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My husband became my best

Nine years ago Martin Packer told his wife that he was a transsexual ?
and became Emma. Today, their relationship is stronger than ever.
Louette Harding reveals why
Linda Packer married in December 1977? White dress, white veil? To a man
who proved in many ways to be an ideal husband? He had roared into her life
on a blind date in his MG roadster.
He earned a good salary in IT, was intelligent (160 on the Mensa IQ tests),
understanding and faithful.

Martin (now Emma) and Linda Packer are now happily living together as two
women after Martin changed sex."We did everything together," Linda says."We
still do." It hasn't all been plain sailing though. Far from it.

Their marriage has survived a challenge which most of us are barely able to
In 1998, Martin Packer told his wife that he believed he was transsexual.
In the following years, Linda watched Martin transform into Emma.
This gradual but grueling process culminated in the corrective surgery that
gave Emma the body in which she felt comfortable. Meanwhile, Linda crashed
through the anger barrier or wept lonely tears, while always offering her
support.At the end of their mutual ordeal, both women concluded that their
bond went beyond gender or sex, and that they wished to continue their
"We talked about splitting up," Emma says.
"It came down to Linda thinking it would be better for me if we split and my
thinking it would be better for her."I always wanted us to stay together but
there were times when I felt, this is totally unfair on her."She's still attractive,
she should be with somebody in a more normal relationship?"
That they have now been forced to annul their marriage due to governmental
pressure is one of the ironies of their remarkable story. The two women
interrupt each other, correct each other's anecdotes, and finish each other's
Both couple is now around 60, they live in a Fenland village outside Ely,
sharing their semi with their two rescued greyhounds.
On subsequent days she began to tell that, the plot of The Box of Stolen Lives,
the novel she is working on, concerning a lost tribe from the fen marshes,
whose lack of concrete gender identities leads to their persecution and
destruction. It became obvious that Emma was speaking from the heart about
what it means to be radically different.
In her case, there was a temporary breach with her sister and a permanent
silence from a niece. (The couple has no children? Linda didn't want them;
Martin was indifferent? And both sets of parents are dead.)
Yet society in general has been relatively sympathetic.
Emma is an accepted stalwart of her village's amateur dramatics group.
Many villagers know that she and Linda were husband and wife. Tolerance has
largely replaced the freak-show prurience of the past.
"I used to be the most conventional person," Linda says.
"I've totally changed."
Linda was an outgoing child who made friends easily whereas Martin knew
from the age of four that something was fundamentally contradictory about his
His brain told him he was a girl, "but people kept telling me I was a boy and
eventually I had to believe them.
"At primary school it was the girls I wanted to be with."
He was sent to boys' junior and grammar schools? "I felt weird and wrong’?
Underachieving as a result.
"I never had any real friends." By his teens, he was "borrowing" his mother's
clothes in secret, by his 20s was taking "crazy cocktails" of antidepressants,
and in the mid-1970s a psychologist he was referred to put him in crude group
Identified as a transvestite (cross-dresser), he assumed the professional knew
"That cost me 25 years of reality."
Emma's experience gives the lie to common misconceptions and underlines the
difference between gender and sexuality.
Her gender dysphasia was clearly hard-wired, nature not nurture.
"I never really got on with my mother and admired my father much more, so
any? Nurture? Would have been in the opposite direction."
Despite the macho trappings, such as the sports car, "girls treated me as if I
was some strange creature without a sex.
"In my brain I was female, in my body I was a heterosexual male.
"I never had a homosexual relationship."
Martin and Linda enjoyed a healthy sex life and marital happiness, yet from
Martin's point of view there always seemed to be "a lot missing".
The couple lived in each other's pockets.
"We became like Darby and Joan in our early 30s," Linda says.
"Martin told me before we married that he liked to cross-dress. I was quite
innocent, so it wasn't something I really liked but it was a part of Martin and I
was in love."
He would cross-dress in the privacy of their home, after asking for her consent,
about once a month.
She recognized that it served as stress release.
By the late 1990s, Martin had set up his own IT consultancy and had also
trained as a psychotherapist and counselor to help others in a similar position
to himself.
In September 1998, a client he was counseling asked why he cross-dressed.
"It's right, natural? How things should be," Martin replied.
Then the full impact of his explanation hit him under the ribs.
