A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
Maureen was waiting for Shaun as the red disc of the setting
sun hung over the roof of the railway station. She stood
watching the direction in which her cousin would come,
caught sight of her and moved to meet her.
Shaun, her dead-set stare, indicative of the determination
which had driven her to see Maureen raised her hand and
touched her cousin's face. Unable to control her emotions
kissed her, a long lasting kiss. Neither saying a word,
knowing they had to be together, for a day, a month,
forever. Arm in arm they walked down the lane to the beach.
Barefoot, they ran along the beach to their cottage.
The bedroom became their haven. It was four months since
they had seen one another. Maureen desperate to answer
Shaun's regular letters, Knowing she dare not. Fearful of
her cousin Pauline, or her aunt Rachel reading them.
The moment Shaun had dreaded, yet longed for had arrived.
And as the leaves on the trees outside the window quivered
in the breeze their eyes met, brimming with quicksprung
tears. Shaun, almost afraid to touch her cousin, in case, as
in all her dreams she fade away.
The barrier of time parted. Fingers, who knew, or cared
who's tore at zips and hooks. Warm flesh melted to flesh
equally as warm and soft. Igniting sparks and dreams as
touch-bred flames began licking and yearning the lost hours
Shaun cried out with delight as all the old familiarity came
rushing back. The surge to belong to each other. Both
seeking a desperate happiness.
Maureen, murmuring, " I'll never let you go."
Shaun, adoring, gentle, even-reverend, as if to cup her
cousin's swollen breasts was a privilege so rare, so
precious that it made her speechless with awe. They found
the secret intimacy of making love still the same earthy,
shattering experience they had on that first night long ago.
To Shaun, Maureen was a complete woman. To Maureen, Shaun
Maclaren her Prince, who inspired her with star-bursts of
colour, like Catherine wheels that spun in the night.
Maureen, always very close to her cousin, the days turned
into months. Most evenings in the warm, friendly glow of the
fire they listened to their favourite records. Maureen
laying her head on Shaun's lap. Their soft kisses and tender
caresses lasting long into the night. Occasionally they
went for a walk that ended with a special dinner at the
Sundays they packed a picnic basket and drove to their
favourite spot. Sometimes they walked through a paddock of
green knee-high wheat. At the far edge of the field Shaun
spread a blanket on the ground, Maureen the table-cloth,
then she prepared their lunch. They both liked red wine and
always took a bottle with them.
Shaun loved to wear slacks and a soft linen shirt, it gave
her a leisurely feeling. Maureen always happy to wear a
dress, or a skirt and a sleeveless top. After lunch they
laid down, Maureen watching the hawk that circled above
them, wondering where and when it would dive.
Fascinated by her cousin's tanned legs Shaun fondled and
kissed them in turn. The hawk still circling above watched
the two naked bodies entwine, then break away to dance among
the wheat with the simple delight of living.
Such simple events last lovers a very long time. Some of
them, all of their lives, hardly one of them able, or
willing to turn their backs on the best things that ever
Shaun and Maureen remembered their wheat field and with the
coming of summer watched and play in it as it grew.
They made love in the car in daylight. In the pine forests
on their trips to the North, neither caring about the sharp
pine needles that stuck to knees, backs and palms. To them
it was a sexual mystery that bound them together, a mystery
that neither wanted to solve.
Shaun bought her cousin a pretty blue night gown that
Maureen wore every night. There were nights when Shaun slept
like a baby, while her cousin lay awake watching her. In
sleep Shaun looked contented, in love, not just with her,
but with life, and she realised that this was Shaun's first
and only love that no one would dare to spoil.
Maureen knew there were times when Shaun suffered some very
bad pains. It was more, much more than pains from her
periods, they were normal ones she could easily bear. She
had often seen her laying on the bed with a pillow under her
stomach trying to relieve the torment. When Maureen asked
her about it, Shaun just cried told her it was always the
same. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she watched Shaun
pace the floor in the darkness trying to hide her pain
There was no Sarah Maureen could turn to. No Army nurses to
help out. Desperate with worry she wrote to the Army medical
board, pleading with them to help her cousin. A week later
a defence department doctor ordered Shaun to report to his
office regarding her pension. Shaun groped through the
layers of sleep to reach Maureen's soft voice.
