A Change Of gender And Beyond
by F.W. Hinton
The night sky had clouded over when Shaun reached the city.
Her mother had left the flat weeks before the wedding to
live with Pauline again.
She had argued with Shaun that now she was about to be
married she should give up the flat, which, in her opinion
was an unnecessary expense her future husband would have to
Shaun let herself in, thankful she had retained the lease of
the flat in her name only. To Shaun it was hers. It was
home, here she was safe. She went to bed early feeling
completely alone in the world. An edge of panic crept into
her soul, that she knew would stay with her for years.
Unable to sleep she sat up in bed, stared into the inky
" What if?" she said aloud, voicing her thoughts, " what if
what I've been doing all my life has been totally wrong?.
What if each day I live a lie, a life of deceit. Forced to
wear a mask, like an actor on a stage. Not of my own choice,
unable to do, unable to act as I would like, or as I feel."
In the gray light of dawn she decided she wanted to escape
into the world rather than from it. The most painful thing
in the life of a woman who wanted change was the
improbability of change. She knew that unless she was an
essentially sound creature the thought would drive her
insane. She tried hard not to think of the happiness she
had shared with Maureen. Of the walks along the beach, of
their love-making in the bedroom that was their haven at the
cottage. She imagined the face of Robert Cockran, and forced
him instantly from her mind.
Shaun felt the need of a job that would keep her fully
occupied. Printing was out of the question, the memories
too painful. Working behind a bar in an out-of-town hotel
she thought was not for her. A Nanny? She dismissed idea
instantly. House-work? Perhaps as a maid. Something that
would take charge of her life, similar to her work with the
Army nurses. She scanned the newspapers for a position,
found one that wanted a maid. The answer to her letter of
application came back quickly, offering a position as second
house-maid in the Earl of Lancaster's home at Teddington
Manor. The letter informed her that she would be on a two
month trial, and if satisfactory would be offered a
permanent position. A rail ticket was enclosed for her
journey to Teddington.
Shaun Cockran as she was now forced to be known arrived at
Teddington railway station feeling she was on the threshold
of a new life. A limousine was waiting to collect her, a man
in the uniform of a chauffeur moved forward to meet her.
" You the new house-maid?"
" You're late."
" The train was late. It wasn't my fault."
The chauffeur grunted picked up her cases tossed them into
the boot of the car and slammed down the lid. He marched
round the gravel driveway and sat in the car.
" Get in or walk," he told her.
Shaun made no comment and as the car left the railway
station she took in the beauty of the long drive to the
Manor. On a hill, dwarfing the estate worker's cottages
stood a beautiful Elizabethan Manor. They drove round to
the servants quarters. The chauffeur unloaded her cases and
left her knocking at the door. The cook welcomed her. She
was shown to a room in the attic and told to report, ready
for work at six the following morning.
On her first morning she was taken upstairs to a room with a
huge bed under a canopy. There was a figure propped up among
masses of pillows. The figure of Lady Dorothea Lancaster
taking breakfast in bed, doing her best to decapitate a
boiled egg. The butler informed her Ladyship that this was
Shaun Cockran the new second house-maid.
" You will have a good life here at the Manor," Madam told
her, " as long as you behave, and Jordan finds your work
satisfactory. But remember this girl, you are on a two
months trial. Which means any trouble and you will be given
The Earl of Lancaster sat in an easy chair in his library.
His hair was gray. The smoothness of his expansive brow was
defaced by premature wrinkles, and now his once attractive
face bore the unmistakable look of dissipation. It appeared
to Shaun, as she began her dusting that the man, as he sat
behind his desk was old before his time. He was barely sixty
and had spent most of his life in the Army.
Madam, had, according to gossip in the servants hall, found
the Earl involved in romantic situations while they were
living abroad and had brought the family back to the Manor
on the death of his father. She was determined to begin a
new isolated life in the country where she felt her husband
would find little to tempt him.
She had brought their daughter out into society by herself,
then packed her off to Europe, never allowing the Earl to
forget it. She treated him with open contempt, but with an
icy politeness which his station in life demanded. This
made her husband bad tempered, and he would vent his anger
on anyone who crossed his path.
