A BIKER barman has undergone a Caitlyn Jenner-style transformation after receiving the deathbed blessing of his wife.
Mark McDonagh’s wife Karen was the only one who knew how much he yearned to be a woman.
And as Karen bravely fought what was to be her final battle, she urged bar boss and Hell’s Angel rocker Mark to take the plunge.
Tragically, Karen died soon after, aged just 35. But her heartfelt plea to Mark to “be who you want to be” inspired the leather-clad biker to take the first steps towards becoming a woman.
Now, thanks to Karen’s touching final wish, Mark is Michelle.
“Karen was the total love of my life,” said Michelle, 54, who works behind the bar at folk pub Sandy Bell’s in Forrest Road.
“Losing her made me think about my own life and where I wanted to go with it. She knew she was dying. She said to me: ‘Be yourself, be who you want to be’.
“No-one had ever spoken to me like that before,” Michelle added. “I realised that life really was too short.”
Michelle is now waiting for surgery – the final instalment of a long and dramatic transformation to become “all woman”.
She revealed her journey from bearded biker to glam barmaid after having watched the positive reaction received by Keeping Up With the Kardashians reality star Bruce Jenner as he transformed into Caitlyn.
The former Olympian made headlines after revealing a dramatic new look on the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Recently she spoke movingly of her concerns for others who silently struggle to be accepted as their true gender.
Michelle said she also kept her desire to change gender a secret for most of her life – until Karen uttered her final wish.
“I knew from 13 years old that I didn’t fit the usual male stereotype,” said Michelle. “I liked dressing like girls and although I liked cars and motorbikes, I preferred to hang out with girls.
“I had long hair and if someone mistook me for a girl, I was delighted. Karen knew all about how I felt, but I was really ‘in the closet’ for 35 years.”
As Mark, she ran pubs in town, pouring pints for customers who didn’t have a clue their barman really wished he was she. Mark was in charge of The Southern Bar in South Clerk Street in 1991 when Kurt Cobain and Nirvana played an impromptu gig.
And she spent years rubbing shoulders with rock stars and tough bikers, working behind the scenes at some of the world’s biggest music festivals.
“I used to be a Hell’s Angel and I hung around with lots of really cool people,” said Michelle. “But I didn’t want to lead a double life.”
Mark married Karen soon after her cancer diagnosis and nursed her throughout her illness. But Michelle has faced a long wait for full treatment to enable her transformation to be complete.
She has recently had support from her friend, beautician Patsy Reynolds, whose Skarletts Closet salon specialises in helping transgender clients achieve the feminine look they crave.
“The physical changes haven’t come quickly enough for me,” she added. “And I still don’t know how much longer I will have to wait for surgery.
“People haven’t really batted an eyelid. You get a bit of banter but I’ve heard that kind of thing since I was a teenager with long hair.
“Karen was the love of my life. She was the person I wanted to live my life with and she was gone. She was a wonderful person and pivotal in making me believe in myself.
“She loved me. I’m who I am now because of her.”