A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
The rain had hardly lowered the summer heat. The weather
forecast, a line of thunder-storms with hail and strong
winds moving towards the coast.
Shaun Maclaren sat at his favourite table in the side-walk
cafe drinking coffee, watching the tourists take the air.
They sauntered along pavements, some stared at him, others
stopping to peer in gift shops, then arguing among
themselves whether they should turn left or right to go down
the Golden mile. A few bought films from the chemist shops,
searched through racks of postcards, perhaps with the hope
of finding a cache of obscene ones near the back.
The young and not so young overflowed into the road, closed
around traffic, like water round a boat. Angry bus drivers
sounded their horns as they drove down one-way streets,
pulling up at bus stops to pick up fares. Some of the
tourists sat near Shaun, sipping drinks, munching on
hamburgers and chips and being stared at in their turn.
Shaun Maclaren was back on the coast wishing Leah Wainwright
was with him. She was constantly in his thoughts. If he
closed his eyes he could see her, almost touch her, feel her
arms around his neck, see the glance of her eyes. He thought
about the golden afternoons they had spent together. He had
a feeling that there was something absurd about their love.
When he first met her he fell for her. That first explosion
of glory was followed by a nagging fear that came from the
thinness of their relationship.
He knew this was a different kind of love---because she had
been his nurse. Perhaps, he thought, this was the love of
Shaun Maclaren the man, for a woman.
Everything Leah Wainwright had done yesterday, the day, the
week before, she had done with someone else. He felt
excluded, an interloper. His only claim on her was this
spider's thread of loving her. A delicate line. long, thin,
without breadth. To Shaun it was shimmering with excitement
and promise, but he knew it was vulnerable. He knew it could
be broken by the most trivial of accidents.
He wished this strand of web, this line would gain breadth
so that it might never break. Breadth seemed all important.
Every request for her help had to take precedence over their
wanting to be together.
Leah had sent him many interesting letters, nothing like
Macia's. Some of Leah's letters told of her work, others of
the progress his new penis was making. The delight of
Professor Gaisford and his laboratory team. That he thought
Shaun's reassignment program should be completed within the
next nine months. Shaun was elated. The time when he would
be a complete, whole man, closer than he had dared hope.
There was still pain in his groin from the testicular
insertion. But he was used to them now, these testes that
hung from his vagina. Testes he examined every day with
pride. He no longer looked with envy at other men who used
the urinals in the male toilets. He knew he would shortly
have a penis, a product of his body. No artificial silastic
implant for him. With a little Pethidine, and the
encouragement he received from Leah's letters, the pain
became bearable. At this moment Shaun Maclaren was on top of
The assignments he accepted translating Asian into English
were small enough to be handled from the flat. He turned
down touring contracts, believing that at this time the
stress would be too great. The agency, not wanting to lose
his services paid him a retaining fee.
He ignored the letters Macia sent at regular intervals.
Although there were occasions when he felt like opening
them. He managed to resist the temptation by tearing them
into shreds and throwing them into the incinerator.
Approximately six weeks after his return to the coast Macia
phoned. It was just after midnight, and it was the
relentless ringing that woke him. Realising that it could
only be Macia, in his half dazed state he felt concerned for
her well-being, deciding to help her overcome whatever might
be troubling her.
" After all," he argued loudly, " it was Macia that started
me on the road to freedom." But when she reproached him for
not replying to her letters he slammed down the phone and
went back to bed.
A letter from Leah arrived asking if she could stay with him
for part of her long-service leave. Overjoyed he thought he
should find a larger unit. One closer to the beach.
Half-heartedly he inspected a number of units. There were
the usual problems, and he was not able to get a
satisfactory price for his flat. Eventually he gave up the
idea, decided to stay where he was, hoping Leah wouldn't
mind. It was his home, his haven the place where he felt
secure, and according to her last letter she was only going
to stay for a few days. No longer than two weeks.
Leah Wainwright looked down from the window of the Boeing
747 as the coast line faded and the darkness of the ocean
replaced the land. She tried reading the in-flight magazines
to help suppress her excitement. Shaun had only written a
few short letters in answer to her many, nevertheless, she
knew there was a magic between them.
" It's fate," a close friend told her, when she spoke of the
way she felt, " one could say that whatever happens it's in
Leah closed her eyes for a moment hoping to sleep, it eluded
her. She flipped through the pages of a magazine. Picked at
the air-line food, pellets, either chicken or fish with
salad and a glutinous matter masquerading as pasta.
