Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Interview with Vikki-Marie Gaynor

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Vikki-Marie Gaynor, an inspirational woman from England, truck driver featured in the British Channel 4 documentary titled MotherTruckers. Hello Vikki-Marie!
Vikki-Marie: Hello Monika! It’s a pleasure to finally talk. It seems like long time since I began to follow you, which was about the time of my Tribunal against DHL/Blue Arrow in 2007.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Vikki-Marie: I am a loud and proud trans lady who was forced into becoming an activist against transphobia and hate crimes due to being a victim of both.
My life during and after transition was not the “wonderful time” that I envisaged it would be. However, I went down the road of EDUCATION, and began to study. This allowed me to see the potential in my life and with a few goals in place and some new found determination to prove to the world “Who I would have been if I had been born in the correct gender”. Since then I have become a fully qualified beautician, nail tech and masseuse as well as my level 4 sports masseuse, trainer in equality and diversity and activist.

The road I took allowed me to become one of the only person in my family to wear “Cap N Gown” and has spurred me on to improve my life in all aspects. I now have gone from working as a truck driver in to the office with ambitions to get “The Big Chair” (and the Big Pay packet). So I endeavour to pick up skills that I will require to re-enter management in the gender that I have been all my life.
I know I am a good manager but last time I was in that post my life was in turmoil. My heart was in conflict over the way I dress and live my life. This in now resolved, and I will ensure that all staff in my place of work are treated equally and with respect. This is a goal I have set myself. We all need to believe in who we are “not” who we are perceived to be. Nobody knows what I have done to be ME! This is my life... and I will live it to the FULL!!! I do not need or seek your permission. (Steps off the soap box)!
Sorry I do go off sometimes. Life is good and is getting better, just allow me to be me, and I will work my (cute) ass off to make any part of my life to become the way I want it to be!
Monika: You are known for your participation in the Channel 4 documentary titled MotherTruckers (2012). Did you like the film?
Vikki-Marie: I really enjoyed the whole part of it. The filming was something I was getting used to, though still not happy with the way I look on Film. However I am who I am and cannot afford to change this, so I just GET ON WITH IT to the best of my present financial ability (with time I hope this will improve).
I have been in front of the camera a few times and LOVE it. I have also tried to learn skills from behind the camera in the editing room (see my YouTube films).
Life as a Trucker is so Much FUN!!!
Courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
The program was brilliant and I have become great friends with Emma the Ballerina from the program and others. So it is a part of my life that makes me smile, and it was all done as Vikki-Marie, which makes it a very special memory to me.
I could not believe that it was only one program as there are many problems with the transport industry and lady truckers that would be more interesting than some of the trucking shows that we have at present. So I ask you all to write to Channel 4 and ask. I am available!!! LOL
Monika: It was not your first documentary. In 2011 you took part in the documentary titled "Transition", directed by Tim Brunsden and Andy McCann…
Vikki-Marie: That is one that still makes me smile as I was able to get a small part of my life out on the web in a way that I know has helped many people who are feeling the way that I have felt in the past. Life since that production has got better and better, but I do still get wonderful comments in reaction to it.
The voice from that production was also used in a cartoon to promote Transgender Day of Remembrance 20th November, in which we remember all our brothers and sisters who have died because they were trans! I thank my guardian angel that I woke up after all my beatings, there are many who did not or cannot tell others about them. I fight to stop it from happening to others, The film was entered in a worldwide documentary competition and we got in the last 50, so I think that Tim and Andy are so talented and hope they will update it one day.
Monika: What is the reaction of male truck drivers when they see an attractive blonde woman driving a big truck?
Vikki-Marie: For the most part “Respectful” is the word I would use; I get the door held open and I do get some smiles. However there are many “Old School” in this trade and they are insulting and hurtful… They like to comment on my life without even getting to know me. To them I always think to myself: “BEEN CALLED WORSE BY BETTER PEOPLE THAN YOU.” AT THIS POINT I ALSO THINK f**K YOU!!! But I never say it. 
A Night out with Friends, loving Life.
Courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Monika: As a transowman, you fell prey to many discrimination and prejudice acts. In 2010 you were forced out of your job at Kirkby-based haulage DHL/Exel delivery firm and Blue Arrow Employment Agency because of your Gender Identity. As a result, you went to industrial Tribunal. How did the case end?
Vikki-Marie: DHL/Exel were also found guilty of sexual discrimination “in part due to my transition.” The Tribunal judged in my favour and awarded me approx. £20k. Between the 2 global employers, DHL/Exel were embarrassed to have a trans driver. 
