For transgender people, transitioning can be a complicated journey. Navigating relationships can be all the more difficult. For Jamie Raines, 24, who was born in a female body and transitioned to male, finding love in the form of his best friend Shaaba Lotun, 24, was easy. The pair hit it off when Jamie was female and didn’t expect to fall in love after he transitioned. They had their respective obstacles to overcome though; for Shaaba, a Muslim woman, it was hard to explain to her parents. It can be difficult for Muslim women to marry outside of their race for cultural reasons. Marrying someone of the same sex or identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community is further looked down upon. Jamie presents as male, but Shaaba’s family has had trouble accepting their relationship. The engaged couple, who featured on Channel 4 documentary Bride and Prejudice, spoke to Metro.co.uk about their journey.
So, how did you meet? Shaaba: We met in college when we were 17. Funnily enough we had terrible first impressions of each other! Jamie, who hadn’t transitioned at the time, was with his other friends, and I was the cliché new girl who was being ignored Jamie: I strongly deny this ignoring claim! Regardless, we had a mutual friend and met again. We got to know each other better and have been great friends since. What were the difficulties in being with someone transitioning, Shaaba? Shaaba: Jamie and I faced so much resistance from my mum’s side of the family, that was a real difficulty. It was really hard having to choose all the time between my family and my partner, and by refusing to decide, it was almost like the decision was made for me because I was shut out by my family for it. That kind of hostility really affected me.
It was a tough time, but we’ve managed to make so many improvements since then. My mum has learnt about what being trans means, that it’s not a choice, and has started to accept my relationship with Jamie. And this wasn’t just difficult for me, but for Jamie too. In the early stages of our relationship, before Jamie was happy with his appearance, he lacked so much confidence and it was really hard to see him not being happy with himself. After a few years though when Jamie progressed with his transition, it was really beautiful to see just how much he grew in confidence. I was able to support him and watch him grow into the best version of himself, and I’m so proud of him for it.
How did Jamie come out? Shaaba: Jamie came out to me in the summer between college years. He’d already told our other friends earlier. When I went to his place, Jamie was really nervous. He asked me ‘do you know what LGBT means?’ Knowing it was roughly about sexuality, I told him that I knew, which is when he said ‘well I’m the T’. I felt like such an idiot, because I had no idea what the ‘t’ even stood for! But when we spoke about it, he explained what it meant, and what he planned on doing in terms of his transition, and it all just made sense. What are the difficulties of being in a relationship with a trans person? Jamie: Pretty much all the difficulties of being in a relationship where one person is trans are the perceptions and judgements of other people. Between the two of us, the only issue is discussions around how we’re going to have kids one day, just like any other couple.
What are the positives? Is society more accepting? Shaaba: For me, the biggest positive is seeing Jamie grow into his full potential, and be so dedicated towards helping others feel the same way. People always assume that being with a trans person must be so complicated, but the reality is, it really doesn’t affect our relationship at all now. Jamie’s content with his physical transition, we’re getting on with both of our families, and the only reason we talk about trans stuff now, is because we go out of our way to promote LGBT+ education and awareness. Jamie: Society is definitely more accepting now than it used to be, I appreciate the more fortunate position that trans people are in now in comparison to 20 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go. Whilst people are a lot more accepting, there are certain parts of the world where trans people are really unprotected, and don’t have the rights they deserve.
What are you most looking forward to in your relationship and engagement? Jamie: I’m so excited to just see what life brings, to be honest. I’m really excited about having kids one day, and just cliché things like going on adventures together, having a puppy, the milestones that all couples want to reach! Shaaba: I agree, I love the idea of traveling together and just making fun memories, and then settling down and starting our own family. I’m also really excited to plan our wedding, now that my family’s accepting Jamie a lot more, I’m looking forward to celebrating our commitment. If you want to see more of Jamie and Shaaba, you can follow Jamie’s channel here. Or Sabaa’s channel here.