A transgender man is set to marry his best friend from school after they fell in love when he transitioned.
25-year-old Jamie Raines from Essex, who first felt he was male at the age of four, met Shaaba Lotun, 24, in art class when he was 16 and became best friends with her when he was still living as a female.
At the age of 16, Jamie watched a documentary on transgender people which helped him come out to his mum. A couple of months later, he told his friends but he was nervous to reveal his new identity to Shaaba, who had been raised in a strict Asian household.
But after he came out as trans to Shaaba, they became romantic and got engaged in 2017 after around six years together and disapproval from the bride-to-be’s mum.
Now, the pair are set to wed next year and they finally have the blessing of both their families.
Jamie told Barcroft TV: ‘One of the people I was most scared to tell was Shaaba; I knew her family’s opinion on having male friends and I wasn’t sure how she’d react.’
‘She was great, she was the first person who got my new name and pronouns down and never got it wrong,’ he recalled.
Shabba added: ‘Jamie sounded far more confident than he ever had before, I was just like, “Cool, I support you, what do you need me to do?”‘
Despite this, there was a question over whether they could still be friends.
Shaaba explained: ‘There was a strict rule about me being friends with guys, but in my defence, I didn’t actually break that – I didn’t know one of my friends identified as male.’
After Jamie came out as trans, they both knew the dynamic of their relationship had changed.
He admitted: ‘I had fancied Shaaba for a while; I had a feeling there was something more going on, but I had no idea if it was real or if I had imagined it because I wanted it to happen.
Our friends would always say we were like an old married couple.’
Shabba added: ‘It was a difficult one, because I genuinely did love Jamie as a friend and would often say if he was a guy I’d marry him straight away.’
After revealing his true feelings to Shaaba at a party, it became clear to both that their feelings for one another had developed into something more than friendship.
Having always identified as heterosexual, Shaaba soon began to question her sexuality, wondering if her attraction to Jamie meant otherwise.
‘There was a lot to process,’ she explained. ‘Before Jamie transitioned I didn’t have romantic feelings for him, it wasn’t something I contemplated.’
Once their romantic relationship began to develop, they kept things private – especially from Shaaba’s mum, whom they knew would not approve.
Shabaa said: ‘After my parents separated, my dad remarried and lived a western lifestyle, but my mum remarried and lives a very Asian lifestyle.
‘They are very strict and identify as Muslim, so there’s a lot of religious rules to follow. It was weird growing up, because I had two polar opposite dynamics.’
According to them, their cover was blown when Shaaba’s mum read a text from Jamie on her daughter’s phone and it took her four years before she began to refer to him using male pronouns.
‘She thought her daughter was a lesbian, and told my whole family who were very, very unimpressed,’ Shabaa said.
‘Everything happened in baby steps when it came to introducing Jamie back into the family,’ Shabaa explained.
‘It was really bad, but I do completely understand it was coming from a place of her wanting to do what was best for me.’