They went through the motions of being a supportive employer as they offered me full protection from adverse treatment during meetings with high level manageres and many promises of equal and fair treatment that I sum up in just one word “FAIL”.
The promises were all hollow and the support NEVER materialized, which meant that prior to transition I was a respected and reliable AGENCY driver with a regular run and regular shifts of 5 or 6 per week. Up to my transition where I was employed for 2 weeks after becoming Vikki-Marie and in this time I was insulted by my colleagues, told to use the disabled toilet as the women did not want me in there and I did not want to use the Male TOILET as I was not male.
My belongings were removed from the truck in a bin bag and dumped in the disabled toilet, to name just a few points. This led to the final step where they had me train the person that would replace me in the use of the digital tacho and then reduced my shifts to zero in a period of just a fortnight.
Blue Arrow Employment were also found guilty of sexual discrimination “in part due to my transition”. As they stood back and took their share of my hard work as agencies do when they employ you. However, when DHL/Exel started to treat me in this manner they did NOT help me at all, even when I needed for their assistance to prevent me being out of work.
THEY were more scared to lose the contract to supply this depot, and with this in mind they found the replacement for me and did not help me when they could see that my treatment was against their own policies as well as the agreement they had with DHL/Exel on equal and fair treatment of their staff. Again I say “FAIL”. The 2 years I fought this case under the Gender Recognition Act 2004/05, had a very adverse effect on my personal mental health.
After many years I can see the positive points that I had to develop due to my treatment but I wish I had just been allowed to continue to work without prejudices as I was a good trucker then and because I wear make-up and change my name this DOES not make me forget how to drive trucks. 

Monika: A year later you were brutally beaten in Liverpool …
Vikki-Marie: This is shown ever so well in a documentary that I helped to film called “Pink Past and Present.” It shows the way that the Gay Scene in Liverpool developed since the 50’s to the present day, including the implementation of “Liverpool Pride”. Spend some money and order the DVD. It is well worth a watch.
I have been the victim of hate crime too many times and the way it made me feel each time was just a dreadful place for any person to be. The incident in Liverpool was a dreadful beating, and I am so happy I survived it. As I was ex-army and blue belt ju-jitsu I felt confident that I could protect myself. However when they hit you with a baton and knock you out then they continue to kick you while you are unconscious the feelings of pain run MUCH DEEPER THAN THE PHYSICAL.
The worst incident to date was the beating I took at the hands of a serving Merseyside police officer (Merseyside Police to date still refuse to apologize to me). I reported a burglary and when the police came to investigate the officers on scene took insult to my trans status and arrested me on charges of preventing a PC from doing their duty (Harassing me and spraying me with CS Gas then dragging me into the street to be humiliated in front of my neighbours) as well as threatening to arrest them if they came to my aid, which seems prejudicial to me.
This really did affect me and I became clinically depressed and suffering from acute PTSD and fear of uniforms and Police. In fact, it was a horrible time and made me question many things in my life as well as attempting suicide three times. With much time I have been able to set up coping mechanisms, including becoming a masseuse. When I am doing a massage I am able to calm down and relax myself as well as my client. I am a holistic therapist and love the feeling that comes with treating others for stress and general pains in there body.
Her speech against hate crimes: "Taking a Stance against
Transphobia." Courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Vikki-Marie: I was hooked on the case of Jan Hamilton (Sex Change Soldier) she was fantastic, as well as the older trans icons such as April Asley, Caroline Cossey, Rita Hesner to name just a few.
The journeys of many trans people in my past have ended up either in court or even the hospital, which I feel is WRONG so with this I will continue to tell my story in the hope that one day it will help someone to become the TRUE person that they want to be. My story, my journey is not and unusual one, what is unique about me is ME!!! Many people who read this will not understand, and for those who do, Well done! I love you ALL!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Vikki-Marie: Losing my family and friends including my Dad, brother as well as many friends. For 3 years my beautiful daughter did not talk to me as she was grieving the loss of a parent. With a little time she has returned to me and is now living in my house. I thank my guardian angels for this opportunity as well as the times I get to sit and chat to her. 
SHE is the best thing I ever did in my past, present and my future, as well as that she happened due to the Gender I was born in. That is why I am unable to hate or dislike that part of my life. It is part of the journey and part of the fun part of the pride, however I am SO glad it is in MY PAST!
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the British society?
