I’m afraid it’s got to Sunday evening before I’ve had a chance to get down to writing this weekend so apologies for the delay.
I had a great time at Newport (Shropshire) Writing Circle on Wednesday doing my “Jasmine and me” presentation. I enjoyed reading bits from the Jasmine Frame stories, talking about her and me and how we are similar and different and discussing writing and publishing. Thanks Mark for organising it and to everyone who attended for your interest and acceptance. I know it must be strange meeting a trans-person for the first time. I meet new people often and I am delighted that they usually (always?) treat me as a “normal” person.
I hope I can do more sessions like that one – just get in touch to arrange a date.
Anyway to the purpose of this blog – writing about Jasmine. Here’s the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies.
Discovering Jasmine: Part 6
James felt sick hearing of the abuse that Cleo had suffered – was suffering. Was this the sort of thing all trans-people faced? Would he be the subject of taunts and physical attacks if he spent more time out as Jasmine?
‘Don’t you complain to the police?’ he asked.
‘Do I complain?’ Cleo laughed. ‘I phone the cops or call into the station every time the buggers do something. Is anything done? No. They sit on their arses and ignore me. They’ve even threatened to charge me with disturbing the peace. Yes, even in this bloody new millennium they’re still doing that.’
James looked at Cleo’s short skirt and cropped top and her figure that betrayed her years. Did the police think that she was deliberately provoking attacks?
‘I don’t understand. How do you put up with it?’
Cleo gave James a long look. ‘You’re young. Have you been dressing long? How much do you want to be a girl?’
James hadn’t expected the shift to his history. He flustered. ‘I…it’s been a few years; since I was a little kid, I suppose, when my sister dressed me up. More often now when I’m on my own.’ He couldn’t answer the last question. He had a boy’s body, a boy’s sexual longings – the frequent swelling of the thing between his legs was proof of that – but he felt comfortable dressed as girl. In his head he saw himself as a girl.
‘I think I’ll make us a cuppa and then I’ll tell you my story.’ Cleo stood up and went into the tiny kitchen. She filled a kettle and switched it on. ‘Milk? Sugar?’ she called.
‘A drop of milk. No sugar thanks,’ James replied.
Cleo emerged very soon and handed James a cracked mug. James looked at the pale brown liquid with distaste. The milk was on its way off and had formed globules of fat and there was a scum caused by hard water. He took a sip. At least it was hot, although being a warm day that wasn’t something he particularly wanted. Cleo returned to her dining chair and again took up her splayed leg sitting position.
‘So me,’ she said, ‘I didn’t start as young as you. I never had a chance in my house with two brothers. I was never on me own. But I did have me fantasies – being a girl, having a boy to buy me clothes and look after me. I thought it was just a fantasy and I did all the usual boy things – playing footie, chasing after girls, wanking over porno mags. Then I got married I found myself trying on Sue’s knickers and stockings and stuff. We’d moved away from our home and worked shifts so I was on my own for the first time in my life. I started getting my own clothes and going out. It was an itch I scratched whenever I could. That went on for years but I got careless.’
‘Your wife found out?’ James was listening with interest.
‘Yeah. She came home early one day and found me all dressed and made up.’
‘What did she say?’
‘She went ballistic. Said I was disgusting. I tried to calm her down but she made me move into the spare bedroom and promise to stop doing it.’
‘You agreed? You gave up being Cleo?’
‘For a while. I really loved Sue you see, and wanted to be with her. We didn’t have children, it was just the two of us, so I gave all Cleo’s clothes away.’
‘That must have been difficult.’ Even now, after just a couple of years of experimenting being Jasmine, James knew it would be horrible to give it up.
‘It was. I tried damn hard to stop it, but a few months later I was back picking up a few pieces of underwear. Soon I’d built up my collection again but now I was more careful to keep it secret.’
‘You didn’t discuss it with Sue?’
‘No. She ignored me if I ever tried to bring it up and acted as if she had never found out. But it changed how we were together.’
‘What happened next?’
‘Well, we went on for years like that. Not a happy time. No sex. I spent more and more time dreaming of being a woman. I found articles in magazines and newspapers that convinced me that I was a transsexual. I decided I needed a sex-change.’
‘How did you know you were transsexual and didn’t just like dressing up?’ James was confused.
‘I just knew that all my life I’d been living a lie. I hated my body, my meat and two veg and I wanted boobs. My head was fixed on becoming the woman I thought I was.’
‘Sue found out how you felt.’
‘I told her. I’d got to hating that she was a woman and I wasn’t. I was disgusted by my memories of having sex with her as a fella. I thought she needed to know that I was really a woman.’
‘From what you’ve said I shouldn’t think she was pleased about that.’
‘No. That was just about the last time we spoke to each other. She told me I was sick, to get out of the house and that she wanted a divorce.’
‘What did you do?’
