Wren Holdom had been with her partner, Ayla, for almost a decade when a revelation in a Chinese restaurant turned their lives upside down. Learning that her RAF pilot spouse was transgender was just the beginning of a journey that included difficult conversations with family, being outed by the tabloid press at Prince William’s wedding and that ultimately strengthened their bond and cemented their commitment to one another.
They shared their love story with Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. This is just some of the conversation.
MIA: When you met Wren, did you anticipate a time when you would have to tell her [you are trans]?
AYLA: Yeah. Certainly, when we first met, I hadn’t come out to myself at that stage. I buried all of this. I instilled in myself all of the societal learnings that being trans was shameful in some way. So I buried that very deep, and I wouldn’t accept that to myself. So it was three or four years into our relationship that I finally slowly started to accept or even work towards this idea that actually, ‘You might be, you might have to deal with this’. We were already firmly established together as a couple. I spent many years then actually trying to protect Wren from that. So that was this secret that I then had…
WREN: So in the third year we got to this point and she went away because she was living up in Yorkshire, and I went up to visit her on a weekend and she said, ‘I’ve got something to show you.’ [I thought] Okay, here we go then. Right.’ And she showed me a picture of her wearing a pleather skirt and some high heeled boots…
AYLA: Not my finest moment.
WREN: …and just an ordinary top, and I looked at it and I thought, ‘OK, we’re going to have to get some better clothes and do something with your make-up, darling.’ And that genuinely was my first thought.
WREN: Over the three years since she came to me with the picture, we had a couple of discussions and I had sort of pushed a little bit and said, "Is this going any further or where is this going?" And she constantly reassured me, "No, no, this is all it is, this is all it is." And then you get this, "Actually it's not. This is who I need to be." So there was that. It was just shock as much than anything else.
But I can't remember whether it was in that conversation or a little bit later on, but one of the things I was saddest for was the idea that I'd been with this person for seven or eight years at that point and I didn't know who they were. And when she said, 'I could die and nobody knows who I am'... I thought, 'God! I've been with you for seven years, I've been as close to you as anyone and I don't know who you are, or I do or I didn't know how you felt to that extent.'
And then the natural question is, well, how can you stay with them? They've lied to you, and all the rest of it. And I'm like, well, no they didn't lie; they've been trying very hard to protect me.
But even if I did take that point of view, we'd gotten married just over a year prior to this, and I'd stood up in front of everybody I care about and said I love this person. If I loved them and I genuinely care for them, and they're telling me that they now have a choice between killing themselves or continuing their life in a different direction, how can I make them make that choice? Even if I don't stay with them, then clearly I'm going to support them to transition, because if the alternative is that they do something pretty drastic, then how can I love them?
So that's kind of how I started to rationalise a lot of those initial feelings. I thought, however the relationship evolves, clearly I'm not going to stand in the way of this.
You can hear more about Ayla and Wren's love story on No Filter.
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