" It's late," she was telling her, " you have to keep your
appointment. Your pension is at stake."
Dr Robert Duncan scowled as he studied the medical history
of Shaun Maclaren. He read about the tests, the Barium meals
and X-rays she had been given. Of the results that proved
she was not suffering from ulcers. His mouth set in hard
lines as he read the civilian doctors suggestion that Shaun
was psychosomatic and should be referred to a mental
institution. This was the second year she had been examined
for the grading of her service pension. He studied the
letter from Maureen describing the pain and agony Shaun was
suffering. Without waiting for further discussion he decided
on an immediate operation.
The thickset surgeon in the theatre barely looked up as the
tall figure of Robert Duncan in mask gloves and gown moved
in opposite him. He was aware of the nurses, assistants and
interns who moved quickly, in an orderly fashion, their feet
making no sound. He glanced at the anaesthetist.
" How is she Dr Fowler?"
Falling slightly," the anaesthetist answered, giving his
" Primary shock developing," Duncan observed. " Let's get on
with it shall we?"
He studied the transfusion, " a little faster please
Duncan waited as the surgeon opposite traced the pattern
marked in blue lines that ran from his patient's breast bone
down to her navel.
Shaun hovered above the table. She seemed to be floating -
-close to the ceiling. She watched the subaqueous ballet, a
serious dance around the table on which her body now lay.
she looked down at the operating theatre, all porcelain,
stainless steel, gleaming silver gray.
There was no pain-she seemed not to feel anything. She
touched the massive overhead lights, trying to make them
swing. In her lighthearted mood she tried not to giggle as
Dr Duncan looked and swore very softly. She put her hand
over her mouth, hoping he hadn't heard, wondering if he knew
she was almost able to touch him.
Enjoying her new found freedom she glided down to the table,
touched the green cover that separated her chest and navel
from the remainder of her body.
Fascinated, she stared at the profusion of tubes connected
to her various parts. To someone like Shaun Maclaren, who
did not even want to understand them, they were just a
tangle of tubes. As she watched she realised they were the
weapons of this little army fighting to free her from pain.
The excitement was unlike anything she had ever known.
Shaun floated upwards, found herself among explorers. There
was Cook, Flinders, Oxley and O'Connell. She thought they
were smiling at her and decided that one day she write a
book about the experience.
She examined the X-ray picture that hung directly in Dr
Duncan's line of vision and gasped when she saw the arteries
that turned and curved in her body like so many vines and
creepers. Panic seized her as she watched the doctor pick up
a scalpel and cut the frayed, eaten-away vagus nerve. She
pleaded with him not to hurt her, even though she knew he
was not able to hear her. She listened as he agreed with
the other surgeon that the nerve was the main cause of the
problem, then sighed with relief when he asked the suture
Nurse to close.
Shaun floated around the room again. Felt a strange kind of
happiness, being in a world without pain. In a small room
close to the theatre Maureen was pacing the room. She saw
her hovered next to her, heard the teardrops fall from her
cousin's eyes. She wanted to tell her not to worry that
everything would turn out right. Suddenly she knew it was
time-to return to her body.
Up the bare steps and along the corridor Maureen ran her
shoes ringing on the white tiled floor. She felt a sudden
chill about the hospital and prayed that her Shaun was
alive. Hours before the Matron had sent her home. Telling
her to come back in the morning, advising she get a few
Maureen found a nurse, a gleam of recognition crossed her
eyes, replacing the look of annoyance at having her work
interrupted. She showed her to her cousin's room where Shaun
lay on a bed in a sea of white linen.
Shaun opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She knew
she had been rolling her head from side to side and wondered
what was happening. The sounds she heard were muttered
words, broken sentences that seemed to come from her lips.
Her head ached, her mouth was dry and had an odd taste of
something like cotton wool.
Maureen's heart skipped a beat as she watched her cousin's
face struggle, as if to return from some far-away place. Dr
Duncan stood with Maureen beside the bed, their faces
furrowed with tension.