The passenger next to her, a friendly looking business man
with gray hair cut short on a brick-coloured neck made a few
comments. Leah who had no great mastery of small-talk
responded in a dull sort of way. She lost herself in a
glossy magazine of her own, a world of models, a synthetic
reality. She preferred it to the magazines the air-line
supplied. The man leaned towards her and tried again, Leah
glared at him, went back to her magazine. They were after
all strangers with nothing to share.
It was seven a.m. when the flight reached the coast and
circled the airport. Outside the lounge Shaun was waiting.
He saw her, wanted to run to her take her in his arms. He
knew it had to be different if the delicate strand of their
love were to remain intact. With tears of emotion streaming
down his cheeks he waited for her to come to him.
The strand was beginning to gain breadth. She had arrived,
it was all that mattered, and Shaun was happy, happier than
he had been in a long time. He no longer felt like an
interloper, now he was part of her life. They could spend
days, weeks together, even the rest of their lives, if he
treated her with a gentle patience.
Leah fell in love with his flat, thought of it as being
home. Tired after the long flight she slept for hours in her
room which he had redecorated, especially for her.
The following day they became tourists, sauntered along
pavements, ran barefoot along the beach, where all human
activities were represented. Where a gust of wind would
twirl off a hat and send it out to sea.
They were all there, white bodies, light brown bodies, dark
coloured ones, sleeping, reading, playing. Some hard at
work building sand-castles, only to sit and watch them
washed away on the incoming tide.
There were more subtle activities. Males, young and old,
moving their positions with caution, so that their vision of
angle would be improved. Females, the object of their gaze,
some staying as they were, because they like being stared
at, or were unaware of it. Others quickly closing their legs
together to bring down the curtain.
In the early afternoon the tide was unusually high. Shaun
and Leah clambered over the rocks, stopping now and then as
a particularly big roller marched towards them, to strike
and disintegrate against the breakwater. The sea fascinated
both of them, perhaps Leah more than Shaun.
They walked along the sea wall, where the land jutted out
into the water, and watched the majestic fury of the surf.
With the young they braved the elements. As the rollers
broke then receded they ventured out to the edge to
challenge the next big wave, racing back to avoid the spray.
Sometimes they waited too long, or the force of the waves,
stronger than they expected and they were drenched.
A party had been arranged by the agency to promote tourism
along the coast. Shaun had been asked to attend, the
invitation including Leah. All the right people turned up
for the promotion. Agents from Europe, America and many of
the countries in the Pacific basin. There was nation wide
television coverage, with no one objecting to the lights and
The murmur of voices, clink of glasses, cigar smoke mingled
with expensive perfume, were, all a little foreign to Leah
Wainwright. Different, she thought, to the hospital socials
and parties she had helped to organise. But it was here she
felt she really belonged.
Shaun, his services as translator in demand did his best to
keep her by his side, and as the champagne flowed they
mingled. He introduced her to his friends who nodded their
approval, and agreed, quietly that Shaun Maclaren and Leah
were most definitely an item.
Leah became interested in Shaun's work. She tried to learn
some of the Asian phrases, and although Shaun gave her every
encouragement, she found the task a little beyond her.
After their days at the beach Leah took over the running of
the flat, Many evenings working hard as hostess when Shaun
brought his clients home.
She originally decided that a week or two on the coast would
be long enough, now in her fifth week Leah was still
enjoying every moment. It seemed that she was being drawn
deeper and deeper into Shaun's world of happiness. It was a
feeling she liked, a happiness she had never known.
There were occasions when she was left on her own. Usually
no longer than an hour or two, or when an interview with a
special client had been arranged by the agency.
Without prior notice the agency called a conference which
Shaun had to attend. Knowing it would take up most of the
evening, he tried to persuade Leah to go with him. She
refused, wanting to stay at home, even though she knew it
would be lonely.
" We need a few hours apart," she told him with a laugh, "
might even do us good."
When Shaun left she washed up and put away the dishes.
The silence unbearable she studied the television column of
the evening paper, and though no program interested her she
turned on the set for noise. The static, unusually strong
made the picture snowy. She played with the controls, and
the picture vanished. She tried switching to other
channels. One of them, a voice, barely audible told of a
cyclone approaching the coast. Wanting more information she
switched from channel to channel. Minutes later in disgust
she switched the T V off, wishing now she had gone with
She walked round the room, moved a chair closer to the
table, straightened a picture, then put it back the way it
was. She studied the barometer that hung by the main door,
saw that the reading was low, she tapped the glass and
gasped in amazement when the needle fell even lower. The
news of the cyclone making her restless. She wanted, needed
something to do, and wandered from room to room searching
In her room she looked at the travelling trunk that stood in
the corner covered with a cloth.
