On August 29, 1991, Caroline Cossey, the iconic ’80s supermodel also known as Tula, who once illuminated the cover of Playboy Worldwide with her lithe bronzed body and sensual good looks, sat alone at a restaurant — the wrong restaurant — in London’s Brent Cross Shopping Centre, waiting to commence a business lunch with her attorney.
At a bus stop nearby — the wrong bus stop — David Finch, a 27-year-old Canadian with sweet hazel eyes and a delicately chiseled face, stood outside the mall, weighing whether he should grab a bite or continue his journey. “I was passing through London to Coventry to visit my grandmother,” Finch recalls. “The man who gave me directions had a strong Cockney accent that I couldn’t understand, which is how I ended up in the wrong place.” Or, as fate would have it, the right place, at exactly the right time.
The engineering student, who’d recently backpacked through Europe, decided to get some food. As soon as he walked into the eatery, he caught sight of “an absolute vision,” he says. “I was instantly struck by her beauty. Everything else just faded away.”
The two smiled at each other and exchanged a few words that ended in Finch asking if he could see her again. “She handed me her business card,” Finch remembers. “That’s when she told me she’d written a book and that I may not want to call her after I read it. ‘What could it be?’ I thought.”
When Finch finally arrived in Coventry, he tracked down Cossey’s memoir, My Story. As soon as he scanned the jacket copy, he learned that Caroline Cossey, the Amazonian beauty and former Bond girl who captured his heart at first sight, had been born Barry Kenneth Cossey.
Growing up in Norfolk, England, in the 1960s, Cossey identified with females and femininity, in tortured conflict with her family’s and society’s insistence that she must acclimate to her assigned sex. “I was teased. They called me ‘sissy Cossey’ and ‘pansy,’ ” she once said. She felt alienated, alone, and confused. At 16, in 1970, she decided to ditch her quiet, quaint town for the bustling streets of London to find herself.
While doing a series of odd jobs in the city, she met a trans woman for the first time and realized her path to self-actualization. Four years later, she completed her gender confirmation surgeries and launched a successful modeling career. Her gorgeous face and enviable figure appeared on glam glossies and in advertisements in Europe and the United States.
Then, in 1981, News of the World, the infamous British tabloid, obtained Cossey’s medical records and published a story revealing that Cossey was transgender. The revelation derailed her illustrious career. Eight years later, the now-defunct gossip rag, published a story about her nuptials to millionaire Elias Fattal on the day they returned from their honeymoon. Although Fattal knew of Cossey’s past, when his Jewish Orthodox family read the publication they coerced him into annulling their brief marriage.
By the time Finch met Cossey, she was a well-known trans advocate working the talk-show circuit to help raise trans awareness and gain equal rights for her compatriots in England.
“No, no, no…” was Finch’s initial reaction to Cossey’s backstory. “Ignorantly, I felt totally fooled.” Despite his misgivings, something about Cossey moved him. “I decided I wanted to learn more about this woman.”
On their first date, over cocktails and dinner, the two “talked and talked and talked,” Cossey says, adding, “I didn’t feel uncomfortable or awkward, and his questions about my past were heartfelt and out of genuine concern.”
The two were inseparable the rest of the summer. When Finch had to return to his native Canada, their relationship continued to grow over long-distance telephone calls. “We spoke every day,” Cossey recalls, falling deeper in love with each conversation. In November 1991, Cossey flew to Montréal to meet Finch’s family, who accepted and welcomed her with as much warmth and love as her own family. During a dinner at Mon Village in Québec, Finch surprised Cossey with a wedding proposal.
“On one knee,” Finch says, “I told her how much I loved her and asked her to be my wife.” Before answering him, Cossey excused herself to the bathroom. “I was overcome with emotion,” she says. “Here I was being loved again and his family knew. I was in tears.”
“I was sitting at the table thinking I’d blown it,” Finch says. “Then our waitress came to the table and said, ‘The lady says yes.’ ”
Nearly 25 years later, Finch remembers the day they met “like it was yesterday. An incredible feeling came over me when I saw Caroline for the first time. I took a picture of the sky over an empty field the day we met so I would remember it for the rest of my life.”
Cossey, who just sold the movie rights to her life story, adds, “When I met David, I was emotionally broken. He restored my belief in loyalty and integrity.” And love.