One day six-year-old Elen came downstairs and found her dad wearing one of her mum’s denim skirts, The Daily Post reports .
“We told her that it didn’t fit her mum any more and I was just wearing it to stretch it for her,” said Nia, then known as just Ian to the children.
It was one of many difficulties during a lifetime of being trapped in a man’s body. More recently, Nia Wyn Heaton told how her mum saw her for the first time dressed as a woman.
But the parent of two needn’t have worried.
Her mother reached out, hugged her and said “you look gorgeous” as they stood, full of emotion in the work wear and school uniform shop that Nia – for most of her life Ian – has run for 15 years.
It was a landmark moment in the 47-year-old’s transition and now she means business, running Simply Logo full time as the woman she always felt she was inside.
Speaking to the Daily Post ,she reflected on growing up, getting married and being a dad, while trying to repress her overriding desire to be Nia.
“I remember it vividly, I was very confused about myself and I started dressing up in my sister’s clothes when I was about 11,” she said.
“At youth club, I met my first girlfriend and while we were kissing, I remember thinking I should have that body.
“I tried to be macho talking about football with the lads, but I always knew there was something different about me.”
During her teenage years as Ian, Nia recalls her mum finding tights in her drawers. “In those days, it was frowned upon, and I didn’t want to admit I was different.
“I had plenty of girlfriends and because I was in touch with my feminine side, I was quite popular with women, I just loved being around them.”
It was only when Ian reached 18 and started socialising on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) scene in Manchester that Nia first made an appearance in public.
“Dressing up seemed to be more accepted in Manchester and it opened my eyes to a different world, so Nia started going out at weekends.
“I was still Ian during the week and I had this other side of me that came to life at the weekend.”
‘All I thought about was becoming a dad’
But things changed after a car crash which left Ian with a shattered hip at the age of 27, and doctors said his injuries could mean he may never have children.
Nia said: “I hadn’t really thought about kids at all up until that point because I was enjoying being Nia.
“But once I was told there was a possibility I couldn’t have something, I really wanted it, and all I thought about was becoming a dad.”
At the time, Ian was in a relationship with a woman, who knew about Nia from the offset. “Whenever I’ve been in a relationship, I’ve always been honest straight away.
“You hear stories of people who keep that part of them a secret, they live a lie and sneak around and I couldn’t do that.
“During that time in my life, I was Ian, I couldn’t say trans, but I would admit that I liked wearing ladies’ clothes. “I heard everything from ‘you pervert’ to ‘let’s give it a try,’ there was always mixed reactions.
“But when I first told my partner, she was brilliant about it and just said ‘let’s try some clothes on.’ “She accepted me straight away so when we moved in together, I built up a bit of a wardrobe for Nia.”
The pair went on to get married and have two children together, Elen now 18 and a son, 14. “My partner would go to work and I would enjoy being the housewife with the kids, cooking and cleaning and doing Elen’s hair, it gave me a chance to be mum and I really loved it.
‘Being able to admit I was transgender changed my life completely’
But as the children, and Ian got older, it became harder to contain Nia and the couple split after 13 years.
“I think my wife found it difficult in the end and I understand why. We worked together too at Simply Logo doing school uniforms so it was a stressful environment.
“I remember walking on the beach holding hands with my wife, she had a maxi dress on, sandals in her hand and hair tied up and I just knew that I wanted more than ever to be on that side of it.
“As I was getting older, I felt the need to let Nia out more and it would’ve been a stumbling point eventually. “We’re still great friends though, we even went out for a meal recently as girls.”
After the split, Ian moved out and Nia’s wardrobe began to grow, along with her confidence. “Before, I was in the closet, but suddenly I was able to finally admit out loud that I was transgender and not ashamed any more, my life changed completely.
“My wardrobe is 95% Nia now but I do keep some outfits for Ian for when I see my son, as he’s not quite ready to meet Nia yet, but he does know about her.
“Not long after the break up, I went to see another transgender woman and she told me I’d automatically lose my kids.
‘I dote on my children…’
“I cried for a week thinking is it really going to be this bad?
“I dote on my children and if I ever had to make a choice between Nia and them, I’d choose them. “I just live in hope that they can accept me expressing the person I feel I am.”
It was last year when Nia decided to alter her Facebook account and change herself, and her business, “into a girl,” introducing bright pink branding and a sideline in novelty gifts called Wonky Donkey.
“I had so much support from friends from all walks of my life, it was lovely. “I did worry that it might affect my business but then I realised I needed to be me, I don’t want to reach old age and wonder what if?
“All the customers and suppliers have been amazing, and I am actually a better businesswoman than I was a businessman.
“People would tell me they didn’t want to see that miserable b*****d, Ian, because they noticed how much happier I am as Nia.
“I even had a friend tell me I’d saved her brother’s life because he was on the brink of suicide before he saw me come out on Facebook. “She said my courage to be myself with confidence had inspired him.”
Nia added: “I just want my story to help other people who have become a recluse, scared to leave their homes because they can’t express their true selves.
“It’s a massively confusing thing to go through and has a big impact on your mental health, you’re in constant conflict with yourself.”
Nia, who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is on the waiting list to start hormone treatment, said she “wants the body to suit the mind.”
‘I’m living as a woman what’s between my legs is irrelevant’
But she admitted she’s in no rush to “go the whole hog” by having gender reconstruction surgery. “I’m living as a woman, I’m accepted as the woman I want to be, what’s between my legs is irrelevant for now.”
Meanwhile, her change is becoming “more real” in other ways, seeing her name in black and white on new business cards and bank accounts after changing it to Nia by deed poll.
“She told me she loved me for me and told me to be Nia around her in future. “My dad, who’s 85 said it would take some getting used to but could see I was happy and it meant the world, it was really positive.
“As long as I’ve got my family and a good network of friends by my side, I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”