A month on from my meeting with Mr B the surgeon, and no surgery date.
So I rang the Appointments Department at CX this afternoon, and was told it’ll be on 3rd June. She was careful not to get my hopes up too much, you know… lots of things might happen between now and then, but in a cautiously optimistic sort of way, it’s a runner. Possibly perhapso.
Er, and that’s that.
Dum di dum…
O, did I mention that Tinker Trikes are sited on the old airfield where Gloster Aircraft were based? -no, of course I didn’t. Only recently found it out myself. Feels rather spooky, working in the place that produced the Gladiator, the first British jet, the Meteor, and finally the Javelin (which was too hefty to take off fully-laden on the airstrip available when built, so they put the minimum stuff on it and then hopped the few miles to RAF Moreton Valence, where they finished the job. Which I think is rather sweet.)
Sooner or later we have to face our little demons. This last week I’ve been writing my witness statement for the Tribunal. Obviously there’s a lot hanging on it, quite apart from its being a formal valediction to my old seafaring self.
By the way, I’ve finally got a date for the hearing; it’ll be held on 24th – 26th April. Which puts it at eighteen months after the crisis which precipitated the whole malarkey; and a mere five weeks before surgery.
Busy, busy, busy.
Further to add a little heat to the sauce, I exchanged documents with P&O a couple of weeks ago, and … looked, and… thought, “Hang on! -that’s not right!”. In their transcripts of interviews with the crew implicated in the affair, there have been a few crucial changes and omissions. Ditto the minutes of the appeal meeting.
So I’ve written to them, sweetly pointing out that things have been changed, and requesting an explanation. I didn’t use the word “falsification.” I’m sure they can work that one out for themselves.
I was always a bit cynical about the way big companies operate; but I never really thought they would be this bad. Naive, I guess. I try not to think of them as evil, but just ordinary Joes going about their business… and I usually fail.
On the work front, I’m getting much more organised. I can even manage to cook decent food for myself in the evenings these days, and bake bread too; when I first started, I was subsisting on oven chips…
Bert is writing a helpful statement for me, for the Tribunal. He is well placed to counter the fibs being told; we sailed together some years ago, and he is willing to vouch for my general probity. With the important caveat that he doesn’t approve of what I’m doing, and isn’t afraid to say so. In fact, he explicitly mentions this in the draft version which I read through last week. And it looks like he’s going to categorically refuse to refer to me as “she”. I pointed out to him that this meant that he was reneging upon what he said when I talked through my working with him again. He got all puffy-faced and talked about his distaste for political correctness.
I hope I end up with a statement I can use… and I rather think that I’ll be gone from Tinker just as soon as the Tribunal’s done.
…No, I don’t have copies of the original documents, as the interview transcripts were merely read to me (I asked for, and was refused, a copy). Still, if they opt to deny it, then they will be perjuring themselves. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be prepared to do that.
As for Bert, I knew what he was like before I went to work with him again, and if I got all official on him it would simply confirm his opinion of bleeding-heart pinko lefties, etc etc… I’d really rather vote with my feet. It’s not like it’s a big company like P&O; it’s very small and producing worthwhile stuff, and I’m quite happy to leave it to get on with things. And in the meantime, the work is flexible enough to allow me to take time off when I want or need to. As I have been these last couple of days, nursing young K, who’s got a nasty bug, which will no doubt transfer its affections to me in the not-too-distant future
Not long after I posted yesterday’s Tribunal tidings, I got a fat envelope in the post. It’s the letter for my surgery. Looking at it there in black and white with all the matter-of-fact logistics makes it seem very real and very near. Which, of course, it is.
Unfortunately, the pre-surgery assessment date is given as 24th April, which is also the date of the Tribunal. So I’ve written asking for a change of assessment date.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my visiting Uncle Russell and starting on the girly pills.
What have four years brought?
I’ve still not got my perfect bicycle, but I’m working on it.
I’m coming to terms with my hair, and learning to have fun with henna and potions and stuff.
I’m still a spanner. This is both a Good Thing, and a Bad Thing.
I’ve met some really good people. And some total shits. I’ve come to value good people more than I detest total shits. I even try to see things from the total shits’ point of view. This is a Good Thing.
I made a nice tortilla, and hardly any of it stuck in the pan.
Er, other stuff.
My life (though the bank manager might disagree) is viable.
I’ve just drunk a nice bottle of Laotian beer, and am feeling more relaxed…
Things have been a bit fraught at Tinker lately. I’ve had to take the occasional bit of time off for Tribunal business, and then a week and a half ago I was struck down by a nasty bout of flu, which knocked me off my feet…
So Bert is not at all happy, and tells me that I’m selfish and am letting him down and letting down the customers.
He wrote me a statement for the Tribunal some time ago, but never quite got round to giving it to me.
On Thursday he says he’ll print it off that evening, and give it to me in the morning (I’d agreed to work Good Friday)
Friday morning. Bert says that he’ll give it to me in the evening, to make sure I stay there all day, and conditional upon my promising to work next week, the last week before the Tribunal.
