2005

January 25th

Time for a bit of an update on The Case.

This is dragging on and on. I went to a meeting in Portsmouth in December to discuss the case with a Personnel Person and the Captain. I took along a friend who works on the boat, too, as I am entitled to do, for moral support (couldn’t take a Union rep; not a member). We talked through the report, and Personnel Person went off to begin her interviewing of those cited. Since they’re either on a ship or scattered to the four winds at any given time, this was expected to be a lengthy process, and so it proved.

Three weeks later my friend who went with me to the meeting got a redundancy notice.

Mere coincidence, of course.

I went for a follow-up meeting last week. I went into the meeting solo this time, for obvious reasons.

If I was expecting a capitulation along the lines of, “Yes you’re right, here’s a pay-off,” then I was being highly optimistic.

Some people have lied, some people ‘misremembered’. There were counter-accusations.

The Chief who accused me of ‘camping it up’ accepted that it was an unfortunate choice of words. He explained that he would not use homophobic terms because, actually, his daughter is gay.

This is obviously akin to making a racist comment preceded by “Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are black, but…”

He said that what he really meant was that I’d been:

  •  Blowing kisses at the Trolls
  • Acting provocatively
  • Behaving in an exaggeratedly female manner.

You may perhaps imagine my sense of outrage.

When I had cooled down a lot, I realised that this could mean that the Chief has shot himself in the foot again…

Personnel Person said that the outcome which P&O are seeking, is that I should return to work. She emphasised that they would not be awarding me compensation.

“That will be up to the tribunal,” I replied.

February 13th

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

Time passes… I’m still waiting for P&O to finish investigating the harassment, and for my CX appointment to come through. All rather unsettling. I’ve been suffering bouts of depression, and thought I’d give up Cyprostat for a while to see if that helped. A week later, I certainly feel better, but that may also be attributable to other things, so I’ve started back on it; don’t want to lose any ground…

I found another job vacancy that looked like it had my name on it, sort of, ishly, in the City Library. Two references required; I can hardly ask my last Chief Engineer, so I wrote to Catherine, the publisher for whom I once worked… She phoned back, and said, “No problem with the reference; and can you illustrate a book for me?” Well, it’s work, and it’s creative, so… I’m now illustrating a book called Wildlife Rescue –“Become a wildlife rescuer- and make a difference!” Drawing foxes at the moment; fortunately, there’s a stuffed one at the Museum, so I’ve been sketching it from all angles. Stuffed animals are really very obliging from the artist’s point of view; they don’t suddenly get bored and wander off.

And then I phoned my old Super at Condor Ferries, and he also agreed to act as referee, and said, “Why not come and work for Condor?” –gosh, it’s nice to be wanted; and a summer in St Malo seems extremely tempting… not entirely sure I could bear to go back into an engine room, though.

February 14th

This morning at first light, I posted a letter to CX saying that I could come whenever if they had a cancellation or what….

Fast forward to an hour ago; I sit at my desk surrounded by mounting piles of scrap paper and old tea cups, my eyes wonky from drawing foxes…

phone rings….

 “Is that Drusilla Marland?”

“Yerrrsssss…”

“Gender Identity Clinic here….”

So I’ve got an appointment for next Monday.

Is this not wonderful?

Where’s the corkscrew?

February 15th

O God; it never rains but it pours…

Yesterday I get my CX appointment. This morning a letter from P&O. It’s their formal decision on my grievance. They admit that some of the trolls acted inappropriately, but don’t much fault them; it was down to ignorance, poor lambs.

What really hits, though, is the paragraph:

Some criticisms must also be made of your own behaviour. Both by your actions and your language, you have on occasion reinforced inappropriate behaviour on behalf of your work colleagues. On occasions you have demonstrated inappropriate behaviour to work colleagues by being flirtatious; by trying to catch an individual’s eye and by exaggerated pouting.

…this is in every particular entirely false. Since mud sticks when enough has been thrown, though, I’m collecting statements from my (female) co-workers to repudiate this nonsense.

Next stop the appeal….

 February 16th

Thanks for the comment, XX; I didn’t join the Union because the RMT engine room rep threatened me with violence… an unfortunate circumstance, really. I’m going to hang out on the doorstep of the CAB this morning, to try and get some advice. (I cycled down there yesterday, but they’re closed to callers on Tuesdays. V frustrating.) But yes, their comments are entirely inappropriate, and I’m sure could be used againt them, especially with the battery of evidence which I’m gathering in my defence. Here’s what someone wrote for me… I think it’s very well-written.

I have known Dru Marland for the past 15 years – 12 of these years predating her decision to live as a woman and for the three years since she began transitioning. Dru has always had a very mobile face and expressive facial mannerisms which may be thought of as feminine – but these have always been part of her physical identity and have not changed or become more evident since she began living as a woman. It would be wilful misrepresentation of these to label them as ‘ provocative ‘. Neither has Dru changed any other element of her behaviour towards others – men or women – since she began living as a woman. I strongly believe that there is absolutely no possibility that Dru would have flirted with crew members or ‘camped it up’ – it would have been completely out of character before the change in her life and continues to be so now. It betrays a total misunderstanding of and prejudice against transexualism to suggest that she would have suddenly begun acting provocatively with members of the crew. A transitioning transexual is merely expressing his or her true physical identity and in no way assuming a new personality, way of behaving to others or even sexual orientation.