Shaun's life as a house-maid was a hard round of drudgery.
Her day began at six am, and went on until seven thirty at
night with meal breaks at varying times according to the
whims of the butler. After work she usually went straight
to bed leaving no time to brood, or even think about Maureen
The routine was easy to follow, making beds, cleaning
bathrooms and dusting. The Earl liked to supervise the
dusting of his library and study. If Shaun was not on time
he could be heard all over the house bellowing for her.
When there were guests the huge banqueting hall was opened
for dinner parties. The extra work making cook and the
butler almost unbearable and the servants, including Shaun
tried to keep out of their way.
Every where there flowers. The gardener brought fresh
flowers into the house each morning. It was one of Shaun's
jobs to arrange them, after Jordan found her rearranging a
vase in the library, which the Earl, in one of his tantrums
had sent crashing to the floor.
At Christmas there was a house-party. Family and friends
arriving from all over the country, staying for two weeks of
extravagance. When Christmas dinner was over upstairs,
Jordan joined the servants in their dinning room, where they
ate the remains of the turkey, and the beef that had not
even been carved, As Madam, according to cook would never
allow the same food to be served twice.
Shaun wondered when she, and the other servants would get
their Christmas holidays. She spoke to cook about it, who
told her that it would be at least two weeks after all the
guests had left.
Cook would have explained the arrangements in more detail,
but a bell summoned Shaun to the master bedroom as the Earl
began bellowing for his maid to tidy up his room.
The Earl of Lancaster sat in his favourite chair resplendent
in quilted dressing gown and told Shaun to turn down the
bed, and dust the dressing table which the first maid had
forgotten that morning .
When Shaun had finished she turned to leave the room. The
Earl, already standing, his dressing gown swinging freely
barred her way to the door. She remembered last Christmas
and thought how much she hated the festive season.
He moved in on her. Leant with a hand at the side of her
head on the doorjamb. He smelt of brandy. She caught a
glimpse of his pale looking thighs, which to Shaun were
about as appetizing as uncooked turkey drumsticks. When he
touched her with his other hand she jumped. He seemed
oblivious to her horror, taking her reaction blindly for
consent. He bent down to kiss her. For Shaun it was just too
much. She brought her knee hard up into his groin,
remembering Maureen's husband and how much it hurt him.
Aware that she was in control of the situation. That this
was the Lord and Master trying it on, Shaun knew she had him
at her mercy. Holding his hurt he began swearing at her
demanding she leave the house immediately. She shivered as
anger ran through her. Held up his head by grabbing a
handful of his hair and put her face close to his.
" Sack me if you dare, you dirty bastard, and the world will
know that you an Earl, tried to rape a poor defenceless
He mumbled something as Jordan came hurrying into the
" The Master fell down and hurt himself on the chair," Shaun
explained, " I've been trying to help him stand up. I was
going to ask Madam and cook to help me."
" No! No!" the Earl gasped as Jordan helped him to his feet,
" please, just give me a minute," with the butler's help he
sat in his chair, " thank you my dear for being so helpful,"
he said turning to Shaun.
After the guests had left, Teddington Manor was uncanny in
it's silence The activity slowed, routine returned and Shaun
went back to making beds and dusting. The Earl and Lady
Lancaster left for their usual two months holiday, taking
enormous amounts of suitcases and trunks with them which
Shaun and the other staff had to pack.
She still had to dust the library each day, which Jordan had
taken over as his own. It seemed to Shaun that he thought
himself as the Master of Teddington Manor while the Earl and
Madam were away.
Ever since the incident in the Earl's bedroom Shaun had
managed to avoid the butler. She arranged the flowers and
tidied the desk as usual, but some sixth sense made her
stop. Jordan was watching her every move. She turned, how
long he had been watching she had no idea. She was startled.
He grinned, seeing the trace of fear in her eyes.
" I didn't know you were here," she said politely.
" You've been avoiding me."
" Not really Mr Jordan."
" I've been wanting to speak to you."
" Oh yes. Something about my duties?" She could think of
nothing he needed to say, having already told Madam,
according to cook that he was pleased with her work.
" Your work is satisfactory," he said rather grudgingly as
though it was against his better judgement.