Evening comes. He can’t make the printer work. I am told to come back on Saturday, and he’ll give it to me then, as long as I give him details of the Tribunal so that he can ring them up and cancel his statement if I fail to work next week.
I go along this morning. He has now decided that, as well as all the other stuff, although I have been nominally self-employed (a wheeze of his to avoid paying NI contributions) I should now give him a cheque for the NI contributions which were not paid. I say, “I have no money in the bank, Bert.”
I think abut things for a while. I then tell him that I can not bear to work with him any more, and shall do without his statement. Cue grand exit (actually understated exit, but it was under my own steam so there)
I drive back to Bristol, where I have a nice breakfast in St Michael’s Cafe. “Not seen you for a long time,” says the chap who runs the place.
A load has been lifted from my mind. Even if I don’t have Bert’s statement.
For what it’s worth (at least a good laugh) here is the aforementioned statement-which-won’t-be-used. (I made a copy of the draft, in case you’re wondering)
To whom it may concern
I have been asked to write a character reference for Dru Marland. I understand its purpose is for it to be used at an employment tribunal.
As part of this reference I have been specifically asked to comment on:
A. Work ethic and performance
B. Social interaction with work colleagues with particular reference to Dru’s change in gender.
Work ethic and performance
I first met Dru, then **** Marland, in 1998 whilst working as a Chief Engineer for a ferry company. I was appointed to a vessel that I was not familiar with but which he knew well in his capacity as Petty Officer Mechanic.
I was immediately impressed wuith the effort he had taken to draw up procedural documents regarding running and maintenance of ships machinery that were supported by schematic or step by step drawings of various tasks, procedures and systems. They demonstrated a knowledge and interest considerably abvoe the expected skill base of most mechanics.
These documents had been adopted by the vessel and formed part of its QMS and were the technical basis of induction training to new staff.
**** subsequently worked under my direction for a year, during which time I found him knowledgeable, willing, conscientious, consistent and reliable.
On the basis of that work performance I asked him to work for me in 2000 when I gave up my marine engineering to start my own engineering business designing and manufacturing equipment for children with special needs. He worked for me in the capacity of fitter and machinist for approximately one year before returning to sea, and it says much for his adaptability and practical aptitude for engineering that he was able to learn and adapt to completely new skills in this way.
**** has since returned to work for me since October 2005 but as Drusilla Marland and has done so with a very similar work performance and ethic to that which I had become used to.
B Social interaction with work colleagues with particular reference to Dru’s change in gender
On the matter of social interaction I always considered Dru mildly eccentric in a pleasant natured kind of way, an opinion shared by many others I think. Given opportunity, Dru will socialise and try to get on well with everyone and generally succeeds in doing so by having a very broad base of interests with which to find some common ground with most people.
These interests are as broad as native birds, architecture, motor mechanics, cookery, aviation, the Welsh language, English history and reclamation, to name but a few, however on the issue of sexuality, I have always thought Dru a very private person. Now I have been obliged to think about it, I cannot recall an occasion, either as **** Marland or Drusilla Marland, that Dru has shown any wish to discuss his/her, or anyone elseâ€™s sexuality or sexual practices, either with me in private or in a public forum.
Inevitably in a shipboard or workshop environment, such matters do crop up, usually in a light hearted, humorous context; and that is perfectly normal in my experience of 25 years of sea life, however Dru has always appeared to me to be slightly embarrassed by such banter. I cannot recall Dru ever engaging in or propagating such an exchange.
I’ve been preparing for the Tribunal. I was entirely ready for battle by yesterday morning, and my chief supporter and adviser had taken time off work to come and lend support.I got a phone call from the Tribunal listings office yesterday afternoon. They’ve postponed the hearing, at less than one working day’s notice.
I was a teensy bit devastated.
So now it starts again, agreeing dates in late summer….
..so the days begins reflectively, and then it turns terrible.
This is how it happened.
Zoe’d left her bike down at Temple meads station last night, so I offered to run her down in the tank. We get there, and she goes in to get bike while I put roof carrier thingy on.
I finish, and go into the station to see where she is.
Sirens start going off, and everyone starts pouring out of the station. An Ozzie bloke tells me there’s a mad nutter on a train (his description) and there’s heavily-armed police everywhere. He then asks me where there’s a pub. I tell him, and off he trots in the direction of the Reckless Engineer.
No, that wasn’t the terrible part.
So I take Zoe to Bath so she can get to work, and then have a bit of a window shopping type experience, and head home.
This is the terrible part. I become aware of a SMELL. It’s a bloke smell. And it’s coming from me.
Two weeks off the hormones now…. shower every hour, I think
I’m back on the hormones.
I was at CX yesterday for my Pre-Op Assessment, which involved being prodded and poked and having my blood removed, or bits of it, and my legs very thoroughly measured (the nurse and I noticed that an elderly Sikh chap was watching rather intently through the open door as the skirt rose ever higher… we closed the door… ) and anti-embolism stockings issued.