 March 11th

Being back on the team, as it were, I got invited down to the Old Vic for the launch party for the Bristol Books and Publishers website.

“A chance to network,” I said to my reflection in the mirror, though I knew that I was only fooling myself and I’d end up in the corner on my own… old habits die hard.

It’s downhill all the way, and on the bicycle borrowed from Suzanne (mine is dead, alas) I made it in ten minutes, where it would have taken half-an-hour in the car at that time of day. Too early, in fact; so I set off to cycle round the docks a bit. I eased the front wheel towards the kerb outside the Old Duke, and… –rather than surmount the kerb, it stopped dead. The back wheel came right up. I went flying over the handlebars, skirt up my back.

“Are you alright?” enquired some passers-by.

I was too consumed with laughter to reply…

And I did plenty networking, as it happened. It’s so much easier for the new me… people just came up to me. There’s the serious ones who work out in seconds that you’re no use to them and head off again; and there’s nice ones who chat away even if you are no use to them. And then there’s this old bloke with bad breath who butted into a conversation I was having with young Sophie from the bookshop, who’s about to head off round the world on her gap year. Bad Breath Bloke leaned against the wall, trapping me in place, and told me about his national service days in the Sudan. Sophie gave me the sympathetic look you give to someone who’s drowning, and tiptoed away.

And there was L****, who plagiarised something of mine once, and on being introduced to me, slunk guiltily away almost immediately. Ha.

And I met Vron; Veronica Smith, with whom I worked on a local history book a few years ago, just before coming out. She’s been in and out of Crohn’s disease; I’ve changed a bit, too. I stood in front of her. She didn’t recognise me. “It’s Dru”, I said. A few moments, and… it was a nice reunion. And her daughter Mandie arrived, late; she’d run out of petrol in St Paul’s –typical Mandie story. She’s working all hours in a call centre; last time we met, she was working on her own version of haute couture; chainmail dresses made of ringpulls, real concept stuff; unfortunately, the only outlet for it seemed to be fetish events…

A late night for me. A crusty called at me on Queens Road as I cycled home, “That’s a lovely smile you’ve got there, dear.” How right he was…

March 13th

Well, yurk.

Had to wash my hair again today. Seems only a couple of days since I last did. Probably because it was a couple of days.

Am I regressing? -I stopped taking Cyprostat a while back to see if it would ameliorate my lethargy and depression. And now I’m afraid to start back on it because there’s a Big Meeting coming up, and I want to be firing on all cylinders.

Got a letter from the HR Manager, P&O Dover yesterday. The final act of the grievance procedure is about to happen.

Think anglo saxon thoughts….

March 17th

The countdown’s ticking. Meeting HR Manager in Dover at 2:30 tomorrow. I put the finishing touches to my report, thirteen pages of closely reasoned vitriol, packaged in ring binder with those dinky little coloured cardboard dividers that stick out at the sides. And then I went to Debenhams and got yet another nice new interview skirt. And then to Waitrose and bought loads of comfort food; oven chips, bacon, cherry beer and red wine… the diet can go on hold for 48 hours.

Spring is happening full on at Schloss Marland, and the blue tits have taken up residence in the wall of the house opposite.

Bearwas blostmum nimað, byrig fægriað,
wongas wlitigað, woruld onetteð:

(The groves take to blossom, the dwellings become fair
The meadows grow beautiful, the world is active…)

March 19th

No charger have I, and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride…

…So I drove to Dover, I went in there, I spoke well, they didn’t argue with the points I’d made in my appeal, they asked what outcomes I wanted, I told them acknowledgement of harassment and compensation for loss of earnings, harassment, injury to health, of hrumptytumpty pounds, mentioned I was all ready for a Tribunal if necessary, all went cordially and now I wait for a letter from them next week giving their decision…. they’d jolly well better come good this time… so. Back to the waiting.

An interlude…. watching big aeroplanes whizzing just over my head, and cars whizzing just by.

Me on the phone to The Other Parent.

 “Here’s a question for you: where is the worst possible place in the British Isles to break down?”

“….ahhh, …the M25 in the rush hour?”

“Bingo!”

…just got in after a ride in an AA truck. 22 hours after setting out…

Thank you all for the messages of support. I felt fortified in my resolve, stepping into the Heart of Darkness. It helped. Yes. No pasaran!

 April 2nd

I am angry and sick.

The letter from P&O came yesterday.

At the meeting the HR manager was not interested in discussing my case; he merely asked what I wanted.

Yesterday’s letter simply reiterates the previous decision, saying that I have not provided any further evidence… so I am invited to return to work. Either in my previous job or, since I get on so well with the people up top, as a stewardess.

So I’m now going to apply for an Employment Tribunal.

This farrago has taken six months. Six months of procrastination and duplicity.

Nice things are happening in my life, too. But I’m not going to mix them up with this posting.