" The Earl told me what had happened. How you made up to
him," he caught the look of amazement and panic, " then when
he went along with your little game you made him fall. An
old man like that, playing with him. He could have been
" No! That's a lie. You're crazy. It's all lies. It was
him. He made me go up to his room. Told me to turn down his
bed. When he went to touch me I hit him in the groin with my
" Really! You must have led him on. Why does he only want
you to dust his rooms. Why does he allow only you to tidy
his desk? there's got to be a reason."
Shaun tried to push past him. He stood in the doorway
blocking her escape.
" Come on Shaun Cockran. You know I'm attracted to you. You
only made up to the old man to make me jealous. Let's not
play any more games. Besides I'm younger than him."
He held her face in his hands. She struggled, turned her
head away and brought her knee upwards. He was too fast for
her. He slammed his arm down on her thigh making her cry out
in agony. She turned to run. His usual self control seemed
to have gone as he grabbed her by the shoulders.
" Come on Shaun," he shouted, " you know you want me. I can
give you more than that old bastard, who can't even get it
He covered her mouth with his, trying to force his tongue
between her lips. She bit his bottom lip making it bleed.
He thrust her away swore and slapped her across the face.
" Who the hell do you think you are?" he shouted wiping the
blood from his chin, " You're just a little slut who went to
a boarding school, who thinks they can pick and choose." His
eyes, blazing with anger held hers. " You think I'm not good
enough. The last one was just the same. I got rid of her."
The butler drove his fist into her shoulder. Shaun fell back
against the wall. He raised his hand to hit her again. She
kicked out at him with all the strength she could muster as
tears streamed down her cheeks. He dodged the blow, stood by
the door laughing.
" Who needs a bitch like you. You're nothing but a whore
selling yourself to the highest bidder. It's your bloody
funeral remember. I'm wise to your game. My friends at the
station might find some interest. So don't try it on with
his Lordship again."
Shaun thankful he had left was trembling all over. The lies
the injustice made her feel sick. To Jordan, the butler her
rejection meant only one thing, that his position in the
Lancaster household had been insulted. To him it was a slur
on his class.
If only, Shaun thought she could change her gender, if only
she could suddenly become a man, she'd give him the hiding
he deserved. All men are bastards. " One day," she said
softly. Cook and some of the other servants gave her side
glances on occasions, not one of them daring to say a word
or offer to help. It was unjust, obviously they all thought
so, but there was nothing she could do to prove her
innocence. She knew that if she walked out now she would
loose her holiday pay. But she made up her mind this was the
last time a male would ever abuse her.
Jordan appeared to be bad tempered with everyone. A11 the
servants, even cook were frightened of him. No one escaping
his stream of abuse and Shaun Cockran was not forgotten.
While waiting for her holidays Shaun kept a low profile,
moving quietly about the house, carrying out her duties, not
willing to provoke the slightest comment from anyone. A week
later after talking to the cook she registered a complaint
with the local police and was told the matter would be
looked into in due course. She told them that her employer
had tried to rape her. But during the interview it was
suggested that no serious crime had been committed.
She was told that the Earl was her employer, not Mr Jordan,
who like herself was a member of the household staff. That
due to the Christmas break they were short handed. It was
further suggested that perhaps a little too much Christmas
cheer had sparked off a situation which in normal
circumstances would never have happened.
MR Jordan, they told her, was, in their opinion a gentleman,
and it was a little difficult to believe that a person of
such high standing could even think of using his position to
There was an uneasy atmosphere in the servants quarters,
with hardly a word spoken between them. After the police
had interviewed the servants, excluding the butler a sense
of foreboding appeared to overtake Teddington Manor.
Although Shaun was not informed of the outcome of the police
inquiries she gave Jordan a wide berth, knowing he took a
callous delight in placing himself in her path whenever the
opportunity arose. At meal times she made sure she sat next
to the cook, who she felt might afford her some protection.
To leave Teddington Manor was no hardship, but Shaun was
determined to stay and take her holidays with pay which she
felt she had earned. She had sub-let her flat, the lease was
due to end in a few weeks. The tenants pleaded with her for
a six months renewal. She had to refuse telling them she
needed the flat herself.
