Although the history of the LGBT+ community is one of struggle and oppression, delving into individual stories can teach us powerful lessons about what makes us human. It may not always feel like it, but the world is becoming more tolerant and accepting with every passing day. The news might be bleak, but remarkable tales of kindness and compassion are happening constantly.
The story of Jamie and Shaaba is one that gives me remarkable hope for the future. Jamie and Shaaba are former best friends who became a couple after Jamie transitioned into a man having been born biologically female. The pair’s friendship started by chance after the oven in Shaaba’s family home broke shortly before a dinner party. As Jamie lived nearby, Shaaba ran over to see if she could use their oven, and so a friendship was born.
We caught up with the pair to talk about their journey together and hopes for the future as they star in LYNX’s Men in Progress Campaign.
Hi Shaaba! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. What was your reaction when Jamie told you he was going to transition?
Shaaba: Gosh, that seems like a lifetime ago! It was the summer holidays after our first year of college and I wasn’t allowed to go out very much. I know Jamie had organised for our friends to meet in town for something, but I wasn’t allowed to go. Jamie then asked me round his and said there was something important he had to tell me. I was understandably worried, that’s when he said, ‘Do you know what LGBT is?’, and I confusingly answered ‘Yes’, as I knew he identified as a lesbian at the time. Jamie then said ‘Well I’m the T’. In hindsight, that was a great way to come out as trans, except, I had no idea what the ‘T’ meant at the time! After explaining it to me, I was completely okay with it, it actually just seemed to make sense with Jamie. Our biggest worry was how my parents would take it, as I wasn’t allowed to be friends with boys. If Jamie identified as male, we knew it would be a difficult thing for my parents to accept.
Jamie, how important was Shaaba’s support through such a difficult time?
Jamie: Right from the start, Shaaba was incredibly supportive of me and my transition. When I told her, I was so worried that I might lose my best friend, so it was a huge relief when she was so accepting. Over the years, her support has been so important. She’s been there at every step of my transition, from changing my name, coming out to college, starting hormones and having surgery. Her support gave me the strength to come out when I felt scared. It kept me on the train to important appointments when I was feeling so anxious that I just wanted to go home.
When did your relationship become romantic?
Jamie: Things became romantic after I had begun transitioning. I was the first one to sort of indicate I had feelings for Shaaba that went beyond our friendship haha. It was at a Halloween party at my place in 2011. Let’s just say that after some dutch courage, I made it quite obvious how I felt!
Shaaba: Things were a little awkward after that for a few days, I just needed time to sort of work things through in my head. I’m straight and always have been, but because some of the people around me didn’t accept Jamie as male, it made me question my own sexuality for a very short time. I also didn’t want to ruin the great friendship that we already had. Seeing Jamie after he transitioned was almost like meeting a new person for the first time, but one I felt I had known forever.
Aside from the obvious, how has your relationship changed since the old days? Has it been challenging going from friends to romantic partners?
Jamie: It was a little bit strange to begin with, realising that the boundaries in our relationship had changed. Going from friends to partners meant that we just ended up still being close, but seeing things differently. I don’t think it was really challenging, I see it as a ‘super level’ of being best friends.
Shaaba: I don’t feel like our relationship has changed exactly, it just got much stronger. Yes, Jamie’s my partner, but he’s still my best friend, that’s the foundation that our relationship grew from and that’s what I think makes us quite strong as a couple.
How did your friends and family react? What sort of reaction have you had since appearing in the Lynx video?
Jamie: Our families had very different reactions to our relationship. My family were completely cool with it and so was Shaaba’s Dad’s side, but her Mum’s side found it a bit more difficult to accept.
Shaaba: My mum’s side are quite religious and they weren’t all too happy about accepting Jamie as being my transgender best friend in the first place, so finding out that we were in a relationship was a bit of a shock for them. It’s taken five years, but I’m really happy to say that we’re now at a point where all of my family accepts Jamie for who he is and as my partner.
Both: It’s fantastic, we all spend time together, and we really feel like we’re both a part of each other’s family now. A few of our friends and family have seen the Lynx video and think it’s really cool. It’s not very lovey-dovey, but it shows couples in a very raw and funny light. It’s commendable how Lynx are integrating LGBT diversity into their advertising without making a massive deal about it. It just seems so natural, which is great, because it is.
What’s one thing you’d like people who don’t understand or disapprove of your relationship to know?
Both: People who don’t understand what being transgender means can often think it consumes everything and focus too much on it. Our relationship is just like anyone else’s. The fact that Jamie is transgender really doesn’t come up on a day to day basis, or anywhere near as much as people assume that it might. The only things that are slightly different about our relationship due to Jamie being transgender doesn’t concern anybody but ourselves.
What’s next for the two of you?
Both: We have a cat, a flat and things are going really well for us right now! We’ve both finished our undergraduate and Masters degrees, now Jamie’s working on his PhD where he’s researching the wellbeing of transgender people and I’m starting a business. We also jointly run a social enterprise, called This Is Me, to help the LGBT+ community. We both want to continue making YouTube videos as it’s something we both really enjoy. On a more personal level, we are planning on getting engaged in the near future. We eventually do want to get married and have kids at some point too, all in good time though!
Check out LYNX’s Men in Progress videos here