‘What she wanted. I left, got divorced. Oh, and she was right. I was sick; sick of being a man. I went to the doctor and he told me I had gender dys-phor-ia.’ Cleo pronounced the diagnosis syllable by syllable
‘So you had you sex change?’ James was surprised to see tears appear in Cleo’s eyes. She had seemed to tell the story of the break-up with her wife without emotion.
‘It took ten years to get it. Ten years of fighting. Ten years of living as a woman while still having the body of man.’
‘Really?’ James didn’t understand. Surely if the doctors knew that Cleo should be a woman then it was easy; she just had to have the hormone treatment and the surgery and it was done.
‘Yes, really. First of all I had to convince the doctors and the psychologists that I should be a woman, then I had to prove to the gender clinic that I could live as a woman. I had to wait and wait and wait till I reached the top of the waiting list. My boss sacked me when he found out I was changing sex. I had no money to pay for the treatments myself.’ The tears were really flowing now and Cleo’s breasts were heaving. James was confused and embarrassed.
‘What do you mean “prove you could live as a woman”?’
Cleo sniffed. ‘It’s not just about wearing a skirt, false boobs and a wig you know. You have to show you can live in a community while obviously trying to look like a woman; go to the shops, get a job or at least have a very good reason why you haven’t, and if you haven’t, do voluntary work or something.’
James was beginning to realise that swapping genders could be difficult. Was it something she wanted to face? She didn’t know but she was interested in hearing more of Cleo’s story. ‘How did you manage?’
‘It was bloody hard. Sue took the house and should have paid me my share but she couldn’t sell it for ages and anyway the bank took most of it as repayment of the mortgage. I did find a job eventually, stacking shelves in a supermarket. They put me on the night shift so the customers wouldn’t have to look at me. Social services found me a flat – a real dump worse than this. I started on the hormones but they take years to have much effect particularly when you are as old as I was.’
‘But you did it. You lived as woman.’
‘Yeah, I did, and put up with the abuse. I lived in some grotty areas where I got abused every time I went out in public, beaten up a few times.’
‘Like last night?’
‘Worse. But eventually I got to the top of the list and had my op. I thought I was there.’
James realised there was a “but” at the end of Cleo’s statement. ‘You weren’t?’
‘No. I thought, yippee, I’ve breasts and a vagina instead of a cock. I’m a real woman. I was hoping to find a bloke to fuck with. I forgot that I still had the belly and shoulders of a fifty-five year old bloke and a face that had been shaved every day for forty years. Hormones can’t bring back your youth or turn you into Marilyn Monroe.’
‘I still got called “tranny” and worse. I moved when the council found me a place but the abuse followed me – just different abusers.’
‘But you still go out,’ James couldn’t help adding, ‘in your mini skirt and heels.’
Cleo guffawed. ‘Yeah, I do love me short skirts. People tell me I should blend in, dress my age. What? And look like Giles’ grandmother.’
‘Drew cartoons with this old woman who looked like she been hit by a bus and the bus had come off worse.’
‘Why shouldn’t I wear what I like? What right have those buggers to shout at me or beat me up just because they think I look like a joke? I’m hurting no-one.’
‘Um. You’re right. But it must be difficult for you having to face the people who are taunting you.’
‘Yeah. Some days I just want to curl up in my bed. Other days I want to tear their bleeding heads off. That would get me into trouble with the fuzz.’
‘Perhaps if you could just get the police to do something just once, it would put them off.’
‘Charge them for assault.’
‘I don’t know who they are. I recognise some of them and I know they live round here but I don’t know their names. Anyway, the cops won’t bother to investigate if it’s me making the complaint.’
‘But that’s just the point.’ James was getting g excited. ‘Last night it wasn’t just you. I was involved too, and the guy pulled a knife on me.’
Cleo scratched her chin. ‘Hmm, you’re right. The cops come down like a ton of bricks on kids that use knives. And last night was pretty public.’
‘We’ve got to identify your attackers and get the police to arrest them.’
‘How are you going to do that?’
‘I don’t know yet, but I’ll think of a way.’ James put his barely sipped mug down on the stained carpet and glanced at his watch. ‘I’d better go.’ He stood up. ‘I’ll get in touch with you. What’s your phone number?’
‘No phone, can’t afford it.’
‘Okay. I’ll call on you again when I’ve had an idea.’
James headed to the door with Cleo behind.
‘Thanks lad. I’ll look forward to seeing you again.’ Cleo stepped passed James, unlatched the door and opened it on the chain. Having checked outside she closed it again, undid the chain and pulled the door wide open. James stepped out and heard the door slam behind her followed by the rattle of the chain being fastened and the lock turned.
He left the block and strode up the path to the road. After a few steps he froze. Facing him were six boys of about his age in baggy jeans, t-shirts, trainers and baseball caps.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon