The incredible news of a Belfast transgender couple becoming parents to twins, may never have happened thanks to Rev Ian Paisley.
Adrianne and Michael Elson-Steven have been recognised as the first UK trans couple to have twin girls.
But 15 years ago, Adrianne, originally from Liverpool, decided to move to Northern Ireland as train shunter Adrian, then aged 34, in the hope of overcoming persistent transgender feelings.
The plan was to join Ian Paisley’s Martyrs’ Memorial Free Presbyterian Church and somehow ‘purge’ the desire to identify as a woman.
Adrianne told Belfast Live: “In the end I just had to accept the truth. All my life I’d been different. As a child I was relentlessly and mercilessly bullied, I was a big boy but feminine and gentle and that meant I was a target at school.
“I always had feelings of femininity but I did my best to quash them and put on a brave face. I worked on the trains and around heavy machinery and it’s a heavy duty, manly job which allowed me to hide my real self.
“By the time I was 34 I was really struggling with the reality that I was a female inside a male body. After a lot of research and planning, I decided to move to Northern Ireland and join the church of Rev Ian Paisley.
“I was convinced his preaching and guidance would purge me of these feelings. I even joined Rev Paisley’s anti Gay Pride campaigns but it was while I was protesting outside Belfast City Hall until one day that everything changed in an instant.”
Adrianne stood with evangelical Christian protesters as Gay Pride protesters responded.
She said: “Suddenly one of the Pride protesters caught my eye and held my gaze and I felt all the pretence fall away. I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing here, who am I fooling? I never found out who that man was but he pricked my conscience.
“I walked away that day and prayed for guidance. I got a new flat near St Patrick’s Church on Newtownards Rd which was more liberal and then I went to All Saints Church which was more liberal again.
“And today, I sit here in truth, a woman and a mum with Michael the love of my life, and our twin girls who are almost a month old.
“In the end I just had to be honest and nothing could purge the truth. I’m transgender. I identify as female.
“There was nothing a church or biblical readings could do, there was nothing Ian Paisley could do, there was nothing I could do to change the reality of my life.
“Once I accepted it, I started exploring my femininity, attending ballet classes but I really needed help with clothes and make-up. I’d no experience of putting outfits or a look together. I also started attending the Butterfly Club, a transgender support group in Belfast.
“And then in 2010, five years after I came to Northern Ireland to try to deny the truth of who I really was, I was introduced to my future, my happiness, Michael Steven who also attended the Butterfly Club.
“My heart melted when I saw him. I used to go to the club straight after ballet class.
“I hoped he’d ask me out and I gave some subtle hints that I liked him in the hope he;d ask me out, but he didn’t so I assumed he wasn’t interested. Now I know he totally missed my little queues.
“We went for a walk at Crawfordsburn in Co Down, through the forest and down to the beach and I plucked up the courage to tell Michael how I felt.
“He just grinned and said he felt the same and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
“When I moved to Northern Ireland and told people I wanted the chance to drive trains which was true. But I really wanted a way to escape the reality of who I am. But I think God, the Universe or fate, drew me to Belfast and led me right to my Michael.
“Now I’m turning 50 next month and I have my life in some order finally, not only blessed to have Michael but doubly blessed to have our precious twins, Christin and Mavis.
“We’ve had lots of challenging times, we’ve been abused as trans people but we can face anything together. Ours is just a story of love. These two daughters have been born of sheer love.
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“Having these tiny babies feels like a dream. Our lives have been turned upside down, our flat is filled with baby equipment, our routine is inside out and we don’t sleep – but we’re loving every moment of it. It’s real, messy, noisy and busy but it’s still the best thing in the world.
“I hope people remember this as a love story. The response we’ve had to our twins announcement has been phenomenal, overwhelming and affirming. There have been a few negative comments but mostly the supportive and loving.
“I know we just have to be ourselves. We’re not militant trans people, we don’t fit that box, we’re just Adrianne and Micheal, mum and dad to Christin and Mavis.”
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk