A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
The demand for ' Spirits of Parallel ' had exceeded all
expectations. The second reprint having been quickly
absorbed. There was talk by Charlotte Hunter and her
editorial staff, of a third, possibly a revised edition.
The past eighteen months had been breathlessly busy for
Shaun and Leah, who were forced to travel extensively.
Leah now playing a major roll in the preparation of Shaun's
lectures and tour arrangements, neither wanting to engage
the services of a manager.
Marriage, although mentioned on occasions was never
seriously discussed, everyone assuming that they were
husband and wife.
A few of their very close literary friends suggested, that
in order to make their union complete they should consider
starting a family.
But most of them argued against it, feeling that it would be
unfair for Leah to get pregnant while they were on tour.
In the privacy of their hotel suite, Shaun roared with
laughter when Leah related their friends remarks. Although
in more serious mood they both wanted to be as one, they
realised that marriage, in their current situation was
impossible. For the remainder of the tour it was never
spoken of again.
Shaun received a letter from Gree, Shorthouse, and Gree,
solicitors of Westhill-on-Sea. The tears flowed down his
cheeks when he learned that Sandy Highfield had passed away,
and had been buried next to his sister, Casey Ann, and his
mother at the Westhill cemetery. The letter asked that the
office of Mr Gree Senior be contacted within the next few
The head clerk greeted Leah and Shaun when they attended the
solicitor's offices a week later. He immediately ushered
them into the office of the elder Mr Gree, who rose from his
seat and stood behind his desk, hesitant, and stared for a
moment at Shaun Maclaren in perplexed astonishment. Quickly,
he regained his posture as integrity, and experience stopped
him from making any comment.
But he did breath a sigh of relief when he remembered
instructing his clerk to address the letter, simply, Shaun
Mr Gree began to read Sandy Highield's last ' Will and
Testament' in the sombre surroundings of his office.
The Will directed that the cottage at Westhill, plus a
yearly income for life be given to Shaun Maclaren, the
little girl, who, Sandy described in the Will, he had been
forced, by a misinformed psychiatrist to abandon. That
against his better judgement, he had left her in the hands
of those cruel Sister's of Mercy. An act for which he never
forgave himself. But hoped with all his heart, that as the
pain passed, Shaun would somehow find it possible to forgive
" The property," Mr Gree continued, without comment, " known
as 'Luckham Downs' was to be sold to repay the bank loans
and debts he had accrued, with the residue, if any be given
to Shaun in a lump sum."
There was a long silence as Leah and Shaun absorbed the
contents of Sandy Highfield's Will.
" Why can't we buy the station?" Leah said suddenly. " We
could pay out the loans. Make the Downs our home. It's
something, I know Shaun has always dreamed of."
" I don't know a thing about running a cattle station,"
Shaun said with a grin.
" We could learn, or employ someone."
Mr Gree thought for a moment. " An Overseer, perhaps?" he
asked, " I have someone in mind."
The solicitor promised to look at the loans and debts of
'Luckham Downs' and before Leah and Shaun left the office
the documents the clerk had drawn-up were signed.
They stayed at the Westhill hotel. Leah thought they should
visit the cottage, but as soon as Shaun decided to go the
memories of Casey Ann, the road, his mother and Sandy
Highfield came flooding back.
Leah suggested they visit the cemetery. That by tidying up
the graves and laying fresh flowers it might help him to
overcome his pent-up emotions.
" It might help you to remember them, not dead, but as they
really were," she told him.
He walked along the beach holding Leah's hand, the way he
held Casey Ann's a long time ago.
To Shaun, it seemed as if time had stood still. The rock
pools were still there, and the long, low stone wall
unchanged. The sea still lapped at their feet, washing the
sand from between their toes. In the distance Shaun was sure
he could hear the church bell, it's cracked, almost croaking
rising and falling in the afternoon breeze.
Shaun forcing himself to cross the road, they arrived at the
cottage. When he reached the porch over the front door, he
stood as if rooted to the spot. He gripped Leah's hand,
frightened of what he might find, wondering if anyone lived
He knew it would be filled with dust and cobwebs, in those
dull little unused rooms. Those stairs, those terrible
stairs they had dragged him down stair by stair, one at a
time, when all he wanted was to stay by the side of Casey
Ann's bed. He wanted to scream. He stared at the outside. It
hadn't changed. ' We'll pull it down,' he said to himself,
destroy the memories.'
Even at his mother's funeral he had not visited the cottage.
