One week from now we’ll be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford. 40 independent authors promoting their works. I hope there’ll be lots of eager readers (and buyers) browsing. I’ll have all my novels for sale.
For those of us who mix and match the genders a bit, the first of a two part documentary on BBC2, “No more boys and girls”, was a must. The presenter, Dr Javid Abelmoneim, wonders if gender stereotypical behaviour in children can be altered. For his experiment he has chosen a primary school on the Isle of Wight. As we know from our experience of living there, the IoW is not a multicultural environment so most if not all of the 23 pupils in the class are white. Perhaps that was deliberate as a mixture of cultures and religions may have added too many variables to the investigation.
Javid first made the point that male and female brains show very little difference i.e. there is more variation in the brains of one gender than differences between the two. Next he carried out tests on the children to reveal how stereotypical their ideas and behaviour was. I am sure the editing picked out the extremes but the children really lived up to the worst gender stereotypes with girls showing low-esteem and a concentration on looks, while boys were, well, boisterous and unable to describe emotions other than anger. Then Javid looked at the gender environment in which children are brought up. He repeated the experiment where adults entertain babies unknown to them with a large collection of toys available – they always pick the toys that match the gender-specific clothes that the babies have been dressed in – soft toys and dolls for babies in dresses; cars, robots and blocks for babies in trousers.
The teacher of the class, was, unusually, male, and while I admire his bravery in putting himself up for this experiment, he displayed the most gender-discriminatory teaching manner imaginable. He called all the girls “love” and the boys “mate” and directed the majority of his questioning to the boys. One of Javid’s interventions was to present the class with four people in careers that the children had already stated were not open to their gender – female car mechanic and magician, and male ballet dancer and make-up artist. The children reacted gleefully to the experience and seemed to get the message.
In a programme that is broadcast as much for entertainment as for education I am sure that the editing has been selective – the focus seems to be on four or five boys who are quite macho, and the same number of girls who are sensitive and low in self-confidence. What about the 2 in the class that statistically may grow up to be gay, or the one in five chance that one may be trans? The amount of useful evidence Dr Javid can muster with such a limited experiment is dubious. Nevertheless, I support the effort and the message that gender stereotypes are a cultural construct and that almost every adult is unconsciously responsible for maintaining this prejudicial behaviour with their every interaction with children from birth.
And so to episode 10 (yes, we’ve reached double figures) of the novella, Viewpoint, featuring transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.
Viewpoint: Part 10
The two men froze, glaring at her. Jasmine was sure the smaller was Riley but her main thought was how to get out. She tensed, ready to spring for the doorway but while she felt she could force Riley out of her way she didn’t feel confident of making it past the tough-looking taller man. They stepped towards her, side by side, reducing Jasmine’s options.
‘Who’re you?’ Riley said.
‘I’m . . .’ Jasmine reached into her pocket to pull out her warrant card. It wasn’t there. She’d left it on the dining table when she set out on this private expedition. She was on her own. ‘…looking into the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
‘What she on about?’ the tall man said in tones which suggested he wasn’t at the peak of cleverness.
‘Shaddup, Gary,’ Riley said, nudging his companion. He shook his head. ‘Don’ know that name.’
‘Perhaps you don’t but I think he was here, or perhaps you think Alfie was a she.’ Jasmine knew she was taking a risk by trying to drag a confession from Riley.
Her words spurred the sidekick to speak again. ‘Does she mean that queer tart we had, Paddy?’ Riley kicked him in the shins, and he let out a cry. ‘Hey whad yer doing?’
‘I told you to shaddap. This interferin’ cunt knows we kept a girl here now thanks to you opening your fuckin’ mouth. We need to shut her up. Get her.’
Riley advanced with Gary alongside. Jasmine stepped back, looking for an opening that wasn’t available. Her calves hit the bed and she toppled backwards. Riley and Gary dived on top of her. She lashed out with arms and legs, baring her teeth and biting any flesh that came close enough, but she couldn’t break free. A fist or a knee slammed into the side of her head and her body went numb. The light appeared to grow even dimmer.
‘Don’t kill her yet,’ she heard Riley say through the resounding waves of pain that echoed through her head. ‘We need to find out what she knows and who she’s told. Hold her down while I get the cord.’
Jasmine felt the weight of Gary pressing her into the thin mattress. He held her wrists in his fists and his knees pressed into the top of her thighs.