In the room there was no sound, no rustle, not even the
sound of breathing. If only she hadn't written that letter,
Shaun would be safe in her arms. Maureen knew she was to
blame as the anger welled up within her.
" Shaun!" Dr Duncan whispered, " there's someone waiting to
She stared at the doctor, her eyes strained to understand.
He stroked her arm gently then pressed it, hoping for some
reflex. He watched her dry lips move, barely touching each
other. He glanced at her cousin. Maureen lent over the bed.
" Shaun - you are going to get well," she told her doing her
best to smile, " the doctor says you'll be free of pain."
Maureen moved away as the nurse came in to straighten the
bed. She felt suddenly exhausted, thought the room was
stifling. She shut her eyes - -opened them quickly, knew
that the nurse was looking at her. She put her hand on her
forehead, it felt strangely cold. A sound, part sob, part
laugh forced itself from her throat. Almost audible, the
doctor still heard it, assumed it had come from the patient.
He turned, looked at Maureen, saw that the colour had
drained from her face. As her knees buckled he caught her.
The nurse took her into the waiting room and gave her a warm
" Shaun!" she said to the nurse, " will she ever speak
Robert Duncan examined her. When he had finished she asked
about Shaun. He explained about something called the Vagus
nerve, told her it was the cause of the pain. That it came
from the base of the skull, down her neck and thorax, then
down to her stomach. That acid had eaten part of it away.
" She will have a better quality of life," he assured her,
now that the damage has been repaired.
" Of course there are risks," he continued, "in every
operation there is a certain amount of risk. I believe
she'll pull through.
With your love and support she'll find the will to live."
They went back into Shaun's room. The nurse told them there
had been no change. They watched, hoping for some form of
expression, not one of them daring to move. At last into
the uneasy silence came words, low, and very clear.
" Maureen! Maureen. I do love you - I wouldn't have really
Maureen cried as she grasped her cousin's hands. Shaun
smiled at her. A nurse came in, checked the machines and
gave Shaun an injection. She heard voices, soft and caring,
saw the tenderness in her cousin's secret glances.
Happy she had decided to return to her body. Knowing that
her cousin really did love her, Shaun fell into a deep
She found that the next few weeks passed in a confused way.
She tired easily. Even though Dr Duncan had recommended
that her service pension be up-graded there still seemed to
be a shortage of money. She slept with her cousin as usual,
but found the strain of trying to satisfy her was more than
she could manage, Maureen would often ignore her, pretending
to be asleep.
Maureen found a part-time job at the Sandwood hotel, leaving
Shaun alone most of the day. For her life became boring.
She became fed up going for walks along the deserted beach,
she longed for Maureen's company. When her cousin came home
from the Hotel she appeared to be too tired to even talk to
her, and most nights went straight to bed.
Shaun wanted to go back to printing. The local doctor
suggested she should wait.
" Perhaps next year," he told her, " it is by far better to
wait until you are fully recovered." She thought some form
of writing might satisfy her, and began to use Maureen's old
At first she wrote about the bush and 'Luckham Downs', then
came to a block when she thought about Casey Anne. She
thought about her experience in the hospital theatre. For
hours she sat at the keyboard, forgetting her troubles with
The days raced by. Maureen's old typewriter sung every
morning. In the afternoons Shaun went to the library and
studied religious doctrine, spiritual happenings. She began
to understand her feelings at the Convent. Knew why she
wanted to become a Priest and the reasons convention forced
her to quash them.
She threw herself into her work. Wrote with an intensity
and fire she had never felt before. The images sprang to her
mind as she saw with a sharp perception the colour that
flooded the scenes, and found it difficult to keep up with
the impetus of the figures bustling for life on the page.
She felt the harmony of the poor, the deformed, the
unfulfilled and the pleasure of a friendly act.
Shaun Maclaren loved again the sky and the beach, the rocks,
the rolling surf. She seemed to be touched with an ecstasy,
a thrill of intoxication, and felt within her all the
confused desires of living things, and watched their spirits
Maureen tried hard to ignore the tension between them when
she returned from her work at the Sandwood Hotel. She knew
they were desperate for a change. She was afraid to broach
the subject, believing it could make Shaun feel she did not
love her. That she was not wanted, or needed any more.