It was as he had always remembered it.
While Shaun was resting at the hotel Leah called on Mr Gree
Senior. She told him about the changes in Shaun. Of the
Convent, his fears, his nightmares and dreams. Of his book
' The Spirits of Parallel.'
The solicitor told her that the cottage had been renovated.
That Sandy Highfield had borrowed heavily, putting Luckham
Downs up as security. Making the cottage the home he had
always wanted for Shaun, believing that one day his adopted
niece would return and forgive him.
That he had ensured the cottage exterior would always
remain, unaltered, in case Shaun would not believe it was
home. That a house-keeper, maid, and a gardener had been
employed. That they had been with Sandy Highfield for years
and had expressed their wishes to remain with the new owner.
Shaun opened the door. The house-keeper greeted him with a
warm friendly smile. He was amazed at the alterations. The
stairs, the tiny bedrooms had all disappeared. At first he
felt a sadness, but in his sadness there was a kind of inner
The table had been set for the evening meal. The dinner
service, Old English rose, crystal glasses from Europe,
ivory-handled cutlery, silver salt and pepper pots,
carnations in long vases, all on a beautifully embroidered
table cloth. Everything the way Leah had asked, and as the
last rays of the setting sun came through the open window,
making the silver and crystal sparkle, Shaun Maclaren had
come home. He knew that the ghosts of Casey Ann, Sandy, and
his mother were making him, and his Leah welcome.
The bells of Westhill church were ringing for the evening
service as Anna Chapman, the house-keeper descended the
hill. She liked to be early. It gave her the chance for a
chat with her friends in the village. She knew that this
Sunday it was going to be different, that they were going to
ask her about the new owners of Highfield cottage.
Some of the locals had already made up their minds not to
like the new couple. That they were different, unusual. That
they were not married, and had no right living as man and
" You've done your duty Anna Chapman," the greengrocers wife
told her. " You should leave before they give you notice.
It's duty enough that you've looked after Sandy Highfield
all those years. Couldn't have been easy, him being
crippled and all. Just because he left it to this Shaun
Maclaren, doesn't mean you have a duty towards them. Used to
be a little blonde girl around here by that name---years
ago. Some sort of accident. All hushed up. Highfield had a
hand in it. Something about a lorry. Might have even been
Shaun and Leah decided to go to the evening service. It was
Anna Chapman who suggested it. She felt that by everyone
attending it would put an end to the gossip.
Leah had already asked Anna to stay. Hoping that with Katie
the maid, and the gardener they would look after her and
Shaun as they had Sandy Highfield. Eventually going with
them to 'Luckham Downs'.
The church was beginning to fill. The peel of bells had
ceased and a solitary, insistent call was ringing as Leah,
holding Shaun's arm walked down the aisle. The Verger in
his black cassock ushered them to the pew that was Sandy
Highfield's. The organ swelled out a favourite hymn, and for
the moment the congregation forgot all about the strangers.
The bell stopped ringing. The choir entered, followed by the
In his reading desk the Reverend Everett Brand was having
trouble concentrating entirely on what he was doing. The
sight of Leah and Shaun sitting in Sandy Highfield's pew
came as a shock. It sent a pang to his heart, which he knew
it was unworthy that he should feel, especially in his
He ascended the pulpit during the singing of a hymn, feeling
an unusual weight of responsibility. He knew that the
sermon he was about to preach would cause a stir in the
It could hurt peoples feelings, but he felt it was his duty
to say what was on his mind. He gave out his text, waited
for a moment, then leaned forward in the pulpit as he began
to preach on duty.
" Sometimes one is confused as to what is one's duty. It is
not always easy to decide, which way, or where one's duty
The Reverend Brand paused as a murmur ran through his
unusually large congregation.
" People who know where their duty lie should not be
persuaded by others who lack understanding of the
responsibility of various situations," he continued. " They
should not have to listen to idle gossip. They should be
allowed to look at their duty with common sense and
He spoke of a frail woman he had known in Richmond, whose
husband not only neglected her, but ill-treated her.
Friends, relations, and others, urged her to leave him. She
" I don't, I cannot love him," she told them, " but I have a
responsibility towards him. I will do my duty."
" Some people live differently to others," the Vicar said
loudly, " one has a duty towards them. It may be hard at
times because of those among us who revel in idle gossip and
spread unfounded rumours.