"I wanted to try and fight it and I did for a few months, but it was no good.
"What on earth was Linda going to say? We'd been together 20-odd years.
"I think I broke the news saying, I’ve got a horrible feeling I might be
Linda launched a last ditch attempt at denial. "I thought, It will blow over."
And when it didn't?
"I have never cried as much in my life. We were moving here from Sussex and I
had no friends, no back-up support.
"Besides, Martin was my best friend. My first reaction was, how could he do
this to me? Work [as an activities organizer in an old people's home] was my
salvation; at work I could forget it."
Over the following months, Martin was referred to a top gender psychiatrist but
also reached new depths of despair and guilt, smashing his head against walls
and stabbing at himself with a (thankfully blunt) knife.
"I thought, If I kill myself now she'll just go through a normal bereavement?"
Linda was shocked out of introversion. "I just wanted to support you," she
says, looking at Emma.
In 1999, Martin began his transformation, a £20,000 treatment of electrolysis,
hormone therapy (the side effect of which was a kind of nuclear burst of PMT),
speech therapy and a period of living "in role".
And Linda's reaction to first seeing Emma? "I went through a mourning period,
but beforehand he looked ghastly, had lost lots of weight.
"The worst time was when he was Emma half the week and Martin half the
"He was a shell, really. In the end I thought, let’s get Emma here all the time
and get rid of Martin!? He just wasn't the person I knew.
"The thing that upset me the most was silly." She is addressing Emma again.
"One day, you'd had your eyebrows plucked. You'd always had thick eyebrows
and? Well, it upset me so much.
"I looked at you and it wasn't you anymore. In a way, I was losing a person
where you were gaining one."
By the time of the operation, Linda was reconciled and waiting by the bedside.
Almost immediately, quiet, uncertain Martin was replaced by witty, chatty
"I felt real. I was me at long last." Linda busts into laughter.
"Why couldn't he have been like that, all those years we sat in?"
More soberly, she adds that for her there was the business "of learning to live
with another woman, which isn't easy if you're not used to it, and I didn't have
sisters or daughters."
As Emma established her identity, calling herself Emma Martin, Linda was
"It's how you think the world will perceive you. I'm Mrs Packer but I have no
"Do people think we are a lesbian couple? I find this difficult, still."
They are now two heterosexual women who share a bed because they always
have and because physical contact can be comforting rather than sexual.
Linda is now retired, Emma is painstakingly researching the historical aspects
of her current novel.
The frontispiece will include a quote (from Indira Gandhi): "Mankind will
endure when the world appreciates the logic of diversity."
This year, Linda Packer and Emma Martin would have celebrated their 30th
wedding anniversary.
That they won't is due to government legislation. The Gender Recognition Act of
2004 was an important step in the recognition of transsexual people.
The original idea was that the 100 or so marriages that had survived one
partner's transition would be allowed to continue but an intervention at
ministerial level (rumored to be from Tony Blair) reversed this.
Emma was presented with a choice: to annul her marriage and be granted a
birth certificate that acknowledges the intrinsic nature of her female gender
(and, for example, allows her access to her pension at the female retirement
age); or to preserve her marriage and remain legally a man.
As I met the couple, they had admitted defeat following two rulings from the
European court and their decree absolute came through this summer.
"We had to do what the government insists," Emma says.
"But in December, we will hold some kind of confirmation of our lifetime
commitment, a big celebration on what would have been our 30th
As Linda adds, referring to the worst times in their relationship, "I used to say
to myself, ?I can't see this working. I don't think I can go through with this.?
But deep down, I knew we would never part. I just knew it. We had so much
A transvestite enjoys wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex.
(Transvestism rarely affects women, although it did before it was acceptable for
females to wear trousers.) Cross-dressers are no more likely to be gay than
non-cross-dressers. Well-known transvestites: comedian Eddie Izzard and
potter Grayson Perry.
A transsexual feels that his (more rarely her) gender is the opposite of that
indicated by his external genitalia. (Research shows a difference in the brain's
hypothalamus of male-to-female transsexuals as compared to other males.) It
is not possible to alter the brain but it is possible, if difficult, to alter the body.
Male-to-female corrective surgery involves shaving the Adam's apple, removing
the testes and forming a vagina and a clitoris with lining tissue from the penis.
There are an estimated 5,000 postoperative transsexual people in the UK, of
whom 3,750 are male-to-female. Well-known transsexuals: travel writer Jan
Morris and former model