She came home early one evening, persuaded Shaun to leave
her book and walk with her along the beach. The air was
peculiarly still, that eerie interval after the birds fall
silent. The pathway to the beach was deserted. Their feet
made no sound on the sand. all they could hear was the lap
of the waves alongside them.
They held hands and walked in silence from the path to the
edge of the cliffs. Deep in thought they turned and went
back towards the cottage. In the pale moonlight they stood
by the gate, absorbed in contemplation of their own
" Thank you for all the love you have given me," Maureen
whispered as she held her cousin's hand, " you know we both
need a break from each other. Our love- -it will go on
Shaun placed a finger on Maureen's lips.
"Its both of us," she said very softly, " I know it's time
for me to leave. I need space to finish my book. I need to
see Mum- -I."
Shaun wanted to tell her cousin so much more - -the seeking
in her heart. Of floating in the hospital. The dark empty,
frightening places that surrounded her whenever she was
alone in the cottage. That the most vulnerable moments were
those of triumphant joy when she found she loved all
creatures, living, suffering. She wanted to tell her of the
secret self that the evil of the world wanted to destroy by
exposing their love. That even with lips on lips the secret
self remained alone.
They stood for a moment gazing at the moon. Overwhelmed by
emotion they kissed, a kiss that seemed to be never ending.
When at last it was over Maureen suggested they go into the
cottage. With a strength that came from deep emotion they
made love, each hoping it would go on forever, each knowing
it was the end .
In the morning Shaun Maclaren was gone. Through her tears
Maureen had a strange feeling that perhaps she had caught
some echo of her cousin's heart and mind. She knew it was
right to let her go, and that Shaun needed to be with her
mother. In her heart she felt that their special love was
stronger than ever before, that one day Shaun would return
yet she found it impossible to rid herself of this feeling
At first Shaun thought it was humiliating that at her age
she should have a sudden longing for her mother. She hoped
and prayed that she might give her a little encouragement
and not treat her writing with a similar hostility she felt
Maureen had. She knew her mother would not have any idea of
how she could get it published.
Shaun knew she needed an older man, someone she could go to
for help and advice. She thought about Sandy Highfield. No
one had ever mentioned him, or seen him for years. She
vaguely remembered 'Luckham Downs', made up her mind that
one day she would make her home in the North.
She knew her eldest sister Pauline had remarried someone in
the publishing business, wondered if he might be able to
help - - or perhaps her sister Jillian. She quickly
dismissed the idea when she recalled the beatings, the lies,
and treatment she had been forced to endure during her
school holidays, and how they continuously blamed her for
the death of Casey Anne. The thought of them abhorred her.
On the outskirts of the city Shaun found a large two
bedroomed flat. Her mother, fed up with Pauline asked if she
could live with her. Shaun was delighted and could find no
By the end of the year she had completed her manuscript and
went in search of a publisher. Months went by without anyone
making an offer. There were many letters of rejection, most
were kind, some sympathetic, telling her that the script was
competently written. Others told her it not suitable to
their present program, one or two said they could be
interested sometime in the future. Determined to succeed
she decided on self-publishing and invested all her savings.
Six months later she found it was impossible to continue due
to insufficient funds.
Angry with her failure, which had left her heavily in debt.
Disgusted with her mother's criticism of her efforts she put
the manuscript in the bottom of her service trunk and vowed
never to read it again.
Shaun decided to go back to printing. The huge presses gave
her a feeling of importance, something she felt she needed
after the rejection of her book.
Bartholomew Carter welcomed her with open arms when she
arrived at Morris and Sons. She found the tedious job of
collating was something to look forward to, and it gave her
time to think about Maureen. They wrote to each other at
least four times a week and Shaun treasured every letter.
The letters were her secret, her comfort, one that she
guarded with a jealous care.