And then I talked things through with the surgeon, and explained the business with the delayed Tribunal, and my fading hopes of reaching a settlement (P&O ignored the deadline which I imposed, and which expired last Thursday). He thought it would be best if I cancelled immediately, so that someone else could have the chance of the vacant slot.
So I went down to the Admissions office and explained. There was no one who deals with the gender stuff there, and there won’t be till next week, which means it may be too late for anyone to take up the vacant slot (entry to hospital 3 June), what with the stopping the hormones in time. Damn.
And then I had a blub.
And then I took the first Underground train out of there, phoning ACAS as I went to announce my withdrawal from the negotiation process.
And I thought I was handling it well, until I got to the railway station and thought, “That doesn’t look right.”
It was Euston.
It should’ve been Marylebone.
Feeling better today. It’s total war again, and colours nailed to the mast.
I struck lucky yesterday; phoned CX Admissions, and got the elusive Binder at her desk (she’s been off sick, bless ‘er).
Today my new surgery date letter arrived. I go in on 11th September, which isn’t too bad at all. Gosh, it was only a couple of years back that the waiting list was in excess of two years. Someone’s been at the conveyor belt with WD40.
At last; I’ve got a new date for the Tribunal hearing. It’s 7th – 9th August. I feel like celebrating; maybe I’ll e-mail the crummy P&O lawyer and say something rude but not actionable
Actually, I think I’ll settle for the monthly poetry reading at the Central Library; see how much I can make folk squirm with my haiku.
Onwards and, er…. what was that other one?
Some things that life chucks at you are quite invigorating challenges. Like yesterday. It was the day of Bristol’s Biggest Bike Ride, and K and I have been training up for it for ages.
Bright and early, we wheeled out the bikes and oiled and greased everything that appreciates that sort of thing. And I pumped up the tyres to the recommended levels.
Then we went and got the stuff for the trip. Turkey sandwiches, water, ice cream soda in a flask, tool kit, first aid kit, short wave radio and rescue flares…
My front tyre was flat. I took it off. The inner tube was blown to ribbons. No repairing that.
Mauvais quart d’heure…
Fortunately, there was a local cycle shop with a workshop set up at the start point down in Canon’s Marsh. So I did a two mile Very Fast Walk, pushing the bike, and they provided me with a nice new inner tube for £4. Heck, the nice hippy mechanic even fitted it for me, and I smailed gratefully, and tried not to think that I could have done it faster than him…
And so we got there in time and rode down the Avon Gorge, where the road had been closed to other traffic for the occasion, and over the Avonmouth Bridge and back up the Gorge on the other side. And Katie was very proud, because last year she was on the trailer bike behind mine, and this year was under her own steam.
And some things that life chucks at you are Extremely Large Pigs. Countdown to the Tribunal now at six weeks. P&O are holding fast to their contention that I couldn’t have had PTSD, because their doctor says so, because… blah blah… so, at my GP’s suggestion, I am looking into getting a psychiatrist’s report. More bother, more expense. Sod ’em.
Worst is the nightmares. I’m having recurrent ones of being back at sea, among my former persecutors.
It’ll pass. Hopefully.
My utterly good GP managed to get me a session with a psychiatrist at the local mental health outfit. So I was down there this morning. We went through my experiences of the last couple of years, and she has concluded that I was suffering from Post Taumatic Stress Disorder, and will produce a report to that effect.
This should administer the coup de grace to P&O’s case…
On the flip side, she told me off for not taking anti-depressants. I said I found them scary. It turns out, though, that one’s brain changes irreversibly during serious depression, making future onsets of depression more likely. O well. Keep the St John’s Wort flowing….
..and so I cycled down town to celebrate, which in this instance meant buying some spanish saffron and pimenton picante from the Spanish deli, and then a boerewors roll from the South African takeaway. Cor, St Nick’s Market is soooo multicultural….
I have been anxiously awaiting the psychiatrist’s report, and it arrived this morning, and is everything it should be. I read through it and thought it sounded a bit melodramatic… but then reality can be a bit like that sometimes, can’t it?
-so I faxed it away to the Evil Shyster Lawyer at P&O, and now await developments.
…also in the post today was a letter from Charing Cross. They’ve postponed the surgery. Now I’m scheduled to go in on 28th October, a deferment of seven weeks.
O well, not the end of the world, though I’d have preferred to recuperate in rather warmer weather (the Schloss gets a bit arctic in the winter months).
Cor, I could write a book.
And therein hangs a tale….
P&O had been v quiet; I figured they’d be up to something. They’ve now got a consultant psychiatrist who is prepared to contradict the psychiatrist’s report which I got last week. She must be a very good psychiatrist, to make a diagnosis without ever meeting me. Ah, the power of a blank cheque…
They invited me to withdraw my claim for compensation for injury to health. I ….said no.
This bloody lawyer is, of course, practised in using language designed to intimidate and overawe. Even though my language skills are better than his he still manages to get to me, the evil little squit. Grrrrr….