April 9th

…there was a letter sitting on the doormat for me when we reached Bristol. It was a letter from the Employment Tribunal, acknowledging receipt of my application. I got a warm glow from the embossed notepaper with the royal crest and the words ‘Employment Tribunals’. The sort of glow that would no doubt have been felt by hard-pressed pioneers, trapped in their stockade for ages by savage Native Americans insistent upon teaching them Ancient Wisdom and Dancing With Wolves, when the tantivy is heard announcing the imminent arrival of the Cavalry. Sound the charge, bugler!

April 20th

It’s a lovely day today, and whatever you’ve got to do,
You’ve got a lovely day for doing it, it’s true…

I’m happy.

Why am I happy?

I’m happy because I’ve got a Nice Letter from the Employment Tribunal.

They’ve accepted the case.

So now I can go back to P&O and say, “My dad’s bigger than your dad…”

…which I shall be doing next Thursday, armed, as always, with the Sword of Truth and the Pickled Gherkin of Odd but Rather Tasty Mixed Metaphor…

This isn’t the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning of the middle bit of the beginning of the end… or something.

And I did my tax return online, and am now awaiting a large (how large? -oh, medium sized large) refund, some of which is going to go on a new bicycle. I could be financially responsible, but hey; life’s too short, y’know?

Organic Cumberland sausage for dinner tonight, and hang the consequences.

May 21

Right, it’s time to reclaim the diary thread. I’ve been avoiding it because the prospect of mentioning P&O yet again fills me with a combination of ennui and sick dread.

However, life goes on.

So I went to Dover yet again, and was faced with the same smiley HR Manager, who yet again expressed no particular interest in hearing my appeal against his decision on my grievance, and simply asked again what outcome I was looking for; but I foisted the document on him anyway, and went away (though not before he sought reassurance from me that I didn’t mind his playing a dirty game (not quite how he put it, but… after all, that’s how people do things, isn’t it? …in his world, evidently.)

And then last week I got a letter from some lawyers telling me that they were applying for a pre-hearing review, requesting that my Tribunal claim be declared void as it was served out of time. Sneaky little rascals. I wrote to the Tribunal, pointing out that the last of the incidents cited was later than the date that the lawyers stated, and therefore the claim WASN’T made out of time; and so I wait for the next move. More bloody delay and obstructiveness.

And that’s enough of that. Except to quote that bit of Shakespeare. You know, Dick the Butcher in Henry VI part II: “What we do next, let’s kill all the lawyers”

 May 25th

Well, I’ve been hitting depression on and off fairly hard lately, and the other night was really quite bad; I looked out of the window and there was a full moon low in the sky and I thought, “ah-HA…”

Yesterday afternoon I was down at the medic’s, picking up a prescription and giving him a sitrep.

The waiting room was absolutely chocker. When finally I went in, Dr C was looking somewhat harassed. I mentioned the huge crowd.

“Coughs and sneezes?” I ventured (I had spent some time sitting next to a lout in a rugby shirt who had emitted an endless succession of marshy sniffs)

“Full moon,” he replied. “We get all the psychiatrics in…”

Hoping I wasn’t included in this grouping, I went to Boots the Chemist, playing Spot the Loony.

First remove the plank from your own eye, eh?

June 8th

It’s been a busy week for the legal people.

In short order, I got the final decision from P&O on my appeal against their first decision on my grievance.

It’s pretty much the same as the previous one, they’re not admitting anything.

So I guess this is the point where I resign, claiming constructive dismissal.

Also I’ve got a date for the Tribunal pre-hearing review. This was called for by P&O who are trying to argue that my claim was made out of time. At least it’s sooner than I might have expected; 7th July, five days before my next Charing Cross appointment.

June 14th

The offensive has begun. This morning my letter of resignation on the grounds of constructive dismissal will hit the doormat at P&O Dover, along with demands for information from both them and the (hocchh…ptuiii) lawyers. Fix bayonets!

July 5th

Home to a rather disappointing letter; the Tribunal are unable to force P&O to divulge contact details for the people from whom I’d hoped to obtain witness statements. I was hit rather hard by that; all part of the current emotional roller-coaster.

On the other hand, I got a call from my ACAS conciliator yesterday. It seems that P&O are making quiet noises about coming to a negotiated settlement before the Tribunal. So I wrote a letter about how much I wanted and why, and made noises about being confident about my chances if we should go to Tribunal, and posted it last night. So…

 July 7th

There was a flurry of phone calls yesterday; P&O offered x pounds, and I said it was a risible figure. An hour later they offered double. I refused. I know what I’m worth, and it’s a damn size more than that…

Latest sitrep; today was the Pre-Hearing Review in Southampton, so I was up all night and set off shortly after dawn, because that’s such a nice time to travel, and it reminded me of how beautiful Wiltshire can be on a summer’s day, and if there’d been anyone hitching at that ungodly hour I’d have picked them up for old times’ sake, having crisscrossed that area by thumb and other means so many times in the distant past… on the way to Stonehenge, sleeping in fields, creaking along on rickety bicycle, bouncing over the tops on old MZ…

o get a grip.

-so I was plenty early in Southampton, and wandered around for a while looking for breakfast. Found a Big Shopping Mall, West Quay, and was checking out the sales when news about the bombs in London came through. Considered likelihood of West Quay being blown up… considered bargain sun dress… no contest.

Found proletarian cafe for fry-up breakfast, all in for £3.80 and very nice too.

And then it was time for the hearing.

P&O are now admitting ALL the harassment that took place. So now the issues left to decide are:

What harm was caused to my health? (I am claiming compensation for both damages to feelings and health). So my GP will do a report, and then they’re presumably going to ask for an independent examination. No probs.

How much mitigation to the harassment can be claimed by the fact that I ENCOURAGED it, as they continue to maintain. I look forward to hearing the evidence for that one. It went along the lines of: trying to catch someone’s eye (sic), blowing kisses and exagerrated pouting.

 July 12th

So today was my fourth visit to Charing Cross, and the first time I’ve been when it hasn’t been raining. Very much not raining, in fact. Total scorchio situation. Dressed in flimsiest summer dress, and off down the M4. Nearly pranged on the Hammersmith roundabout, parked up by the hospital and walked back up into Hammersmith along the Fulham Palace Road playing Spot the Tranny (wonder how many people clocked ME?) to find some lunch… pounced on by cosmetics salesgirl in the mall. She buffs away at nails with Patent Device. She looks at my face and smiles.

“What do you use for the bags under your eyes?” she asks.

“Sleeping pills,” I reply, “But they don’t help…”

Appointment with Dr L, covering the usual bases. Same bases, in fact, as I covered with Dr C,  five months ago. Dr L is under the impression that this is my first pre-surgery referral. I had been given the impression by Dr C that hers was the first pre-surgery referral. “Are you quite sure?” I ask. She is, it appears. O dear. Must write some letters.

July 30th

…we slowly move towards the Tribunal. I got a letter from P&O’s lawyers, with a consent form for me to sign, authorising release of my medical records to P&O’s Occupational Health Physician, as they are querying the extent to which my health suffered in consequence of the harassment. They list the people who would see my records

  • the medical expert
  • the respondent and its solicitors
  • the insurance company for the respondent
  • any other person or company officially involved with the claim

….which is pretty much Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. I replied that I was prepared to have the records scrutinised by a nominated health professional, and no-one else. I await their response…

Consequent on the pre-Hearing Review a couple of weeks back, I got an Order from the Chairman. The issues have been reduced to these:

  • Amount of compensation to be ordered
  • Whether I have properly mitigated my loss of earnings
  • Whether the treatment by the respondent has been the cause of any illness on my part.

…which appears to indicate that the allegations by P&O that I’d been acting provocatively, have been dropped. Which, if this is the case, is perhaps a pity; I would have liked to hear the Very Proper Lawyer describing, nay, demonstrating how I had Attempted To Catch Someone’s Eye and Acted In An Exaggeratedly Female Way… a scene worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan…

 Aug 27th

the Tribunal have written, at my request, to P&O asking why the heck they haven’t responded to my SD74 questionnaire, sent to them back in April (this is a set of questions which you may submit to the respondent in discrimination cases, and which they are obliged to respond to, unless they want to appear at the hearing with egg all over their faces. Mind you, some of the questions are Total Stinkers).

And I now have a medical report from my GP to present to the Tribunal.

Wait. Wait.

Aug 28th

Well, young K and I went down to the Bristol Mardi Gras yesterday. I’d explained what gays, lesbians and bisexuals are. As we cycled down the hill, she asked if a group of girls we’d passed were lesbians. “Impossible to say,” I said.

The Canon’s Marsh Amphitheatre was ringed with steel fencing for the occasion; we went in and wandered round feeling lost. Some people on stage were playing stuff from Rocky Horror. There were some drag queens. I looked at some gumph on the FFLAG (Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays) stall and was blanked by the blokes running it. We left; K was rather upset; she’d found the drag queens and the stage show offensive (she described it as “half naked gays miming to loud rock music”… wonder where she gets her judgemental side from… :) ). I was feeling alienated.

I really must get out more. ‘Normal’ people can be nice enough, but, as I’ve long since discovered, they don’t really want me as a friend because I’m a nice, liberal, middle-class person* trapped in a freak’s body, and it’s uncomfortable for nice, liberal, middle-class people to think that about me, I guess… and then I go to this event and feel entirely out of place. Maybe I’ll take up group knitting…

..and so, later, to the Zoo, for an outdoor concert entitled “Carnival of the Animals”. K made herself a mouse costume (come as your favourite animal) and felt desperately self-conscious until we got in and found loads of children in animal guise. And we sat on the grass and listened, and waved our arms and sang as required, and the grown-ups smiled at each other in that slightly-embarrassed way they do when they get caught out joining in, and it was really Very Nice.

*well, OK, not that nice, liberal, or middle class, but you get the drift

Sept 22nd

Turn ye to the Citadel, ye prisoners of hope

It’s nice to know that Charing Cross are concerned to prevent me rushing into something drastic. Pell-mell, no. Helter-skelter, nyet. Schnell, wir sind nicht zu haus…

Get the picture?

I’ve been trying to get answers to the my questions about the apparent inconsistency between C saying, on my first visit, that hers constituted the first assessment for surgery; and then L saying the same thing.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to ‘do’ replies to letters.

So I phoned them yesterday, and got through to *admin person*. I explain the situation.