" My old service chest," Shaun had told her when she first
went to the flat, " it's filled with all kinds of junk,
throw it all out one day."
Leah removed the cover. She opened the chest and ran her
hands over the top of the things. Knowing she had no right,
it made her feel like an intruder she closed the lid
" How would you like it Leah Wainwright?" she asked loudly,
reproachingly, " a stranger going through your personal
She stood by the window, gazed at the road that glistened in
the steady rain. As the light began to fade she saw the
white caps on the sea in the distance, and thought about
their walks along the shore.
The coast held a fascination for her. She became lost in a
world of her own. Running barefoot along the beach, the
sand, thick between her toes, then being washed away by the
warm waters that rose and fell over legs. She slipped out of
her clothes. Swam in the caressing sea. Turned on her back
and floated for hours.
She heard the splash, and saw the foam of another swimmer,
knew it could only be Shaun, that he had come to her rescue.
In the warm gentle sea he held her close as they made a slow
Suddenly the room became bright as lightning lit up the sky.
The crash of thunder brought her back to reality. She was
laying on the bed, with no idea how she got there.
She sat up, looked at the chest, her gazed transfixed. As a
roll of thunder rent the air she ran to the chest and opened
it. She knew it was wrong, but her hands seemed beyond her
control as they lifted out skirts, blouses, cardigans and
jumpers all pressed and neatly folded. There was Shaun's
service uniform. There were slacks, dresses, nighties,
handkerchiefs and bras, which Leah lifted out and refolded.
There was a wedding gown, white satin and lace. She knew it
belonged to Shaun. In a box near the bottom of the chest was
a rich gossamer headdress and veil, Leah held the gown
against her, looked in the mirror turning first one way then
" What if?" she said excitedly as she waltzed around the
Hardly daring to think she took off her dress and slipped
the wedding gown on. It didn't quite reach the floor, but
everything else was perfect, her waist, bust, all in the
right places. In the antique cheval mirror for a few minutes
she admired the view, turning sideways she ran her hands
over her breasts and trim waist.
" Will we marry, you and I, Shaun Maclaren. Please let me
wear this, your beautiful gown for our wedding."
She turned away from the mirror and went back to the chest.
There was a folder filled with letters from printers and
publishers. Underneath the folder the book Shaun had
written and another letter of rejection. She opened the book
and began to read.
The lights flickered. The flat in darkness Leah ran to the
window, watched a jagged bolt of lightning tear across the
sky and disappear into the sea. The street lights were out,
all the houses were dark. Here and there a light danced
behind a window as people lit their candles.
Leah had heard about cyclones, and storms that began life in
the gulf, then raced down the coast, leaving a trail of
destruction. She stood by the window, mesmerized by the
lightning, and thought about Shaun and his wedding gown.
With the next flash of lightning she hitched up the gown and
with Shaun's book under her arm made her way to the kitchen,
stopping every time there was a roll of thunder. Waiting
behind a door until it passed.
In the kitchen she searched for a light. On top of the
cupboard she found a candle and matches. Lighting the
candle, too frightened to scream she dialled Shaun's agency
number. There was no ringing, only a hum. She replaced the
receiver, waited until the lightning had passed, and seconds
before the next clap of thunder she began dialling the
number again. There was a flash and the line went dead.
Leah trembled as the storm ran wild. She stared at the
eerie shadows created by the light from the candle.
Something touched her, soft like the touch of a feather, and
as the storm raged she fell asleep in the armchair.
When the storm eased and she awoke, Leah felt calm and safe.
Her mind closed to the noise of the torrential rain she
picked up Shaun's book from the coffee table.
She read how he had floated above the operating table. Of
the spirits he had seen and spoken to. Of his thoughts on
the rebirth of the soul in a new body, and his life before
he was reborn Shaun Maclaren.
Of his mother who had told him that one day he would become
a whole man and marry a woman called Leah. She read about
his guardian angel, a never ending source of acceptance and
love. Of the times when he had faced great pain and loss,
knowing that was the time when the advent of his spiritual
The angels, Shaun had written, are always there, even in his
past life they were there to guide him. They bring many
gifts, but the greatest gift they bring is love.
Where there is pain there is hope. Where there has been
suffering, healing has come. Where there is mistrust and
anger, there is love. Ask, and your angel will appear. For
these are the foot prints of angels.
