A mother-of-two from Northampton has revealed how she changed from a woman to a man to look like her favourite Coronation Street star.
Shay Robertson, 46, spent almost five years having gender reassignment to look like 2005 X-Factor winner Shayne Ward.
His name is a nod to his hero and he has the same cropped hair and stubbly beard as the soap star.
Shay had believed he was a man trapped in a woman’s body but says it was watching 32-year-old Ward on TV that convinced him something had to change.
A range of surgical procedures followed as he fulfilled his dream of looking like Shayne.
And the pop star has written to Shay to say he is honoured to have been the inspiration behind the change.
Shay, who used to be called Sally, said: “I’m delighted he is so supportive. He inspired me to embrace my true self.”
With the support of partner Julie McLean, 48, and children Amy, 18, and Andrew, 27, Shay began hormone injections in 2011.
Then, over three years, came a total hysterectomy, double mastectomy and genital reassignment surgery, involving skin grafted from his arm and buttocks.
He explained: “For years I thought I was a gay woman. But watching Shayne perform on stage, everything made sense.
“While most female viewers probably wanted to date him, I wanted to look like him.
“I finally realised I was trapped in the wrong body.”
Last week actor Ward, 32, who plays lingerie factory manager Aidan Connor in the ITV soap, sent Shay a signed photo and stated he was 'honoured'.
Shay said: “Shayne’s sister Leona had read about me in a magazine and told Shayne, who sent me a signed photo and note.
“It meant so much that he knew he’d inspired me – I plan to have that signature tattooed over my skin graft scars.”
Shay, from Northampton, recalled his teenage days when he dressed in a masculine way and struggled with his identity.
“I denied my attraction to women and tried heterosexual relationships, moving in with a man I met at work,” he said. In 1989, Shay fell pregnant with son Andrew, but then split with the father.
Daughter Amy was conceived nine years later.
He went on: “For years I tried to live my life as a normal mum. But I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and couldn’t put my finger on why.”
A decade or so later, still Sally and a week into a relationship with Julie, Shay saw Ward sing his single Gotta Be Somebody on TV.
He added: “I commented on how good he looked. But it wasn’t attraction, it was admiration. His cool, casual style caught my attention.
“I touched my face while admiring his stubble and Julie said: ‘You want to be a bloke, don’t you?’ Everything suddenly made sense.”
With Julie’s support, Shay saw his GP and a specialist in 2010.
The hormone injections started a year later and in 2013 Shay’s children were put in the picture – offering their full backing.
In 2014 Sally legally changed her name to Shay and grew facial hair “which I shaved into designer stubble to match Shayne’s… Julie loved it”.
His physical transition began with a series of operations. He also had a tummy tuck to reverse sagging left by pregnancies.
Shay continued: “The procedures were gruelling and I spent weeks in hospital. But I was delighted to see my silhouette become more masculine each time I was discharged.”
In June 2015 Shay underwent an 11-hour op to give him a penis. And Shay said: “Everything down there works perfectly and Julie and I are able to enjoy a normal, healthy sex life.”
Now Shay hopes to write a book to inspire other women who are looking to transition to male. Shay added: “My body has been through a lot, but finally I feel happy in my own skin. I am comfortable with who I am and love getting called mate or fella at the garage.”