It’s been one of those satisfying weeks when I’ve managed to get on with a variety of writing tasks, clearing the desk to commence writing the third volume of my fantasy series. Before we come to the next episode of The Switch, however, there is something that has incensed me – the case of the five year old boy Romeo Clarke chucked out of a Rugby after-school club for wearing princess dresses. (read here)
Not surprisingly given the subject matter of my Jasmine Frame stories and my own trans status this story gave me a lot to think about. There are of course lots of questions about where our sense of gender-identity comes from – is it programmed in the DNA or is it a result of the behaviour of parents, family, friends and the rest of the community in which we grow up? What effect does having older sisters (in this case there are three) who dress up their sibling in their cast-off princess clobber? I have no doubt that the young lad loves wearing the bright, shiny clothes now but does that mean he is transsexual or will become trans/gay or whatever? There are certainly many imponderables but the one wrong is the enforcement of stereotypical behaviour on children and people of any age. In a truly equal society there should be no such thing as gender-specific clothing (or behaviour) and anybody should be free to wear whatever clothes they like and have whatever appearance they like without having to face the hostility or prejudice of anyone else.
The attitude of the school/church constitutes transphobia and is equally discriminatory to girls as well as boys. Their response that because it said “boy” on the child’s admission form therefore he must wear a certain type of dress shows a mindset that is discriminatory. It shows that they consider that anyone of non-standard appearance can be singled out for abuse. The hurt caused to the boy in being excluded from the club is, to my mind, a hate crime. This case has garnered considerable publicity but I am sure that the state of mind exists in many other members of society and in particular in those who take on positions of authority. It shows that we have to be constantly on guard against attempts to counter the improvement in equality rights in recent years.
I could ramble on a lot more but let’s get to Jasmine’s current case and the next episode of The Switch
The Switch: Part 7
Jasmine paused, tensing as anxiety gripped her. As a trans-woman she wanted to avoid confrontation but she saw there was no way of avoiding the two teenagers. They glared at her with undisguised hate. Her training surfaced. She had been taught how to defuse situations like this, learned how to calm emotions and help people behave sensibly; but she had no back-up. She was on her own. She walked casually towards the gate, taking care to appear unafraid at the young men’s intimidatory stances.
‘Hello,’ she said as she reached the gate where her passage was blocked.
‘You’re the trannie who’s friends with the cunt who thinks she’s a boy, aren’t you,’ one of the lads said. Jasmine decided to ignore the derogatory terms and respond to the question as if it had been phrased in good-mannered English.
‘I have met Daniel. That is correct. It’s up to him to say whether we are friends.’
The boy looked a bit confused but went on.
‘She killed Kyle. You’re going to tell us where she is so we can get her.’
Jasmine edged back from the gate out of reach of the boys.
‘There is no evidence that Daniel had anything to do with Kyle’s death and I’m sorry I won’t be telling you anything, boys.’
‘I think you will,’ the other boy said pulling a craft knife from his jean’s pocket. He concealed it from the growing crowd behind but thrust it towards Jasmine. The blade was short but sharp. ‘We’ll cut your pretty girly face, if you don’t tell us where she is,’ he went on in a hissed whisper.
‘Or we’ll cut your balls off,’ the other said, ‘you’d like that wouldn’t you.’
‘I’d advise you not to make threats,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could.
‘You know, don’t you,’ the first boy said.
‘Know what?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What Danny-boy did to Kyle. Perhaps you were there. Perhaps you did it. She’s a soft girl really, but you’re a tough guy with a cock in your knickers. You could have killed Kyle instead of Danny. You did it didn’t you?’
Jasmine was surprised by this leap of logic and wondered how she could counter it and get away from these two hyped and nervy young men. She wasn’t convinced that the crowd would help her if she got into a tussle with the two boys. She didn’t see the two uniforms approaching along the road.
‘Now lads, what’s going on here?’ It was PC Jones.
‘This paedo killed our mate,’ the knife-carrying youth said before he turned to see that it was a police-officer addressing him. PC Hedges positioned himself behind the other boy.
‘I think you two had better get away from here before you say anything more that might get you in to trouble,’ Jones said. The two boys glared at the officers but then deflated and slunk off.
‘Thank you, officers. That pair were getting a little aggressive,’ Jasmine said smiling warmly at her two colleagues.
‘What did they have to get aggressive about?’ Hedges asked.
‘They’re members of Kyle McLeery’s gang. They were with him on Friday evening when they attacked Daniel Parry. You know, when we met on the Common.’
‘And they think you were involved in McLeery’s death?’ Jones said.
‘They’ve jumped to that conclusion,’ Jasmine agreed.
‘In that case I suggest you keep away from here, Miss Frame,’ Jones continued. Jasmine was taken aback by his tone. There seemed to be a hint of an accusation mixed with a disdain for her freedom of movement.
‘I’m sorry Jones, but I have been consoling Mrs Parry. Her son is missing and she has learned that he is a suspect in a murder. I’m helping her.’