Some of you have invalids to look after. Sometimes they can
be querulous and difficult. Some say they should be sent
away, placed in a nursing home. No doubt most of you know
where your responsibility lie, know it's your duty to help
the helpless. And I may add without God's helping hand,
You'll get no reward this side of heaven! I've often heard
people say. I know they are wrong. The consciousness of
duty well done is in itself reward enough. The consciousness
of failure to fulfil one's responsibilities is more nagging
than people's tongues."
Just before the ascription the vicar appealed again to the
congregation to stop the idle gossip to do their duty and
allow people to get on with their lives.
After the benediction Shaun and Leah remained seated in the
pew, pleased that they had come to the service, hoping the
gossip had been laid to rest now everyone knew they were two
people trying to find happiness in living together.
They saw the Vicar go down to the door facing the Rectory.
Shaun caught him up. asked if they could make an
appointment to see him the following morning.
The Reverend Everett Brand sat reading in his study. The
Verger's wife opened the door and announced that there was a
Leah and Shaun Maclaren to see him. The Vicar smiled as he
stood up to greet them, and after the usual preliminaries
Shaun told him they wanted to get married.
" You know what, and who we really are," Leah said as they
sat opposite him.
" I know you are, above all else, God's children. Two people
wanting to marry. Wanting to become as one with each other,
one with God. I feel your union should be blessed by the
Leah heaved a sigh of relief. " How will the church, the
" Will our marriage be legal?" Shaun interrupted.
The Reverend Brand steepled his hands as he looked at the
" I am sure you both know that I have to obey the law, not
only of the church, but of the State. I am licensed by both.
" However," the Vicar said thoughtfully, " as with all
problems, there are ways around it without offending
ecclesiastical or State laws.
You have told me that you are returning to Europe for few
weeks. I suggest that you get married in a registry office.
A civil marriage, a very brief ceremony. For example in
France the couple go through a form of marriage contract,
which of course is within the laws of church and State."
" But I really wanted a church wedding," Leah interrupted.
" Of course you do and I can understand your feelings. If
you decide to get married in that country, remember that the
French bride has no Matron-of-Honor and no bridesmaids. When
you return we can, as soon as you are ready hold a ceremony
in this church, at which I shall be very pleased to
officiate, and you will have your union blessed."
" Will I be allowed to wear a wedding gown in your church?"
" The church is not about dress my dear," the Reverend Brand
said with a smile, " the church, everywhere, all over the
world is about bringing people closer to God.
Dress is in all countries a social commitment. Of course you
may wear a gown. But remember, weddings are a work of God."
Shaun and Leah thanked him for his help, promising that when
they returned and had settled down in 'Luckham Downs' they
would ask him to bless their marriage.
Shaun had only vague memories of 'Luckham Downs'. With Leah
beside him he turned the Mercedes off the dusty track and
stopped to survey the scene. The crumbling wrought-iron
gates, sagging on their hinges guarded the entrance to a
dismal drive choked with weeds and shrubbery. The tall gums
that bounded it were fine specimens, but they increased the
atmosphere of being shut in, a sinister remoteness.
Shaun's pulses stirred as a sharp turn provided them with a
glimpse of the house, that seemed to have survived, despite
the encroachment of mature. The long two storey homestead
almost derelict. The windows shuttered, doors broken,
perhaps by vandals.
As they left the car and walked towards the house, glass
scrunched under their feet. It was obvious that no one had
lived in the homestead for a very long time.
The hall was depressingly dark. Paint peeling everywhere.
Cobwebs stretched from corner to corner and hung like
curtains from the ceiling. But for Shaun and even Leah it
held a special kind of splendour.
There were a few pieces of furniture, most of it broken. In
a cupboard in the attic Leah found a collection of
paintings, including one of Angus Maclaren. Shaun recalled
his mother talking about the gold-framed pictures. Of the
leather armchairs and rugs he'd had shipped from the old
country. How proud his grandfather had been when he sat for
a local artist.
For weeks Shaun and Leah made notes and drawings on how the
homestead should be renovated. In the evenings after dinner
at the cottage they spent hours poring over plans and
designs. They sort Anna's ideas on how she would like the
Someone suggested that the homestead be pulled down,
replacing it with a modern home. Leah argued that a new
house would be just that. It would not have the character or
history that was Luckham Downs.
