This may be considered navel gazing but I thought this week I would consider further where I see myself in the gender selection-box. You may be satisfied with just male and female but actually it’s rather more complex than that. First of all let’s get this straight – gender is not sex and gender identity is not related to sexuality. For the vast majority of people sex is determined by whether or not they have a Y chromosome. If you do then under normal circumstances you were born with penis and testicles and a body that from puberty brims with testosterone; if not, then you have ovaries, uterus, vagina, clitoris etc. and at puberty felt the effects of oestrogen. A small proportion of children are born with genetic or congenital abnormalities that render them intersex, i.e. their sex can not be determined at birth.
Gender and gender identity are something else. As you grow up you become the sum of your genes and experiences. This process doesn’t stop at puberty or adulthood; you change throughout your life. You develop a feeling of who you are and where you sit in masculine-feminine spectrum. For most people this probably isn’t even a question they ever ask themselves. Their gender identity matches their body’s appearance and that’s all that matters. For a considerable percentage of us though, there is a mis-match in the person we think we are and what we look like.
Gender isn’t just male or female. If you think about all the people you know then you will realise that all the men don’t have the same personalities and neither do the women. There is a whole range of behaviour that positions a person somewhere on the gender spectrum.
For those of us who question our gender identity there are a number of pigeon-holes in which we can place ourselves, that’s if we are prepared to be pigeon-holed at all.
Transsexuals – are people who identify with a gender different to their physical sex. i.e. MtF or FtM. For many this feeling is so great that they detest the body that doesn’t fit with their self-image. They may decide to live as the person they identify as which will involve transition and may or may not include medical and surgical procedures to achieve that. Improvements in medicine and changes to the law and societal attitudes have enabled more people to transition in recent years. The media still focusses on celebrity transitions but is less sensationalist thanks to TV shows like Transparent and Boy Meets Girl.
Transvestites – are people who dress up in the clothes of a gender different to their sex. This applies almost exclusively to men dressing as women since in western culture the acceptable clothing choices available to women now include most, if not all, male attire. The thing about transvestism is that it reinforces gender stereotypes e.g. the tarty/show-girl look, the dress-like- Mum style, and so on. The transvestite almost feels obliged to adopt a look that enables them to pass as female (i.e. wearing wigs, false breasts and other enhancements). The term was originally applied to men who dressed up to get aroused so it has sexual connotations that I dislike.
Cross-dresser – means the same as transvestite but tends to be used by those men who dress as women for non-sexual reasons, but in other respects means the same as the above.
Transgender – is an umbrella term that covers all identities and behaviours where perceived gender and physical sex are at odds.
Gender queer and non-binary – are more recent terms adopted by people who reject the traditional labelling of male or female. Their appearance may be difficult to categorise as masculine or feminine e.g. Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst who wore feminine dresses while sporting a full beard.
Androgyny – a mixture or union of male and female (hermaphrodites with male and female sexual organs are androgynous). Previously, a woman who adopted a male appearance was labelled as androgynous (think flat-chested, short-haired Twiggy, or Tilda Swinton) but now the process is being reversed, with males adopting a feminine appearance without seeking to change or enhance their body shape.
Having thought I was a cross-dresser and occasionally wondering if I was transsexual I now feel that I fall into one of the last two categories. I don’t want to mimic a stereotype of a woman but I like the choices in dress, accessories and make-up that woman have available. How I look may make observers question what they see but I am no longer trying to fool them into believing I am something that I am not.
So, to the final episode of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (available from me and all good bookstores). Jasmine is definitely transsexual, by the way. This episode sets Jasmine up for Painted Ladies but, who knows, I may be able to fit in another story.
Perspective: Part 12
The meeting didn’t last long. DS Palmerston wrapped it up and the group began to disperse to deal with other work. DCI Sloane started to move towards his office. He beckoned to Jasmine.
‘With me, now please, DC Frame,’ he said. Jasmine stirred herself and followed him.
Sloane took his seat behind a desk covered with piles of files and the computer monitor and keyboard gathering dust on the side. Jasmine stood in front of the desk feeling a little like a naughty school boy, or girl, summoned for punishment by the headmaster.
‘It’s up to the CPS now,’ Sloane said as if continuing a conversation from another time and place, ‘Gayle will probably be charged with manslaughter but as he is still legally a child, he’ll be free soon.’
Jasmine blurted out, ‘What about the injury to his mother, carrying an offensive weapon and the robberies?’ She regretted her words immediately. It sounded as if she had a grudge against Nate Gayle. She was still pretty sore about being mugged and she thought Nate knew what he was up to despite his tender year but she didn’t actually have any ill feelings towards the boy. DS Palmerston was the hate figure in her eyes.
Sloane replied calmly, ‘We accept that Mrs. Gayle’s injury was an accident. As you heard, certain items were found in Gayle’s bedroom that did not belong to him but we have no statements from their owners and with William Smith dead it’s unlikely that the CPS will pursue that aspect of the case.’
Jasmine nodded. She didn’t totally agree with her DCI’s conclusions but perhaps now was not the moment to press her opinions.