‘But I understand that you are on leave, Miss,’ Hedges said, also with added emphasis on the female title. ‘You’re not on this case.’
Jasmine knew she had no authority to argue with the two uniformed officers.
‘As a citizen,’ she added.
‘In that case I must ask you to do as we say and stay away from here,’ Jones said. Jasmine felt a flush rising up her neck but stopped herself from responding angrily.
‘Why are you two here anyway?’ she asked instead.
‘The estate’s part of our beat,’ Jones said, ‘and DCI Sloane asked us to keep an eye on the Parry house in case the boy returned and also to prevent any of the neighbours taking matters into their own hands.’ He nodded at the small crowd of passive watchers.
‘Well, thank you for being around when I needed you,’ Jasmine said trying to mean what she said.
‘Just doing our duty, Ma’am,’ Hedges said with a sneer.
‘I’d keep an eye on those two boys,’ Jasmine said ignoring the officer’s attitude, ‘I don’t think Kyle McLeery went far without them by his side. I wouldn’t mind a bet that they no more about what happened to him than they let on.’
‘I’m sure DCI Sloane is aware of that,’ Jones said, ‘Now are you going to move on Miss.’
Jasmine opened the gate and stepped onto the pavement.
‘OK, I’m going. Make sure you look after Mrs. Parry,’ she said
‘We know our duty,’ Jones growled.
Jasmine walked down the street noticing that the eyes of the watchers followed her all the way to the corner.
Back home, Jasmine paced in circles around her lounge. She was fuming about Jones and Hedges attitude, and the accusations of the Kyle’s young henchmen. The realisation came that getting worked up about it wasn’t going to help. She flung herself into the sofa and drummed her fingers on the soft cloth-covered arm. If she was to help Jenny Parry and find Daniel, before Kyle’s mates got to him, she needed information. There was only once source of information that she knew – Tom Shepherd. She picked up her phone and dialled his mobile number. The number rang for a few moments before a voice spoke through a growl of background noise.
‘DC Shepherd. Who’s speaking please?’
‘Hi, Tom. It’s me, Jasmine.’
‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. I didn’t recognise your home number.’
‘That’s because I’m not usually home. Where are you?’
‘In the car. I’ve been to the path lab.’
‘Oh, have you got some information?’
‘Information about what, Jas?’
‘Perhaps, but I can’t tell you Jas. You’re on leave.’
‘I know Tom, but look, I’ve said I’d help Mrs Parry get Daniel back, so I need information.’
‘We’d like to see Daniel Parry too, but you can’t go barging around as if you’re on the case, Jas.’
‘Oh, come on Tom, I’m not elbowing myself onto the case. I just want to help the woman and prove that the boy didn’t kill Kyle.’
‘Well, that remains to be proved. We’ve got some DNA evidence that doesn’t match McLeery so it might come from the killer. We’ll be looking to see if it matches the Parry boy. I’m on my way to his home now – a forensic team are on their way too.
Jasmine could imagine how upset Jenny would be when a team of overalled officers and Tom descended on her.
‘Look, why is Daniel even a suspect? He was scared of Kyle and wanted to keep out of his way.’
‘Being scared of him doesn’t make him incapable of killing,’ Tom said. ‘The reason he’s on our list is as I told you – his name and yours came up when we did a search. Oh, and some dog-walkers saw a boy matching Parry’s description with McLeery on the Common on Saturday.’
‘When on Saturday?’
‘Early afternoon.’ That was after Kyle had abused her in the middle of Kintbridge, Jasmine thought, but after Daniel had apparently left home.
‘How good is the identification?’
‘OK, but I suppose it doesn’t rule out there being another dark, short-haired, slight male being in the vicinity of the Common.’
‘Dozens I should think. Was Kyle alone?’
‘The reports only noted the two of them.’
‘That’s unusual in itself. Kyle usually had his tame thugs with him – for support.’
‘Not on this occasion,’ Tom said.
‘And that’s it – the last sighting of Kyle McLeery before he was pulled out of the pond?’
‘Yes. His mother didn’t see him at home. There’s no father or siblings, not in Kintbridge anyway. His friends say they didn’t see him either.’
‘And it was the last sighting of someone who could have been Dan Parry?’
‘Yes. Look Jas, I shouldn’t be telling you all this.’
Jasmine ignored Tom’s complaints.
‘Have you found the murder weapon?’
‘A length of steel tube was dragged out of the pond. It matches the injury on McLeery’s head. We may get some forensic from it. Look you’ve done it again. I mustn’t say any more. Good by Jas. Stick at home and enjoy your leave.’
The phone clicked and went silent. Jasmine grinned. She was glad that Tom couldn’t get out of their habit of discussing cases. They were buddies, partners, a team, a successful one as Sloane well knew. He hadn’t told her much but she had a few facts and a few conjectures to work on. Now all she had to do was track Daniel’s movements after he left Kyle on the Common, if indeed it was him. Where did he go?