Dear Auntie Helga,
My elderly Aunt Mabel, who I am living with now, has suggested that I write to you to tell you, and your readers, my story of how although born and raised a boy named John I have successfully completed several years in a feminine role, and since 1986 have been a full-time housewife.
When I was young I was never a sporty child and, having failed the 11-plus examination, it was clear I wasn't academically minded, I was never technically gifted either. I never really made friends with other children and had somewhat of a quiet nature. Upon leaving school at 15 due to my 16th birthday falling during the summer holidays I drifted into manual labour which I was clearly not suited for. I was, frankly, a failure at being male. When I was laid off from my job in early 1982 I told my grandmother (on my father's side) that I wished I could learn to be a housewife like her. She thought about it for a little while but I persuaded her that if it didn't work out with me learning the ropes from her neither of us would have lost anything. So, the following Tuesday at 8.00am I arrived at my grandmother's ready for my first day's training.
Grandma had been living alone for a few years since my grandfather died of a heart attack so she was pleased to have some company when going about her work for a while and someone to spend the day with when the work was done. Anyway, about an hour into my first day her sister-in-law, Amelia, popped in to say hello and she was told I was becoming Grandma's apprentice. She said she hoped it worked out well for us both and jokingly suggested I take a female name.
Although Grandma was happy for me to learn a feminine role she said I should keep my male trousers and use a plain top but nothing which could be ruined by the work involved. When I started we agreed that we would give it two weeks to see how things went before deciding whether to keep going with my training. At the end of the two-week period Grandma and I sat down with a coffee and biscuits to discuss how it had worked out and consider whether to continue. We concluded that I had shown some promise and that we should continue with me starting to learn to sew and that she would teach me how to knit as well. As it happened her sister-in-law was a professional seamstress in semi-retirement, so it was arranged that I would spend the afternoons with her for a couple of weeks to learn sewing and how to use a sewing machine properly. Anyway, it was all going well and we got along together really well too.
So, over the next couple of years I spent a lot of time continuing my training, although some of the time it was on a part-time basis as I did work occasionally at that point. However, in 1984 my parents separated and I stayed with my father while my mother moved out of the area. It gave me the chance to put into practice my new skills and was helpful to my father without ever disclosing my desire for a feminine life. In early 1985 my father found happiness with the woman who would become his second wife and I moved in with Grandma to enable him to sell the house to live with his new lady.
Neither of us told him that it was also to allow me to develop in my new role. Grandma had by this point allowed me to wear a feminine apron when working along with a ladies' cleaning overall, and also she had given me a purse (female wallet) to keep my money in. When I did the shopping for us I used a shopping bag she gave me too. We both felt it was a success and when Aunt Mabel saw me in my new role she approved of my new life saying it suited me far more than a male life. A few months later I was given my first handbag as Grandma said I shouldn't keep my purse in my pocket and it would take me an age to find my purse in the shopping bag which would delay others waiting to pay in the local shop.
In November 1985 I slipped on a frosty pavement and damaged my knee, which meant that I was no longer able to do manual labouring. Although it was painful at first and uncomfortable for some months I was delighted to be have a way out of doing manual labouring to allow me to concentrate on my work at home, although it was somewhat awkward given I was on crutches for 5 months. That winter Grandma gave me some thick polo-neck tops to wear. Although I was still wearing trousers which were more male than female at that point, it was clear that although born male I had gone from boy to effeminate rather than boy to man, and that I was heading from effeminate youth to a womanly man.
When the weather gave us a nasty surprise in March 1986 with a lot of snow and bitterly cold temperatures, Grandma gave me some of her cardigans to wear over the jumpers and allowed me to use her big winter coat when doing the shopping. It was at this point she said to me that she thought I had completed my training and was now ready to take over the housework completely and should call myself a housewife from that point on as I was clearly living as one of the ladies now. To signify this she arranged for me to have my hair permed like hers when her hairdresser came a couple of days later and, after the hairdresser had left, Aunt Mabel and Grandma's sister-in-law came to see us. Apparently it was traditional for male apprentices in industry to put on a demonstration when they completed their apprenticeship so they had arranged a show for my end-of-apprenticeship. When we all sat down, Grandma said "Mabel and Amelia please allow me to introduce Dorothy to you. She's now completed her training with me and will be the housewife here from now on as I am now going to enjoy my retirement."
