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'I live with my transgender ex-husband and my boyfriend!' Kristin Collier, 44, thought she knew her husband better than anyone. Until he announced he wanted to spend the rest of his life as a woman. Their marriage couldn't be saved, but a beautiful new friendship emerged.

At 32, life was good for Kristin Collier. Her young sons Trin and Sam were healthy and happy, her marriage to her tall, handsome husband Fred, 44, was rock solid, and her life was idyllic.

Her romance with Fred had been a whirlwind: the couple met when Kristin was 18, were engaged within three months, and married in a candlelight ceremony that same summer. They both began successful careers: Fred as a housing designer, and Kristin as a marketing director. A baby soon followed, and for a few years, life seemed perfect.

But everything changed in 2005 after the birth of their second son, Sam. Keen for Sam and two-year-old Trin to spend some time with their grandmother, Kristin took the boys for a visit, while Fred stayed home to work.

'I'd ignored things in When Fred rang one sunny afternoon, Kristin was excited to fill him in on what the boys had been up to that morning, but he sounded serious as he said they needed to talk about 'clothes'.

past - like a rip in favourite Fred then explained to his wife that he needed to wear women's clothes. He didn't red dress' understand why, but he knew it wasn't just a phase.

'Truth was, there were things in our past that I'd chosen to ignore. The time Fred handed me my favourite red dress, inexplicably ripped. The time I noticed my negligee smelled of man sweat,' says Kristin. 'I didn't want to address the signs that Fred was unhappy because I didn't want to see them. I wanted - I needed - Fred to be Fred.'

'Fred said he couldn't pretend any more. He didn't know what was happening or what it meant for us, but the fact he was coming to me now meant he'd reached a point of no return,' Kristin says.

During the phone call, Kristin's world changed forever. She told Fred she loved him and they'd figure it out, but her heart raced in her chest and she couldn't find the words to relay to her mother what had just happened.

'There was no part of the man I married I could see wearing women's clothes. It would mean that I didn't know him, that he was as mysterious to me as a stranger on the street,' she recalls.

'Everything I thought I knew about Fred was wrong. Everything I had told myself about our happy little life was a lie. I tried imagining myself as someone who could support her husband wearing skirts and heels. But I shuddered at the thought of broad-chested and bearded Fred dressed as a woman.'

Kristin made an excuse to finish her trip early, rushing home to talk to Fred in person. Once the boys were tucked up in bed, Fred confessed that while the family had been away, he'd worn a skirt every day. As it swished around his ankles he had an epiphany: he was meant to be a woman. Everything had become clear to Fred, but to Kristin, life had never felt more crazy.

the my At first, the couple agreed to keep Fred's desires a secret. 'I wish I could say I supported Fred from the beginning, but it wasn't that simple. I felt terrified and alone. I wanted to keep our picture-perfect family intact, even if in reality it was crumbling and my husband was disappearing,' Kristin says.

'I had always trusted Fred and now it felt like everything I thought we had was false. It seemed like my husband was doing something horribly cruel to our family and I couldn't understand why.

I worried that I'd have no place in Fred's new world. He told me he was sorry and it was all so scary, but the woman inside him had been locked away for too long and if he didn't set her free, Fred would die. He was suicidal as a man.' Making the change Gradually, Fred became more soft and feminine. He started watching his wife apply mascara, asking questions about how to put it on. It infuriated Kristin, who felt like she was encouraging his fantasy.

'I liked being the woman in our marriage.

I didn't want Fred to become one. But Fred simply said he was not a man and had no choice any more,' Kristin says.

In July 2006, Fred told Kristin that he had tried being a man. He'd tried being a soldier, a firefighter, a fisherman, a husband and a father, but he had not yet tried to be himself. Kristin realised she had to support him. She may not know exactly who she was married to any more, but she still loved and cared about him.

s 'I asked him if he'd risk losing us and he said he hoped it wouldn't come to that, but it was clear that our marriage could not stand in the way of Fred's journey and I loved him enough to respect what he needed to do,' Kristin says. 'Even though it broke my heart.' Desperate and unsure what to do, Kristin trawled the internet in search of support.

