Well, the BBC World Service edition of The Why Factor on cross-dressing has gone out. Actually presenter Mike Williams and producer Bill Law made a good job of a complex subject in eighteen minutes. Apart from me and Lou there were interviews with Grayson Perry, Hugh/Helen from London, a psychologist (?) and an expert on the Indian Hajira (have I spelt that correctly?). It certainly showed that there is a huge variety of personalities and expression and I think we came over quite well. There was also, thankfully, a plug for Painted Ladies which I hope will lead to more sales and raised awareness. Comments and feedback would be very welcome. If you didn’t catch the programme you can find it on
So back to now and the next episode of Blueprint, my Jasmine Frame prequel.
Blueprint – part 15
It was only a few minutes before the woman returned. Jasmine hadn’t even had time to get bored.
‘I’m sorry. We have no record of anyone of that name in our records.’
Jasmine stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder.
‘Thank you. It was a long shot. Petula was very secretive but I am hoping to find someone who knew her.’
‘Well, I’m sorry we couldn’t help. You or her. It’s very sad when a transvestite is driven to kill themselves – but not so unusual.’
‘You’re right. Well, thank you, I’d better move on.’
The woman opened the door of the dressing room for Jasmine and escorted her to the exit. Jasmine glanced at her sheet of paper with scribble on it. The next possible venue was only a couple of hundred yards away. A wintry shower had begun to fall so she pulled the collar of her coat up and hurried along the street, keeping close to the wall to get some protection from the rain.
With the aid of the map she didn’t have too much trouble finding the premises of “Inner Girl” even though it was much smaller than “Transmutations”. It was just an ordinary local shop with a small window display of what appeared to be fancy dress outfits – nurse, French maid, nun. Jasmine pushed the door open and entered. The interior was, as expected, rather more cramped than Transmutations but contained a similar range of wares – women’s underwear and clothes, many in shiny fabrics, wigs, cosmetics and figure enhancements. It all seemed trashier, more down-market than the products sold by Transmutations and that seemed to be reflected in the prices flashed on fluorescent coloured cards. There was just one assistant, standing behind a counter, a young woman. She looked up as Jasmine entered but said nothing and returned to reading the magazine that was open in front of her. Jasmine approached her.
‘Excuse me, but do you run a dressing service here?’
The girl glanced up with a bored look.
‘What do you mean?’
‘There’s a room through there,’ she pointed a thumb at a curtain beside the counter, ‘They change in there. You don’t want to do you?’ The fact that Jasmine was already dressed as a woman confused the girl.
‘No. I’m looking for someone who might have known someone who may have visited here.’
‘Uh?’ The girl’s confused look deepened. Jasmine dragged the photos out of her pocket.
‘Do you recognise either of these people?’
The girl looked at the pictures for a moment before shaking her head.
‘No, never seen either of them.’
‘Actually they’re the same person. The woman is the man’s femme persona.’
‘Yeah, I can see that.’
‘The name Peter or Petula Thwaite doesn’t mean anything to you?’
‘Is there anyone else here I could ask?’
Jasmine guessed she wasn’t going to get anything useful from this girl, and anyway it didn’t look to be the type of place that Petula would frequent.
‘Well, thank you for your time,’ Jasmine said glumly as she turned to leave.
‘Whatever,’ was the reply that followed her to the door.
That was two down and still not mid-day, but not many other addresses to try. Jasmine found two others nearby but one was closed and the other more of a sex shop dealing with all sorts of fetishes. It didn’t appear to have anything to attract Thwaite, from what she knew of Peter and Petula, but Jasmine did go in to check. The bald headed proprietor with all the piercings didn’t recognise the figures in the photos as Jasmine expected. She only had one venue left, “Trans-sisters”, which as luck would have it was at the opposite end of Canal Street. Jasmine set off into the face of an increasingly biting wind and heavier rain. She regretted not having brought a hat.
“Trans-sisters” turned out to be not a shop at all. There was a plaque with the name beside an open door into a Victorian terraced house. There was a porch and another door which opened onto a corridor and rang a distant bell as Jasmine stepped through it. There was an entrance to a room off to the right. It wasn’t a large room, more of a cosy lounge with a couple of armchairs, a sofa and a few plastic stackable chairs. All seemed far from new. In an alcove beside the empty fireplace there was a cupboard with a coffee machine on it. There was no one in the room and Jasmine looked around wondering what to do. There were posters on the wall facing the window advertising events and warning of transphobia.
