File photo: A sign outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham. Picture: AP

For nearly eight years James and Eirian Cohen had been a happily married couple, raising their two children.

James, 35, worked as a heating engineer and was always a "man’s man" who behaved like a "typical bloke" and loved football.

Four months ago, however, he told his wife "I am transgender" and said that he wanted to become a woman called Kara.

Since then the family has embraced the change. The couple still share a bed – but now as "best friends" rather than husband and wife.

And their children, seven-year-old Seren and Electra, six, are said by their mother to think their transgender father is "just amazing" and "love her so much more as a girl".

Mrs Cohen, who is a 35-year-old actress, writer and drama teacher from Leeds, said: "It was a huge shock when James told me he wanted to be known as Kara.

"We were sitting down to watch TV and she turned around and said that she was transgender.

"I was very accepting, and I felt that it didn’t have to change anything. I wanted us to work everything out together, I was so proud that she was able to finally be who she wanted to be and not hide away from the world."

She added that when Kara was still James, "there was not one thing people could say that was even slightly feminine about her.

"She always wore jeans and a T-shirt and she never put any effort into her appearance."

WATCH: Portrait of a Transgender Marriage:

The couple were married in Jamaica in 2009 and it seems that the groom’s fascination with his bride’s wedding dress might, in hindsight, have been one indication of his secret.

"When we got married she seemed to be quite obsessed with my wedding dress, and she wanted to try it on as a laugh," Mrs Cohen said.

They had a normal relationship and started a family, but Kara had clearly been grappling with issues of sexuality for some time. Mrs Cohen said: "She kept saying she didn’t know who she was, then she would change the subject and didn’t want to tell me what she meant."

Kara now enjoys wearing skirts and leggings and is registered with a GP who specialises in transgender transitions. She has been on hormones for six weeks.

"When Kara tried on these shiny Lycra leggings, I have never known someone could be that excited in their entire life," her wife said.

Mrs Cohen decided there was no need to upset family life, although the couple are looking to move to a new house where they will probably sleep in separate bedrooms.

She said: "Initially I wanted to stay together romantically, but when my husband started taking hormones, before she even changed appearance-wise, my attraction towards her changed.

"I was really shocked with myself, but when I told her, she looked relieved and said that we could both do with some space to figure out who she is.

"Although I have now lost my husband, I have gained an amazing best friend. I am still very much in love with her but as a best friend."

Kara, who no longer works as an electric and gas engineer, said: "I feel very lucky to have such a supportive family and an intelligent open-minded wife.

"I’m finally able to be my authentic self and the future looks so much brighter since coming out."

Mrs Cohen has written a book to be published this year about helping people to cope with the judgment of others, in which she discusses her husband’s transition.

She said: "I have managed to turn something like this into a positive, instead of letting it destroy me. I hope I can inspire other women in my position to do the same too."