“You can’t just come here and expect to get surgery straight away; you have to do something called a Real Life Experience,” she says in the tone of voice that leads one to suppose that she’s been seconded from a paediatric ward

“I’ve got a three-and-a-half year documented Real Life Experience,” I reply with just a hint of huffiness. I explain the story.

She promises to get back to me.

She doesn’t.

I call her again, and finally get the definitive answer that C is not senior enough or something to refer for surgery. So that will (hopefully) happen on the next appointment.

Which, a letter tells me today, will happen on the 12th December. With Prof G, against whom (for the moment at least) I will not hear a bad word said. Maybe.

So surgery recedes yet further into the distance.

THHHRRRRPPPP.

Sept 27th

That elusive first cup of tea

Sky turns black to grey;
Rain scampers on the skylight.
What a warm duvet!

It’s been over twenty years since I last had a job interview, and that one consisted of little more than the question, “What engines have you worked with?”

So I put on Smart But Sensible, and get on down to the Council office. I get put in a room with a shabby old computer and do typing, Word and Excel tests, congratulating myself, in the latter instance for my foresight in buying and learning from a Microsoft Excel for Ditzy Trannies CD-ROM… I have a chat with someone about What We’re Looking For In Our Temps, Dealing With The Public, and Prioritising. (“The telephone’s ringing, you’ve got a customer at the desk, and your manager’s there, wanting you to do some photocopying. In what order do you deal with them?”)

…and now I wait.

Sept 28th

I got a call from the Council this afternoon asking whether I was after a temporary or permanent position. So that sounds positive; after all, if they didn’t want me, they wouldn’t be asking.

Today is a year to the day since that weaselly little troglodyte*, Ged, tripped me up and initiated the chain of circumstances which now have me waiting for a Tribunal hearing and looking for a new job. So thank you, Ged, wherever you and your shrivelled little soul may be these days. Things are getting better all the time. :)

Phoned the Tribunal office this morning, to get a sitrep. I should be getting a date for another Pre-Hearing Review in the next few days, putting the Review in October and the Hearing, probably, in November. So it could be All Over By Christmas.

*obviously I use that term in a completely non-judgemental way….

Oct 5th

        A distant jet plane

 

        And a blackbird chipping chinks

 

    • From the dawn’s silence.

…I do tend to see the dawn a lot these days. This morning there was a tawny owl clearing its throat outside the window at 0400… bloody hooligan.

Things are definitely looking positive on the job application. I know that the Council have taken up my references, because one of the referees is a friend… she described me as reliable, despite me being about six weeks late with the latest artwork. Is that cool? -I rather think it is. …and this morning I get a letter from the Occupational Health people calling me in for an interview. So…

Life in the trenches on the P&O Front has descended to the occasional bout of sniping. I’m corresponding with them on the subject of preserving the anonymity of witnesses, and of course they’re being pretty unyielding. At least it’ll show them in a bad light… and I gleefully pounced on an inappropriate word in their last letter. Thus my reply:

Quote:As you have still not properly addressed the proposition which I made in my letter of 20th September, I shall raise it at the Pre-Hearing Review. As to the suggestion to which you refer, you should note that, while you may deny it, you may not refute it.

..OK, it was a cheap shot, but let’s face it: I hate lawyers.

Oct 17th

Right, if I hold onto this copy of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, I might just avoid floating up to the ceiling again…

(reaches with difficulty for the keyboard…)

It’s a letter. It came this morning. From Charing Cross.

Quote:The above-named patient has been seen by two of the staff in our service and both feel that she is a suitable candidate for gender reassignment surgery. Accordingly, a referral will be made in this regard.

She will continue to be seen until such time as she receives surgery and for as long threafter as appears to be appropriate.

*Senior clinician*

Nov 1st
Well, I’ve got a job.

I got a call from Bert the Bike Builder last week. He’s an engineer, with whom I used to work on a ship in Weymouth. Later, he invited me to join him in the production of Tiddler Trikes, which are specially-designed trikes for children with special needs. Latterly in my time with him, I was just coming-out with my gender dysphoria and my marriage was breaking up and I was a total mess, until it reached the point when I could no longer work with him. His expressing the opinion that “You don’t need surgery for something that’s wrong in your head” didn’t help much…

Anyway, he’s expanded a lot since then, and he called me and asked if I could help out, at least up to Christmas, as he’s got a rush of orders. So I went up to Gloucester yesterday, to show him the new me and see how he behaved, and to see the workshop and decide if it was a viable option for me to work in an all-male workshop environment, even on a temporary basis.

Well, they seemed OK, and there’s lots of imprssive machinery to play with. But then Bob he’d me, which I was kind of afraid he would do, towards the end of my tour. Unfortunately the phone went then, just as we were bringing things to a close; so I wasn’t able to bring up the subject. So I e-mailed him on my return home:

Quote:Dear Bert,

Thanks for taking the time to show me round the new headquarters; and I’m looking forward to starting next week. One thing, though… I notice you’re still using ‘he’ for me. I know it’s not a matter you’ve given any thought to, as I’m sure you don’t intend to be hurtful; but I’ve been ‘officially’ female for over three years now, and I would be terrifically grateful if you could manage to use ‘she.’ I mention it now as it would get harder to bring the subject up as time went on.

regards,

Dru

I look forward to his reply… after all the crap at P&O, I really don’t want to be he’d in the workplace ever again.

