Mum Ashley Hughes was delighted when her her long-lost daughter got back in touch - but shocked when she discovered her daughter was now her SON.
Ashley, 48, was ecstatic when estranged daughter Toni, 26, made contact out of the blue after 14 years apart.
But she was stunned to discover Toni is now a pre-op transsexual taking male hormones and living as a man called 'Alex' and about to have a full sex change operation to fulfil her dream of physically becoming a man.
Alex, who was born a girl but suffered from gender dysphoria all her life, says: "I knew I was different from an early age.
I felt better when I was dressed in boys clothes but didn't have a clue why I was feeling like this. Because of this I was the child from hell and it put a huge strain on my relationship with my family - especially my mum.
Alex was sent to counsellors, social workers, youth groups and doctors but his erratic behaviour continued.
Mum Ashley says: "I remember when Alex ripped the wrapping paper off a present one Christmas to reveal a new Barbie doll and said 'Don't like it'.
"My little girl tossed it aside and turned back to her old building toys.
"Alex - when he was Toni - always seemed desperately unhappy and was constantly moody.
"It was like living with a stroppy teenager but she wasn't even 10 years old."
Their strained relationship meant Alex went to live with his grandmother in Limerick, Ireland, aged 12.
In 2006 Alex became pregnant after a fling with a male friend and gave birth to a baby girl called Molly.
Despite being a mother, Alex was determined to live like a man and in 2007 last year started taking male hormone drugs.
Alex added: "One thing I was clear on was that I wanted to be a mother and I was keen for my child to be biologically mine.
"I agreed with a male friend to have a baby and was over the moon when my daughter, Molly, was born in 2006.
"I hated being pregnant though. I was just so embarrassed to walk around with this huge pregnant belly.
"It was so feminine, so not 'me' - if anything, having Molly just reinforced my feelings that I somehow didn't quite fit in my own body.
"But the end result - being a mother to Molly - was amazing, and completely worth it."
But Alex phoned his mother without warning in July 2010 to break the news about his drastic sex change, before visiting her at home.
Alex said: "I was really nervous when I called - I had already undergone numerous psychological tests and hormone therapy and would soon be starting testosterone injections followed by surgery.
"I said, 'Mum, I've got something to tell you. I've been seeing doctors and psychiatrists in Dublin and they agree with me - I'm in the wrong body. I'm becoming a man.'
"There was a long pause on the end of the line - I guess mum was trying to take it all in.
"I snapped and said, 'Say something then. Why aren't you shouting and screaming at me?'."
But far from being angry, Ashley was delighted that they had "found the final piece of the jigsaw".
She said: "After the shock subsided it was like a big penny had dropped.
"Suddenly all the awkwardness, the tantrums and depression made sense - I felt like we'd found the final piece of the jigsaw.
"I remember saying, 'Good for you. If it's going to make you happy then for God's sake do it.
"That's all I want - for you to be happy. Just smile."
A couple of weeks later, Alex and Molly came over from Ireland to visit Ashley at her home in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.
Ashley added: "Finally we were able to communicate - Alex and I didn't waste any time getting to know each other and we had a huge heart to heart.
"We even went on the internet to research gender reassignment surgery together.
Our relationship is brilliant now - I've lost my daughter for ever but it's worth it for the wonderful son I have instead.
More:Advice And Health
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