A transgender man is marrying his best friend from school after years of disapproval from the bride-to-be’s mum.
Jamie Raines, who first felt he was male at the age of four, met Shaaba Lotun, both from Essex, when they were 16 and he was still living as female.
Jamie, now 25, and Shaaba, 24, met in art class and quickly became best friends – but their relationship became romantic after Jamie came out as trans.
After around six years together the couple got engaged in 2017 and are set to wed next year – and they finally have the blessing of both their families.
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Jamie Raines, 25, and Shaaba Lotun, 24, are getting married next year after meeting as teenagers when Jamie was still living as female
Jamie claims he first felt he was male at the age of four and only revealed his true identity to his mum after watching a documentary on transgender people
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.
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.’
Thankfully for Jamie, Shaaba was there for him in the way he had hoped.
‘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?”‘
Jamie, pictured in school uniform when he was still living as female, said he was concerned about coming out to Shaaba at first
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.
Thankfully for Jamie, Shaaba was there for him in the way he had hoped when he came out
‘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.
After Jamie came out as trans, he and Shaaba, pictured at school, both knew the dynamic of their relationship had changed
‘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.’
Shaaba, pictured as a little girl, was brought up by strict parents who identified as Muslim
Jamie told how despite them keeping their romance from their friends and family at first, he suspected his parents knew.
Their cover was blown when Shaaba’s mum read a text from Jamie on her daughter’s phone, after confiscating it on New Year’s Day so she could revise – and ‘all hell broke loose’.
‘She thought her daughter was a lesbian, and told my whole family who were very, very unimpressed,’ Shabaa said.
What followed was constant pressure for Shaaba to end her relationship with Jamie, and when it became clear that wouldn’t happen, she was ostracised from the family.
She then moved in with Jamie’s parents, which she said in hindsight ‘wasn’t a good idea’ as it created a ‘bigger rift between the two families’.
Jamie told how despite he and Shaaba keeping their romance from their friends and family at first, he suspected his parents knew – especially mum Christine, pictured left
It took four years for Shaaba’s mum to even contemplate talking to her about Jamie and begin referring to him using male pronouns.
‘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.’
Both Jamie and Shaaba say they don’t hold this against the family, and when Jamie underwent ‘bottom surgery’ – the removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes – things started to improve.
Jamie said it took four years for Shaaba’s mum to even contemplate talking to her about her boyfriend and begin referring to him using male pronouns
Although the lack of acceptance was extremely hard for both Shaaba and Jamie, they are thrilled to be planning their wedding with the support of both families
‘In the last year and a half, things have accelerated so much and it’s more natural, friendly and genuine,’ Jamie said.
Although the lack of acceptance was extremely hard for both Shaaba and Jamie, they are thrilled to be planning their wedding with the support of both families.
Jamie proposed to Shaaba in September 2017, after a year of planning, with everyone from both families present.
He told how he wanted it to be at The University of Essex because it’s a ‘very special place’ for them.
‘To see my family there was just incredible, and to know he had asked for their blessing – I was just so happy,’ Shaaba added.
Jamie proposed to Shaaba in September 2017, after a year of planning, with everyone from both families present
Although reaching this place of acceptance has put a strain on their relationship, the couple feel grateful for how it’s strengthened them as a team.
Jamie said: ‘A big thing I’ve learned is patience and perseverance, and taking a kinder approach with education and giving people more time – that can help a lot.’
Shaaba added: ‘For me, communication is essential, and it’s key to ensure you’re on the same page.
‘Going through this journey of conflict together has ultimately bought us closer together.’