Her divorce from Robert Cockran was granted on the grounds
of desertion, an action which did not require her to defend
and took only a few minutes to conclude. She reverted to her
former name of Maclaren hoping to put the past behind her.
A11 alone in her flat she thought how easy it really was
that so much of life can be dissolved so quickly. The
hopes, failures, struggles and betrayals, all washed away
with the stroke of a pen Shaun knew that all the men in her
life had been a disaster, but she still longed for love. To
love, and be loved, not by a man. She needed the love of a
woman. Now desperately lonely she cherished the love she
held for Maureen. She had been in her flat for three lonely
weeks, when her mother came for a visit. She told her that
she had been thrown out of Pauline's house by her new
husband who had accused her of trying to break up their
marriage. She promised Shaun that if she would give her a
home she would never interfere in her life again.
Perhaps driving a taxi was the beginning of the nightmare.
The weeks, months that followed seemed almost unreal. There
were times when Shaun Maclaren felt she had been thrust into
an entirely different world, a mad world, fraught with
danger and anxiety. She felt a sense of achievement in
obtaining a license to drive a city cab. She asked for the
evening, or night shift, so that she could sleep most of the
day and avoid arguments with her mother.
It was close to midnight when the dispatcher told her to
pick up a fare whose car had broken down near the Courthouse
and take him to his home upcountry. The round trip, the
dispatcher told her was about sixty kilometres and that
would finish her shift. On the way back to the city it
rained heavily. The drone of the engine the unending click
of the windscreen wipers caused her to doze at the wheel.
She pulled off the road, lay back in her seat and closed her
eyes for a few minutes.
How long she had been asleep Shaun had no idea. She awoke
with a start, a chill ran down her spine when a hand, cold
as ice stroked the back of her neck.
" Where to?" she asked.
" Where?" she asked again, forcing herself to move and
switch on the interior light. Slowly she turned in her seat,
wondering who had crept into her cab wanting to go to
The back was empty. She bent down, picked up the wrench
Yvonne, the supervisor had told her to keep under her seat.
Knowing someone must be crouching behind her seat waiting to
spring on her, grab the nights takings. She leant over the
front seat with the wrench raised ready to strike. there
were just empty seats and nothing on the floor.
Shaking with fright she switched on the two-way to raise the
dispatcher By the hissing that came from the speakers she
knew she was out of range. She wanted to run, tried opening
the door but the force of wind and rain kept it shut.
She looked in the back again. The seats were empty.
She turned on the ignition, it clicked and went dead. She
kept turning it on each time it clicked. The headlights
faded and went out, the interior light dimmed. Gripping the
wheel to stop from shaking she rested her head.
Suddenly it stopped raining. She opened the door and looked
out. Then in one last desperate bid she turned on the
ignition, and cried with relief as the engine roared into
life. " No more country trips for me," she shouted into the
two-way, " someone else can do those bloody runs."
The Supervisor had been driving taxis for over two years
parked her vehicle behind Shaun, Weary of waiting for a fare
she decided to chat to the new driver. Still shaking from
her ordeal Shaun told her about the cold hand and the
" I can still feel it-here-on the back of my neck," she
said, rubbing it trying to get it warm, " honestly Yvonne I
swear no one was there. The back of the taxi was empty. Then
the bloody thing wouldn't start, and I was too far away to
raise the dispatcher. I'm telling you that's the last
country run I'll ever do. From now on it's city fares only."
Yvonne laughed. " It's the road," she said rubbing Shaun's
neck, " we've all been down there. At the depot they call it
the dream road. Some drivers say it leads to hell when the
dreams recur, some say it never comes back.
But the dispatcher," Shaun protested. " He told me to pick
up the fare. I know. I was there. In the rain. The wipers, I
felt drowsy, pulled off the road for a minute and closed my
eyes. It wasn't a dream. Here's the wrench you told me to
keep under my seat." She began searching for it.
" It was here. I held it-in my hand."
" Shaun Maclaren! You've been asleep for hours. I've been
parked behind you all night. I never said anything about
carrying a wrench."
