Stacy Collins still recalls the sinking feeling in her stomach a year ago when her husband Glenn, a respected criminal lawyer, suddenly announced after dinner that he had something he wanted to say.
She felt sure that her husband was about to turn his back on their 12-year marriage, their four children and their enviable middle class lifestyle of restaurants, trips to the theatre and dinners with friends.
"For the previous six months he’d been receiving counselling for a bout of depression and I’d noticed he’d been taking more care with his appearance," she recalls.
"So when Glenn said after dinner that he had something to tell me, my mouth went dry with nerves. I braced myself for what he had to say."
But nothing could have prepared the 33-year-old for the shocking confession which came next.
Glenn told Stacy not that he had found another woman, but that he was really a woman born into a man’s body.
His words, Stacy remembers, were understated. "Glenn said: I’ve been having gender issues and I want to live as a woman."
He then confessed that while away on business he’d been secretly dressing up as a woman, in a wig, women’s clothes and make-up.
"I felt sick. I was so shocked and horrified that the man I thought I knew so well, who was not camp, or effeminate but a criminal lawyer known for his love of sports, rock climbing and biking, had kept such a huge secret from me. A whole gamut of emotions smashed over me. That moment my world was crumbling as I tried to grapple with what this meant for us as a family."
Remarkably, just a year on, Stacy says their marriage is stronger than ever, even though Glenn, 44, is undergoing hormone treatment, has changed his name to Samantha and lives as a woman.
Extraordinarily, the two women, who live in Hythe, Kent, share a bed in a relationship Samantha describes as "living together as lesbians", even though their children – Megan, 12, Grace, ten, and sons Oliver, eight, and Alex, six – still call their father ‘Daddy’.
The pair, who look strikingly similar, share the school run, while Samantha does aikido (a type of martial arts) with Grace and takes the boys to the skatepark.
And Samantha has continued to practise prison law, representing prisoners who are serving life sentences. She travels the country visiting her clients, who include the most dangerous murderers, as well as visiting police stations to advise those who have been arrested.
Finally the pair spoke about Glenn’s revelation again, prompted by a telephone call from him. ‘One day away on business I rang her and simply said that I could not carry on as I was.’ That phone call was, Stacy says, the turning point when she realised the family would have to discuss the situation together and move forward.
"The children were sat together having tea,’ she recalls. ‘I decided then and there to tell them. I just said: "Daddy feels happier becoming a woman."
"The eldest were open-mouthed trying to digest what this meant. It was Alex who burst into tears, worried he wouldn’t have his daddy any more."
"The eldest children immediately asked if we were going to split up and there was a lot of concern about what Daddy would be wearing."
"They were reassured when I said we wouldn’t be splitting up and Daddy would dress like I do, which is quite casually and not in teetering high shoes and a blonde wig."
But Stacy admits the children were far more accepting than she imagined they’d be.
"I know it seems hard to believe, but once they all realised Daddy was still going to be Daddy, even if he dressed in women’s clothes, – and their lives were going to carry on as before, they were fine," she says.
The following day Glenn rang all the children’s schools to tell them he would be transitioning into a woman. The couple say the teachers were wholly supportive.
They then decided Glenn would go to work as a man but live as a woman during the evenings and weekends. Meanwhile, Megan stood up in class and told all her school friends, while the other children’s teachers spoke to their classmates.
Samantha says: "The children wanted to know what to call me and I said whatever they felt comfortable with. They’ve all stuck with calling me Dad, which is fine."
"A letter saying I was now Mrs Samantha Collins was sent to all my clients. I have had the odd look from a few custody sergeants at police stations, but other than that no one has ever said anything."