I’ve been told a number of times that Jasmine Frame is a unique character, so as a break between posting episodes of Jasmine Frame stories I thought I would examine that assertion and what it means in terms of being transgender.
It is around fourteen years since I created Jasmine Frame as a transsexual detective. I first used her in an unfinished novel which I gave up on. I then used her and a couple of the other characters I had created, Tom Shepherd and DCI Sloane, in a couple of short stories which were published in the Beaumont Magazine. Then I began writing Painted Ladies and completed the first draft in 2009. Since embarking on the publication of Painted Ladies in 2013 I have written the second novel in the series, Bodies by Design, and the two episodic novella-length prequels, Blueprint and The Switch which were published here.
I feel pretty close to Jasmine now having lived with her in my head for those fourteen years. I think she has developed as a person while I have filled in her back-story. Although I have the bare outlines of a total of five novels taking her through her full transition I haven’t done what J.K.Rowling says she did with the Potter books i.e. I haven’t plotted out all the stories in detail. This has meant I am stuck with some timings that I put in Painted Ladies which has made the prequels a bit awkward in places.
The surprising thing is that in my fourteen years of writing about a leading character who is trans I have come across few if any similar characters. There have been novels, TV shows and films that have focussed on a trans character (Transamerica and Jimmy McGovern’s “Accused” with Sean Bean as a transvestite, spring to mind) but in all these cases the plot has centred on the trans nature of lead character. I have always seen Jasmine as a detective who happens to be trans. OK, her struggles and dilemmas as she transitions are an important part of her story and to date the crimes she has investigated have been trans related but I still think there is a separation between her life and her work not found in other novels and dramas that feature transgenderism. I am hoping that if a publisher or a TV company picks up Jasmine Frame then the stories can broaden out into other areas.
While proud of Jasmine’s “unique” status I have been worried about other similar characters emerging. Ideas can’t be copyrighted so anyone could decide to have a trans detective. So far it hasn’t happened but I worry that it might before Jasmine has achieved a place in popular fiction. Perhaps my worry is unnecessary because the trans scene is broad enough to encompass any number of characters – and that is the most important point.
Jasmine Frame is unique not because she is a transsexual detective but because she is an individual. She is not based on any one person that I have met or come across, and she’s not me. She does however have facets of her character that I have gleaned from my experience of the trans scene and she holds some of my views. The more I learn about transgenderism the more I see it fragmenting as everyone’s experience is different. There are common features but everyone who professes themselves to transgender or gender variant or whatever term they want to use, has a degree of uniqueness. As time progresses and society changes in the UK and elsewhere the personal stories change. I am sure that there are more young people (teenagers and pre-teens) who now feel able to express their trans feelings than there were ten or twenty years ago. I would guess that the average age of transition (and gender reassignment surgery) is falling as more opt for it in their early twenties. That is good as it means that people are having to suffer the agonies of being trapped in the wrong externally perceived gender for less time but whether the number opting for gender reassignment in their fifties or sixties will drop, who knows..
What is also changing is the break up of the old division between transsexuals and transvestites. Transsexuals can be pre- or post-op but still qualify for their gender reassignment certificate; some will stop before the completing the medical/surgical process (both MtF and FtM). For those who claim not to be transsexual there are a huge number of options from the closet dresser and secret lingerie wearers, to those that swap between male and female roles frequently and openly (like me), to those who declare that they have no gender or are third gender or between gender, and others that I have no space to list.
Any of these could (and should) be characters in a story. Jasmine is just one individual who feels and believes that she is a woman but has (at least initially) a male body. She is keen on clothes and looking after her appearance; she has had a loving and sexual relationship with Angela, her (ex-)wife; she is uncertain of her sexuality as she transitions to female but finds herself aroused by male attention; she wants to be feminine (whatever that means – a subject for another blog) but won’t be sidelined by the men in her profession. Her personality has been built by her experiences as a child, teenager, student and trainee police officer and detective, and by the places she has lived in (Southern England). She has likes – running, classic films, spicy food, disco music, short skirts – and dislikes – prejudice, drab clothes, housework, forms, knives. She dives into situations where perhaps a bit of forethought would be a good idea but she has a need to prove herself and be the one to solve a case. She is Jasmine Frame – the one and only.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.
NB The featured image is a mock-up of a cover design for Bodies By Design