A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
As the weeks of spring passed, Shaun's routine varied
slightly. Plans which in the first few months after the
removal of her tumour had seemed unchangeable, turned out to
be temporary arrangements only. There were variations in
the number of translation and guiding assignments, which for
some reason Shaun did not know, had slowed considerably.
The percentage of her fees which she had decided to save
every month for her gender operations in the new year had
fallen behind. This worried her, and feeling she might not
be able to cover the cost and expenses began to look for
Macia wrote every day. Her letters of nine and ten pages
long were full of childish cajolery, with a few lines of
poetry at the beginning. Mostly they were boring.
Sometimes they were about marriage, of her friends, all
married, while she remained single.
When she went down to visit her, Macia asked her for money
for her college fees. If Shaun refused there were
arguments, with Macia telling her she should get more
agencies. During the evenings she would ask Shaun if she
were faithful, and when Shaun swore she was, as a reward
Macia affected a sickening girlish modesty, taking off her
clothes with absurd little movements, attempting to perform
a kind of striptease.
Shaun was offered a guiding assignment. A large group of
Japanese tourists had booked a month long tour of Europe.
The Agency had recommended her as translator. Shaun thought
it was a chance of a lifetime and was promised a fee which
would be large enough to cover the cost of her gender
Unable to speak French or German, Shaun had to share the
tour with a guide, who was Italian by birth, spoke French,
German and English fluently and had just completed a
Confident of Macia's approval Shaun telephoned her and
explained her reasons for accepting the assignment. But not
wanting a jealous argument, neglected to tell her that the
other guide was a single Italian girl of twenty seven.
Macia sent Shaun a long letter, expressing her enthusiasm
and love, adding that she had found a Minister who would
marry them. That she would be able to go to Europe with
Shaun as her wife. Disgusted with the suggestion, Shaun
refused to even discuss it, Macia threw one of her tantrums,
threatened to tell the Agency that their star translator and
guide was a nothing, in fact a neuter. Unable to pacify her
Shaun went down to see her.
Macia was not at the coach station to meet her. Shaun
assuming she had gone to church or a meeting took a taxi
across town to her flat. There were lights on in every
room. The entrance door was wide open. Believing there
might be intruders, that Macia might be harmed decided to
call for help.
" Macia!" Shaun shouted as she went into the bedroom to use
the phone. There were clothes strewn all over the floor. On
the bed Macia lay naked, her head on the edge of the pillow,
one arm dangling to touch the floor. Thinking she might have
been attacked, or even raped by the intruder, Shaun picked
up the phone to call for help. It was then she realized
Macia was in a deep sleep.
She bent down and kissed her shoulders, ran her hand along
her arm and gently brushed her face. Macia turned her head,
the beginning of a smile coming to her lips, her eyes still
closed. Shaun took off her jacket closed the windows and
doors and tidied up the bedroom. Worried why Macia had not
woken up she sat on the bed. This time Macia smiled at her,
then laughed, oddly as Shaun brushed the hair from off her
" David! What's the time? Must be morning," Macia said her
voice slurred as if she were drunk, " you better go, I'm-I
think I'm going to meet that silly neuter, you know the one
I told you about. Shaun - -Mac - something, she's taking me
Shaun wanted to walk out, leave her.
" It's ten o'clock," she told her, fighting to hold back the
Macia laughed again. Rolled on her back. Took her breasts in
her hands, pressing them together as if offering them to
Shaun for her approval.
" Marry me Shaun Maclaren," she slurred.
Shaun tried to make her sit up.
" I know you've found someone else. That other guide-it's a
woman. I found a Minister, who'll marry us for a few hundred
bucks-you can afford it."
" No Macia!" Shaun shouted angrily, " you cannot be my
Something about Macia's expression struck Shaun as being
very odd. She seemed to be drunk, but there was no smell of
liquor. Macia held up her arms and opened her mouth. Shaun
pulled her up and held her. On the bed by the pillow was a
syringe and a box of phials.