Leah realised she was still wearing his gown. In her room,
she took one last look in the cheval mirror. She saw, not
her reflection, but the mist of his mother.
" Please," she whispered, " you know how much I really love
him. Let me be the Leah who will one day, wear his wedding
Leah took off the gown and laid it lovingly back in the
Shaun Maclaren's book ' The Spirits of Parallel ' was
published by the Hunter Organization. The book launch to be
held in London.
The Concorde dipped it's beak and began to roll. The plane
gathered speed, lifted it's nose and leapt off the runway,
Shaun and Leah loosened their seat belts, pushed their seats
into the reclining position and stretched their legs
" Champagne Madame- -Sir?' the pretty girl in a pale blue
They declined, but Leah asked for coffee, plain, white. As
the stewardess left Shaun grinned at Leah, although, there
was a look of bewilderment about him. It had happened so
fast. Leah had arranged every thing. She led, he followed.
He remembered the storm. Worried about Leah he managed to
leave the conference early. Driving back to the flat there
were patches of mist that the car headlights could hardly
penetrate. As he approached his home the whole area was
dark, not only the houses, but the street lights were out.
Although the storm had lessened the rain continued in a
heavy downpour, and he had been forced to park the car yards
away. He remembered walking up the steps, soaking wet. Leah
was standing by the open door, then slipping, hitting his
head and laying on the tiled courtyard floor.
He remembered the pain, but only for a moment. He had tried
to move. It was Leah who had knelt beside him in the pouring
rain making him lie still. There was the sound of the
ambulance bell. Then there were lights. He woke up in
hospital with Leah sitting beside him.
He remembered the pain in his back, that he was forced to
lie still. But that was days ago.
Leah had sent his script to the Hunter Organization, and as
the jet slipped through the sound barrier and settled in
it's flight plan, he remembered telling Leah when she had
visited him in the hospital, about all the times he had
tried to get it published. Now Hunters had made an offer,
which Leah had accepted on his behalf.
At first it annoyed him to know she had succeeded where he
had failed. He felt his newly won manhood had been
threatened. It was his script. He should have been the one
to decide whether or not the offer would be acceptable. Now
he knew Leah did it only for him, and he revelled in the
thought of becoming a published author.
This was the first time he had travelled on a Concorde,
usually it was a Jumbo, or a 747. According to Leah this
plane trimmed hours off the flight. It was more expensive,
but there was plenty of leg room and the services were
superior to many other air-lines.
Around him music played, people talked. All the stewardesses
smiled. As the sky rushed by Leah gripped his hand and made
" This is wonderful Shaun," she whispered, " and it's all
The Concorde shuddered, dipped it's nose and began to slow.
" This is your Captain. I hope you've had an enjoyable
flight. We are now approaching the English coast south of
Dover. We are beginning to decelerate, and will be landing
at Heathrow in approximately thirty minutes."
London life and the mid-morning traffic seemed normal to
Shaun, but to Leah it appeared to be in a state of utter
chaos. As the limousine that picked them up from the airport
raced towards the city, Leah's right foot was constantly
trying to force it's way through the floor.
The car turned into Portman Square and stopped outside the
Churchill Hotel. The chauffeur checked them in as the
manager descended from the gallery above the reception area
to welcome them. Leah marvelled at the air of gracious
living, and on the way to their suite remarked to Shaun that
if Hunters changed their mind about covering expenses they
would both be broke for the rest of their lives.
When the bell-boy left they made for the bathroom and
disappeared in a fog of steam and bubbling foam. An hour
later Leah, wrapped in a robe went into the bedroom. There
was a note on the night table and a list of appointments.
Hairdressers for Shaun and herself. Tailors with fitting
times for Shaun. For her a list of boutiques, dressmakers
and tailors who would be calling on them to discuss their
wardrobes. Unable to believe it she went back to the
bathroom and read out the list to Shaun.
" Like being back in the Army," he said with a laugh, as he
heaved a wet sponge at Leah, " anyone would think we were
Prima Donna's. We're only here to talk about the spirits.
The book and our thoughts and feelings on the fresh
embodiment, and my favourite subject, the Angels."
Two days later the book launch was held, and after breakfast
with the editors Shaun and Leah went down to the ballroom.
It was packed with people sitting around cloth-covered
High above the stage was a poster of Shaun's book. The
poster was huge. It showed a figure hovering over a table,
on either side sketches of angels, cherubs, famous people
from the past. People, young and old, all appeared to be
floating in space.
