Jasmine and September

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProAnother weekend, another Bookfair (or author-signing-event as they are sometimes called).  Today it is Wellington in Shropshire – almost local.  Let’s hope this event actually attracts keen readers who want to browse the books on offer and even buy some.  It will be my first opportunity to offer Cold Fire for sale, in advance of my official launch next week (Leominster Library 2.00 – 6.30 p.m. Thursday 19th Oct.).

Last Saturday I was in the position of reader at Crickhowell Literary Festival. A very pleasant event in venues scattered across the town. One talk, or rather discussion, featured two ex-policemen who had (or are) retiring having fallen to PTSD. They had turned to writing to express their feelings and ended up publishing books, one fiction (supposedly, although it reads more like an autobiography with added action) and the other an non-fiction account of his career and illness.  I don’t know how good the books are (I’m reading one and am not impressed) but both picked up publishing contracts with apparent ease. Why – because of their jobs (senior Met officers); because of their undoubtedly exciting life-stories; or, because they are good writers? I wonder.

I finally got round to watching the Horizon programme on transitioning by transsexual men and women. It followed half a dozen, mainly trans-women, as they embarked on the medical aspects of transitioning, not just gender-confirmation-surgery, but also vocal chord surgery, testosterone injections for transmen, et al. All the subjects made the point that social transitioning i.e. coming out to family, friends and colleagues, was the most difficult part however painful and difficult the surgery.  It was a good, straightforward account of what transsexuals have to go through to achieve the bodies they want (need?), with enough bloody detail to make you want to look away from time to time.  All the subjects seemed well-balanced and cheerful even if they had had difficult times earlier in their transition, but the programme did not attempt to make judgements or bang a drum for more gender clinics or increased availability of surgery.

20170930_130307I was interested, but not for myself.  It is Jasmine that is a transwoman seeking to achieve the body of a woman and prepared to accept the pain and discomfort that involves.  The fourth Jasmine Frame novel, Molly’s Boudoir, which I am writing in fits and starts at the moment, takes place as, and just after, Jasmine has her GCS, but even that won’t be the end of her transition.  Although in law a woman and now with a vagina she still seeks that alteration that makes her appear more feminine and thereby matches her self-image.  I am not the same.  For many years I have been uncertain of where I stood.  While I feel a degree of femininity, I have never wanted to go through everything that Jasmine wants. Now, I think I have found my place in the spectrum.  I’m gender-fluid; I am comfortable wearing feminine clothes, jewellery, make-up, but I oppose any sort of gender stereotyping, detest exceptional macho-male behaviour but do not see in  myself a girly or motherly woman.

As I mentioned, the 4th Jasmine novel is taking some time to write partly because of other things happening round here, and the time taken to promote Cold Fire along with my other novels. There is also a hint of a demand for another September Weekes novel (the fifth!) while I have ideas for other novels in different settings with different lead characters. Perhaps soon I’ll have more time to think and write. . . How many times has that been said.  Watch this space.

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Jasmine in her own words

As you read this, assuming it is just after it published, I am hopefully selling books at the Sandbach book-signing event. This is the second of these bookfairs that I’ve attended and there are more happening over the next year. I am hoping that there will be hordes of eager readers willing  to dip hands in pockets to buy books from me and the dozens of other authors.  If there aren’t then it will have been a waste of writing time.

51cn5-pvU3LGender remains up there in news and comment consciousness. I note that next week’s Horizon is concerned with transitioning and being transsexual.  Gender is also the subject of this year’s Royal Society science book of the year.  The prestigious award has been won by Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (published by Icon Books).  Apparently Fine challenges the pre-eminent position of testosterone in driving male psychology and the fundamental role of biological sex in the development of gender identity and culture.  I haven’t read it yet but I am looking forward to doing so and seeing the responses. It has already received many reviews.