Shaun propped her up in the bed, looked into her eyes. The
pupils were shrunk to tiny points.
" What's this?" she asked, holding up the syringe, " you've
been taking something. What is it Macia?"
Macia giggled. Shaun laid her down in the bed and covered
her with a sheet. Hurt and shaken she stood by the window.
Tried telling herself that Macia's insults were of little
importance. But drugs! The mere thought of them offended
" I suppose her doctor could have prescribed them," she said
She remembered it was Macia who helped her along the road to
becoming a whole man, and wished she had kept her drug
problem concealed. Wished with all her heart she had never
seen Macia like this. It was absurd to blame her, Shaun
argued with herself. What did indulgence of this sort really
matter in the end?.
Suddenly she realized that the drugs were the cause of
change of moods in her letters. Of the phone calls in the
middle of the night. Of her constantly asking for more
money. It was a cry for help and she didn't listen. The
memories of Laura came flooding back. Shaun knew she would
not be able to cope with the trauma of drug withdrawal even
though Macia desperately needed help. The only way, she
decided was to get her into a rehabilitation centre in the
morning. Tonight she would stay at a nearby hotel.
Macia begged her to stay, pleaded with her to sleep beside
her, but to sleep with someone on drugs abhorred her. Unable
to sleep she stared into the darkness. Eventually she left
the sleeping Macia and laid down on the lounge room settee.
She closed her eyes searching for sleep and began to dream
that she was in a hall filled with people. It was a meeting
that she, Shaun Maclaren had to address. She was nervous,
her clammy white shirt sticking to her body. A voice in the
distance called out " Mr Maclaren." At the rostrum she
waited for the applause to end. She looked around the hall,
it was enormous, echoing. The sea of faces waited,
respectfully. Chairs scraped, as programs rustled. Then
there were the coughs. She glanced at the notes in front of
her. The subjects, in bold print, Psychiatry and the Church.
She opened her mouth, not a sound came from it. She
struggled, strained, still nothing. Everyone stared at her
including the three doctors who sat behind the table at the
psychiatric centre. She knew one of them a Dr Beauchamp,
she felt panic and shame.
From the back of the hall came the first, soft embarrassed
laugh, it spread like the echo. There were more and more
coughs. Then tittering laughter, and like a gathering storm
the cruel sound gained momentum as it ran wildly around the
hall. In her dream Shaun saw Nicole, Mitchell, O'Donnell and
Laura. With the others they were standing, jeering,
laughing. " Stop! That's enough," Shaun shouted.
She woke up with a start, her body wet with perspiration.
Her heart trying to pound it's way out of her chest. She
went back into the bedroom and sat watching the soundly
Lorraine was at the airport to meet Shaun and her party of
tourists. She was dark-eyed, with black hair a pretty face,
full breasts, and good legs. Although she was similar in
size to Shaun, she appeared to be taller because of the
upright way she carried herself. She was short sighted,
refused to wear glasses, and in order to see better,
particularly when outdoors, tilted her chin and looked
through partly closed eyes. This gave her the appearance of
being extremely self-confident. She walked with quick short
steps, and this with the haughty angle of her head made her
look invulnerable. Lorraine spoke almost perfect English
which made it easy for Shaun to translate, and the party of
tourists smiled as they called her Mr Shaun's newest
The next few days were spent touring the museums and
galleries, with the Louvre at the top of the list. Lorraine
gave a continuous commentary which Shaun translated with
ease, much to the delight of the tourists.
On Sunday Shaun left her flock to their own choice of
sightseeing, telling them she would be at the cafe outside
the hotel or somewhere close at hand. With Lorraine she left
the hotel at the north-east corner and turned into the
square that took it's name from the painter Jan Van Eyck.
His statue stood in front of a blocked-off canal on the
right of the square.
