A little late in posting this week’s epsiode of Soft Focus. I have had to catch up the time needed to do the writing as this week has been a little busy. This isn’t a political blog, except perhaps where it affects trans people, so I’m not going to make comments about the election except to say that the result was a surprise, in some respects, and raises a lot of questions about our futures, both in the next year or two and the next fifty.
Anyway, to return to the main topic of this page – Jasmine Frame, independent transsexual detective. I hope that now the matter of the election is out of the way I will have the time needed to get Bodies By Design published, promote Painted Ladies, complete the third novel in the series and edit the five prequel novellas into a collection for pulication in some form or other. Lots to do – exciting isn’t it. So at last, here is the next epsiode of Soft Focus.
Soft Focus: Part 9
Angela set off determinedly along Pembroke Road towards the city centre.
‘Where are we going, Angela?’ Jasmine asked, walking quickly to keep up.
‘That’s where we’ll find The Women.’
‘You’ll see.’ Angela was obviously not in a mood for chat. They strode on side by side, both deep in thought. Jasmine re-ran her imagined sequence of the events of the last night. Now it wasn’t Martie who pushed Sila off the bridge it was another figure, clouded and indistinct in Jasmine’s view. Could it be a woman?
They reached the triangle of busy roads lined by shops and cafés. Jasmine noticed a couple of huddles of banner waving protesters. The nearest small cluster of men and women displayed boards reading “No war in Afghanistan” and “Islam is not the enemy”. Angela led Jasmine passed them and towards another group of people on the pavement outside a store also holding up placards and shouting loudly. As they approached Jasmine saw that the figures were women, all wearing jeans and a variety of anoraks or coats. The raised boards said things like “Stop sexism – ban lads’ mags”, “Say nuts to Nuts”, “Unload Loaded”. The slogans were repeated in the choruses of the women.
‘What are they doing?’ Jasmine asked although she had guessed the answer.
‘Trying to stop the sale of magazines and newspapers that treat women as sex objects,’ Angela answered.
‘They are the Radical Women?’
‘Largely. I don’t know them all but there’s Rachel. She’s the leader.’ Angela pointed to the centre of the small throng. A young woman with spiky hair was handing out leaflets with a semi-circle of the banner waving, chanting women behind her.
‘I think I saw her at the LGBT party last night,’ Jasmine said, searching her memory.
‘Yes, she was there with her partner Jo.’
‘Rachel’s the one we need to speak to then, is she?’
‘Yes, come on.’ Angela strode into the group of protesters and approached Rachel who was reaching out to passers-by attempting to avoid the group. ‘Hi, Rachel,’ she said.
Rachel paused in her attempts to hand out leaflets and looked at Angela. A frown was replaced by recognition.
‘Hi. Angela isn’t it? Come to join the campaign?’
‘Not at the moment. We want to ask you a question.’
Rachel looked at Jasmine who had stepped up to Angela’s side.
‘A question? What question? We’re rather busy here, you know.’
Angela nodded apologetically, ‘I see that but it is quite urgent. Did you see or speak to Sila last night?’
Rachel’s eyebrows shot up with surprise at being asked such a question. She glanced from Angela to Jasmine and back. ‘I saw him, yes, at the LGBT party last evening. I heard he’d jumped off the bridge.’
‘Yes, Sila’s dead,’ Angela said. ‘We’re trying to trace her movements before she fell.’
‘We think someone was with her,’ Jasmine added.
Rachel shook her head. ‘Well, it wasn’t me. I’ve got no idea what his movements were. I’m sorry that he’s killed himself but it’s got nothing to do with us.’
‘You keep calling Sila him and he,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, of course. He was a man wasn’t he?’ It was a statement not a question.
A mixture of annoyance and disbelief filled Jasmine. ‘She was a woman.’
‘A woman has a vagina,’ Rachel said, stating a simple fact.
Jasmine spoke slowly and carefully, trying to avoid the anger that was welling up inside her. ‘Sila was transsexual. She knew she was really a woman.’