…and then I’ve been trying to get an important piece of paper from Bert, my former employer, which he’s been holding on to for over two months. I finally got an e-mail from him, charged with nastiness… but I did get the bit of paper. Finally.
In the same batch of post, I get a letter postmarked Bridgewater. Hmmm? -I open it. Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Heart goes into poundpoundpound mode…. calm down enough to read it… my car was spotted parked up in the Mendips, with a tool box and money on display (for money, read a pound coin and assorted shrapnel in that bit under the handbrake).
O dear. The end of the world.
The hearing took rather longer than scheduled, so we’ll be reconvening later in the month. So I won’t say too much about the story so far. Other than to note that the coverage in the press seems to be reasonably neutral, and peppered with inaccuracies. The BBC one seems the most reasonable:
…obviously, as you will recognise, the photo has been retouched to make me look frowsty…
As for what’s been said in the press, as you may know if you’ve followed my diary, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet. I hope they won’t have lost interest by the denouement.
S was with me throughout, as a witness and as my moral support and friend. I don’t think I’d have got through this without her. Thank you
I’m starting to settle down and feel slightly more real after all the hoo-ha of the hearing. Must now write yet another statement, and a summing-up.
Now and then I Google my name to see how the tribunal story is faring.
There was nothing until Friday morning, when I got seven hits, of which one was a TS news thing, three were HR websites, two were for the BBC, and one for the Mirror. By last night, two more had appeared, and it was apparent that the story had filtered out to the drongo belt, as they were snidey comments about me by the sort of blokes who… do… that sort of thing.
Meantime, here’s the story of a bit of road rage. Well, road stupidity.
It was Thursday afternoon. I’d just been down town and talked with Toni the cheese seller, and then had my appointment with the endo, and the world was feeling good.
I’m cycling up the Cheltenham Road. There’s a lorry parked on the cycle lane. A bus passes me and stops level with the lorry, impeding my progress. There are road works ahead.The lights are on red.
I wait. A shower of white gravel falls on and round me.
I look round. There are four chavs in the car behind me.
I look away. The same thing happens again.
This happens a few times. Finally I see the bloke in the back behind the driver doing the throwing.
The lights change, and we move off. I swing out wide to stop them trying to get past until we’re past the narrow bit of the roadworks. I then move closer to the pavement, and give them the finger.
As they draw level, I brake hard in anticipation of something happening. The spit that they gob at me passes ahead of me. They drive on, laughing.
Further along, they’ve stopped at another set of lights. The one who’d done the throwing has his head leaning out of the window. He’s looking ahead. Obviously he thinks I’m history.
I swing into the middle of the road and speed up. As the lights change I reach him. I smack him round the back of the head, hard.
He squeals like a piglet.
I dive through the oncoming traffic, as the shouts of abuse come at me, and disappear down a side road. They’re stuck in the forward-moving traffic, and can’t pursue even if they wanted to.
Five minutes later, I’m shaking.
O well, maybe they’ve learned not to mess with stroppy bluestockings on bicycles.
But I doubt it….
I continue to monitor the slow diffusion of the hearing reportage. This morning, I find that I am appropriated by Trannynet Online as one of their own…
Tranny Ship Worker Discriminated Against
…I look around the site. There are some girls with hair that was once not their own, who appear to buy their makeup by the kilo. I tiptoe away…
I attempted to join a forum where comments had been made about which I disapproved. My application was declined. Apparently, I must use a real male or female name. I replied, saying that I’ve lived and worked under the name of Dru for some years now, and see no need to change it.
I have mailed the mods, asking them to put my point of view. I shall see how they respond. I tell myself that I should expect this sort of thing; my favourite ‘hit’ on me is on some antediluvian white supremacist website, where I feature in the category of
Homo news, sexual perversion… abortion and other factors leading to a decline in the white birth rate. (PS. race trumps perversion for posting category.)
…I bless myself that such people identify me as an enemy.
..but I am a little disappointed that on a forum catering for people with whom it may be contended that we have some common ground, the only comments were negative.
So, how the Tribunal went.
We arrived bright and early on Tuesday morning. Our clerk advised us that one of the panel was running late because of a train strike; so we lost the first hour. I gave my second statement. The chairman received a message telling him that his father had been taken ill, and so the case was adjourned, with hopes that it would reconvene on Wednesday morning. The infinitely oleagenous lawyer acting for P&O expressed his sympathy on all our behalfs…. I could and would do no less than concur, though this creature could smarm for England if smarming were an Olympic event….
So S and I took in the Southampton aeroplane museum, which was staffed by Very Enthusiastic Chaps, one of whom told us all about the Short Sandringham (ex-Sunderland) as we sat in the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats… (I think S was quite chuffed at being in the Captain’s seat, but shhhhhh…)… and then we went to Portsmouth and saw this old tub
on the left. The tub. On the left….
…It was indeed the Pride of Bilbao, my old place of work, sailing, as it happens, into a small squall of media attention regarding its proximity to a yacht that sank in mysterious circumstances…
…shortly afterwards, I received a phone call from the clerk saying that the tribunal would indeed be reconvening on the next morning. Huge relief.
So Wednesday was occupied by our giving our summings-up, and I sat through an hour and a half of the P&O lawyer assassinating my character. It was really very unpleasant, and, while I have heard it argued that lawyers only do this sort of thing because it’s their job, I still devoutly hope that this particular lawyer will spend a very long time in the lowest pits of hell.
I mean that in an entirely non-judgemental way, of course.
We scored a palpable hit by getting slimy lawyer to state that all allegations made about inappropriate behaviour on my part had been withdrawn. Another enjoyable moment was when I had dismissed the allegations as fundamentally unsound, and invited the tribunal to compare that picture of my behaviour with the one given in my own witness statements. Slimy demanded that these be accorded little weight, as they were unsigned. “Featherweight,” he hissed. I pointed out that I had expressed a preference for a face-to-face handover of statements, but Slimy had insisted that e-mail should be used. I further volunteered to remove the originals from the folder in which they lay next to me… but as they had not been produced in that form, they were not admissible as evidence. Since by now the panel had recognised a shenanigan on the part of the lawyer, though, the chairman cooly remarked that they would judge for themselves how much weight to accord the statements…
Alas, we ran out of time. So we must wait for the next time the three members of the panel will meet, in six weeks time, and they will come to a final judgement on the matters of constructive dismissal and injury to health.
I am scarce fit company at the moment, but hope to rejoin the human race by and by. And there’s something to get ready for. Now, what is it? ….oh yes, the op. It’s one damn thing after another, ain’t it?
I have stacked the P&O files on a hard-to-reach shelf, in as close an approximation to apple-pie order as anything is ever likely to get in the Schloss. I have spread out the sheaves of paper from the folder marked ‘CX’, and begun planning for surgery.
Shopping list… I phoned up Frontier Therapeutics to enquire about their inflatable cushion. Funny hearing that Valleys accent again, on the woman I talked to… the company is based in the next village to where I lived in South Wales. I idly wondered if we’d been to school together…
Yes, they do mail order. No, I’m not VAT exempt. Eighty one pounds and eight pee. I dutifully write the figure down, while thinking, no way on earth am I going to pay eighty one pounds and eight pee for an inflatable cushion, even if it makes me a cup of tea in the morning.
I track down an inflatable rubber ring in one of those depressing looking surgical appliance shops. It’s made in China. It’s in that peculiar off shade that isn’t quite red, isn’t quite orange, and isn’t quite pink. The colour I associate with 1950s Catholic underwear, the sort you’d wear to discourage people from having sex with you…
Still, it was £9.95. I can always knit a rubber ring cosy. Maybe there’s a pattern in Stitch ‘n’ Bitch…
I have been fielding calls and e-mails from a news agency who want to ‘do’ my story as a Human Interest thing. They called today to say they’d got an offer from a magazine called Love It! … I said I’d look at the magazine. I did, at the newsagent. The big story this week is the TS woman who won the lottery and… you know, it’s been in the meeja. I put the magazine back on the shelf.
They phoned again when I got in. I told them that I’d be embarrassed for people I know to see me in that magazine; and that part of the reason for my going through the Tribunal was to assert my right to be myself, and not the travesty of me that had been presented by P&O; and that I’d be betraying that principle by appearing in an article like that.
I feel better now, so I guess I did the right thing.
Thinking old times, I was hunting for something in my desk drawer earlier, and found a scallop shell. I’d picked it up on the beach at Weymouth on New Year’s Day, 1994. The night before there’d been a town-wide fancy dress party, and my partner had come down from Bristol to join in. We exchanged clothes for the night… it was one of those road-to-Damascus moments.
I walked on the beach that morning, and saw a glimmer of where I was heading. A phrase used by Seamus Heaney came into my head; “credit marvels.” I was determined to do just that. I pocketed the scallop shell as a symbol of my own personal pilgrimage.
Still works as a touchstone, obviously. That feeling back then came vividly back to me.
Still travelling hopefully…
- You can tell by the name that Seamus Heaney
- Is a bit of a Feni
- -an. He turned down that knighthood from the Queen
- Cos it wouldn’t go with the wearing of the green.
With Bristol’s poetry festival in full swing, I went to an open mike night on Monday. It’s the first time I’ve been to a full-on open-mic poetry event, and it was quite a revelation, after years of attending readings where a deferential audience listened attentively to the Poet On The Podium, and tried to stay awake…. Gosh, it was fun. There were poets who were mad, poets who were bad, and poets who were almost certainly dangerous to know, mostly the Very Young Chap With The Goatee who’d written something very Now about Vietnam….
And they liked my haiku.
I try to fill my days with useful and productive work, while waiting for the result of the Tribunal, and for my surgery date. I’ve got some additional drawings to do for the wildlife book, so that’s keeping me busy, along with my efforts to eat healthily, which involve making smoothies and salads. And relapsing, like last night, into South African wine and bacalao…
Seems to be working; I’ve not been needing the St John’s Wort so much lately. I’m hoping that depression might be something that I can unlearn, whatever the nice shrink said about brain changes. After all, one must try, mustn’t one?
- Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
- But the days grow short when you reach September
- A robin was singing in the evening darkness yesterday.
Well, it is with some misgivings that I have to report that, as of yesterday, I am off the hormones in the run-up to surgery. So, while it was obviously too early for any major changes, yesterday morning I took especial care to be clean and fresh when I went for my eye test. However, during the examination, I noticed a smell as of stale cooked onions… paranoia goes into overdrive… checked myself afterwards… no, just a lingering waft of Coco Chanel… it was the optician. Hey ho.
(I left them with a cheque for… gosh, quite a lot… I’m getting varifocal lenses put into my old frames, and look forward to a bright and in focus future. So I’m going to have to unlearn the habit of peering over the top of my specs. Maybe.)
Woke up last night drenched in sweat. Oh dear.
Life is never stress-free, and lately I’ve been chiefly preoccupied with an illustration I got asked to do, and which has taken up a big lump of the weekend. It’s a long time since I faffed around with watercolours…
..and it’s not perfect, but at least it’s finished
I’ve now got my new specs and my new varifocals, and am experimenting with looking-at-things-in-focus. Gosh, it’s fun. Like swimming along on the sea bed and seeing everything surprisingly close-up and vivid…
Two examples of how the world proves a tad less perfect than we might have hoped:
Yesterday I was taking a pile of old timber to the recycling yard at Backwell. When I’d dumped the stuff in the skip, I went sniffing around for bike parts. No sign. One of the blokes said they’re no longer allowed to sell bikes. Very annoying, and v counter to the zeitgeist. Must write a strong letter. Or something.
I’ve been hunting around for some boots to go with the new motorbike; I was using my old size 11 army boots on Sunday, which gave me a seriously punkettish appearance, but… so I check the Dr Martens website and find that their new season’s boots go up to size nine. And there are some v nice boots there… so, down to the DM shop… there are the desired boots, but the label says “Size 3-8”. I ask about the missing nines. The chap explains that DM try it every year, but never get enough advance orders to justify a production run on size nine. So I must wait until the trend for increased size of feet among women has moved sufficiently far up the consumer chain to become a viable prospect for DM.
Oh well, there’s always Campers…
I am feeling quite unsettled at the moment. I suppose the imminent prospect of surgery (known date) and waiting for the final decision from the Tribunal (as and when… ) is a contributory factor; so, too, the absence of hormones, and the consequent recurrent headaches and sweats. Boobs haven’t shrunk too much yet, but there’s still four weeks to go…
…but there’s more than that. I’ve spent a long time being reactive; there’s always been something Tribunal-based to keep me worried, for the last two years; and I’ve been so busy asserting myself in the teeth of hostility and dishonest statements from my ex-colleagues, that I’ve not really been getting on with just being. That’s the next challenge, perhaps.
I’m starting to take the reality of my surgery seriously, which is probably a good thing as it is now less than two weeks away. I went to Boots, and bought one of those baby changing mats, since it looked like a useful way of avoiding mess while dilating… baby wipes, too, as you seem to get far more for your money than the ones targeted at women. Why is that, I wonder? …ten years back, I was buying this sort of stuff for a soon-to-arrive Katie. Funny old world.
Yesterday the Tribunal will have reconvened, and it’s possible that they will have completed their deliberations by this evening. In between cups of tea and chats about What-We-Did-On-Our-Hols… I’ll phone the clerk tomorrow, and see if they have finished, and then I’ll have some sort of timescale for receiving their formal decision.
And today I’m off to London Village, to see a shrink.
It’s very nearly time to be going into hospital, and I’ll try to record how it feels for me to be on the eve of the op.
Things are piled up in the kitchen for my return, and on a shelf in here for scooping into my holdall; so I’m as prepared on the logistic side of things as I’m ever likely to be. Now I’m just waiting, edgily, and dreading any further complications interrupting my life in the next couple of days.
K was with me for some of her half term; she went off last night, and will about now be disembarking in Ireland, en route to the Cork Jazz Festival. Precocious brat. We parted fondly.
In my seafaring days, I would begin getting horribly anxious in the run-up to my return to work, to the point of being physically sick.
This isn’t the same; it’s not like that, it’s not like Christmas Eve, it’s just this enormous Thing that is about to happen, and I’ve no way of knowing what it will be like until I’ve been there and done it. No joyous anticipation, more a slight numbness. My life is holding its breath.
OK, What I Did On My Holidays.
I swung into Ward 4 South, feeling pretty much as I did the first time I ever joined a ship – lost. At least the smell was nicer. I was shown to a bed in a side ward where there were three other people, and left to it. As the day wore on, I was visited by various staff, who checked this and that, and wandered off again. I asked whether I should be doing anything, like shaving the surgery site. “Oh no, that’s done in surgery,” the nurse said.