They followed the quays, turning right, crossing bridges
until in front of them was the avenue of lime trees that led
to Notre Dame. Lorraine led Shaun down a street only a few
feet wide. They turned right through an arch and were in the
heart of the tourist territory.
A young girl came out of a small cloister wiping the tears
from her eyes. Shaun wanted to stop, thought she might be
able to help her, but Lorraine hurried Shaun along.
Because they were on their own Lorraine changed the usual
order of sightseeing. She led Shaun through an open doorway.
Although she had been in the enclosure many times, even to
Lorraine it was still something of a shock. Shaun stood for
moment in the doorway, she turned and wanted to run. In
front of them through an archway was a figure, a red cloak
loosely around it, held together at the neck. It's head bent
forward. Eyes closed, one wrist over the other, bound with a
rope. On the face a look of martyrdom, on the head, a Crown
" This is the crypt of the chapel of the Holy Blood,"
Lorraine explained, " that's the Ecce Homo, the portrayal of
Jesus wearing the Crown of Thorns."
To the left was the blue-clothed figure of Mary Magdalene
nursing the body of Christ. Lorraine led Shaun to the step,
towards the other figures of Christ. For Lorraine it held a
kind of fascination, but to Shaun this dungeon was filled
with despair. The cold , bleak, dark bareness of the rough
stone walls, the appalling hopelessness of the Weeping
Christ, somehow, for Shaun it brought back memories of the
Except for Lorraine and herself the crypt was momentarily
empty. The solitude coupled with the distress of the girl
Shaun had seen leaving produced within her a bizarre
sensation. The disturbing illusion of reality remained,
even when their closeness to the figures showed Shaun,
unmistakably as the images they were, and for the first time
in years she remembered her book.
" No more sightseeing please," Shaun said with a shudder.
Lorraine insisted that Shaun should have the antidote by
going up the stairs beside the cloister and visit the
Basilica and adjoining museum. Here, everything was
different from the atmosphere of horror and despair
downstairs. There was light, colour, richness and space.
Paintings, stained glass, silver and gold ornaments. A
pulpit beautifully carved into a half globe that appeared to
be resting on clouds. An Alter. A medieval scene of royalty.
Of Christ on the Cross attended by angels in a landscape of
the Holy Land, palm trees, Forts, sheep drinking from a
river at the base of the picture. Three arches opened on to
a chapel. There was an alter bearing a massive silver
crucifix. At right angles to the alter an ornate pulpit
which held a fascination for Shaun who felt a tense
expectancy. The kind of expectancy she had experienced when
she sat in a theatre and the curtain went up on an empty
They left the Basilica, an attendant showed them the way to
the museum. There were many treasures. A superb container of
gold, silver and precious stones. The windows of the museum
were closed, and Shaun felt heady with the sweet, subtle
odour of incense and hot wax that floated in when the door
With Lorraine she went to the gift shop near the square,
bought coloured postcards of the museum, the Basilica and
the Ecce Homo, which had none of the macabre scene of the
crypt. In the picture the statue of Christ had been turned.
The colour of the flesh had a tinge of brown and there was a
blue haze on the wall behind, giving the picture an air of
peace and quiet content.
Shaun knew she was exceptionally lucky to have been allowed
to enter the crypt, but wished she had just bought the
They caught up with their group in a nearby street full of
shops, selling the tourists lace and souvenirs. Shaun told
Lorraine she did not think it advisable to take them to the
crypt, feeling that emotionally it could spoil the remainder
of the tour for some.
The tour continued traveling across Europe in a special
coach, ending with a visit to the Cathedral in Ghent. For
hours the tourists studied the Van Eyck masterpiece. They
argued about the twelve panels of the ' Adoration of the
Lamb'. Unable to decide which brother painted which panel,
finally persuading Lorraine, through Shaun's translation to
settle the dispute.
Shaun marvelled at the lower panel that showed the ' The
Lamb of the Revelation' worshipped by angels in the centre
of a beautiful landscape. With Lorraine, who had seen it
before she gaped in wonderment at the groups of martyrs,
priests, laymen, the fountain of life in the front and in
the distance the towers of Jerusalem.