A first they were stunned by the impact of the poster. It
was a frightening, yet calm, heavenly scene. While Leah
stared at it in wonderment, for Shaun it brought back
memories of his Vagus nerve operation, his days nights, with
Maureen. At the bottom of the poster, in the distance a
cottage nestled near a beach, close to where the sky met the
It was Leah who really amazed him. She was in her element,
conversing with publishers, booksellers and editors alike, a
few even seeking her attention. He walked towards her. He
needed a drink, but his mouth was so dry he felt his tongue
must be glued to it's roof. Someone offered him a glass of
champagne. Although he was desperate, he refused, convinced
that nothing would get past his restricted throat muscles,
that the liquid would run down his chin.
He had been in front of people, and spoken on various
subjects many times as translator, tour guide. He was always
in charge. It was part of his life, his job. Now, suddenly,
he Shaun Maclaren was scared to death.
" Should have put the bloody book in her name," he grumbled
as he went to find Leah.
Inching his way through the crowd of writers, readers and
booksellers, Shaun saw another poster of his book. Someone
recognised him, asked him if he would sign their copy.
Immediately there were dozens of people waving copies of '
The Spirits of Parallel ' all demanding his signature.
It was Leah who came to the rescue. She took him by the hand
and led him towards the stage.
Latecomers were still straggling into the ballroom,
searching for a seat.
" I wonder who that is?" he asked Leah, his attention drawn
to a statuesque blonde in a long black gown, one of the most
glamorous women at the launch.
" Oh! That's Charlotte. Charlotte Hunter, head of
publishing and their book-store chain."
" A woman - that glamorous, head of a world-wide chain of
book-stores? That's a bit hard to believe. Besides how do
Leah laughed. " she was a patient of Professor Gaisford, on
a special reassignment program three years ago. We,
Charlotte and I are very good friends."
Shaun stared at Leah. " You mean----she ."
" She is a very nice person, I know you'll like her," she
said squeezing his hand.
Charlotte Hunter came onto the stage from the side and as
she walked up to the microphone, Shaun knew his time was up.
He wanted to run, but Leah held onto his hand.
Pulling back his shoulders he summoned all his courage, then
wondered why his feet seemed glued to the floor.
A hush fell over the ballroom, the people absorbing every
word from the beautiful blonde that commanded their
" It is my very great pleasure," she was saying, " to
present to you a man who has a better understanding of the
soul, the spirit and reincarnation than any one I know."
The applause was thunderous, delaying Shaun's entrance who
was busy being scared, and trying to persuade his feet to
" Shaun Maclaren," she continued, when the applause had died
down, " has travelled the world, is a leading exponent of
Asian languages and an authority on traumatology.
After an early marriage and divorce a year later he worked
his way through university and has spent many years studying
the influences of the Extraordinary, having had numerous
experiences of his own."
The blood was pounding in his temples. He hadn't expected
such a personal introduction. How could this person, he had
never met, spread out his life in front of an audience of
The speaker informed the audience when and where Shaun would
be giving lectures, and when he would be available to
autograph copies of his book.
Even before Hunters had organized the launch 'The Spirits of
Parallel' had produced a profit. Now a campaign had been
worked out, and a ten week tour arranged.
" Now!" Leah whispered, giving him a gentle push.
Vaguely aware of the tables stacked with copies of his book
he was too intent on reaching the stage to notice all the
His foot was on the first step. The microphone loomed before
him like a pitchfork that belonged to the Devil. Poised,
ready to spear him. He managed to reach it, then realised
people were clapping him. Charlotte Hunter grasped his hand,
and as she welcomed him kissed him on the cheek.
" I wish all my duties were this enjoyable," she said,
moving aside to make room for him.
" A lovely reward," Shaun Maclaren quipped, taking hold of
the microphone. His confidence returned, his throat no
He remembered to thank the editors and every one who had
helped to organise the launch. It was easy to express his
appreciation of Charlotte Hunter who stood to the left of
him listening attentively.
But it was Leah Wainwright he thanked most of all. He told
of how, one night in the height of a storm she had read his
script. How hard she had worked to get it published, while
he lay in hospital recovering from an injury.
Amid a standing ovation Leah found herself on the stage by
" We'll always be together," he whispered, " I'll never let
Taking her by the shoulders he gave her a long, lingering
kiss, bringing applause and whistles of encouragement.
Leah knew he had a gift of concentrating on one person, and
even in front of hundreds of people she was alone with him.
Was this, she wondered, his mother's spirit telling her that
she was the Leah. The Leah he would one day call his own?"