******

Hypochondriac Tales

Meantime, I’m on humungous amounts of medications at the moment. I was talking with Tania from down the road last week; we sometimes exchange tales of our tribulations and emotional states -she suffers from depression, and I’ve certainly been there myself. She mentioned that she is using St John’s Wort, with some success; I was surprised, because I understood that it was not supposed to be used by women on the Pill. And hopeful, because I’ve spotted that Little Black Cloud hovering there on the near horizon and threatening to move in and turn into a big nasty CumuloNimbus of a Black Cloud.

So I do a bit of Internet research, which doesn’t sound too reassuring; then I go down to Wild Goats, the local wholefood/alt med place, and have a talk with the alt med expert. She is a willowy pre-Raph type, and has dark shadows around her eyes. “Oh, St John’s Wort is wonderful,” she says; “I couldn’t get by without it…” -unfortunatley, she feels unable to comment on the advisability of me using it, bearing in mind the high dosage that I use of those synthetic oestrogens whose metabolisation is anecdotally inhibited by St John’s Wort…

Off, then, to the Doc’s. He congratulates me on the latest letter form CX, and enthuses about Vaniqa, which he has recently learned is available on prescription. So that is added to the other stuff on my normal prescription. And he gives his thumbs-up to St John’s Wort, reckoning that the chances of an adverse reaction are inconsiderable.

So that’s all sorted out… until Saturday morning, when I am woken in the small hours by an awful pain in my elbow. I lie there in the dark thinking, “O no I’m going to die it’s a DVT…” and so on, as you do… OK, as I do… in the darkest hours of the night.

At breakfast, S gives her opinion that it sounds like bursitis, and that it should be treated with Ibuprofen.

During a day of being out-and-about on the bicycles, it gets more and more painful, and by our return to the Schloss it has swelled up with liquid and is red and hot to the touch. So I call NHS Direct, and having heard the symptoms, the nurse faxes my details through to my Health Centre, and the next thing you know S is acting as ambulance driver taking me to Southmead Hospital for the out-of-hours surgery thing, where I meet a very cheerful young doc in a Salcombe Sailing Club polo shirt. He breezily diagnoses bursitis and gives me a prescription for Ibuprofen and antibiotics.

So a huge thumbs-up to NHS Direct.

Nov 6th
I am now watching the last hours of my last day of freedom tick away, before starting Work tomorrow. And trying not to worry. Just because I’ll be working with four men in an engineering environment… I can handle that…

More unsettling in a way is a mail from an old friend. A couple of people have lately expressed “are you sure you want to?” type questions since I announced the imminent referral for surgery. This was a more involved response:

Quote:I have,as you will appreciate, thought about it a lot and wanted atually to say something abouit it, but not suire if today is really the day, but whatever.

i used to think of you as rather the epitome of manhood at the tender age of 19 ish when we met. I never thought of you as macho, or mean, or pigheaded or selfish or an of the other characterisitcs oft associated with being a man, and heaven knows I’m laden enough with those, but, i really thought of you being how man should be, how I wanted to be. And how that?

Well, you were entreprising, inquisitive, knowlegable yet modest in any ignorance…of which there seldom seemed to be much. ‘you knew something about everything. I really wanted to be like you then. I hated the posing overbearingness of men, who always seemed locked into a perpetual oneupmanship. So senseless. It all seemed unecessary to you and I liked that. It never once occured to me that you were feeling like a woman inside, you realise that? I thought your abstractedness was a reult of growing up literally apart from the rest of society. Not like me, stuck in Romford,Essex and then Maidenhead, on the very skirts of the seething city.

I guess I am working up to the plea of “Are you sure?”

I learnt from you and a couple of other lovely people since that it is really ok to be in touch with one’s femininity. the feminine side, as the media seems to have rather trivialised lately and be flambouyantly girly at times. Oh yes, i have enjoyed my prima donna moments at times. so, good old friend…i hope not to teapot you off, but maybe am one of the only ones who is brave enought to ask you, are you sure the operation is going to make a woman of you? Do you really want to be a woman, is not possible that you could just be a person and not genderspecific?

It’s not that I’ve taken to doubting what I’m doing so much as the way I’d kept so much hidden; that and the gulf between how I felt and how I was perceived…

Nov 8th
I got in late last night after nine hours working at a lathe. I was very tired. It was good working on a lathe again. The chaps there are all very nice. At lunchtime one of them ate his sandwiches and did Sudoku. Another did the Sun crossword. We talked about cars we have had love-hate relationships with. You know how it is.

Everyone without fail and consistently called me “he”. At the group meeting in the afternoon I brought up the subject and Bob the Boss apologised and said it wasn’t meant. Through the afternoon they all did precisely the same. They don’t mean any harm; but they obviously don’t understand how hurtful it is. And I don’t know how much of this I can stand.

There’s obviously a big reality gulf going on here. It’ll be a shame if I find myself unable to do a job I like because of this; but in these men’s world, women are ‘er indoors, and don’t work on lathes or fix cars. Women get little jobs in shops, presumably, if they haven’t been lucky enough to find a husband.