They moved slowly to gaze at the side panels that depicted
the just judges, knights, hermits, and saints, all advancing
to adore. The magnificence of the upper panels of Christ as
King. The Virgin. St John the Baptist. Choirs of singing,
playing angels on either side. And in the wings, Adam and
Eve. Each form modelled realistically and in great detail.
The tour over Shaun went back to the coast and her flat. A
letter from the hospital informed her that she was to be
admitted for gender surgery in six weeks time. Unable to
contain her enthusiasm she worked with a fury that surprised
the agency, and at times even her herself. The knowledge
that she was to become a whole man consumed all her thoughts
as she read the letter over and over again. Gone were the
fears that had lurked in the back of her mind, the letter
had dispersed all her doubts.
Macia phoned, thanked her for helping her overcome the drug
problem, that she was getting her life back together. She
promised to write when Shaun told her gender operations were
to begin in the near future.
The letter Macia had promised arrived. For days it sat on
the table unopened. Shaun stared at it each time she
passed, wanting to, not wanting to read it.
" It's only full of her silly nonsense," she said aloud with
The flight to Professor Gaisford's hospital had been
arranged. The hospital fees paid in full and there was
sufficient funds for at least a year of recuperation.
With two days to go, Shaun found it difficult to control her
emotions. She passed the letter again, picked it up, toyed
with it, threw it down onto the table.
" I'm just being stupid," she said softly, " it's only one
of her silly letters."
In a bold move she tore open the envelope and pulled out all
At the top of the first page were the usual lines of a
children's poem. The next few expressed her gratitude for
helping her overcome the drug addiction.
Then, 'wanting to help you as you have helped me', Shaun
read, ' I have made some inquiries about your forthcoming
gender operations. I think you are expecting too much. I
know, in fact I am sure you can never become a whole man.
Remember Shaun dear, I am only trying to help.
" How could she!" Shaun screamed tossing the letter aside, "
all I needed was a word of encouragement, a word of hope-I
will be a whole man."
Shaun lay on her bed, letting the tears to flow freely.
" Why am I crying?" she said suddenly, " I am-I will be a
man. Why have I spoiled everything? allowing her to affect
me like this." Why, she wondered has Macia tried to
discourage me from wanting to become that which I have
longed for all my life. To hell with her, she thought, these
supposedly church do-gooders, they're all alike. She
remembered the words someone had told her, ' Don't allow
tears and fears carry you downhill. Have faith in yourself,
and you'll win.' She picked up the letter and continued to
read, determined to fight off the fears that Macia had
created. ' The penile urethra tube is the problem.' the
letter continued, ' which means Shaun you will have to
urinate from the base of the penis. How can you go in and
use a urinal? I'm only telling you so that you will not be
too disappointed when you realize that you will never be a
I thought it only fair to tell you all the things I have
found out, knowing how obsessed you are with becoming a man.
Perhaps you should lower your expectations. I don't think
the prosthesis will look like a penis at all. I know you
will never make love the way you really want to. Of course
you are a person in your own right, and I am sorry I
referred to you as a neuter. Perhaps you should forget all
about sex-reassignment operations, which, I am told are
extremely painful. You must know I'll love you forever-just
as you are. With me by your side you have no need of any
operation. Remember I love you, and take care Shaun
Maclaren, take care.'
Disgusted, hurt, Shaun tore up the letter and burnt it. But
it remained with her, sleeping, waking, throughout the
night, the following day, the echo of those written words,
'Take care Shaun Maclaren, take care.' She tried to smother
everything that Macia had written, deciding desperately,
they were not true, neither could they be - and yet? There
was no one she could confide in, no one she could run to, no
one to comfort her.