The ladies then came up to us and hugged me saying I was so much better as a woman than as a male and that I was clearly never meant to be a man. It was at this point Grandma asked me to go to her room where she had left a surprise for me on her bed. It was my first dress. When I went back downstairs Aunt Mabel suggested I be known formally as Mrs Matthews in future to emphasise that I was a housewife now. I was delighted to have been accepted so fully by the wonderful ladies in my life. Neither of my parents approved of my lifestyle but by this point I was in my early 20s so clearly of an age to decide the direction my life should take, and I was lucky to have the help I received.
We had six happy years with me looking after the house while Grandma enjoyed her retirement doing jigsaw puzzles, reading and knitting and we always enjoyed each other's company. However, in 1992 Grandma suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered. After Grandma died in late 1993 Aunt Mabel asked me whether I would like to move in with her, with me looking after the house while she spent her time tending to the garden. As we had always got on well, with her encouraging my development in my feminine role, I was delighted to accept her very kind offer. Aunt Mabel was also a widow since her husband had died in a car crash quite young and had never met anyone new.
Amelia frequently visited us as she always enjoyed the cakes I baked and it was enjoyable for us ladies to sit and have a natter. As I said earlier, I had never really made friends with anyone when a child so by this point my social circle consisted of Aunt Mabel, Amelia and their friends. I was totally relaxed in their company with them accepting me as just one of the ladies. I was in my mid-20s but I had nothing whatsoever in common with anyone of my own age, let alone males my own age, and embraced my life with elderly ladies, to which I was clearly suited.
Although I had changed my name by deed poll from John James Matthews to Dorothy Gladys Matthews in 1987 we had never sought any medical help for the transformation up to this point. However, in 1997, Aunt Mabel asked me whether I would like to have treatment to make me a woman in body as well as in life and I said it would be nice to be able to be complete so we went together to see our doctor who referred me to a specialist in London and I was approved to start on hormone treatment with surgery to come at a later date when the real life test requirements were satisfied.
To overcome the work requirement for the real life test Amelia arranged for me to do some piecework dressmaking with her for customers she had kept on a part-time basis when she retired. In 2003 I was finally a complete woman in body as well as life and I will be eternally grateful to Aunt Mabel for looking after me during my recovery. When the Gender Recognition Act took effect in England I applied for a gender recognition certificate and amended birth certificate stating that I was born female. When it was granted I was finally a woman in life, in body and in law. My transformation from quiet boy to woman and housewife was complete.
So, we have now entered 2016 and I still live with Aunt Mabel with me being the housewife while she is the gardener in the house. I am now over 50 and Aunt Mabel is now 82 but she always says we are more like sisters than Aunt and niece. We are both members of our local Townswomen's Guild and I thoroughly enjoy my life as a woman and a housewife and Aunt Mabel says Grandma would be extremely proud of me if she was still with us and that we are very lucky to have been able to share each other's company and experiences all these years.
So, with my 30th anniversary of becoming a housewife occurring in the next few weeks, I would like to conclude by assuring any young men starting out on a feminising journey that if they embrace their new life they will be rewarded with a lifetime of contentment and a fulfilling role in society and life. I will be eternally grateful to Grandma, Aunt Mabel and Amelia for all their help and support on my journey and hope that some of your readers being encouraged by their families to transform will take encouragement from my story that if they work hard at their new role and behave appropriately in their new life they may, eventually, be accepted and treated as one of the ladies rather than a feminised male.
Mrs Dorothy Matthews
Thank you for your letter Dorothy and for the very encouraging words. I'm sure your amazing story will bring comfort to those of our readers searching for contentment in their lives. No doubt as well that these special women in your family with their kindness and generosity helped you to come to terms with your femininity and to find peace.