Tuesday 17th May is IDAHOT (or IDAHoT) day, the International Day for Action against Homophobia and Transphobia. Public buildings around the world will be flying the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual pride. As usual trans gets lumped in with the LGB or to put it another way transpeople join with LGB people to declare their opposition to discrimination and hate. Since being trans is about personal identity and not sexual preferences it is a questionable whether the T should be in LGBT. However as a smaller minority than the LGB crowd, transpeople need all the support they can get. I am quite happy to support gays and lesbians in their campaign against hate crime and prejudice and I appreciate their acceptance and support for transpeople of all genders or none. Nevertheless, I have been asked whether I feel included in the rainbow flag.
There is a transgender flag, in fact, there are many different designs. Apparently the most commonly seen (shown here) was designed by Monica Helms in 1999 although I can’t recall having seen it fly anywhere. Actually I think it is a terrible design. The blue stands for boys, the pink for girls and the white for intersex (those born with parts of both sets of genitals). It is wrong for so many reasons. First, I would like us to get away from this labelling of pink and blue for girls and boys. Second, the division into two genders leaves out the non-binary or dual gender (whatever term you want to use) people who do not identify with just male or female. Last of all, the structure of the flag suggests that female is confined within the male, reinforcing male supremacy.
The rainbow flag itself has problems. It is not a true rainbow which shows infinite gradations of colour but is in fact a variation on the Newtonian seven colour spectrum (with the blue and indigo combined into royal blue) and suggests divisions between the different “colours”. Oh, and the bottom colour should be a much darker violet.
Why have flags anyway? Flags were invented to identify which side you were on in a battle or to show possession of a patch of land. Do we really want that symbolism?
Despite that I will show my support in the campaign against hatecrime of all forms on Tuesday by attending the flying of the flag.
So after that, here is the next episode of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.
Aberration: Part 3
The following evening, James found he was behind the bar with Kevin and another young man, but not Andrea. On the Friday evening though, Andrea was there washing glasses, serving customers, clearing tables. James attempted to engage her in conversation but she wouldn’t stop to chat insisting that there was more work to do. She was the same on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but as they were clearing up in the early hours of Monday morning, Andrea brushed passed James and slipped a piece of paper into his hand. As he left the pub, James read the note in the light of a streetlamp. It gave the location of a Starbucks in the centre of town and a time, 11 a.m. It ended with a greeting or a request, “See you there. A”. James smiled, put the slip of paper in his pocket and sauntered home.
Next morning was dry but cooler than it had been. Nevertheless, Jasmine thought it was summer dress weather. She spent a long time getting ready, striving for that natural, everyday look that took ages to achieve. At last she felt ready to hit the Reading town centre and put on her comfy sandals for the walk. She found the coffee shop easily enough and entered, surveying the customers for Andy. He was sitting at a table. He saw her as she stepped inside and rose to greet her. They exchanged a nervous kiss on each other’s cheek, then Andy insisted on buying Jasmine a coffee, black unsweetened.
They sat together at the table, set apart, a little further from the others, probably because it was near the loo. Jasmine guessed that Andy didn’t want his voice overheard.
‘Thanks, Andy,’ she began, ‘It’s nice to get out. Do you come here often?’
Andy nodded, then spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Now and again. Often enough so they know me behind the counter.’
‘It’s the opposite side of the town from home and my family aren’t likely to come in. They’re not fancy coffee drinkers.’ He sipped from his cappuccino.
Jasmine examined the young man. He facial features were a little softer than most blokes but his short hair and button up shirt and jeans meant he didn’t draw attention to himself. He slouched forward, round shouldered, resting his elbows on the table – a typical male pose.
‘You look good,’ Jasmine said.
‘So do you. Really girly.’
Jasmine glowed. ‘Thanks.’ She brushed hair from her face, leaned forward and said quietly, ‘Actually, wearing this wig is bloody hot. I wish I didn’t have to.’
‘Couldn’t you grow your hair? It’s blonde like the wig.’
‘I’d love to but I need short hair for the police force.’
‘They don’t like long hair then?’
‘It’s a matter of fitting in. I don’t want to be taken for a long-haired cissy.’
‘Don’t you want to be female all the time?’ Andy sounded mystified.
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to explain herself, largely because she didn’t know how she felt. ‘Look, I love being Jasmine. It feels natural despite the wig and the false boobs, but I don’t really mind being James.’ James was a cardboard cut-out she stood behind, was more like how she felt. ‘But there’s the career in the Police, which I really want to do, and there’s Angela.’
Andy smiled. ‘Ah, Angela. She’s lovely.’
‘She is. I adore her and want to marry her. She’s really great about Jasmine. We have lots of fun together, but I don’t think she wants to live with her one hundred per cent of the time, especially a Jasmine with real tits and no cock.’
‘So you’re happy to stay as you are?’
‘I think so.’ We’ll have to see, Jasmine thought, we’ve barely set out on our life together. Being a student couple didn’t count. ‘But you’re not,’ she added turning the conversation round to Andy.
His face fell. ‘I can’t get it out of my head. It’s banging away all the time. The feeling that my body’s all wrong.’
‘Well, do something about it,’ Jasmine said with a resolution that she realised she hadn’t applied to herself. ‘You’re an adult. See a doctor. It’ll take time but once you’re on the hormones the changes will happen quickly enough.’
