily to being on podcasts or talking, speaking, video. But I’m really trying because I think my story is quite representative. There are lots of people out there that you can apply this to other stories. You know, if your husband does come out gay or, you know, somebody’s poorly or something happens in your family, you know, you can get through it. That’s, you know, that’s what makes us strong, and we can do it. Definitely.

Josephine 00:34:49:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, I was saying to my husband this morning, I never imagined that this could be where we’d get to when they first came out. I kind of, you know, and I absolutely get what you’re saying as well about Jo being less grumpy.

Marie Manley 00:35:06:

Oh, yeah.

Josephine 00:35:08:

Because this is. This is certainly with my oldest, you know, people used to say, oh, she seems very sort of cross or angry, you know, and I think it was because she couldn’t be truly herself.

Marie Manley 00:35:21:

She couldn’t maybe couldn’t express herself, which I feel that’s maybe with Jo. I mean, obviously, I can’t speak for Jo, but equally, I can express myself more.

It’s quite strange. And as I say, I just thought we were going to be husband and wife, you know, working house, just an. I say a normal life. But the life that we chose and we had a few. Few curve balls thrown at us. But where we are now, it’s not a bad life, it’s just slightly different. And even different is okay now.

And I do get days where, as I say, I think we spoke before Christmas and I wasn’t in a happy place and that came out. I feel happier today. I feel that, you know, we can do it, you know, things are good, but it’s like anything, isn’t it, in life. It’s like it’s a bit of a roller coaster. It’s ups and downs, you know, you get good days, you get bad dayBut generally, I think Joanne looks to me like she’s a happier person. And she’s also happy now because she has her family, which she obviously still wanted. And I’ve just come to the conclusion that this is my path.

I didn’t think that I had any choice in the matter, but I think now that, yeah, this is obviously what’s been chosen for me and I’m trying to make the best of it, the most of it, you know, stuff. So.

Josephine 00:36:48:

Yeah, so it’s interesting. I’d like to pick up if it’s okay, because I hadn’t realised that you had a faith, and obviously I have a faith as well. And we’ve been really lucky with our church in that they are fully inclusive. And that was a journey that we went on as a church and it wasn’t an easy journey, but, you know, the ones first that are there are very committed to the full inclusivity. And I wondered what it was like for you to have a faith and to have this sort of big change. Did you get any support from anybody?

Marie Manley 00:36:47:

You know, I do believe. I believe in God, but my family, they’re not really one with that. So I’ve again, I felt really isolated. And I think when Jo came out, I really should have gone to seek some help. I had some counselling, but it wasn’t faith related or anything like that. And that came over a very negative.

So I think if I’d reached out and tried to find something within my faith, just. Just to really talk. All I wanted was to talk, you know, and just sort of to understand what I’d lost and what I could achieve, definitely. But now I’m where I suppose I’m fairly. I say I’m quiet. Jo says I’m not. I think if somebody within the family had had that sort of outlook, I may have, you know, gone along, joined in if or if I’d found somewhere that I could. That’s not to say now, but I would try and embrace it definitely.

I think. Because I think talking about it and help. It will help, definitely. But it was a lot of intrinsic thinking on my behalf. Definitely.

Josephine 00:38:37:

Yeah. Yeah. I guess what I’m hearing you say is that it was a real internal journey.

Marie Manley 00:38:43:

It was. I think I was embarrassed of my first reaction. I suppose I was embarrassed, which I feel really dreadful about now. But I think for me to say that, and if somebody’s listening will resonate with that, they’ll understand that they’re embarrassed as well. Then they can get over that. Like I have, you know, and as I say now, it’s just like, now what embarrasses me. If Jo doesn’t put makeup on when we go out.

Josephine 00:39:09:

I. Yeah, I can get that. And, you know, especially at the start, you know, just telling people, I did feel that sense of embarrassment. It sort of felt like, you know, our kids were something out of the ordinary and we didn’t fit in and, you know, that type of feeling. But actually, I was so lucky with any of my friends that I chose because they, they were very much sort of like, oh, you know, so they, they, they wanted to support the kids. They were very open. And I think going back to the politics, this isn’t what comes across politically.

Marie Manley 00:39:45:

It’s all very negative, isn’t it, in the faces, in the press, social media. And that’s real, real shame, because since, I suppose since Jo came out, we met some really lovely, lovely ladies, lovely girls that were in similar situations from Jo. We had some great nights out. They’re on my Facebook page now, and through that, some of them, their wives have contacted me and we’ve talked. So. Yeah, but it’s, it’s all negative, isn’t it? You know, you pick up newspaper, go on social media, and that’s the shame. That’s the real shame, because we’re just talking about people, really, you know.

Josephine 00:40:23:

Yeah. And I think most of the people I’ve talked to have been really, really accepting sometimes. You know, for older people, they might not really get it. And so, you know, a lot, I think a lot of people don’t understand difference between gender and sexuality. So, you know, they sort of assumed that my daughters were gay. You know, one of them is, one of them isn’t. But, you know, just sort of like, yeah, people just get confused, don’t they? But I’ve never really had a huge amount of, you know, people being negative about it.