Gender fluidity is even a theme of  W1A the BBC spoof of, yes, the BBC. For those of you who don’t watch the sit-com it is concerned with the knots the BBC management ties itself in to try to appear balanced, inclusive, on message, and popular. The theme involves a retired footballer who has come out as trans, who wants to be a football pundit (on Match of the Day) but who is actually quite rubbish at it. If he is booted off the programme the management don’t want it to appear because he wears a dress, and so the farce builds. I love W1A and all its characters and I am hoping they have got this right. I hope it never slides into treating a bloke in a dress as being funny in itself.

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cover mediumLast week I completed the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Viewpoint.  There will be a rest now for a few weeks while other things take precedence.  The main event coming up is the launch of the paperback version of Cold Fire – watch this space.  To fill the gap here is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while –  Jasmine speaking for herself. In fact it was suggested that this whole blog should be “written by” Jasmine.  Here is her autobiography.

Jasmine Frame – in her own words

While I was waiting for the date of my gender confirmation surgery, my doctors suggested I might like to write about myself, my journey, my life. So I have. In some ways, it is a final farewell to James Frame, in others it is a search for an explanation of who I am.

I was born in 1983 in Hastings on the south coast of England. Nothing special in that and nothing at all special in my early years. My father was an engineer on some big civil projects so was away quite often. My mother stayed home until I went to school and then went back to work for the county records office. She had a history degree and was an amateur archaeologist. Apart from me there was my sister, Holly who is four years older.

My earliest memories are of playing in a park with Holly and Mum. I have no early recollections of being gender confused or of denying I was a boy. I don’t think I was even conscious of gender until I was quite a bit older. However, I do recall playing with Holly and her friends. They never seemed to mind me being around when they were trying to get on with their own play but I do remember them using me as a sort of large and animated doll. I suppose lots of girls make use of their younger brothers in the same way and I am sure that we don’t all end up trans. Holly dressed me in her old dresses which for some reason Mum kept even when they no longer fitted. I seem to think I was quite happy to go along with the play and actually enjoyed the feel of the smooth and shiny satin and the swish of the dress on my legs. Holly went off to high school and more grown up interests while I got on with my own growing. I had girl and boy friends at primary school, played with Lego and cars as well as enjoying arty pastimes. I do realise now that I was a little bit of a loner, always content with my own company and not much of a team player. In fact, I didn’t get into team sports at all.

It was during my last year at junior school that I discovered that I could run a bit. My parents took up my teachers’ suggestions and enrolled me at the local athletics club. Throughout my secondary school career, I practiced regularly and often with boys and girls. I was county age-group champion at 400 and 800 metres at various times. The fact that I was competing in boys’ events was barely an issue.

It was only when puberty slugged me with a right hook that I became conscious of gender. It sounds silly but I don’t think I had thought about what growing up as a man or woman meant. Holly had her education and career mapped out, certainly not planning on getting married early and having children soon. With Mum taking on more hours of work as I got older I never saw men and women as being different with respect to employment. But growing facial hair, my voice breaking and getting erections made me realise that I was a boy – at least physically.

I was about fourteen when I began to have the thoughts. Perhaps they were a throwback to Holly’s dressing games but I realised that I didn’t want to turn into a hulking, macho, testosterone fuelled bloke. That’s when the urge to find another persona for myself started to take hold; and a different character meant different clothes. Although Holly was about to go off to university, she was still living at home and some of her clothes were left in her bedroom even when she was away. I began to experiment. Holly and I were a similar size then, in fact, I’m only slightly taller than her now.

The feel of a skirt, of a tight top, of tights and yes, finally, a bra, became familiar. At first it was exciting and arousing. I worried myself sick when once or twice I nearly spurted cum over Holly’s skirt. Soon though, becoming Jasmine ceased to have any masturbatory effect and simply became me in girl mode. It was the late 90s by now and I had access to a computer at home and the internet. I found out words for what I was – transvestite, transsexual I wasn’t sure which – but I did realise that being found out could make life difficult.