So I chatted with my fellow residents; Juliet, a sculptor, who’d come in a week before for a very simple operation to cure excessive sweating; the op had gone wrong, and there’d been some very serious complications. She was obviously feeling quite overwhelmed at this unexpected turn of events. It was nice for both of us to be able to talk about arty stuff… Then there was Patricia, who’d also had loads of complications including having her spleen removed, and was very fragile but making the best of things. And then there was a bloke whose name I didn’t catch; he’d been beaten up, and had all sorts of internal injuries. He was constantly attended by hordes of visitors, who ignored the “two visitors per patient” sign and sat around chatting volubly in Punjabi, or, in the case of the womenfolk, stared expressionlessly at me. I tried smiling at them… and gave up.
I was issued with my hospital gown, the one where your bum shows at the back if you’re not careful; and I put it on, thereby formally institutionalising myself. I was then given an enema. Gosh, that was interesting… And so to bed.
In the morning, I was visited briefly by the surgeon and the gender nurse. I can’t remember what we talked about; it was just a ‘well, here we go’ sort of thing. Except that it turned out that I did indeed need to shave the surgery site. So I made a hurried job of it in the shower, cursing the failure of things to run as smoothly as I should have liked.
Back in gown again, I read a bit more of the travel book I was in the middle of. Then I thought that I should perhaps be thinking more elevated thoughts, just in case I didn’t come back out of the anaesthetic. So I tried thumbing through my poetry anthology. No dice. So I tried lying there thinking about how you set about mentally preparing for something like this… and after a bit I went back to the travel book.
After a while, a couple of people in blue appeared and modified my bed into a Mobile Patient Carrier, and we were off, with just time to wave goodbye to Patricia and Juliet.
Now I was in a room with the anaesthetist, who inserted a thingy in my arm; we chatted about something….
…. I was conscious enough to feel a pressure on my bladder. There were people around. I tried to explain that I needed to go to the loo. Someone made reassuring noises…
I’m slowly taking stock of my surroundings. The sensation of pressure is still there. There are tubes leading from my middle; a catheter for urine, and two drains from the surgery site. There are two tubes leading into my left arm; one from a bag of clear fluid, and one from a black handbag (this is the on-demand morphine…)
Surgeon and nurse appear, the former in a characterisitic item of clothing. “You’ve heard about the cycling shorts, I suppose?” he asks. I nod.
They peel back a large and bloody nappy, and make admiring noises. No, really, they did. Then off they go, and two nurses pull away the nappy and remove the drains from my abdomen. Gosh, another funny sensation. They went on for ever…
I finally get to see the new geography. At least, the top part of it. Which answers the question, “What If I wake Up And Realise It’s All A Mistake?”. I see the labia, swollen and discoloured with iodine and bruising, and definitely unlike what was there before. I think, “Oh. Okay…” They’re not just any old labia. They’re part of me.
Time passes. When I get bored of being awake, I press the morphine button.
“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
S+2, it’s time to give up on the morphine and swim back to the surface. Tubes disappear , leaving only the catheter. I start to have worries about bowel movements, which ain’t happening. Mr Bellringer says, “No laxative till the packing’s out.” This is turning into a big issue. A low point comes in the middle of the night, trying and failing to go to the loo, while avoiding tugging the catheter, holding the packing in mortal fear of a prolapse, dribbling blood on the floor…
I resolve the bowel business eventually, but things can get overwhelming for me quite easily in this sort of situation…
I’m moved to the women’s ward, and meet L, who was opped on the same day as me; and E and J, who were done on Wednesday. There’s also the octogenarians; Pearl, who takes a shine to my teddy bear; Evelyn, who is trying to maintain a fierce independence in the face of a failing body, and who had a nasty fall in the loo late one night in consequence; and Beth, who’s very much a Cock-Er-Nee. Beth’s in the next bed to Eve. “Eve; that’s a funny name for a feller,” she says to a visitor. Visitor, almost as venerable as Beth, explains something in what might be a whisper to an octogenarian, but could be heard from Beachy Head on a stormy night…
“whisperwhisperwhisper…BLOKES WOT LIKES TER DRESS LIKE WIMMEN…”
Notwithstanding this sort of thing, we all get along famously, and help each other out as best we can. As Pearl said to some young relatives, “We gets along nicely in here; folks looks out fer each other.” “Yer,” says the young man with the enthusiastically-pierced face, “It wuz like that in Pentonville….”
At last it’s time for the packing to come out. Three nurses sit in on the operation, as part of their ongoing training. A gentle tugging…. And a tape appears, and goes on and on appearing, like a ribbon from a magician’s hat. I start to laugh… I’ve never been tickled there before…. I’m shown how to use the smaller dilator, then left to my own devices. With the mirror, I finally get to see what’s there, and realise that I just don’t know my way around, let alone any names for what I can see… still, never too late to learn… disappointingly, the catheter remained in until the last day, when I was required to pee at least twice before they’d let me go…
And so the time passed. I was fortunate to receive visitors every day, including K and S The food was surviv.able. The staff were wonderful, and seemingly from every nation under the sun; there were folk from Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, the Philippines (including the wonderfully-named Amor Resurrecion), Ireland, Lancashire, even London.
