How We Met: David Booth and Stephanie Anne Lloyd

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The Independent Culture
Transsexual Stephanie Anne Lloyd, 47, was once Keith Hull, a married businessman with three children. A sex-change operation left her friendless and penniless. In 1984 she set up Transformation, selling clothes to transvestites and transsexuals; she later married her partner, David Booth.

David Booth, 49, worked as an aerodynamics engineer, but resigned after 15 years to build up a string of supermarkets in Manchester, many of which he sold off to the Co-op. He is now the production director for Transformation. He has two girls in their twenties from his previous marriage.

STEPHANIE ANNE LLOYD: David always says I advertised for him. I'd just lost my job because the company I was marketing director for decided they could no longer cope with the adverse publicity following my sex change. I made all my possessions over to my former wife, as I was worried about her security and that of the children, and was left with 78p. I had come up with the concept of Transformation by then, but of course I discovered that banks are quite happy to lend money unless it's something like a transsexual setting up a business for transvestites. So I advertised for a business partner, and David was one of the 36 who replied.

He'd scribbled on his letterhead 'Re your ad - Ring me', and I thought, this is either a millionaire or a nutter - or both. But I rang him, and he came over to see me where I'd been housed by Social Security. I was impressed with David from the start. I remember him turning up, coming in, taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves, and sitting down in the armchair. I thought, this man is self-assured, he's his own person. The only thing he knew about me was something from the papers that he had read a few minutes before coming to see me, but I knew it was always going to be a problem; as soon as you mention a business to do with transvestites or transsexuals everyone thinks of backstreets, or that it must be illegal.

But I told David all about it, and he said he would need to consult his wife, and so I went and met them both over dinner, and David agreed to go into partnership with me. He came over every Tuesday for a business meeting, and over the first year he became a good friend. I enjoyed his company, he was interesting to talk to, but as far as I was concerned he was married, and nothing else entered my head.

Transformation wasn't doing very well; I had borrowed a lot of money from David and I was watching the business go down the pan. I had to do something. I was advised by a solicitor that I could legitimately offer 'additional services' from the salon as long as I operated in a certain way. It wasn't exactly an idea I revelled in but I decided I would give it a go for the sake of the business. A year later I was charged with prostitution.

One Tuesday night, just after that, David arrived looking terrible. He looked as though he had been sleeping rough, which is exactly what he had been doing - his wife had thrown him out. I cooked him a meal, and gradually some of the story came out. David didn't tell me everything, but he said his wife had given him an ultimatum - Transformation or divorce. They hadn't known anything about my prostitution until my arrest, and she said: 'Pull out or I leave you.'

It sounds like a dramatic decision, but, in fact, in the years that I've known David I've learnt that there were a lot of things going on before that, and this was just the catalyst that finally caused the split. We had a bottle of wine, and I made up a bed for him in the spare room, and washed his clothes. My feelings were maternal really - I wanted to look after him. After we'd gone to bed, I lay awake thinking about it all. In the end I just couldn't sleep, so I walked into David's room. He couldn't sleep either - the flat is on a busy road and a pelican crossing flashes directly outside the window all night long.

I suggested we at least stay awake together, and he came into my room and, well, that was it really. Nothing was said over the next few days, and I didn't really know what was going to happen. I went out and bought him two completely new sets of clothes, saying I'd get his suit cleaned for him - and then I threw it away. It was a real old-fashioned 30-guinea suit. I'd booked a last-minute holiday to St Lucia for about pounds 400, and David suggested I find out how much it would cost for him to come along. As it was going to be pounds 1,250 and David has a reputation for being careful with his money, I was amazed when he told me to book it. It was really magical; a fortnight of bliss. From then on I knew that was it. Even now the times that we're together 24 hours a day are still the best.

We got married in Sri Lanka on 14 February 1985. It doesn't make any difference to me in terms of security whether I married David or not - the marriage isn't accepted in British law anyway. I just feel it's ludicrous that we can't marry here. Being allowed to marry wouldn't adversely affect anybody else. But in England, we have a reputation for being hypocritical - the MPs make the laws, and then go out for rent boys immediately they've left the House. Sir Allan Green, who signed my prosecution papers for prostitution, was later involved in a kerb-crawling scandal.

David and I are workaholics, but it's because we're doing it together that it works. We're best friends - we can go away for three weeks and never stop talking to each other. I don't know how to explain love - except that it permeates every fibre of my being and every moment of my life.

DAVID BOOTH: When I answered Stephanie's advert I'd been looking for a change of direction for some time. I'd built up a string of supermarkets, and I thought there must be an easier way to earn a living. Just before I left for our meeting, I sat down for a few minutes to read the paper and there was Stephanie in it - I can remember saying to my wife - 'Christ, look who I'm meeting tonight]' But her background didn't bother me. After talking to her for half an hour, I thought I was talking to someone who knew what they wanted. I felt I was talking to a winner.

It was purely a business proposition for me; I had no thoughts of Stephanie other than that. I'd been working full-time on trying to save my marriage, and would have carried on working on it for another three or four years if Stephanie hadn't come along. I guess I was falling in love with Stephanie. The first night I spent at her flat after my wife had thrown me out was a matter of convenience, but within the first week of being with her I finally gave up on my marriage.

My feelings for Stephanie didn't shock or surprise me really. I'd known her for a year and I'd found her conversation stimulating, and one doesn't realise that, in the process, one's affection grows. I was married at the time, and I certainly wasn't looking for an affair. It was just very comfortable - I felt at ease. There's a whole world of difference when you can talk openly about everything to someone rather than skirting around certain things. It was a relief after so much trouble in my previous relationship.

I've no sense of Stephanie as a man because I didn't know her beforehand - and I think that's the most important bit. I can only accept what I've got and what I see. My daughters don't have any concept of Stephanie as a man either, for the same reason. We talked about it when Stephanie and I first got together, because the kids were in their early teens when it all happened. There was a lot of rubbish in the papers and we could tell them it was a load of cobblers. They didn't have a hard time at school over it, and seemed happy to spend the weekend with us. They seem just as happy about Stephanie now.

I was surprised when I learnt she had been charged for prostitution. I knew exactly what the shop catered for in terms of transvestites, but prostitution came as a bit of a shock. Stephanie had done it for the right reasons - those were her words - and with hindsight I accept them. My wife was fairly outraged when she learnt the news - she put a lot of pressure on me to pull out. We had discussed the venture with Stephanie, and it had suffered a little hiccup; if I had pulled out it would have meant the collapse of the business. Now it's an episode I'd sooner forget, but I wouldn't tell lies about it. It happened; that's the way of the world.

I married Stephanie to put two fingers up to the world. It was my outward sign of 'Bollocks to the lot of you'. There were all these comments in the press, exaggerated lies, people were asking 'Do you get embarrassed? Do you get aggravation?' and that was my answer to them. It's not important to me that we can't get married in the eyes of British law. It's something I don't even think about. I made my little gesture abroad.

(Photograph omitted)

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