Vikki-Marie: Slowly improving. I have been in transition since early 2007 and I am now post op 2 years in July 2014. Life for me is just starting and for a 44 year old I do not look too bad. With time I might seek surgery to sort out things about me that I am not happy with, but at present I am sick of pain from surgery. So I just make the best of the life I have and work with the body that I have in order to become the person I want to be. I really hope that you will look me up in TEN years to see how I am doing.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Vikki-Marie: Most definitely the hate that is projected against Trans People and the LGB community from countries such as Russia is disgusting and We MUST ALL work to prevent people from being beaten, killed and mistreated. JUST for their own personal expression of “SELF”, please join Wipe out Homophobia, Wipe out Transphobia, Wipe out Suicide on Facebook, Twitter and the interwebb thingy. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!!!
Proud Times. Her graduation with her MUM.
Courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Vikki-Marie: I have been part of helping with the NHS care pathway and other policies to help my community and with time I do hope to make a difference as I have many experiences that companies and public services can learn from. So I would answer yes but with MORE to come.
Keep looking out for me and supporting my projects if you agree with the outcome. Trans people have so much to offer in politics as we have empathy for BOTH genders and live with discrimination on a daily basis, which are the principals of Two Spirit which I have always believed I am.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Vikki-Marie: I have loved with so much passion and have been loved in return all in my past. As Vikki-Marie I have resigned myself to the life that I lead being a lonely one. Hopefully I will be wrong but I do not need Love in the intimate sense and cannot find the time to do all I want to on my own without then having to deal with the feelings of another person. So I will just concentrate on life. If love comes knocking then I hope that it will last for the rest of my wonderful life.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Vikki-Marie: Trends and fashion are not a high priority for me, but I do love skirts, dresses and uncomfortable shoes that look amazing. I am obsessed with the colour pink as for 37 years I was told that I was not allowed to like that colour.
Well to you I must let you all know that I am Vikki-Marie Gaynor and I will wear this beautiful colour as often as I am able too. With my build, which is still quite muscular, I have to be careful not to highlight my upper half too much or I look wrong in my eyes. However, I love my body and will work hard to look feminine whenever I can.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Vikki-Marie: This is going to happen but to date I have not had the time. If any of you writer type people can make this thing I call my life sound good then please e-mail me. With time I will get someone who can help me and guide my writing skills to make my life interesting and make all the points I want to make stand UP and be heard.
At the moment this is just something that I have to strive to achieve and so it is one of the goals I mentioned in the previous question. If you watch my YouTube, I also hope to update my videos to include all that is occurring to me at present. My favourite writer at present is Paris Lees. Keep an eye on her! I see a bright future for this beautiful trans lady.
Her Mum's favorite picture of her Daughter.
Courtesy of of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Vikki-Marie: My personal goal of owning my own home is now completed.
My goal that is 10 years from now is Contract Manager with B***y Distribution. They gave me a chance when very few companies wanted to employ me.
Knowing my past and realizing that I was found to be correct did not matter to other transport companies. They still did not offer me permanent positions. B***y looked beyond the whistle blower and saw me as an employee and for that I am ever so grateful. Now I want to move up in this company and improve my knowledge of this company and the customers that we serve.
Personal goals are simple: money in the bank and plenty of holidays where I can wear summer dresses, bikinis and nice shoes. I hope to have written my book or made a documentary by then so really I do not know but I am really excited at the prospects that EVERY SINGLE tomorrow brings to me.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Vikki-Marie: Become the person you know you can. Do not rub it in people's face (but stand up for your rights and know them ALL). Education is the route I hope you will all take. Learn skills and become famous as the more role models that we have in the press the easier life will be for others. I will share my favourite points points with you!
1. Pre-op trans people are in the highest suicide bracket and YET post op are the lowest (post op are also the highest educated group).
2. Every time you allow someone to use the wrong pronoun you are not being TRUE to yourself. Always mention it but without confrontation. Make it humorous. I look at my boobs and say eeerrrr HIM??? WHERE??? Or something similar.
3. Always be the BEST YOU that you are able to be, and never feel low about self-expression. YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS, AND IT DOES GET BETTER! (Honest) 
4. Do not apologize for the choices you have to make to become YOU. Losing family and friends is hard but it does happen. If you do not lose touch with them, (birthday and Xmas cards) then the choice to not be around is theirs and so it is NOT your problem. THEY ARE missing out on you being happy. “THEIR LOSS” keep smiling.
5. NEVER feel alone. Our community is huge and you are loved by so many people. If you feel alone just get on with studying. It will be so much better in the very near future.
6. Male to female, female to male, intersex, gender questioning; we are so diverse in our life. STAY STRONG AND BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE!
Monika: Vikki-Marie, thank you for the interview!
Vikki-Marie: Thank you for taking the time.

All the photos: courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Done on 1 July 2014
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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