Fear of discovery did not stop me experimenting with Holly’s and Mum’s make-up. During holidays, when both were out of the house, I ventured out into town. I avoided the cafes and parks where my friends and school colleagues hung out, and instead went shopping. I used my pocket money to buy a few items of my own. With my blonde hair, quite long at that time, and fair complexion, I found I passed easily as a girl. Shop assistants, even if they sussed me, were eager to make a sale so I had few difficulties.

I became a little complacent I suppose and took to adopting my persona as Jasmine whenever I had the house to myself. That was why when I was 17, Holly discovered my secret. I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty calm and was soon advising me on styles of dress and cosmetics. She helped me keep my secret from Mum and Dad.

Going to Bristol to study for a history degree was a big move. I was free to be myself, or was I? Surrounded by other students I could have been drawn into a male world I suppose. As it happened the first guy I met turned out to be gay and he introduced me to other gays and lesbians. I was persuaded to let on that I was trans. And then I met Angela. She wasn’t a lesbian, no way, but she had friends who were and was very open. We hit it off straight away and for some reason she was as keen on Jasmine as James. For a time, I attended lectures and seminars as James but spent a lot of my social life, largely with Angela, as Jasmine, but gradually they all blurred together. Life was so busy and fun that I didn’t really consider where I stood on the gender spectrum or what would happen when university life came to an end. All I was sure of was that I wanted to be with Angela and she felt the same about me.

Of course, we were having sex, eagerly and often, from early in our relationship. She was the woman and I was the man – I had the penis. Making love was very pleasurable but I noticed that when we were having intercourse I could imagine that it was me being penetrated not Angela. It didn’t bother me – we were both feeling satisfied and I enjoyed being Jasmine.

Finishing university was a bit of a shock. We joined the real world embarking on careers, finding somewhere to live and fitting into society. I had settled on the police as a career. Why? Well I suppose my brief adventures with the law had sparked my interest and history seemed to have elements of crimes investigation. I was lucky to be recruited and to get on a training course. I had no real idea what the police reaction would be to my gender flipping although the Gender Recognition Act was just coming into force, but I thought it wise to keep Jasmine hidden from my superiors and colleagues. Angela was getting into her career in commercial accountancy and we decided to make our relationship official by getting married.

If I had thought that getting down to work as a police officer, with all the training that involved, and putting a home together, would make me a man I was wrong. Being Jasmine was a way of relaxing but I also found that increasingly my feelings about being a woman were growing. The urge to be female became more intense and I didn’t want to stop it. Angela was very understanding. Perhaps she had realised all along that that was the path we were on.

Becoming a detective and member of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was the peak of my ambition, but it also brought increased stress. Now being Jasmine permanently became my greatest desire. I resisted it for a time because I knew, we both knew, that it would mean Angela and I splitting up. Then it was still necessary for married couples to divorce if one of them wanted to transition and obtain a GRC. Finally, though, the decision had to be made. Angela was supportive, so was Holly, but my mother wasn’t. Dad had died from cancer, a few years earlier and now she thought she was losing the other man in her life.

I started transitioning in the summer of 2010. I knew Angela and I would part. The sex in our relationship had always been important to her and she had always been straight. Whatever my fantasies had been she had always taken delight in having good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I didn’t want to take that away from her but also didn’t want to be piggy in the middle of an “open” marriage. So we split, and I moved out. Angela was by now earning far more than my police officer’s salary and the financial separation was relatively straightforward. What I had not bargained for was my career falling apart. The police service management was helpful and supportive but that couldn’t be said for one or two of my colleagues. Perhaps I could have and should have stuck it out but I didn’t and so Frame Investigations was born.

Then Viv appeared on the scene. I’m dearly looking forward to having the body I’ve imagined myself to have for years. The future is a bit misty but I am looking forward to entering it as Jasmine Frame.

……………………………

 

 

 

Jasmine at an ending

In the last week there have been two minor bits of news that have got me fuming. The first was a secondary school’s announcement that it was introducing a gender neutral school uniform.  In other words all the students, male, female and gender-fluid, would have to wear the same outfit of trousers, shirt and, I think, blazer and tie. They said this was to be inclusive to transgender students. I don’t think they actually asked any pupils for their opinions or ideas before making the decision, perhaps they did, but I doubt it. The point is that the uniform is not gender neutral, it is male. Now, girls often wear trousers and a shirt but I doubt whether all girls want to wear trousers and a shirt all the time.  I’ll come back to that in moment.