Marie Manley 00:40:51:

I think, I mean, my mum’s gone now. She passed away. But I remember when I first told my parents and they were late eighties, and my mum said, oh, does that make Jo gay? That was her comment and that’s her understanding. And now my dad. Sometimes my dad will misgender Jo, but tries, I mean, he’s 91 this year, but desperately tries to correct himself, you know? And it’s strange because Jo says, and I think I know this, when our children are around, I revert back to slight misgendering him her. And it’s very strange because I’m trying to. I’m not. Well, in the beginning, I think I was trying to keep everybody happy by saying the right thing.

And now, because I just get a little bit confused with just being in front of the children because I don’t think they’re completely up on the same page as us. But to be fair, when Jo and I are together, it’s just like she’s a girl and that’s, that’s that, you know, it’s just like I’m not. To be fair, I’m not really bothered anymore. I just take the good times because there were some really bad times. And as I say, I think, you know, eventually we went to the Christmas party at my previous job. We had a nice evening. My friends would take me for coffee and they were always readily to talk about it, you know. But I think I’ve decided that it’s Jo and myself and the close family and that’s what makes me happy. So at my age, that’s what I’m going to do. Definitely.

Josephine 00:42:28:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. And I sort of hear earlier on you mentioned about, you realise that it is actually not your problem, it’s other people’s problems. It is. If they have a problem with transgender people, that’s not your problem.

Marie Manley 00:42:41:

I think the only real person, the people that matter is Jo and our children and the close family. It was my mum’s wake. I think some cousins were very embracing. They’re all a little bit older than myself, sort of ten years older. And as I say, we chat and see each other on Facebook and our families. But I remember one of my cousins, I think when she left, she shouted out.I was in the toilet and she shouted out, oh, I’ve just said goodbye to Jo. So she was very, what’s the word? Sort of embracing, you know, accepting. And I’ve got another cousin, Sue. She’s brilliant. You know, she just, you know, she came to our daughter’s wedding and she was fabulous. So, yeah, there are people, close people within the family that have been very supportive. Yeah, I suppose the more they saw of us together as a couple, the more that we sort of chatted. They’ve embraced it as well.

So, yeah, I feel now that if I did have a problem, that if I had an issue or I couldn’t talk to Jo, that I would be able to talk to certain people within the family, definitely. Although we’ve lost other people, you know, that aren’t quite so empathetic, shall we say?

Josephine 00:43:54:

Yeah, because I think it was really interesting, sort of going back to what you said right at the start. You said you sort of understand so much more now about what it means for Jo and what it’s like to be in a male body when you’re a woman.

Marie Manley 00:44:08:

I just have to take one look at her and I just see. I see a different person, but I see a happier person. And Jo says that she can’t explain it. I can’t explain it, but just to take one look. I know she didn’t do it deliberately. She didn’t do it to hurt anybody. It was just how she felt. And to take one look at her, I just see a happier person, another person. We should be happy, shouldn’t we? You know, and it’s taken me from my side of the journey.

It’s taken me a while, but I am happier than I was. And I do still, as I say, I still feel the pain, I still feel angst, but there are lots of things that we can be joyous for. Definitely.

Josephine 00:44:51:

Yeah. So what would you sort of say would be if you could sort of give people advice who are sort of further back in the journey.

Marie Manley 00:45:01:

Okay, so I think I would say give yourself time. Yeah, lots of time. Which then helps you think about things and understand things more. Time is the main thing. And I would say to try and have an open conversation. So I didn’t speak a lot of the time in fear at work, but I think if I had come out and said, you know, to everybody, this is what’s happening, that would have then helped other people talk about it and encouraged HR to talk about it. So, yeah, so open communication, try and be, I suppose, more of an ally. I’m quite an advocate of that now, definitely.

And, you know, listen, and if you do, you know, if you do hear somebody being disrespectful, you know, sort of ask them, just politely ask them why they said that and sort of do your own research, really. I spent quite a lot of time, obviously, through, SEE Change Happen, trying to work out, you know, sort of where we’re going, understanding better. So those sort of points just to help you on your own journey to get there, because I never thought I would be able to sit here and say, we have got there. We are in a good place and a happy place. Jo’s happy. I’m happy. The family.

Marie Manley 00:46:29:

So I, I never thought you could do it. I never thought that that would be possible. And I’m living proof that you can. Yeah. You can get through. Yeah. And it’s a shock, and it just takes time. Yeah. And you obviously need help from other people, but, yeah.

Josephine 00:46:46:

Well, thank you for coming on and sharing that with us. We need more positive stories out there about. About families adapting and how, you know, happier the person who’s transgender can be. And thanks, Marie, so much for coming.

Marie Manley 00:47:00:

Thank you very much.

Josephine 00:47:00:

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Listening to Marie’s experience was very interesting, and it illustrates to me what a huge change it is for families when someone comes out. I’m really grateful to Marie for her honesty in describing how she does feel she’s lost her husband, but also for demonstrating how it is possible to adapt to changed circumstances and to accept and enjoy a new way of being. However, Marie’s story, to me, underlines how important it is for families of transgender people to be afforded compassion. Families are transitioning, too. Most transgender people are surrounded by loved ones, and they’re all having to work through emotional change. And for some of them, it may not even be of their own choosing. So I think what Marie’s story shows is that what transgender people and their families need is love and support.

They don’t need to be made folk devils or figures of fun by politicians, by journalists and pundits on social media.