‘Nice to see you again,’ I smiled as a familiar face walked over to me.
We were at the Larmer Tree festival in Dorset, and Ian Newman, 52, was performing with his group, The Antipoet, while I helped with stage management.
I’d clocked him at previous years’ festivals, and thought he was quite gorgeous but our conversation never progressed further than choosing microphones or weekend plans.
However in July 2016, something was different.
‘I’d love to see you outside of festival life,’ Ian smiled. ‘Could I have your number?’
Finally! The moment I’d been waiting for all these years.
Ian, a punk musician who played bass guitar, was a fascinating character.
He was unlike any man I’d ever laid eyes upon, and wore the most extravagant outfits.
Clothed in a black leather kilt, fetish boots and long dark hair, I couldn’t wait to get to know him better.
I knew from previous conversations that he’d played at Glastonbury as well as other festivals as part of his other band, DodoBones, and was suitably impressed by talent -as well as his fashion sense!
For a couple of weeks we texted long messages back and forth- our modern version of the classic love letter- until Ian announced he was playing with the band near my house in Dulwich, South-East London.
‘You’ll have to pop by for afternoon tea afterwards….I hope you won’t disappoint and be in jeans and a t-shirt like every other man out there,’ I text him.
I soon learned that Ian never donned a pair of jeans or chinos, he never wore ‘normal’ mens’ clothes at all – and I couldn’t have been more chuffed.
His differences were what attracted me to him most.
Our first date was a huge success and we nattered for hours over afternoon tea
For our second date I said I would return the favour and travel to see him at his home in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
‘I warn you, I do like to dress a little more fabulously at home,’ he joked as we spoke on the phone before my visit.
I’d already seen him in a lot of velvet and lace jackets – how much more fabulous could it get?
As he opened the door, I was taken aback but in total awe.
Dressed from head to toe as a woman – false boobs, wig, high heels, the lot – Ian introduced himself as Diane.
‘Lovely to meet you Diane,’ I smiled, leaning in to give him a big hug.
He explained he’d chosen the name Diane as the persona for when he dressed completely as a woman, and liked it because it included his birth name Ian.
All of a sudden I felt very under-dressed!
Welcoming me into his home, I wasn’t intimidated by his cross-dressing at all.
My dad was a vicar, and although many people think that would make me up-tight, he had brought me up to be quite the opposite.
From a young age we were used to meeting people from all walks of life who were welcomed in our home regardless of their circumstances.
It also and it taught me everyone has their own story and to never judge a book by its cover.
Over the next few weeks I realised very quickly that I loved Ian – and Diane – both inside and out.
As I’d hoped, Ian was heterosexual but had started cross-dressing in 2011 after being interested in typically female clothes since he was a child.
He kept ‘Diane’ for home, but wore kilts every day and more extravagant outfits for when he was performing.
After a couple of months of dating, we soon became an official item and spent the next two really getting to know each other.
We had the same taste in music, and so many minute similarities that every day with him was a joy.
In 2018, we decided to take our first holiday as a couple to Las Vegas to see a friend of mine.
Although I’d always been put off at the idea of a wedding ceremony, I suddenly thought it would be an opportunity missed if we went to Vegas and didn’t tie the knot.
‘How about I pack a big white dress just in case we take a visit to the Little White Chapel?’ I joked one evening.
‘Well you haven’t asked me to marry you,’ Ian retaliated, playing me at my own game.
So there and then I asked him to marry me – and he said yes!
We decided to keep it just between us and do it very low key with just the friends we were visiting – or so I thought.
‘I may have told Kate,’ Ian said sheepishly – Kate, 27, is his daughter from a previous relationship.
‘And she said she’s booking her ticket…sorry!’
He had the biggest grin on his face.
‘Well we can hardly keep it a secret now,’ I laughed.
‘Imagine how mad my family will be if they find out I kept it from them but we invited Kate.’
So what was meant to be an elopement, soon turned into a family fair – especially when my best friend Amanda found out.
‘Right, let’s get wedding dress shopping!’ she squealed.
‘Oh don’t be silly, you know I don’t want to make a fuss – I don’t want to wear a wedding dress,’ I said.
Then from the corner of the room I heard the two words that changed my mind.
‘I do,’ Ian smiled.
We decided we’d both wear white wedding dresses and went to a fabulous boutique called Fairy GothMother in Deptford, South London.
Just Amanda and I went to start with and worked our way through the store until I found ‘the one’.
I asked the owner if she wouldn’t mind Ian trying the dresses on as well – and she couldn’t have been more accepting of the idea.
The following weekend the three of us went back, and Ian was like a kid in a sweetshop, overcome with joy surrounded by the wonderful gowns.
‘What about this one?’ the manager said, handing over the same dress as I had chosen.
‘Would you mind Emma? You are the exact same size after all.’
‘Don’t be silly!’ I smiled. ‘Pop it on.’
As he came out of the dressing room I gasped.
‘You look amazing Ian,’ I beamed. ‘That’s the one.’
‘But this is your dress,’ he insisted.
‘No – it’s ours now,’ I said going to stand beside him.
Ian’s required a little more padding and mine was cinched in slightly at the waist, but apart from that we wore the same dress and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
‘At least neither of us will be looking at the other comparing whose is nicest this way!’ we laughed.
On September 21, 2018, we tied the knot in Las Vegas at the Neon Graveyard – a wonderful museum of old neon lights and somewhere I’d always dreamed of visiting.
It was the perfect setting, and when I saw Ian at the top of the aisle in his white dress, red stiletto’s and handlebar moustache, I couldn’t have been happier.
I was glad to be surrounded by the people we loved in the end, and finished the day with a fun-filled pool party before staying at a boutique hotel.
This summer we’re returning to the festival where it all began, this time as a married couple.
Ian may wear dresses and make-up, but he’s still my man, and I feel so lucky to be able to spend the rest of my life with him.