Next stop Marks and Spencers? -we’ll see.

Taking it a day at a time..

Nov 10th
Last week when I went over to the workshop to look around and introduce Bob to the new me, we went into the small mess area (what do you call that area on land? …anyway). The chaps were sitting round eating lunch, and we said hello. On the table was one of those stickers that go on loo doors, with a picture of a woman on it. Adjacent to the mess area was another door which was evidently the men’s loo, from the equivalent sticker on its door.

I had a vague notion at the time that this sticker on the table had something to do with my being there…

On Monday I looked around to find the women’s loo. No sign; just a door with a patch on it where a sticker had been removed. The door appeared to be locked….

I sneaked into the blokes loo and used that. Yeuurk.

Later in the day I needed to do the same again and found that someone was peeing in there without having locked the door. Double yeuuurk.

Yesterday I asked Adrian, one of the men, if there was another loo. “Yes, down the corridor,” he said. “It’s for Mandy (the secretary, and the only other woman in the place) and …visitors”.

“…And for Dru,” I thought. I checked the door again. It still appeared locked, but I found that in fact the door handle was a bit wonky. So I got in. And have continued to use it since.

Nov 11th

Yesterday was a good day. No he’s, except rather disappointingly from Ron the machinist, who was describing Bob’s telphoned instructions for me. As it was just the two of us, I asked him quietly if he’d mind awfully using she. He said that he would.

It’d be really good if I can make this work; apart from being a good job, it’ll show the P&O hobgoblins, and the Employment Tribunal, (and me, now I think of it…) that I can function out there in the, er, real world.

Speaking of hobgoblins, I’ve got another Pre-Hearing Review for the Employment Tribunal next Friday. Last week I sent P&O’s shyster lawyers a copy of the report written on my behalf by the BRI endo, which basically says that he saw that I’d been suffering from bullying, and he could confidently state that any damage to my health had nothing to do with my transitioning, or the medications relating to it.

I was very restrained in the accompanying letter, expressing the opinion that it would form a useful accompaniment to my GP’s report… yesterday I got a reply from the lawyers. As I carried the letter upstairs, I got that old familiar sick feeling… but it was no more than an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter.

Nov 12
collected two double-takes yesterday.

I was taking the afternoon off to go and collect K, so I rushed through the pile of wheel hubs I was doing, powered down and dashed off to the spare office, where I did a quick change into normal clothes. As I exited, I met young Rob the ‘prentice, eating his lunch and managing to get most of it in his mouth. (He’s from the Forest of Dean, which, for those not familiar with Gloucestershire life, is serious Boonies. Think banjo player in Deliverance…). He’d only seen me in my work clothes beforehand….

…and later, getting some snacks from a Motorway service station, and the chap at the till hands me the change and visibly jolts back when he sees the state of my machinist’s hands….

Phenotype? Moi??

Nov 17th
I had a word with Bert the other day, after he’d ‘he’ d me again. Bert being who he is, he thinks that I’ve got to be a lot more accommodating than the people there. For which, read ‘him’. On the other hand, the others are nice, and I continue to hope for an acceptable work environment. So I remain. For the moment.

I got a nice letter from Hammersmith Hospital yesterday, inviting me to ring them and make an outpatient appointment. So I did. I’m going there on 9th December. Guess this is Meet The Surgeon Time.

Nov 18th
Bert? -he’s bad with everyone; I’m letting it worry me less, and just correcting him whenever he says it. John the assembler has taken to doing it as well, cos he’s browned off with Bob and planning on leaving. Meanwhile, yesterday, Adrian came in and packed his toolbox and left. Never to return. He’s been to the doc’s and been diagnosed with depression, from working with Bert.

Funny old world…

Still, it makes the names easier. Now we’ve got Bert (the boss), Rob (the ‘prentice), Ron (the machinist) and John (the assembler). Oh, and Mandy and me, but we don’t count :)

+++++++

Today I went to Southampton for the second Pre-Hearing Review. We discussed matters to be contended. I asked for clarification of whether P&O continued to maintain that I provoked the “inappropriate behaviour”. They said that they would produce statements to the effect that I had engaged in badinage. Ha. I requested statements at earliest opportunity so that I could request witness orders for the more flagrantly perjurous statement writers, in order to subject them to cross-examination.

Why the heck they can’t just wave the white flag and give me the money, I don’t know…

Anyway, what with the continuing dispute over the effect this business had on my health, the Hearing date is now going to be assigned somewhen in March or April.

Eighteen months on…

I shall be very seriously browned off if this impinges on my surgery….

Nov 21st
It was a good day at work today, people-wise, though that black cloud is starting to follow me around again. I talked with Bert the Boss at lunchtime, about my P&O experiences; he is, as I may have mentioned before, an ex-Chief Engineer of mine, and we both know only too well what seafarers can be like. Anyway, he was pretty on-side. Heavens, at this rate he might end up using the she word on me..
Nov 23rd
Bert she’d me yesterday. I would never have believed it possible a week ago, and a fortnight ago I was, as noted above, ready to throw in the towel. It’s rather chastening to think how much my state of mind can be coloured by past experiences, so that it distorts what’s happening in the present. Here’s hoping. Keep taking the St John’s Wort and hope the depression stays away…
I machined a casting to 0.05 mm within spec today. Gosh I was chuffed. Maybe I’ll post a picture of the lathe tomorrow. It’s a luuurve thing.

