So Jeremy Corbyn supports self-identification for transgender people. He says the Labour Party would support a Bill to modify the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical tests as part of gender reassignment. May’s government says it is considering the change but has not committed to making it. (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/19/let-trans-people-self-identify-gender-corbyn-urges-may)
What would it mean?
The most important effect would be the demedicalisation of gender identity. Like sexuality, it would become a personal matter. Changing gender would be as easy as changing your name. Once upon a time being gay was not only a crime but a medical condition which some doctors thought could be treated. Now, while identifying as something other than your birth gender is not a crime, transitioning to the gender you identify with does involve jumping through various medical hoops including proving that your mental health is good enough to make the decision. Already, the GRA allows transgender people to transition without undergoing surgery or hormone treatment but insists on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The proposed change would allow the individual to make the decision on their own, by right.
Self-identification could have wider beneficial effects. If gender is no longer seen as a medical issue then it could accelerate the breakdown of gender barriers and improve gender equality. Why demand a statement of gender to open a bank account, store account et al, if gender can be changed by personal decision? Why demand to know someone’s gender when they apply for a job hence bringing all sorts of bias into play? With many modern names gender neutral, a person’s character will be at the forefront not their gender.
I hope any changes to the law will not perpetuate gender stereotypes by insisting that a person declare themselves permanently male or female. If gender identity is demedicalised then it must become possible to declare that one has no gender, both or a mix. That would please me a lot. Let’s hope Corbyn and the Labour Party stick to their word and the Tory government (backed by the DUP) are not persuaded by the reactionary elements in their ranks.
You might have seen my news elsewhere that the cover of my new fantasy/speculative fiction novel, Cold Fire, has been revealed by Elsewhen Press. The e-book will be available in August and the paperback in October. It is a September Weekes story involving Welsh myth, C17th science, and my own vision of fantastic creatures. I love the cover and the interpretation of the creature – it’s red, flies and spits fire, so what is it?
Back to Jasmine Frame in Viewpoint, the prequel to Painted Ladies. Jasmine is investigating the death of a transman.
Viewpoint: Part 6
Hazel shook her head slowly and shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Alfie missed an appointment once before we saw him for the last time in October last year. I remember him being depressed and uncommunicative. We did get out of him that he was struggling to get by – no job, limited benefits, few friends in Weymouth.’
‘And getting nowhere with his transition,’ Jasmine added.
The nurse nodded. ‘That’s right. We couldn’t recommend him for medication and surgery in the state he was in. I worried if he was becoming suicidal.’
Jasmine flinched. She hadn’t considered suicide. Was she mistaken? No, she was almost certain Alfie hadn’t killed himself.
‘I’ve been assuming he was murdered,’ she said, ‘His body looked as though it had been dumped in the canal.’
Hazel looked grim. ‘Well, I can’t say what has happened to him in the last year. He didn’t come to his appointment; he hasn’t replied to emails and the last letter we sent was returned to us as “unknown at this address”.’
‘You think he moved from Weymouth?’
‘Where would he have gone?’ Jasmine was struggling to put herself into the mind of a depressed and lonely transman.
Hazel shrugged again. ‘The only other address we have is where he grew up. His father’s home. Despite everything his father was still his next of kin.’
Jasmine felt a surge of interest. Another lead perhaps. ‘What’s the address?’
Hazel flicked through the file. ‘Ah, here it is. Yew Tree Farm, Cindersworth, Hampshire.’
Jasmine gasped. ‘But that’s no distance from where Alfie’s body was dumped.’
‘Really?’ The nurse’s eyebrows were raised.
‘I don’t know the farm, but Cindersworth is a village south of Kintbridge. It can’t be ten miles to the canal. Surely, he wouldn’t have -’
‘Gone home to his father and killed there.’ Jasmine couldn’t understand how the young man could return to the parent who had abused him, but of course Alfie wasn’t the man he wanted to be, he was a confused and depressed transsexual.
‘His father was the only family he had,’ Hazel offered, ‘Sometimes the devil you know is the only one drawing you in.’
Jasmine jumped from the sofa. ‘I’ll have to call there. Can I borrow your computer – I need to find the location of this farm.’
‘Yes, of course. Let me call up Google Maps for you.’ Hazel returned to the seat behind her desk and started tapping keys. Jasmine looked over her shoulder.
‘There we are,’ Jasmine said, stabbing a finger at the screen. ‘Can you print it off?’
Hazel nodded and the printer under the desk started chuntering. Jasmine grabbed the sheet of paper and scampered towards the door.
‘Thank you for all your assistance,’ she called.
‘I hope you find out what happened to Alfie,’ Hazel cried after her.