‘The outstanding matters relate to your involvement, Frame,’ Sloane continued. ‘Your continued interference, even after suspension, was insubordination at the highest level. Indeed, it could be argued that Mrs Gayle’s wounding was partly caused by your presence in her house without her permission.’
Jasmine opened her mouth to complain, but Sloane held up his hand to stop her and went on. ‘Yes, I know your actions helped to slow the bleeding and you called for assistance, but you should not have been there or anywhere in the vicinity. Explain yourself, please Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I’m sorry, Sir, but I felt that DS Palmerston was following the wrong line of enquiry. She ignored what I had reported about my, er, meeting with Gayle and Smith, and my opinion on the involvement of the drag queens.’
‘The DS was following procedure and collecting evidence and statements,’ Sloane growled.
‘And excluding me, Sir, as she had done on every case she has been in charge of since she joined the unit.’
‘Are you accusing Detective Sergeant Palmerston of discrimination, DC Frame?’ Sloane’s neck had turned a shade of crimson and the colour was rising up his cheeks.
‘Now that you mention it, Sir, yes I think it is. She doesn’t like me or what I am and doesn’t want me working with her.’
‘You are deluded, Frame. DS Palmerston is a very able officer who makes efficient use of the resources and personnel that are available.’
‘She hasn’t made efficient use of me, Sir.’
‘The trouble is, Frame, that since you began this, this, what do you call it, transition, you see prejudice everywhere. I thought you had the makings of a good detective once. . .’
‘When I was a man?’
‘Well, since you put it that way – yes. Having decided you want to be a woman you have been distracted.’
‘I didn’t decide to be a woman, Sir. I am a woman. I decided that I needed to live in my true identity instead of continuing to live an act.’
Sloane’s upper lip crinkled and his eyebrows rose. Was he disgusted or merely confused?
‘Look here, Frame. I know that we as your employers have to allow you to do this thing of yours but in my opinion your performance as a member of this unit has become less than satisfactory and in particular your disobedience with respect to DS Palmerston is unprofessional in the extreme.’
Jasmine was unable to stop herself. ‘Unprofessional. That’s rich. She’s the one who is unprofessional, side-lining and undermining me at every opportunity.’
‘That’s enough,’ Sloane roared, his face now approaching beetroot colour. ‘You will remain suspended while your future in this unit, and perhaps in the force, is considered. I do not want to see you again in this office or station until you are summoned to explain yourself. Is that clear?’
Jasmine matched Sloane’s lack of restraint. ‘You can stick your summons, Sir. I’m resigning.’ She turned and marched from the office holding her head up. She heard gurgling noises from behind her but didn’t turn to see the look on Sloane’s face. She stared straight ahead as she crossed the larger office but saw in her peripheral vision that the whole team was gazing at her. There was silence. No one called to her and then she was through the door and walking down the corridor.
Did she have to resign on the spot in front of Sloane? Shouldn’t she have given it some thought, awaited the outcome of inquiry into her behaviour? No, she could guess what the result would be if DS Palmerston had any influence over it. She would be demoted at best, kicked out of the police force at worst. Pleading that she was a special case because of her transition was not on; she wouldn’t make that excuse, but she couldn’t think how to overcome Palmerston’s prejudice. She didn’t want to give up her dream job but she was convinced that she had done the right thing. There were implications; she knew that. Being without a steady job didn’t just mean she had no source of income for everyday living expenses, it also meant that she wouldn’t have the funds for the treatments she needed during her transition. What would be the reaction of the Gender Clinic? They might think that she was mentally unstable and refuse to support her through the process on the NHS. It could put back the changes to her body that she needed for years if not for ever.
By the time she saw the old red Fiesta sitting outside the house in the otherwise deserted street, she was thoroughly miserable. The car was inside a cordon of blue and white tape that blocked off the pavement as well as the front garden of the Gayle’s house. There was a solitary police officer standing guard at the front door. He looked up as Jasmine approached as if woken from a reverie brought on by boredom. He watched her step over the tape and approach the car. She put the key in the lock and pulled the door open.
‘Hey, what are you doing?’ he called out, advancing down the garden path.
‘Taking my car,’ Jasmine replied.
‘It’s in a restricted area.’
‘I know; I came here in it last night.’
‘You can’t move anything from a restricted area.’
‘Yes, I can when it has nothing to do with the case and belongs to me.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Detective Constable Frame.’ How many more times would she say that, she wondered.’
‘Frame? I think I know that name.’ The PC had stopped at the gate and looked nonplussed.
‘Look, if you’re anxious, call in to your boss and check that it’s alright for me to take my own car away.’
‘Er, yes, I’ll do that.’ He muttered into his radio. Jasmine leaned on the roof of her car with the driver’s door open. There were a few minutes of two-way conversation including a hiatus while the officer waited for a reply. Finally, he stood up straight and looked happier.
‘They say that’s alright. You can take the car away.’
‘Thank you,’ Jasmine gave him a broad and appreciative smile.
‘I’ll undo the tape for you,’ he said, moving to the front of the car and unwinding the tape from the bollards. Jasmine got in, inserted the key and turned the ignition. Now was not the time for the car to refuse to start, she thought. The starter motor groaned and the engine fired. She puffed out the breath she had been holding. Then she waved polite thanks to the PC and pulled away.