Labelled ‘Britain’s first gender-fluid family’, Louise and Nikki Draven are bringing up their young son Star Cloud to 'not get hung up' on being a boy.
Star’s mum (and biological father) is 32-year-old Louise, who was born a man but has been having hormone treatment for two years in preparation for the full male-to-female transition in December.
In the last 12 months, she has lost an astonishing 16 stone in weight, dropping from a hefty 25 stone to a slimline 9, after being told by docs that she was too heavy for the surgery to go ahead.
She’s now at the optimum weight for the life-changing ops and can’t wait for them to happen.
Star’s dad – his birth mother - is Charlie, 31, born a woman and pansexual.
A year ago, 5ft 6 Charlie – then called Nikki - dressed some days as male and some as female. But the women’s clothes have now gone after realising he’s transgender too!
‘I’ve never been comfortable being female,’ states former pub bouncer Charlie, ‘but it’s taken me a while to actually admit that. I was never happy about having periods or growing breasts. It felt all wrong. So I did some soul-searching and slowly realised that I’ve always wanted to be male. I’d hidden that side of myself a lot of the time because I didn’t know how to express it or explain it! It was scary as hell having to admit that to myself.’
When the couple first met back in 2011 at an LGBT meeting, Charlie was identifying as a lesbian.
Louise would sometimes dress as a female but presented as male, so it was a shock to them both when they fell in love.
Charlie now believes he was never really a lesbian and later discovered that he was pansexual.
‘I don’t fancy people based on what their bodies are like,’ Charlie explains. ‘It’s their mind, spirit and personality that’s important. What they have between their legs really doesn’t matter to me.’
Having naturally conceived Star and his little brother Hannibal (who tragically died at 21 weeks from kidney problems), after the double gender reassignment ops, there’ll be no hope of extending their family. Charlie and Louise have decided that this is the right option for them.
‘We’re quite sure that we don’t want more children,’ says Charlie adamantly. ‘I have a genetic mutation which I can pass on to my children and it can affect their physical health. The doctors also gave me a higher chance of miscarriage and stillbirth so we’re not going to risk it. People have asked us about egg/sperm freezing but that’s not an option as it’s very expensive and not available to us.’
Mum Louise agrees. ‘We have one gorgeous, amazing child, and we want to ensure he has everything he needs. There will always be ‘what ifs’ and I’m sure the loss of our youngest son has had a massive impact on our parenting choices but not on our choices about transitioning. What I mean is, we don’t believe his death is the reason we’re transgender… We were devastated by the loss, but we were trans before we even found each other.’
Star has, according to dad Charlie, ‘a five-year-old’s understanding’ of the situation.
‘I’ve always been Daddy and Louise has always been Mummy and that’s never going to change. Star sometimes asks questions – recently, he asked me why I had to wear a swimsuit when we went swimming and not trunks like the other daddies – and I always give him an honest answer. I tell Star that Mummy is going to a special doctor who will take away her ducky (Star’s word for penis) and that when I go to the special doctor, I will be getting a ducky of my own and then I’ll be just like him!’
The couple admit that they do worry about the impact their actions will have on Star. ‘It’s only natural to worry,’ says mum Louise. ‘All parents worry. But having the surgery will make Charlie and I feel complete as individuals, and we’ll be much happier because of that. If we waited until Star was older, he would be spending his childhood with parents who felt incomplete. But if we do it now, while Star is still young, we’ll have more time to enjoy ourselves as individuals and as a family.’
Star, now five and according to his dad ’still gender neutral’, is a happy and well-adjusted child. The school he attends is in full support of the way his parents are bringing him up. Despite his parents not forcing a gender on him and despite him having a penchant for the colour pink, he identifies as a boy and uses male pronouns. In January, he decided to cut his shoulder-length hair short. ‘He’s in two minds now about whether or not he wants it long again, so we’ll see how he goes,’ says stay-at-home mum Louise. ‘But however he wants it is fine by us.’