‘That’s crap,’ Rachel said, ‘He had a penis and testicles. He was born a man and as a man he thought he could mince into our movement as a parody of a woman.’
‘No, you’re wrong,’ Jasmine’s voice rose in volume and pitch. ‘Sila believed that she was a woman. She was waiting for the treatment to turn her into the woman she wanted to be.’
‘Nonsense. You can’t change your genes. A bit of cosmetic surgery doesn’t change who you are.’
Angela spoke. ‘Rachel, I think a sex-change is a bit more serious than cosmetic surgery.’
‘It’s called gender re-assignment surgery, actually,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage although her heart was beating fast. ‘It’s not about sex it’s about giving the person the body that matches their gender identity.’
Rachel stepped closer to Jasmine and glared into her face. Jasmine could feel her gaze taking in the foundation covering her shaved chin, her hair as short as her own but with a more masculine cut. Rachel was obviously reassessing her first impression of her.
‘You know a lot about Sila,’ Rachel said coolly. ‘Are you a bloke trying to pass yourself off as a cute girl?’ Jasmine heard the last word as a sneer, an infantile female who wore short skirts and revealing tops; a traitor to the gender.
Jasmine’s first reaction, as always if she was threatened with outing, was to deny it, to insist that she too was a woman but the words didn’t come out. She couldn’t claim to be as feminine as Angela or Rachel or even as much as Sila who was living the female life full time.
‘I’m trans, but not like Sila. I’m a transvestite, a cross-dresser.’ There, she’d said it, revealed the truth about herself. The blood throbbed in her temples.
Rachel snorted and took a step away from her. ‘I thought so. A wanker who fancies himself so much that he even has to dress like the woman he wants to fuck.’
‘No, it’s not like that,’ Jasmine insisted. ‘I feel that I should be female. I support women and equality and feminism and all that.’
‘Nah, you’re just getting a thrill from acting like a tart. Just like Sila.’
Angela spoke quietly trying to keep the exchange calm and civil. ‘You’ve got it wrong, Rachel. Sila really did think she was woman and wanted to join your group because she shared your aims.’
‘That’s rubbish,’ Rachel said, ‘How could a man understand the oppression of women, when they just treat us a dolls for sex and trample on us. I told Sila last night, once and for all, to get lost and to stop trying to join us.’
‘You did speak to her last night,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, for two moments.’ She turned to address her supporters. ‘We sent him packing didn’t we? Told him to stop pretending to be a woman and crawl back into the cess-pit of male tossers where he belonged.’ The placard-waving line nodded and jeered their agreement.
‘You rejected her,’ Jasmine said.
‘No. We told him the truth. A man could not be a member of the Radical Women’s Movement, not even one who had his balls chopped off.’ Rachel said with more nods from behind her.
‘What did Sila do?’ Angela asked.
Rachel shrugged. ‘I don’t know. We went off for a drink and left him.’
‘You didn’t see her again?’ Jasmine said.
‘You didn’t follow her out to the bridge?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘No. Are you suggesting we pushed him off the bridge?’ Rachel stepped towards Jasmine with her fists clenched. The other women clustered around shouting “tranny”, “imposter”, “man”.
Angela pushed between Jasmine and Rachel, keeping them apart.
‘We’re not suggesting anything at all, Rachel. If you say that you and your friends didn’t see Sila again then that’s all we want to know.’
Rachel stepped back with a thunderous expression on her face. ‘Neither I nor my group had anything, anything I say, to do with Sila last evening, or at any time, and we certainly did not see her after we left the Union. Now get lost both of you. I don’t want to share the air with another Barbie doll drag artist.’
Jasmine opened her mouth but Angela grabbed her hand and dragged her away. The gang of women jeered and shouted until Jasmine and Angela had mingled with the Saturday shoppers.
Jasmine’s heart hammered in her chest. She felt rejected and humiliated. She wanted to hide in the crowd but feared that they were looking at her and recognising her as the impersonator that Rachel referred to.
Painted Ladies – A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksllers including Amazon