Seeing his dying mum pack more into her last eight months than he had in his whole lifetime convinced Brian Driver that he must finally be true to himself – and become a woman.
The filing clerk from Manchester had spent 33 years feeling trapped in the wrong body.
But after his mum, Mary, lost her battle to lung cancer in January 2012, Brian revealed everything to his family and started living full-time as Bronwyn.
“I suddenly realised life’s too short to be unhappy,” she says. “I had to be honest with myself and everyone else. I wanted to be a woman.”
Growing up as a boy, Bronwyn was bullied at school for not liking football.
She’d feel envious when her sisters, Sharon, Karen and Gail, wore pretty dresses, although at the time, she didn’t understand why.
“One day, I sneaked into Karen’s room and stole one,” the 35-year-old confesses. “Slipping it on once everyone was asleep, I admired how I looked, finally feeling beautiful.”
Confused and desperately wanting to fit in, Bronwyn tried to bury her deep longing.
But it didn’t go away and when she was 19 she came across a programme about a man who dressed as a woman.
“I’d never seen anything like it, but suddenly everything made sense. I had gender dysphoria. I was meant to be a woman.”
Scared that no-one would accept her, Bronwyn continued to hide her true feelings.
She worked long hours and played video games in her free time so she didn’t have to socialise.
“While other people my age were out on the town, I stayed in alone,” she says. “I felt safe in my bubble. But years passed and I grew miserable and lonely.
“I would eye up women’s outfits, wishing I could wear them. Occasionally it got the better of me and I’d buy a silky blouse, flustering to the shop assistant that it was for my sister.”
Shy Bronwyn never wore the pretty clothes outside her own house. But everything changed in May 2011 when her beloved mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Her dying wish was to spend her final months doing the things she enjoyed, like going to the races and to car boot sales.
She even managed a family break to Southport.
“After she passed away, I was absolutely devastated,” Bronwyn says. “But I took comfort that my lasting memories were of Mum having fun.
Then it hit me – Mum had done more in her last eight months than I had in my 33 years.
“I finally told friends and family the truth, expecting them to look horrified or laugh. But to my surprise they fully supported me.”
So with renewed confidence, she grew her hair long and changed her name by deed poll.
Last May, she started taking hormones to help her look more feminine, and now she’s speaking to experts about having surgery next year.
Her sisters have certainly noticed the difference in her personality.
“Karen recently said that since my transition I’m the happiest she’s ever known me. It’s true. I feel like I’m getting a second chance at life,” says Bronwyn.
“I just hope Mum’s looking down at me, proud of the woman I’ve become.”