Rachel noticed her youngest daughter was wearing only slacks
and shirts and wondered why. Her concern became unbearable
and she examined the contents of Shaun's wardrobe. There
were no dresses, skirts blouses or jumpers and only thick
winter pyjamas for night wear. The following day she spoke
to her daughter about it.
Shaun explained that was the way she preferred to dress, and
it was easier for her to work in slacks. Her mother became
irate and told her to go and buy some decent clothes. Shaun
told her it was none of her damn business, that she had no
right going through her things. It was her flat and that she
was paying all the expenses.
During the following weeks Shaun felt that her mother was
trying to run her life and on the rare occasion when she did
mention Maureen, Rachel became upset, telling Shaun she
would not allow that person in the home, and that if Shaun
continued writing to her she could leave.
Her brother George visited his mother at least once a week,
and listened to her complaints about his sister. One day he
told Shaun she was behaving more like a man than a single
woman and thought it was time she was married. Shaun, unable
to contain her anger told him to leave, and when he refused
contacted the local police who eventually escorted him out
of the flat.
Anxious as always to hear from her cousin Shaun went at
least twice a week to the post office to collect her mail.
For some time there had not been any letters not even the
usual bills. Worried Shaun tried telephoning her. There was
never any answer, and Shaun put it down to her working long
hours at the Sandwood Hotel.
" Mrs Maclaren's been collecting the mail," the post office
clerk told her, after she made inquiries about mislaid
" For how long,"
" The past six weeks. She told us you wanted her to collect
your mail. We have the authorization you signed."
Her mother was out when Shaun went to the flat. She knew
Maureen had written. That her mother had either hid the
letters or destroyed them. In every room she searched the
draws, cupboards and boxes. At last she found a pile of
letters. Some from friends, some from the Service, bills,
many demanding immediate payment, underneath, letters from
Maureen. In the privacy of her room she opened them. Heard
her mother return. Too angry to find out why she had hidden
her mail she continued reading her cousin's letters.
The first one was filled with love and a tenderness that
made her cry. The next about her work at the Sandwood
begging her to come home to the cottage.
Shaun re-read the letter and decided to go to the coast,
there love was all that mattered. She glanced at the
post-marks, saw they were weeks apart. She read the letters
from her friends, and the one from the Army about her
pension. She placed the bills to one side, knowing she would
have to pay them later. Wanting to know why her mother had
hidden them she went into the lounge room to confront her.
" So you found them," her mother said angrily as soon as
Shaun entered the room, " here's another I picked up this
morning, and I know who it's from. Don't you dare bring that
woman into this house."
Shaun wanted to tell her mother that it was her flat, that
she paid the bills, that she would bring home who the hell
she wanted. If she didn't like it then move back with
Pauline. Instead she picked up the letter turned it over and
over. She could almost see the words inside the envelope.
She put it against her face, praying that her worst fears
were not true. Her mother staring at her, her face flushed
Her heart heavy with apprehension Shaun opened Maureen's
last letter. She read it again and again. With tears rolling
down her cheeks she learned that her cousin was going to get
Shaun ran from the room, blinked back the tears threw her
few clothes into a suitcase and drove to the coast never
wanting to see or hear from her mother again.
At the Sandwood Hotel Maureen was serving behind the bar.
Shaun controlled her urge to rush up to her, waiting until
she had finished serving.
" Why Maureen? Why are you doing this to me?" she asked, "
you know I love you. Please Maureen, please don't treat me
" There was no need for you to come down here. You never
even took the trouble to answer my letters. Besides, I'm
not getting married for a few weeks. You can go back to the
cottage and wait for me."
" No!" Shaun retorted angrily, " I demand an explanation. I
don't ever want to enter that cottage again. I'll stay
People were beginning to stare at them, others looked away A
few of them left the bar disgusted with their behaviour.
This was, after all The Sandwood Hotel, where incidents like
this did not happen.
" Don't bother," Shaun said loudly, " I'll be leaving in the
She stared at the engagement ring Maureen was wearing. It
made the eternity ring she had given her months ago, still
on her finger seem cheap and unimportant.