" I'm allowing my imagination to run away with me," she told
herself sternly. To Shaun it was too incredible to believe
that Macia, who had now been ordained as a Minister of the
church wanted her to remain a nothing-neither male or
female, nothing more than a neuter, and wanted her to give
up trying. " Better-much better that I forget her, and that
bloody letter," she said aloud, trying to suppress the cold
fear in her heart.
Professor Gaisford clumped heavily in his rubber boots as he
walked into the gleaming sterile theatre of his Middle East
hospital. The anaesthetist was already at work preparing
Shaun Maclaren for the first part of her gender surgery.
Beyond the windowless theatre the Professor knew that early
morning light was stealing into wards and rooms. Earlier he
had looked out over the sleeping city as he sipped hot
hospital coffee. This was the modern part of the city, laid
out in wide streets. Not like the older section with it's
famed mosques, palaces and city gates.
The preparation for this operation had been as exact as a
blue print. In the theatre there were X-rays in view boxes,
drawings that showed the exact lines where the incisions
would take place, and on Shaun Maclaren's body, the same
tracings, clearly marked.
Back in her private room Shaun was aware that the penile
pedicle had been raised. At last she was on her way to
becoming a man. The nurses came in and moved her around. The
agony of the sharp pain, almost unbearable. She asked the
Sister how long she had been asleep.
" Not long," Sister said with a smile, " a day in the
recovery room, and two in intensive care."
When they left Shaun looked at the pedicle and gasped in
amazement at it's enormous size. " What woman would want a
huge thing like that inside her," she murmured.
Shaun had known pain before, but never had she felt anything
quite like this, so crucifying, so raw.
There was a moment when she understood that this kind of
pain was a reservoir of hot tar, which she could only go
down and down, round and round, drowning under a black
surface. This time there were no dreams, no floating
sensation. The pain had no specific location in her body. It
simply consumed all of her.
The wound of the pedicle began to close. Shaun was given
antibiotics to ward off infection and pumped up with
Pethidine, so that this her sixth day was the most
comfortable. But comfort in the circumstances was nothing
more than relative; she was more glazed by drugs than really
soothed, and when she thought the pain had subsided it would
come rushing back to strike harder than before, causing her
eyes to water.
She wanted to be discharged, wanted to get away from this
boring room of charts, tubes and starched bed sheets. When
the Professor came to see her, she asked to be released.
With that impenetrable look all doctors must learn in
medical school, he shook his head and mumbled, " that he
would consider it."
Shaun turned to face the window. The sun shone on the dusty
glass. A tree pressed against the window pane, tantalizing
her. There was a breeze outside, high spirited, the type of
breeze her mother loved, especially on a Monday, wash day.
Shaun wondered if Monday was their wash day out here.
The nights were the worse. The nurses came round to
dispense sleeping pills with the persistence of drug
dealers. 'Come along Shaun you must swallow this. It will do
you the world of good. Be a good boy,' some called her,
others, ' be a good girl.'
Shaun Maclaren didn't want to be a good anything. She wanted
to get home to her flat. The next few weeks passed in a
confused way. There was a letter from Macia. This time she
did not bother to open it, ripped it into tiny pieces and
threw it away.
Shaun Maclaren had changed. No longer did she feel part
woman part man. The testosterone therapy had been increased,
she knew and felt she was all man. Instead of being tense or
anxious, Shaun was too busy asserting himself. Too busy to
be neurotic or afraid. He'd take on the world if necessary.
Shaun had arrived, and was entitled, now, more than ever
before to be called Mr Shaun Maclaren.
He thought about changing his name. But he liked to be
called Shaun, he thought it had a manly ring with a touch of
Irish. Maclaren, he was sure came from somewhere in
Scotland. When Shaun went into a store, sometimes a girl
would ask, " can I help you Sir." this gave him pleasure and
a great sense of pride.
A letter from Professor Gaisford gave him a special feeling.
It was addressed to Mr Shaun Maclaren, telling him he was
due for the next stage of operations in just ten days time.