Tuesday 1 July 2014

Interview with Vikki-Marie Gaynor

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor 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 a 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 the 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 newfound 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.

WLMLT. Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
Source: YouTube.

The road I took allowed me to become one of the only persons 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 into the office with ambitions to get “The Big Chair” (and the Big Pay packet). So I endeavor 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 the 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 is 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 soapbox)!
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 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 at 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!!!

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.

Monika: As a transwoman, 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 the 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 favor 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 their assistance to prevent me from 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. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance - Vikki-Marie's Story.
Lizzy the Lezzy. Source: YouTube.

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 from 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 the 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 neighbors) 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 their bodies.

Her speech against hate crimes: "Taking a Stance
against Transphobia.".

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 an 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!


All the photos: courtesy of Vikki-Marie Gaynor.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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