A Muslim husband threatened to sue an all-female driving school after discovering that his wife’s driving instructor used to be a man.
Joanne Dixon, owner of the Laugh n Pass driving school which operates throughout Yorkshire, says the man telephoned to complain after his wife’s first lesson with 42-year-old Emma Sherdley — formerly a married father of two called Andrew but now legally a woman.
Mrs Dixon said that the man asked her to send a “proper woman” instructor and, later, she received a further call asking for compensation and threatening to sue, saying that she “should have known” not to send Miss Sherdley.
Mrs Dixon, who set up Laugh n Pass with all-female teachers 10 years ago, designed to put women learners at their ease, said: “Emma is a popular and very well-respected instructor. What difference should it make that his wife is Muslim?
“He said his wife had been out with a male and I said, No, she’s been with a female. Then he said, ‘Just send a proper female.’
“In my eyes we’ve done nothing wrong.”
Instructor Miss Sherdley has a birth certificate and a “gender recognition certificate” to prove her legal status as a woman, although she is still waiting for final surgery to make her transition from male to female physically complete.
She says that none of her other pupils has had a problem with her sex change and she found the man’s complaints “hurtful, offensive and deeply upsetting”.
The problems began after the man, from the Meadowhall area of Sheffield, booked a two-hour driving lesson for his wife.
Miss Sherdley travelled from her home in Holmfirth to the couple’s house and the woman got into the car. They then went through the relevant documentation together but, before they even pulled away from the kerb, the woman made an excuse to go back into the house.
Mrs Dixon said: “They asked if she could just do an hour. Emma said that was no problem and then the man and his wife started talking between themselves.
“Then they asked Emma if they could cancel the lesson as the baby was crying and needed breastfeeding. The gentleman gave Emma some money for her inconvenience and Emma drove off.
“Next thing we knew, 15 to 20 minutes later, I received that phone call.”
Miss Sherdley says the complaints made her seriously consider giving up her career, but she is now determined to carry on after receiving her boss’s support.
She said: “I always knew as a child that I was a woman stuck in a man’s body. I tried hard to be a man, getting married and having children, but it never worked and never would.
“For the past six years I have been what is correctly called ‘transitioned’. I still have to undergo the final surgery, but legally I am a woman.
“That is what my birth certificate says, that is what the gender recognition certificate proves, and for that man to threaten to sue me and the driving school is totally and utterly wrong.”
At present Laugh n Pass employs 20 female instructors, who teach women throughout South and West Yorkshire, and Mrs Dixon said: “Emma’s done really well. She’s so bubbly and gets on with everybody — she’s just one of the girls.”