" You must have. The hand-I felt it. The two-way it doesn't
" Look outside," Yvonne told her angrily, " it hasn't rained
for days. Check your two-way. I know it's working. I only
got into your cab for a chat-to see if you were awake. It's
the night shift, gets everyone like that."
When Yvonne left Shaun searched for the wrench. Unable to
find it she checked her log with the dispatcher who told her
she hadn't had a fare all night.
" But you sent me up-country," Shaun argued.
" Not me," came back the crackled reply, " it's the night
shift. I see you've been down the road. It's happened to all
of us. Talk to Yvonne she'll look after you."
The shift ended. The dispatcher asked Yvonne to keep an eye
on the new driver, suggested it might be a good idea to stay
with her the rest of the night .
Yvonne calmed Shaun down and put her to bed. She comforted
her with delicate affectionate love. To Shaun it was
something new, a different kind of love. Not the coarseness
of heterosexual love, or even the demanding love of Maureen.
It was the love of a woman, a real love, a love Shaun had
never known even as a child.
She felt secure with Yvonne. Safe, in the fact that they
were friends, close friends, nothing more. Certainly not
Her mother who promised never to interfere, began to nag and
find fault with everything she tried to do. Her brother
George came round every day. Shaun found it almost
impossible to get enough sleep, and eventually her work
At Yvonne's suggestion they leased a one-bedroomed flat
close to the depot. The bedroom was large with two bay
windows. A double bed, a dressing table-the usual furniture
and a few chairs. Yvonne thought it was a cold, austere,
deceitful room, one that she told Shaun she would soon make
Shaun claimed the small wardrobe, hung up her few pairs of
slacks, her shirts and jumpers. With Yvonne it was
different. From her suitcase she pulled out boxes and boxes
of makeup which she arranged on the dressing table brushes,
combs, bottles of perfume, jars and pots of cream and small
boxes Everything she placed around the oval mirror.
" There," she said, " now the dressing table doesn't look so
Fascinated, Shaun watched as Yvonne hung up blouses, skirts,
slacks, lingerie and tights all in the huge free-standing
wardrobe. Shaun had never seen anything like it before.
Here, she thought was a real woman.
From a magical bottomless suitcase, she pulled out a
beautifully embroidered night gown, a dressing gown and a
pair of black silk pyjamas.
" Here," she said giving the pyjamas to Shaun, " I know you
love to play the man, and I darling Shaun need to play the
part of the woman, now that we have a home of our own.
Yvonne took a delight in reading poems. For hours she
lingered over ' Flowers of Evil' by Bauldaire. She read
aloud his ' Woman Dammed' which Shaun felt championed the
Yvonne always pretended to be asleep while Shaun hugged her
in a slow irresistible embrace. She devoured her with
kisses and caresses and crept along her motionless passive
body. She was surprised to find Yvonne hesitant, and at
times even frightened. She observed certain ritual
precautions , on which Yvonne insisted.
Happy that at last she had found a woman with all the whims
and desires of the female gender to love, she agreed that
they made love only on Wednesdays and Sundays. Except for
those two days their relationship was chaste. Although Shaun
accepted it, she found it impossible to make any sense of
it, even when Yvonne became obsessed with the morality that
Bauldelaire wrote about in many of his works.
Eventually Shaun began to realise that to lull her sense of
guilt, Yvonne wanted their love-making to happen as though
in a dream. A dream between sleeping and waking on their
rest days of Wednesdays and Sundays.
Reluctant to give up the love of a woman she so desperately
needed Shaun Maclaren, tried, but found it very difficult to
get used to the relationship, and was unable to accept it as
a lasting stable way of life.
There were times when Yvonne wanted to feel the poor frail
creature devastated by Shaun's cruel, brutal desire. It was
this bizarre idea of Yvonne's that led to her suffering from
an uncontrollable fear that something was preventing her
living freely, something she identified as her virginity.
Something she wanted to keep forever. She begged Shaun not
to give up the relationship. " I want to grow old with you,"
she told her, " I want to become that sad figure of a maiden
aunt, who get's it on-only with women."
Their feelings for each other changed as a kind of
awkwardness entered their lives.
