First of all a serious matter. This week has seen the publication of the House of Commons Report on Transgender Equality. The Women & Equalities Committee has been receiving submissions for some months on all matter of transgender issues. I have given it a quick read and I am impressed. For a start it recognises that trans is not just about people suffering gender dysphoria and undergoing gender reassignment. It recognises that there are people who identify as non-binary or agender who do not want to be medicalised or undergo hormone treatment or surgery. That is a big step forward.
The Report recommends: changes to the Gender Recognition Act – to remove the requirement for medical assessment and allowing self-determination of gender; the Equality Act – expanding protected minority status to all aspects of gender identity rather than just gender reassignment and putting transphobia on the same legal basis as other hate-crimes; re-affirming the right of anyone to be known by any name they wish (there is no such concept in the UK of a “legal name” which one must give when asked); and moves to de-gender a lot of bureaucracy such as allowing an X on passports denoting either no gender or gender withheld.
I applaud the members of the committee for their diligent work and thank all those that submitted comments or took part in the hearings. If all the conclusions and recommendations of the Report are followed up (and I have only mentioned a few) then life for many trans people, of various gender identities, will be much improved.
One comment in the Report, dealing with trans in the media suggested that it would be a step forwards if trans characters in drama actually had something in their characterisations beyond being trans such as being a nurse, doctor, police officer (actually commentator, MP Ed Vaizey said “policeman” which was a bit a faux pas). So come on media companies – take on Jasmine Frame!
And so to the final episode of Flashlight, the seventh prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Don’t worry. there will be an eighth, starting soon.
Flashlight: Part 15
His field of vision was filled by the shining blade as if he was looking through a telescope. James struggled to think of something, anything, other than that sharp edge slicing through flesh. With his eyes focussed on that sparkle of reflected light, he twisted to the right, pushing Dick behind him. The movement seemed to be in slow-motion while his thoughts raced. The point of the knife gathered momentum towards him, slashing at his left arm.
He watched the blade slice through the sleeve of his jacket and felt a searing line of heat as the tip caught his upper arm. Nothing stopped the knife though. It emerged from the cloth and carried on millimetres from his chest. As the blade passed he grabbed the wrist with his right hand and pulled.
The hand’s owner, already off balance, toppled head first past James. James released his grip on the arm and the attacker continued to fall across the corridor until his head met the dado rail on the wall, a metre above the floor. There was a loud thud and he fell to the floor.
Time returned to its normal pace. James sucked in a breath and found himself standing over the unconscious bovver boy with Dick cowering beside him. Sirens sounded and tyres screeched on the road outside the club.
‘He cut you,’ Dick said. James looked at his left arm. The neatly torn sleeve was red and blood trickled down his arm. James felt nauseous, his nightmares realised. Being cut and scarred was what he always dreaded. He clamped his right hand over the injured arm, not sure how deep the wound was. He looked along the corridor and then turned to Dick.
‘Don’t move,’ he warned, ‘There are more of them. Check that he’s alive.’
Dick crawled to the side of the assailant and bent to examine him.
‘He’s breathing, but out cold.’
‘Watch him. I don’t want him dying on us but I don’t want him getting away either.’ James was undecided what to do next.
Shouts of “Police!” and boots stomping on the club’s wooden floor gave James a feeling of relief. There were answering cries from the clubbers and the invaders. The corridor was suddenly filled by two officers in riot gear. They stopped and stared with their batons raised.
‘Don’t move!’ the leading officer said, ‘Who are you?’
‘DC Frame,’ James shouted and nodded to the floor. ‘This guy attacked me with a knife, the other one is helping with the investigation.’ He released his grip on his left arms and reached with a bloody hand into his jacket for his i.d. He presented it to the officer who glanced at it and then lowered his baton.
‘Are you hurt, Sir?’
‘A bit. Not sure how serious it is. Look, take care of this pair will you, but keep them separate.’
The officers moved forward, one bending over the skinhead and the other taking Dick’s arm. James gripped his arm again trying to staunch the trickle of blood.