‘Don’ struggle or I’ll nut yer,’ Gary said. Jasmine released the tension in her arms and concentrated on breathing through the nauseating throbbing in her head.
With blurred sight, she saw Riley standing over her. He soon had her wrists tied to the head of the bed and her ankles to the foot showing a deft touch with the cords.. Alfie must have been held in this position, she thought, but what else did they do to him. She got some relief when Gary shifted off her and stood up. She tested the bindings but couldn’t move.
Riley sat on the edge of the bed facing her. ‘Now we can take our time to get answers from the bitch.’
‘Can we have some fun, Paddy?’ Gary said, looming over his boss.
‘Yeah, Gary, we sure can. Later.’ Riley placed a hand on Jasmine’s right thigh, above her knee. She felt his warm grip through her thick tights. She trembled. ‘Now, tell the truth and you may not get hurt, much,’ he hissed. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a private investigator.’
Riley snorted, ‘A private dick, or private cunt. What are you sticking your pretty nose into?’
‘I told you. I’m investigating the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
Through the pain in Jasmine’s head she saw Riley screw up his face as he considered her answer. His hand shifted up her thigh to the hem of her skirt.
‘I said I didn’t know that name but let’s be honest with one another since Gary gave the game away. Let’s assume you’re talking about the girl. Who hired you?’
Jasmine had no intention of being honest. The truth could get her killed sooner rather than a lie.
‘Friends in Weymouth. They wanted to know what happened to him.’
‘Friends!’ Riley’s surprise sounded genuine. ‘Taylor said she crawled back home ‘cos she had no friends.’
‘Kevin Taylor, his father, said that did he,’ Jasmine said.
Riley’s hand slipped beneath her skirt, gripping her thigh. There was realisation on his face that he had involved Taylor in the story. ‘Forget him. What I want to know is who really got you to look for this Alfie fella, and how you ended up here.’
Jasmine knew she had to keep Riley talking. If she clammed up and refused to answer his questions he might decide to use other methods to make her talk or perhaps just dispose of her.
‘If you had Alfie here you must know that he was transgender.’
‘Trans-what?’ Riley leaned forward and his hand shifted further up Jasmine’s groin. ‘What’s this he, she stuff? She was a miserable bitch and not a pretty picture. Both her tits had been chopped off.’
Jasmine tried to explain. ‘Alfie was born a girl called Lucy but he knew he was really a man. He didn’t want breasts. His mother died of breast cancer so he was able to have them removed.’
Riley seemed to ponder what she had said. ‘Taylor’s old woman died of breast cancer.’
‘Yes, that was Alfie’s mother. Taylor is his father.’ Jasmine was confused. Did Riley really not realise that Taylor had delivered his own daughter-turned-son to be abused and murdered.
‘Frigid cunt she was,’ Riley went on absent-mindedly reminiscing. ‘Didn’t like having a cock in her at all.’
Jasmine’s anger made her forget her position for a moment. She raised her head and spat out, ‘He was being raped, that’s why.’
Riley’s face turned thunderous. He leaned closer. ‘She had a fucking hole not a cock. She not he. All tarts want cock even if they make like they don’t. I bet you do too.’ His hand reached up to her crotch. Jasmine felt his hand close around her penis and testicles squashed against her groin by her knickers. He froze and his face turned pale. Jasmine closed her eyes and waited for her end.
The hand released her genitals and withdrew. Jasmine opened her eyes in surprise. Riley stood up and crept back as if wanting to put as much distance between himself and Jasmine.
Through gritted teeth he hissed, ‘You’re a fucking perv. A tranny.’
‘I’m a woman,’ Jasmine sighed. Even if she was going to die she was not going to relent in her belief in her identity.
‘You’ve a cock and balls,’ Riley insisted. ‘A fucking bloke. Gary! Do ‘im in. No bugger fools me and gets away wiv it.’
Out of the corner of her eye, Jasmine saw the tall man approach the bed. He held a long kitchen knife. Not a knife, she thought. She closed her eyes and waited for the thrust that would finisher her life. Somewhere in the distance she heard a door open and steps on the wooden floor of the hut.
‘What yer doin’ Riley?’
Jasmine recognised the Yorkshire burr of Kevin Taylor’s voice.
…………………………to be continued