Shaun decided they needed a holiday, and with all thoughts
of Robert Cockran and her cousin gone, booked a two week
vacation at the Sandwood Hotel. With Yvonne she walked
along the beach towards Maureen's cottage. She wanted to
show her where she had spent so many happy hours, and had
written a book, still in her service trunk. Yvonne was not
interested, she was on holiday, wanting a good time, not to
reminisce over things that concerned only Shaun.
They had been at the hotel three days. As usual they ordered
breakfast in their suite. On the trolley the waitress
wheeled in was a buff coloured envelope addressed to Shaun
" I hope it's not bad news," the waitress said handing her
the telegram, " it came late last night. The night manager
not wanting to disturb you thought it would be all right to
wait." Shaun thanked her. She never did like telegrams and
wished people would not send them. With trembling hands she
ripped open the envelope.
'Mother's in hospital. Asking for you. Come at once.
Shaun creased the buff paper into it's original folds. Her
eyes filled with tears she told Yvonne she had to go back
and look after her mother.
" I'm staying here," Yvonne told her hotly, " your mother
will be all right. There's little I can do. I'm not going
to waste all that money I've spent on my first holiday in
Shaun nodded her head sadly as she packed her suitcases,
knowing she never wanted to see Yvonne again.
" It's the letter that caused it," George told her the
moment she arrived at the hospital, " this one -from your
Shaun read and re-read the letter addressed to her mother
telling her that her daughter was a lesbian. Had been one, a
Butch, for a long time. That they were going to be married.
" I was forced to explain," her brother continued "like, how
she can insist on things. She said it was something very bad
and should be stopped. When I finished explaining she
clutched at her chest. Found it hard to breathe. It was then
she passed out. The ambulance rushed her here. I stayed
all night. Early this morning the doctor said her condition
The doctor allowed Shaun into her mother's room for a few
minutes. She opened her eyes, saw her youngest daughter and
tried to smile.
With the urgency of the very ill, " That's all I wanted,"
she said, " to see you once again before I die."
" Thank God Ma! Thank God you're going to be all right."
She held her mother's hand and leaned over the bed. " What
can I do?" Shaun asked, " what can I do to make you well and
There was a moment of silence. Then that gentle weak whisper
" I only want you to be happy."
The doctor told her she should leave and allow her mother to
rest. Too tired to argue she went home with her brother for
a few hours sleep.
Late in the afternoon the doctor telephoned asking them to
come at once as their mother's condition had deteriorated.
With her brother, Shaun sat for hours in the dimly lit
waiting room. Minutes before midnight the doctor came in.
Shaun looked at him, saw the flicker of anxiety as his eyes
reached out and trapped hers. An awareness forced her to
grasp his hand. From a remote corner of her mind she heard
her mother's voice.
" Be who you want to be Shaun. Above all be happy. I'11
always be with you."
She looked at her brother, then back at the doctor, watched
the narrow features settle into patterns of empathy. Dazed,
Shaun heard the doctor's voice in the distance telling them
that their mother had died of a massive heart attack. Her
knees buckled, as she was pulled into her brother's arms.
She felt the moisture on his cheek and clung to him, the way
she had never clung to anyone before.
Rachel Maclaren was buried on a warm sunny Monday. One of
those lovely balmy days with gentle soft clouds tossed about
over the blue sky, and a tender breeze to waft the scent of
flowers and the pleasant smell of fresh turned earth. It is
only on such days that one can recognize the silence and
scentlessness of winter. It was a day full of hope. Although
sad, there was sense of coming brightness. A day easy
enough, for Shaun and the others to think of the
The words of the burial service will always be associated in
Shaun Maclaren's mind with sunshine and a broad expanse of
sea. This is where her mother wanted to be buried. Next to
Casey Ann at Westhill. There was no hysterical
manifestations of grief or rivers of tears, such as her
sisters, Pauline and Jillian had expected. They had tea at a
nearby friends house, and talked about Rachel, Sandy
Highfield and Luckham Downs.
Afterwards Shaun visited the cemetery on her own, found that
the grave had been filled. The mound, covered with flowers,
which seemed to make it less of a wrench to leave her there.
Shaun thought it looked a pleasant resting place. In the
rays of the afternoon sun that rested lovingly on it, Shaun
knelt among the flowers and whispered her last Good-by.