She stumbled upon a support group called TransFamily Spouses, and it was there she learnt just how far her husband would have to go on his journey to become a woman. A psychologist would be needed, then hormone therapy, electrolysis and finally gender confirmation surgery. Kristin's head was in a spin, but it was happening whether she liked it or not.

Fred was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in August 2006, and his counsellor felt that a full transition would be best for his mental and emotional health. Fred and Kristin still loved each other, still wanted to live together and raise the children together, but Fred was changing into someone Kristin didn't know - someone he called Seda.

'We agreed to stay together until it made sense not to,' Kristin says. At first, she was filled with a sinking feeling and a dread of what the future would bring. But much to her surprise, Kristin found herself warming to the woman her husband had became. Fred and Seda shared many attributes that Kristin had first fallen in love with, such as perseverance, a laid-back attitude, humour and kindness.

'But Seda was different,' Kristin explains.

'Where Fred didn't have any friends, Seda had lots. Fred cycled through depressive episodes a few times a year, whereas Seda was never depressed. She was more confident and self-assured than Fred ever was. He always said he was happy with me but not with himself or his life. Seda was thrilled with all of it,' Kristin says.

'I took the They told the boys when Trin and Sam were six and four. Their for father explained that he'd never felt comfortable in his body. The boys decided to call him Maddy instead of Daddy, and Seda assured her sons that nothing about her love for them would ever change.

'I took the boys shopping for wigs and bras for Seda. They were so young and so accepting, it felt right to include them,' Kristin says. 'The first time we left the house together as two women, I applied Seda's make-up. She affixed the wig and slipped silicone cutlets into her new bra. Our children watched with wonder as their father transformed.

She looked like she could be Fred's sister,' But while Kristin enjoyed Seda's company, their sex life dwindled. Seda moved into the living room, Kristin kept the bedroom. In 2009, they built an extension so Seda could have her own space.

'My husband effectively died and took our marriage with him,' says Kristin. 'In his place is my best friend, someone I respect and adore so much, I can't live without her.'

When Kristin eventually found the courage to tell friends and family, they could see how much happier Seda was than Fred. And while Kristin had been terrified to tell anyone, she was surprised by how supportive people were.

Even Kristin's mum was a fan of Seda, saying: 'I'm sorry you lost your marriage over ry it, but I think your husband is a much better person when she's herself.' In July 2013, Seda had gender confirmation surgery.

Kristin drove her to California for the procedure. 'We had such a fun road trip, music blaring while we talked and laughed,' Kristin says. 'We'd come so far in the eight years since Fred admitted he needed to wear women's clothes, I was proud to be by Seda's side as she took this huge step towards completing her journey.'

Three's not a crowd A year later, Kristin met Richard Bartlett, now 50, online. Richard worried that he might be uncomfortable when he met Seda, but within minutes of meeting, they were laughing and messing around.

He moved in with the family in 2015 and, although it is an unconventional home, it works. Seda, Richard and Kristin go for brunch at weekends when the kids are busy with their friends. Richard and Seda go to gigs together as they both love rock music. Richard is a professional chef and cooks for the family most nights.

'We celebrate Richard on Father's Day, and he leads the boys in preparing brunch for Seda and me on Mother's Day. Seda made the man I married happy and I am forever grateful to her for that.

It wasn't just Fred who transitioned,' she says, 'our entire family changed. Seda taught us to accept the people we love for who they really are, even if they don't fit in with what we had planned.

I lost a husband, but I gained so much more.' | | Seda night together

'I'd ignored things in the past - like a rip in my favourite red dress' 'I took the boys shopping for wigs and bras for Seda - who they call Maddy'

CAPTION(S):

Richard and Seda enjoying a night out together

WORDS: KIM WILLIS.

Above: Kristin and Fred in 2006. Left: Seda and Kristin with their sons Trin and Sam
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2017
Words:1662
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