Mr Gree recommended a surveyor. Shaun found an architect in
Richmond. A building contractor moved in. There were
plumbers, roofing specialists, bricklayers, carpenters and
interior decorators watched over by designers. Leah found it
difficult to decide whether they were pulling it down or
Within a year the Luckham Downs homestead had been fully
restored. Shaun hung the massive painting of Angus Maclaren
opposite the stairs in the now, magnificent hall. With Leah,
Shaun stood in the doorway admiring the scene, then turned
and looked at his grandfather's picture. For a moment he was
certain he saw a warm glow in the old man's eyes, a glow
that said welcome Shaun Maclaren. This is your home.
Under the strong hand of the Overseer recommended by the
senior Mr Gree, Luckham Downs began to show a profit. Shaun
and Leah had been living at the Downs a year and Shaun had
started a new book.
Leah looked through the open window of the study at the
living picture that was their home, at the tilted slope
above the valley. The valley itself, the merest hollow that
lay in the swell of the land. She had often teased Shaun
that she only married him because she loved the homestead.
" Of course," he answered, as she moved away from the window
to sit in the chair opposite him, " how could anyone help
but fall in love with Luckham Downs."
Leah had accomplished much as a transsexual, far more than
she had ever achieved as a male. Now her greatest ambition
was to have a family. She knew the possibility of an egg
attaching itself to the intestine, and without telling Shaun
she wrote to Professor Gaisford.
After days of anxious waiting a letter written by the
Professor arrived, post-marked Cairo. Leah ripped open the
envelope. Her eyes sped over the pages.
Professor Gaisford agreed that it was possible for an egg to
attache itself to the intestine, but he was of the opinion
that an embryo developed and nourished in the uterus would
be more desirable. He suggested the possibility of a
transplant from a suitable donor might become available, at
a time that was difficult to state.
Eagerly, Leah continued reading. The Professor told her a
better alternative was to take part in the experiment, which
was now being conducted using the organs of pigs. These
pigs, the letter continued were being bred under strict
scientific farming conditions, having been injected with
hormones that would enable their organs to be acceptable to
Although the trials were in the early stages, the tests were
proving very successful, that if she had a transplant of
this nature the cerebrum could be called upon to help with
the nourishment, and it would of course be a first for his
team and the hospital. But he added that there was much work
to be done and he would go into the subject more fully if
and when she attended the hospital for a consultation.
In his letter he mentioned in-vitro fertilisation, adding
that Shaun's eggs and her sperm which were taken before
their sex-reassignment had been stored in liquid nitrogen.
That an embryo could be implanted.
Leah, thrilled at the thought, and filled with excitement
ran downstairs to Shaun. Her eyes filled with tears she gave
him the letter. He read it over and over again.
Sometimes when Leah was asleep and he lay awake staring into
the night, he wondered what it would be like to be a father.
Of the thrill of hearing their baby say it's first words.
But he had always felt it would not have been fair to
mention his feelings to Leah in case it might make her feel
sad, perhaps wanting. Besides he had achieved his ambition,
to become a whole man, and live at Luckham Downs.
Now!---Now it was possible for Leah to become a mother, and
him a father. He wanted to go to the hospital. Now! See the
Professor make arrangements. The book, that could wait. He
spoke excitedly about travel arrangements.
It was Leah who forced him to slow down. She insisted that
before they began to seriously talk about children, that
their marriage, now a year old must be blessed by the
" Oh! that really is splendid news," the Reverend Brand
exclaimed when Leah and Shaun told him of their intentions.
He thought about the service. He wanted to bless their
union, they were, as he had told them before, ' All God's
children.' They asked that the service be kept simple, that
they would like to use their own special words.
" I know that you are aware of the problems of marriage, and
that you have both worked hard to create a beautiful
relationship," the Reverend Brand told them after evening
service the following Sunday. " But I am going to remind
you, as I do all couples about to enter God's holy state,
that you Leah and Shaun must never, even in the happy advent
of a child take one another for granted."
Sunshine streamed through the windows and onto the dark
wooden pews. The wide windowsills were decked with cool
maidenhair fern. Vases of flowers were everywhere. Anna
Chapman, Katie, and even the greengrocer's wife helped Leah
to decorate the tiny church. There were lilies, tall and
erect, offset by roses and carnations, with orchids blending
their colour and sweetness. A sense of awe and stillness
seemed to posses everyone in the church on Leah and Shaun's
Tears welled in Shaun's eyes when he saw Leah, as she walked
down the aisle in his wedding gown. Softly they exchanged
their special words when the Vicar blessed their union, and
as they knelt at the altar, they both heard Shaun's mother
give them her blessing.