Jasmine was in her car and about to set off when her phone rang again. She glanced at the small screen. It wasn’t Palmerston this time but Tom. She decided to pick up.
‘Jas! Where are you?’
‘Exeter. Just interviewed a nurse at the GIC that knew Alfie.’
‘That’s good, but you know Palmerston is furious don’t you.’
‘When isn’t she.’
‘Well, I suppose she is whenever your name is mentioned. She wants you back here.’
‘I expect she does.’
Tom’s voice became conspiratorial. ‘It may calm her down a bit if I tell her what you’ve found out.’
Jasmine considered for a moment. ‘Okay. Well Alfie Benson has been on the clinic’s books for six years but they haven’t heard from him in the last year. He wasn’t getting far with his transition because he was depressed.’ She paused. How much more should she tell Tom now?
‘Is that it?’
‘His birth name was Lucy Taylor. What have you got?’
‘Not a lot. That Weymouth address got us nowhere. Palmerston got the local cops to look in on it. The current tenant didn’t know an Alfie Benson and neither did any of the neighbours that they managed to speak to.’
‘Or they said they didn’t.’
‘Well, okay, perhaps. We haven’t managed to contact the landlord yet.’
‘So, you’ve got no leads on Alfie’s movements before he died.’
‘No, but it was definitely murder. Pathology says he was dead before entering the water and he’d been beaten severely.’
Jasmine was saddened by the news but wasn’t surprised. Was Alfie’s father the murderer? She wanted to find out.
‘Are you coming back then?’ Tom asked.
‘Yes, on my way.’ She glanced at her watch. It would be late evening by the time she got back to Kintbridge even without any detours.
‘We’ll be gone by the time you get here. Palmerston has called a meeting for seven tomorrow morning. She doesn’t think there are any leads to follow tonight.’
‘Even though she knows for certain that it’s a murder case?’ Jasmine was surprised at the DS’s lack of urgency.
‘As I said, no leads.’
Jasmine knew the real reason for the half-hearted attitude of her boss; the victim was TS and in Palmerston’s mind didn’t warrant her full attention.
‘Well, we’ll see about that. Bye Tom.’ She ended the call and turned off her phone. Peering through the windscreen into the dark, drizzly evening she didn’t relish the return journey but she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the gear lever forward.
The drive was frustrating and exhausting. Her eyes ached from peering through the drizzle and light rain, and she met lorry after slow lorry on the single-track stretches of the A303. It wasn’t surprising she was tired, she thought, after the day she’d had – a run, a ducking, mild hypothermia, the tension of a murder to investigate and the journey across country. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the fatigue which occupied her thoughts it was a mixture of her anger at Palmerston for . . . well, for being DS Denise Palmerston, and then there was Alfie Benson. What had he’d been thinking when he left his home in Weymouth? Had he returned to his father’s farm and was it there that he’d met his death?
A road sign reflected the not-so-bright headlights of the Fiesta. Straight ahead was her quickest way back to Kintbridge, the sensible route to her bed, but the sign reminded her of an alternative route, shorter if slower. It would pass near to Cindersworth and Alfie’s childhood home. She found herself taking the turning and joining the new road. It was a darker and narrower but quieter. The rain and the old Ford’s imperfect wipers caused her to lean forward to see the road ahead while looking out for signs.
A signpost to Cindersworth indicated a left turn. She braked hard, turned the wheel and was bumping up a steep, narrow lane. A traditional wooden sign loomed out of the darkness announcing that she had reached the village. She drove slowly past unlit cottages. Then she was back amongst hedges and trees and wondering what to do. The sensible thing would be to head on home but she saw the sign on a wide gate. It was a battered wooden board hanging from frayed ropes but the name was painted in white paint that stood out even through the mist. Yew Tree Farm.
She pulled up alongside the tubular-steel gate, wound down her window and peered into the night. There was a rutted track and a few dozen yards away the brooding presence of buildings. There were no lights, no suggestion that the farm was occupied. She got out and pulled the hood of her puffer jacket over her head and examined the gate. It had no lock or bolt, not even a piece of string looped over the gate post. She placed her hands under the top bar and lifted. The gate moved with a creak and whine of complaining hinges.
‘And who might you be?’
The gravelly voice caused Jasmine to drop the gate. She turned, trying to make out who had spoken. The shotgun attracted her attention first, the barrel glinting in the light from her car. It was hung over the shoulder of a man in an old waxed jacket with a tweed cap on his head. His face was dark and unshaven. He was an inch or two shorter than Jasmine but there was a sturdiness about him. The shot gun strap slid down his arm and the barrel rotated to point towards her.
……………………..to be continued.