It was just before midnight when Maureen banged on her
cousin's door. Shaun was sitting outside in the round
balcony absorbed by the moonlight, she had made up her mind
never to see her cousin again. She was hurt and felt the
need for revenge.
She knew it was all her mothers fault, but Maureen, her
first love, her only love had no right to get married
without an explanation. She knew her cousin could never
love anyone else. The banging continued. Shaun, left the
balcony, determined not to let her cousin in. Maureen stood
in the doorway. The deep gold dress she was wearing clung to
her every curve, lending her hair a rich burnished hue. The
vee of the neck line exposing her deep cleavage, the
slim-heeled sandals gave her that touch of elegance Shaun
had never seen before.
A delicate tinge of pink crept over Shaun's cheeks. She was
powerless to stop the tears that welled behind her eyes. It
seemed as if someone had taken control of her voice. She
wanted to shout at her cousin, tell how much she had been
hurt. The silence between them interminable.
" I'm sorry Shaun," Maureen offered, " you must know that
it's you I really love."
Shaun desperately wanted to take her in her arms, tell her
she had forgiven her. She drew away from the door, ran into
the bedroom, hurting, deep inside. Crying with tears that
flowed from already swollen lids. She turned to slam the
bedroom door, but Maureen was there before her, arms
outstretched to keep it open.
Instead of falling into each others arms with regret for the
months they had been separated, her behaviour had poisoned
Maureen's intentions. Shaun knew it was all her fault, and
turned her back on her cousin as she sat on the edge of the
" Shaun! - Shaun!" Maureen pleaded, " please turn round and
look at me. You must know I have to get married. I need the
security. The Hotel will only employ me now until the end of
the month. This is my only chance. Please try to
She felt her move close to her. She kissed her forehead as
her hands stroked her back. Shaun still refused to look at
her cousin even as she drew her round onto her back. She
lay with her eyes closed, head turned away, aware of the
tears that flowed down her cheeks and her cousin's soft,
warm caressing hands. Maureen unbuttoned her shirt, gently
removed her slacks as she soothed her through the material,
drawing her into a deep pool of relaxation. When they
kissed, even with her eyes closed tight Shaun was not an
The slow, enthralling movements of Maureen's hands and her
warm soft lips on her neck and arms began to melt her anger.
Even in their most tender embrace it was always Shaun who
led the way, her cousin content to follow. Now Maureen had
There was a sense of urgency in her every movement. No
waiting for Shaun to fondle her breasts and thighs as she
had in the past. This time she seemed desperate to reach her
climax. Panic forced Shaun to open her eyes as Maureen's
hands became suddenly still. She wanted to show her how much
she could love her if only she would wait. From the look of
contentment and her half closed eyes, Shaun knew she had
surpassed her. Out of love, despair, disappointment she
cradled Maureen in her arms.
Her mind began to race. If her cousin was going to marry
this elderly farmer, then surely there was no harm in their
making love. They could meet at the cottage, even here, at
the Hotel, perhaps once a month, - once a week. Minutes
later she dismissed the idea knowing it would not be fair.
Maureen opened her eyes and told Shaun how much she loved
her. It was the words she really wanted to hear. In the
dimly lit bedroom they talked of their special love, which
they knew could go on for ever. It was the reason, Maureen
told she was still wearing her ring. While they talked Shaun
believed it was true.
Shaun stared into the darkness, she had tried so hard to
find sleep. She looked for a long time at her cousin
sleeping like a child. The rise and fall of her chest, fist
curled under her cheek, hair spilled over the pillow. In
her sleep her mouth was curved in a smile, a smile of
content, of being fulfilled. Shaun drew the covers over her
shoulders and kissed her on the cheek.
She tip-toed to the balcony, opened the curtains and watched
the clouds passing over the moon. She knew that things
between them would never be the same, and listened to the
voice inside her that had told so many times that a love
like theirs was doomed from the start. There was she
thought, no such thing as a love that lasted forever.
She dressed, hurriedly scribbled a loving note of goodbye
and drove back to the city.
Weeks later Maureen sent her a wedding invitation, and a
note pleading with her to attend. On the day of the wedding
Shaun burnt all her cousin's letters, never wanting to see