‘Hello. Welcome to Trans-sisters.’
Jasmine turned to see a lady entering the room. She was in her forties, dressed smartly in a knee-length beige skirt and matching jacket. While her make-up and hair was immaculate, Jasmine had no doubt that she was a trans-woman.
‘Hi. I was hoping you could help me.’
‘Oh? Please take a seat,’ the lady pointed to the sofa, ‘I’m Audrey. How can we help? Do you need advice or do you have a problem?’
Audrey meant a personal problem relating to her own transgenderism, Jasmine realised as she sat. The sofa sagged as Jasmine sank into it. She struggled to pull her skirt down her thighs as she fell backwards.
‘I’m trying to trace someone,’ Jasmine said recovering her balance and pulling out the photos. Audrey glanced at them but didn’t examine them.
‘I’m sorry I can’t …’
‘I’m a police officer,’ Jasmine waved her badge. Again Audrey glanced but didn’t read it.
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were one of the girls. We’re a self-help group.’
‘Yes, I realise that. I am trying to find anyone who knew the person in the photos.’
‘Is she in trouble?’
‘She was, sort of, but now she’s dead.’
Audrey raised her hand to her mouth.’
‘She committed suicide. Do you know her?’ Jasmine pushed the photos closer. Audrey looked closer then shook her head.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t recognise her.’
‘Is there anyone else who might?’
‘No, I’m sorry. I’m on my own this morning but I’m here a lot. I think I know most of the girls.’
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine was at a loss. She had exhausted all the addresses on her list and had got nowhere in tracing Petula. Audrey sat down on a plastic chair beside Jasmine.
‘Did the lady live in Manchester?’
‘No. She came from Kintbridge, that’s in Berkshire. Same as me.’
‘That’s a long way. Why are you looking here?’
‘Once a month, Petula travelled here for a day. I think that if I can find what she did and who she met here I may be closer to understanding why she died.’
‘Ah, I see. Was she a transvestite or transsexual?’
‘A secret transvestite. I don’t know how often she dressed but she kept it to herself. Her wife didn’t know. But she did get out a bit and meet other T-girls and she had this monthly day out up here. I’m sure she met someone to go out shopping, have lunch, that sort of thing.’
‘I see. And you’ve tried a few other T-friendly places?’
Jasmine handed her the crumpled hand-written note. Audrey examined, tut-tutting once or twice.
‘There are quite a few bars and clubs that the girls go to.’
‘Yes, I know, but Petula was here during the daytime and drove home in the evening. I can’t see her as a clubber. I figured she met someone who perhaps helped her choose items, advised on her appearance, went out with her.’
Audrey looked thoughtful.
‘I think you need to try Betty’s Boudoir.’
‘Where? I don’t remember seeing that on the internet.’
‘Betty doesn’t advertise. She works on individual contact. She provides a service to a select group of ladies.’
‘That sounds promising,’ Jasmine was cheering up, ‘What sort of service?’
‘Well they can use her house to get dressed. Betty keeps a stock of clothes and wigs and things so helps them choose if they haven’t got their own stuff. She does their make-up and will escort them into town for shopping and eating and any other sort of entertainment.’
‘Does she live nearby?’
‘Sorry, no. She’s on the outskirts. Do you have a car?’
‘That’s alright then. I’ll go and dig out her address. Have a drink while you wait.’
Audrey left in a business-like bustle. Jasmine struggled out of the sofa and took up the offer of pouring a coffee from the machine. It was free. She went back to looking at the posters while sipping from the paper cup.
Audrey returned soon and handed Jasmine a post-it.
‘There it is. I hope you can find it OK.’
Jasmine read the address then stuffed the piece of paper in her pocket.
‘Shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks.’ She still had half a cup to drink. There was time for small talk.
‘A good place you’ve got here.’
‘Yes, we’re pretty lucky. We get a bit of help from the council but it’s mainly voluntary donations that we rely on and there are lots of girls in the area who make use of us.’
Audrey wasn’t actually holding out her hand but Jasmine felt the subtle pressure. She put her empty cup down beside the coffee machine, dug her wallet out of her bag and handed over a five pound note.
‘That’s very kind,’ Audrey said, beaming, ‘I do hope that Betty can help you.’
‘So do I. Thanks for your help.’
Jasmine left feeling considerably happier. At last she felt that she had a link to Petula that was not improbable. It was raining hard.