Another figure filled the corridor. ‘Well, Frame. You’ve made quite an impact.’ It was DCI Sloane, looking as fresh and composed in his grey suit as ever despite it being the middle of the night.
‘Hello, Sir,’ was all James managed.
‘Two major incidents in one night, two back-up teams in riot gear. Not bad for your first case.’ James wondered if he detected a chuckle amongst the gruffly spoken statements.
‘I think we’ve broken up the drug ring based here,’ James said.
Sloane nodded, ‘So Sparrow informs me, and we have about a dozen suspects to question. We’re going to be busy for a day or two, but we need to get you treated first. I can see you’re bleeding.’
It was late-afternoon and James was sitting at a desk in the cramped office in Reading Police Station. James’ arm was sore despite the painkillers. A few stitches had knitted the skin and muscle together and his arm was held in a sling to stop putting tension on the wound. He yawned. After a couple of hours in A&E he had grabbed a few hours’ sleep but it wasn’t enough and the day had been busy processing the arrests. He was supposed to be typing up his account of the proceedings but it was slow work using just one finger on his right hand. He was having trouble accounting for his time in the lock-up garage with Baker and her accomplices, while dressed as Jasmine.
The door opened and DC Sparrow swept in. ‘Yes!’ she said punching the air.
James stared at her. ‘What…?’
‘Baker and Jefferson have admitted providing the overdoses to Murray and Butler who worked for the other drug gang,’ Milla said, bubbling with excitement, ‘and Baker has identified the pair that attacked her and ransacked her flat; the same couple we think that gave Natalie Peck her fatal dose.’ Despite working throughout the day without a break she seemed filled with energy.
‘What about the gang that attacked the Marquis last night?’ James asked.
Milla grimaced. ‘They admit to a bit of old-fashioned gay-bashing but we’re having trouble connecting them to the old mob in Reading. We’ll see if they stick to their story when they realise they are in for enhanced sentences for hate crime in addition to GBH on a police officer for one that attacked you.’
James didn’t feel victorious. ‘So the people that Murray and Butler worked for and who got Natalie murdered will get away with it and carry on business as usual?’
Milla nodded, ‘I’m afraid that’s true, but come on cheer-up, we’ve had a great result. Time to celebrate with the others. What are you doing?’
James glanced down at the computer screen. ‘Trying to write my report. How do I describe what happened in the lock-up?’
‘You don’t,’ Milla grinned, ‘You were with me, in the car the whole time, until I sent you back to the club. That girl, Kylie, who Baker and Jefferson have mentioned was an un-identified tranny they were recruiting. Somehow in the confusion she got away. No trace of her.’
James felt a weight lift from him. ‘And that’s it? I’m in the clear. No-one will know about Jasmine?’
‘That’s right. Sloane and the Chief Constable are delighted with us busting the new drug suppliers, solving the three deaths and putting a bunch of yobs behind bars. They’re not interested in some kid in a frock who got mixed up in it but had done nothing wrong.’
‘My pleasure, James. It was fun working with Jasmine. I hope she gets a chance to do more investigations in future. Perhaps you’ll feel confident about coming out someday. Look I’ve just got to go and have a few words with the uniform guys. Shall I see you in the King’s Head soon?’ The King’s was the local pub frequented by off-duty police officers.
James nodded. ‘I’ll get this finished and see you there.’
‘Great.’ Sparrow left. James got back to tapping on the keyboard but a few minutes later the door opened again and Sloane’s bulk filled the doorway.
‘Ah, Frame. I just met Sparrow and she said you were still working on your report. That can wait till tomorrow. You’ve had a busy twenty-four hours. I think you need to rest.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘You’ll be back in uniform for your next shift, Frame.’
‘Uh, yes, I suppose so, Sir.’ James hadn’t thought about his return to normal duties. Despite enjoying his usual work, it felt like a bit of a let-down.
‘But, ahem, with Sparrow leaving very soon there will be a post vacant on my team. I trust you will apply for it.’ Sloane stared sternly at James as if he might disobey the instruction.
Did he just hear what he thought he’d heard? Joy and excitement lifted his mood. He was going to be a detective, permanently.