'She Was My Best Friend - Now He's My Boyfriend': Woman Falls For Childhood Pal After Gender Change

Happy couple: Shaaba Lotun and Jamie Raines

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Shaaba Lotun, 21 and Jamie Raines, 21, were inseparable at school as best girl friends but now the pair are planning their wedding

Two girls who were best friends at school are planning their wedding after one of them came out as transgender and started living as a man.

Shaaba Lotun, 21 and Jamie Raines, 21, were inseparable at school as best girl friends with neither of them expecting to fall in love as a couple.

But now, the pair from Colchester in Essex are planning their wedding and hope to start a family in the near future - and have amassed hordes of followers on YouTube as they document heart-warming videos of the challenges their unanticipated relationship has thrown up.

Jamie, who has been recording his transition on YouTube since the age of seventeen, said: “Documenting my transition as well as mine and Shabba’s relationship has been rewarding on so many levels.

“It’s brilliant to be able see how far we have come and also to know that by talking about our relationship, we have helped others in a similar situation.

“Over the last four years, we’ve had a huge amount of support from people online, every positive and supportive message and comment means so much to us.”

  

Before and after: Jamie Raines

Love: Shaaba and Jamie Raines on holiday at the beach in 2015

Shaaba and Jamie – who prefers not to reveal his original female name – first met in college when they were sixteen-year-old girls.

Shaaba, who is currently a postgraduate student in Management studies at The University of Essex says: “I met Jamie in art class in November 2010. Funnily enough, I didn’t like her at first but we both loved photography.

“Jamie and I ended up taking an extra AS Level in photography and that’s how we bonded. We liked the same music too.”

Devoted: Shaaba and Jamie at Shabba's university graduation in July 2015

Over the next year, Jamie and Shaaba grew close and soon became best friends.

Shaaba – who had always identified as a heterosexual and had dated boys previously – added: “Jamie and I saw each other every day and we soon became best friends.

“Our feelings towards each other were completely platonic. There was no attraction, we were simply best friends.”

Jamie, who is now a psychology postgraduate student at The University of Essex , adds: “Shaaba and I were really close. Her family knew me as a girl and I often visited her at their house.”

But Jamie had always felt that he had been assigned the wrong gender, identifying as a male since the age of four.

Determined: The pair have faced opposition about their relationship

Jamie explains: “When I was about four years old, I thought I was a boy. As I got older, I realised that the way I felt was different to girls but I hoped I would develop later.

“However when I hit puberty, I realised that wouldn’t happen and I tried to fit in as a female.

“Initially I went to an all-girls school which made things really difficult however when I moved to a mixed college, I socialised with a far more open-minded group of friends and I explored my feelings more.

“After watching a television documentary about transgender people at the age of sixteen, I realised that this was how I felt too and there was something I could do about it.”

And in summer 2011 at age seventeen, Jamie came out to his family and friends as transgender who were extremely supportive of his decision.

He says: “My family were really supportive of my transition and my mum said it explained a lot about how I was a kid.

“When I came out to my friends, none of them were negative about it either.”

Although Jamie had come out as transgender to most of his friends, he was nervous about telling Shaaba about his transition as he knew she came from her religious family.

Jamie says: “Out of all of my friends, I told Shaaba last. I didn’t want to lose her as a friend and I was worried about how she would react as she came from a very traditional, religious family.”

Shaaba adds: “Jamie came out to me in August just before we returned to college. At the time, I had no idea what transgender meant but once he explained it, I was cool about it and accepted it.”

And on 20 September 2011, Jamie had his first gender clinic appointment and legally changed his name.

Due to the two-year wait through the NHS, Jamie’s parents paid for him to go through private healthcare. Within five months of his first appointment, Jamie was prescribed testosterone hormones.

Although she faced some opposition from her family, Shaaba fully supported Jamie’s transition and they continued being best friends.

Shaaba – whose parents are divorced – added: “My upbringing was very traditional and religious. So I questioned whether I should tell my family about Jamie’s transition but they had always liked ‘her’ and knew how close we were as friends.

“It would have been weird that ‘she’ had suddenly disappeared. My father was fine about Jamie’s transition. But when I told my mum and my stepdad about it, they banned me from seeing Jamie outside of college or talking to him on social media.

“But I couldn’t just do that to my best friend. Although Jamie was different, he was still the same person to me. I couldn’t stop seeing him.”

But as the natural changes came about with Jamie living life as a male, Shaaba began to develop romantic feelings for him.

Shaaba says: “When Jamie started living as a guy, I suppose my whole mindset changed. With that change in my perception, there was less hugging or touching between us because now Jamie was a boy.

“And although he didn’t start hormones until January 2012, there were physical changes in Jamie in terms of what he was doing aesthetically.