Andy shook his head, ‘But my folks will go bananas. They’ll think I’m an aberration. Wrong in the head.’
Jasmine reached forward to take Andy’s hand in hers. ‘I know it’s difficult. I haven’t told my mother and father anything about Jasmine either.’
‘But you said your sister knows.’
‘Well, I haven’t got any brothers and sisters and you don’t know my parents. If I told them I wasn’t their daughter anymore, I’m not sure what would happen.’
Despite Jasmine’s questioning Andy wouldn’t offer any more explanation so she steered the conversation to less problematic areas such as the Athens Olympics. After an hour in the coffee shop they left and went their separate ways.
The days passed. Jasmine celebrated Kelly Holmes’ two gold medals and was inspired to do her own runs most days. She quickly found her fitness returning. The evening shifts behind the bar continued to be a chore but they did at least supplement Angela’s meagre salary as a trainee. At least they were starting to settle into something of a routine and making the most of the time off they had together at the weekends – the daytime anyway. She shared shifts with Andrea some nights but they didn’t chat to each other a lot. Instead, every few days Jasmine met up with Andy for a Starbucks coffee. The staff soon got to recognise them and Jasmine realised that they thought they were a normal girl and boy dating. She could not detect any recognition or reaction to them both being transgendered and she enjoyed the opportunity to be out. When Jasmine told Angela about her observations she laughed.
‘Do I have to worry about you having an affair with another bloke, Jas?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘No. We’re just good friends.’
‘That’s what they all say,’ Angela chuckled.
‘I know, but what I really like is being accepted as me. It’s not like when we were at university surrounded by other students, some of them doing far more weird things than dressing up as the opposite gender. Meeting up with Andy in town is like when we go out shopping or whatever. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who couldn’t care less what I am, or what Andy is.’
Angela nodded. ‘Good. That’s how life should be.’
On a Tuesday night in the pub there were four men at a table, each well into his thirties, having a good time. They were knocking back the pints and whisky chasers and getting louder. James noticed that they seemed to know Kevin well and kept on drawing him into their banter and jokes. James also saw how they treated Andrea. Kevin had told her to serve the group so she was constantly being called out from behind the bar. Andrea had not given into Kevin’s request so was still dressed in her jeans and sloppy t-shirt. This didn’t seem to put off the men. Hands gripped her thighs and buttocks as if assessing her like a prize ewe. When she leaned down to pick up glasses from the table, one or other of the men would lean forward to gaze at her breasts. James admired how she managed to keep her cool and do no more than ease the hands off her anatomy. At last the group got up and left the pub blowing kisses to Andrea and Kevin.
Next day, Jasmine met up with Andy at the café. She collected the coffees, it was her turn to buy them and set them down at the table they had come to think of as theirs. Andy stared at the cup.
‘Are you OK, Andy?’ Jasmine said as she sat down.
‘You’re not thinking about last night are you?’
‘The way those friends of Kevin pestered you.’
‘Oh, them. No, well I suppose a bit. Girls get that all the time.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to put up with it. Kevin should have stopped them.’
‘He probably thought I should have been wearing a short skirt to please them a bit more.’
‘If he said that it would be sexual discrimination,’ Jasmine said.
Andy sniffed. ‘Well, he didn’t, and if I threatened him with the law I’d probably lose my job and I can’t risk that.’
‘So what’s the problem.’
He shrugged. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that I suppose.’
The more Jasmine pestered, the less Andy would say but she had never seen him as depressed or withdrawn. They parted after half an hour hardly having conversed at all. Jasmine returned home looking forward to an evening off with Angela.
The next day, Thursday, was cooler and damp. Almost autumnal, James thought as he set out for his daily run. He now had a few regular routes which all included sections of the Kennet and Thames river paths. This time, having reached the Kennet, he turned left towards Blakes’ Lock and the town centre. He hadn’t gone far when he met a small cluster of onlookers and his way was blocked by a police barrier. James stopped and like the others looked upstream. About fifty yards away a number of uniformed people were milling around on the bank and on the water were two inflatable boats.
‘What’s going on?’ James said to his companions.
A man in his mid-fifties in scruffy jacket and trousers, a fag hanging out of his mouth, coughed. ‘They’ve pulled a body out of the water,’ he said.
‘A dead body?’ James asked, realising it was probably a silly question.
‘’Course, it’s bloody dead. Do you think anyone would go swimming in this?’
James had thought the water seemed fairly clean as he ran beside the rivers but he wouldn’t choose to immerse himself in it.
‘Anyone know who?’ he asked of the gathering not expecting a sensible answer.
‘Someone said it was a girl. She was definitely wearing a short skirt when they pulled her out,’ said a man in an office suit holding an umbrella over his head.
James decided there was no point to standing and gawping and he wasn’t going to be able to follow this route. He turned and started to run in the opposite direction.
At five p.m. he entered the bar. Just Kevin was there, checking the bottles of spirits. James looked around.
‘Where’s Andrea?’ She was usually there earlier, putting in the hours.
Kevin looked up at him, a blank look on his face. ‘She won’t be in tonight.’
‘Why not? Is she ill?’
‘No, she’s dead. They fished her body out of the Kennet this morning.’