Hey, and we get to drink PG Tips out of grubby mugs. I decided to play to stereotype today and bought a cheap washing-up bowl from Asda, £1.77, and washed all the manky stuff in the kitchen area… you know, teaspoons with brown encrustations on, that sort of thing… let’s face it, if I didn’t, no-one would…

Dec 10th
        …Nothing of him that does fade,
        But doth suffer a sea-change
    • Into something rich and strange.

I was reciting that once, on the bridge of Condor 10 as we bounced around in the Western Approaches; the Captain smiled and said, “That could have been written for you…”

So I’m sitting in the Costa Coffee place in Hammersmith, four years since the first time I sat in there before meeting Prof G feeling highly conspicuous and gawky and self-conscious.

Times change. Today I’m biding time until my appointment with the surgeon, and feeling good. About myself, about life in general.

… a short time later…. I meet, as it turns out, Mr B. He’s very nice. He prods and pulls at the Thing, and pronounces it adequate for the job. I ask if any hair needed removing, and he says that he should manage a straight penile inversion, but that I should remove the hair at a radius of about 1cm above the penis, which area will provide the clitoral hood.) Date, ball park area, next June. Surgery by either Mr B or Mr T

Dec 11th
I was wandering round Sainsbury’s yesterday feeling utterly overwhelmed and thinking what a bloody silly and inconvenient place it was for that sort of thing… ungrateful of me, perhaps, as at least I got something nice for dinner…

++++

On another front, the deadline which I gave P&O for accepting my offer to settle passed without response on Thursday; so it’s Take No Prisoners from here on in. The long range tanks are bolted under the wings. The flask of cocoa is primed and settled next to the ham sandwiches in the cockpit. The… o heck, you get the picture.

Dec 12
Did you have a formal change-over at work, C? -you know, the sort where staff are briefed as to the new you and appropriate stuff? -doesn’t sound like it, actually. I didn’t get that at P&O because the Chief wanted things done informally. As it happens, this laissez-faire method actually resulted in things getting progressively worse rather than better, until they finally became untenable. I hope it doesn’t work that way for you. Mind you, I was up against some seriously stupid bigots…

I carried over my angst from those experiences to my new job, hence my fraught postings earlier on when I started with Bert. As it happens, things are going really well; they’re all making an effort, and progressively more frequently getting it right. This is really heartening, and the way things should be. Having such a tiny workforce helps, perhaps. And an intelligent one, I think…

+++++

Off to London again today, to see Prof G – this appointment was scheduled long before I got my appointment with the surgeon. It’ll be interesting comparing this visit with my last meeting with him. Think Happy Thoughts…Now, My Day Out In London.

Prof G opened with “Well, there’s no way I can stop you having surgery now.”

It was a joke. Of course. It just didn’t sound like a joke.

“Yerrssss….” I replied softly. I’d already worked this one out for myself.

So we talked about sex. At least, he told me about it, and I was required to comment, or agree.

He asked about my consultation with Mr B. I told him. He asked if he’d made me aware of the possible risks.

“Possibility of insensate clitoris, prolapse, infection, death” I said.

He asked if I’d had any second thoughts. I told him about my Sainsbury’s moment, when the immediacy of it hit home. But no, no second thoughts.

He seemed very keen on talking about sex, and the probability that I wouldn’t find it satisfactory and almost certainly wouldn’t orgasm. I told him that these were at best secondary issues.

Obsessed with sex, he seems to me. But then, he’s old enough to have been a Swinger. Thank God I missed all that.

He asked if I was satisfied with the feminisation I’ve experienced. I said yes. He asked me to itemise. I did. Boobs, face…

“Have you put on weight?” he asked.

“Not particularly,” I replied.

I showed him my (three year old) driving licence photo to show him the difference.

“You’ve put on weight,” he said.

He’s really very good at knowing things better than me, and telling me so. So obviously I haven’t changed. Apart from putting on weight. After all, he’s a Prof and I’m just another tranny.

So I lost a day’s pay and drove a couple of hundred miles. So what? I was reminded of what I’m now safe from.

Oh, and I asked him if he’d fill in the medical bit of my GRC. “I charge £50”, he said. I told him I’d wait.

Dec 23rd
We had the works Christmas lunch on Tuesday. Bert took us all down to the local Harvester. For those who haven’t had the Harvester experience, it could be summed up as all that’s best, or at least most characterisitic, in British catering. (As Paul Richardson pointed out once, no other language has an equivalent word for ‘catering’…). I was impressed by the aroma that hit us on entry, a miasma of old and slightly rancid grease, containing gobbets of the smells of everything cooked in the last month, a bit like an olfactory CV.

Still, kind hearts are more than coronets.

This is a challenging time of the year for those of us who are Differently Lifestyled, as you are no doubt aware. Sometimes I feel barely up to the challenge. O well. One step at a time. Broad sunlit uplands.

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