My abiding memory of the time in Charing Cross will be an extremely happy and pain-free one.
Which did not stop me pining for home, when the time came. The bag was packed, L and I were waiting for our discharge letters. Again it reminded me of seafaring days; gear stowed, ready to pay off and waiting for the gangway to be lowered…
And then it was all over and farewells made and S staggered ahead of me under the load of my luggage down the Fulham Palace Road, as I teetered gingerly.
It arrived this afternoon.
I came upstairs with the envelope in hand and my heart pounding so hard I thought it might give up on me….
It’s good. It’s actually very good. Here’s the press release I’ve been sending out, written with head in the clouds…
A transsexual woman, formerly employed by P&O Ferries, has been awarded £64,862 compensation by a Southampton employment tribunal after it found that she had been constructively dismissed.
Drusilla Marland, 48, of Bristol, worked as a repairperson on the Pride of Bilbao from October 2002 until October 2004. During this time, she suffered verbal and physical harassment from the engine room crew.
The tribunal heard how remarks were made to her such as “We’re all men here,” “If he’s got balls, he’s a gentleman,” and “When God made man it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” She was constantly addressed incorrectly, and referred to as “He, she, it, whatever.”
When a pornographic calendar was introduced to the engine control room, she was subjected to offensive comparisons with the pictures. Chief engineer Steffan Robb commented, “It’s a sort of training manual for you.” When she requested that the calendar be removed, she was told not to make an issue of it. Finally, in August 2003, she found written on the calendar “Dru,” with an arrow pointing to the vagina. When the engine room crew was assembled for tea break, she took the calendar down, said that she found it unacceptably offensive, and ripped it up. Among others who shouted at her, Gary Howard, the RMT union representative, said “You are going to get done…. not if, but when”. Although the incident was witnessed by both ratings and officers no action was taken against Mr Howard. The pornographic calendar was replaced with a similar one, and Ms Marland was sent to Coventry by several crew members.
In June 2004 Ms Marland asked Steffan Robb to implement guidelines for appropriate behaviour with transsexual colleagues, pointing out that similar guidelines had been implemented on a ship in Dover when an officer had transitioned. Mr Robb commented “But they are an officer,” and refused the request.
In September 2004, Ms Marland was tripped up by Ged Pollard, a motorman with a history of hostility to her. She reported the incident to her superior officer, but he took no action. Finally, after making a written report, and ten days after the assault, she was seen by the senior chief engineer, Martin Sonnen. He told her that he wanted to drop the matter in case it became “messy”, and accused her of “camping it up”. Shortly after, she left the ship and collapsed with what her GP diagnosed as “work related stress”.
An investigation subsequently undertaken by Sandra Ray, P&O HR officer, was judged by the Tribunal to be “flawed, perfunctory and superficial”:
•She interviewed only those members of the crew implicated in the grievance, and none cited as witnesses
•Her finding that Ms Marland’s treatment “was not to the standard I would have expected” was deemed “so inadequate as to amount to an insult”
•She provided no explanation or grounds for her finding that the Chief Engineers and the Senior Chief Engineer were supportive of Ms Marland. The tribunal judged that Mr Robb’s conduct in particular was “wholly reprehensible”
•Her claim that Ms Marland’s own behaviour was inappropriate was unsupported by any evidence
The Tribunal criticised P&O’s senior management, particularly in the case of Peter Ambrose, P&O’s HR Manager, for their failure to put in place adequate management instructions and guidelines with regard to employees undergoing gender reassignment. Mr Ambrose’s decision to allow the Captain and Chief Engineers to deal with matters, without their having received any instruction or guidance, was judged by the Tribunal to be a serious managerial misjudgement.
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on–on–and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun;
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away…O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
I’ve just been reading The Cruel Sea. Finished it this morning. There’s the epitaph on the U-boat campaign: Now they had had their campaign, and it was five years later, and for all the good it had done them, they might have saved themselves the trouble, and spared many ships and men.
I’d got my final wartime metaphor stacked up for this occasion; the crew is stood down from action stations, the empty shell cases have been ditched overboard, and course is set for home. There are cheerful noises from the mess decks, where an extra rum ration has been issued. I stare reflectively at the horizon. Behind us, odd bits of wreckage bob in the oily water….
…maybe it’s appropriate; I’ve got a what the hell do I do now sort of feeling. It certainly doesn’t feel like victory. Just something that had to be done, and took a bloody long time because of the pig-headedness of the opposition.
But it did have to be done. And I was extraordinarily fortunate that there were people to help me, at the times that I most needed it. I got a great deal of support from the folk on this board. Bucking-up stuff, and useful advice, and just being there.
And most of all, S. She helped me in so many practical ways as well as being a shoulder to cry on. I really wouldn’t have made it without her.
And now, life.