“Jamie cut his hair super short in a typical ‘male’ hairstyle as opposed to an androgynous one. He also started binding and wearing mens’ clothes, which made a big difference to how he looked.

“As I started seeing Jamie as a boy, our feelings for one another began to develop. We got closer and became attracted to each other.

“I was incredibly confused by my newfound feelings towards Jamie and I struggled with my emotions.

“And I worried about what my attraction to him said about my own sexuality.”

Although Shaaba struggled with her emotions, the pair were no longer able to deny their feelings for each other. In early November, they decided to give their relationship a go whilst keeping it a secret.

Jamie says: “We were at a Halloween party and I made it clear to Shaaba that I fancied her. It became obvious to both of us that our feelings for one another were more than friendship.

“A few days later, we decided to have a chat about everything and we decided to test out having a romantic relationship with each other. We thought we would give it a go and see what happened."

Shaaba says: “I was initially nervous and terrified about the whole thing. But when we got together, it felt really natural. We just fitted as a couple.

“I knew so much about Jamie anyway. We had been best friends for over a year and we had already had a relationship without any of the physical stuff.

“Our romantic relationship unfolded just like any other teenage relationship would. We started holding hands and being couply with one another.

“I remember our first kiss being a bit awkward like any other teenage first kiss! But our first date was really nice. Jamie made me dinner and we had a movie night in.”

However two months into dating each other, Shaaba’s mother learned about their relationship and the couple were forced to make some serious decisions about their future.

Shaaba says: “On New Year’s Day 2012, my mother saw a text message that I had sent to Jamie from my phone.

“All hell broke loose and I was banned from seeing Jamie. My parents had the best intentions, their actions weren’t out of spite.

“They thought they were doing what was best for me but it came out the wrong way.

“But two months into our relationship, Jamie and I had to decide whether it would be worth the torment and trouble it would cause with my family.

“We decided our relationship was worth it and so we carried on dating in secret. I would sneak out of my house late at night to see Jamie.

“But eventually things became so difficult with my parents that I left my mother’s house and moved in with Jamie’s family.”

For a short period, Shaaba lived with Jamie in his family home. Afterwards the pair both went on to study at The University of Essex where they shared a flat together.

In spite of the conflict they encountered from certain members of her family, Shaaba and Jamie continued to have a happy relationship. And Shaaba was a strong source of support for Jamie as he underwent further changes during his transition.

Jamie says: “I felt guilty about everything that was going on with Shaaba’s family but we were really happy together.

“After three months, my voice began to drop and I got more muscly and hairier. I also had emotional changes – I definitely cry less now. I get more angry or grumpy than sad.”

Shaaba adds: “The situation with my family was tough. There was a time when I wasn’t allowed to see my sisters because I was going out with Jamie but he helped me through everything.”

And after three years later of being together, there was a happy ending in Shaaba’s and Jamie’s heartwarming love story. In Christmas 2014, Shaaba’s mother reconciled with Jamie and finally accepted their relationship.

Shaaba says: “There was such conflict with my family and it really brought me down. So last Christmas Eve, Jamie decided to get my mum a gift.

“When I handed the gift to my mum, she asked for Jamie to give it to her himself. So after Christmas Day, Jamie popped round and met my mum.

“We had been together for such a long time and now my family were ready to accept Jamie. Everyone was excited to see him, it was like a Christmas miracle!

Jamie adds: “Shaaba’s parents were surprised to see that I looked like a boy and that relieved them.

“We talked about my future with Shaaba and our plans for marriage and kids.

“Everything improved from that meeting last Christmas. And this year, Shaaba’s parents threw a big 21st birthday for her with all of our parents there. It was amazing.”

During the last three years, Jamie and Shaaba have posted videos on all aspects of the happiness and challenges of their relationship.

Jamie has been documenting his transition on YouTube since the age of seventeen. And the pair’s updates on their love story have become particularly popular.

Shaaba and Jamie often receive hundreds of messages from fans of his YouTube channel.

Jamie – whose time-lapse video went viral last year – says: “I would mention ‘my girlfriend’ in my videos and my viewers would ask lots of questions about Shaaba and ask if she would appear with me. So we decided to do Q&A videos together and post updates on our relationship.”

Shaaba says: “When we posted the video about our reconciliation with my family, I received an influx of messages from people who were in relationships which their parents didn’t approve of.

“They thanked us for giving them hope and showing that time is the greatest healer through our videos. Even the most unaccepting people can come round and understand.”

Jamie and Shaaba want to continue raising awareness about transgender issues. They hope to marry and have kids someday.

Shaaba says: “We would love to get married and have children. We are always keeping an eye on the latest scientific advances but I would love to adopt too.

“Jamie and I have gone through a lot together and we are still best friends to this day.”

 

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