The second item was the “Christian” mother and father who withdrew their “confused” six year old son from a C of E primary school because the school had allowed another pupil who had been classed as a boy to wear a dress.  It’s not clear whether the gender-variant pupil was making a permanent change from male to female or was taking it day to day. In this case the school was following the law of the UK, following the 2010 Equality Act, recognising that gender is not dependent on what bits you have between your legs and giving transgender people the same rights as every one else. Secondly the C of E recently adopted, at last, an inclusive and welcoming attitude to transgendered people of all ages.  The critical parents have no cause to complain about the school’s action and if they want to lock their child away from an inclusive and diverse society they can home-school him. I fear for their child. The other child I hope will continue to receive support from his school, parents and peers.

What irritates me is that both cases show people just not getting this gender thing. If a school really wants to have a gender neutral uniform policy then allow all students to wear what they like within a set list of trousers, skirts (or dresses), shirts, blouses, and whatever else is deemed necessary. The clothes themselves are not gender specific; it is people that make stereotypical assumptions about what people wear. There is nothing about a skirt that makes it exclusively female other than preconceptions. Also of course, gender identity isn’t just about clothes, but that’s a longer story.

Gender stereotypes are not only discriminatory to those who identify with a gender that does not match their physical attributes. They also have a negative effect on boys and girls generally.  99% of boys are happy being boys and probably never think about their gender. The same applies to 99% of girls. But stereotypical attitudes such as girls are weak, cannot do maths, while boys are boisterous and don’t do emotions, hold back boys’ and girls’ development in many different areas. I would advocate removing all stereotypical gender clues from homes, schools, everywhere in fact, and let children’s gender identity grow naturally. The result may be more rounded characters of boys and girls, and more toleration of those that are different to the 99%.

………………………….

Next Saturday I will at another Bookfair, once again offering my Jasmine Frame and September Weekes books for sale at very generous prices.  Come and have a look around Sandbach.21231716_1488469007907635_8734692676374905958_n

And finally, we’ve reached the final episode of Viewpoint, chronologically the last prequel before Painted Ladies.  Comments welcome.

Viewpoint: Part 14

DC Kingston looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
‘I see. Stay here. Taylor’s in the next room, but when Tom and Terry have finished talking to him they may send him back to the cells. I’ll be back soon.’ He turned and left the room leaving Jasmine sitting with a cold cup of coffee and cold slice of toast. She ate the toast.

Almost half an hour passed and Jasmine was fidgeting with boredom. At last the door opened and Derek entered.
‘We’ve got response teams looking for your Harold up and down the canal. Tom and Terry have just finished Taylor’s interrogation. He didn’t answer any of their questions. The custody officer is going to take him, back to the cell in a minute or two. Come and stand in the corridor.’
Jasmine got up and followed her colleague. They stood a few feet along from the door into the other interview room. The moments passed and Jasmine wondered what she should say to Taylor.
A burly uniformed officer passed them and opened the door. A few seconds later, Kevin Taylor emerged. He looked more dishevelled than before, with another day’s growth of beard and heavy eyes.
Jasmine stepped into his path. He stopped and looked at her without registering recognition.
‘I didn’t meet Alfie, but I know what he went through,’ Jasmine began.
‘Don’ know an Alfie,’ Taylor recited like a well-rehearsed refrain.
‘You called him Lucy, but he’d never been your daughter. You knew it, really. Before he left you beat him for saying he was a boy and making himself look masculine.’
Taylor stared at her, not responding, but his eyelids flickered.
Jasmine went on. ‘When he went to Weymouth he got help. He managed to have his breasts removed. But it wasn’t because he was trans. Do you know why he was able to get it done?’
Taylor stood impassive but his head almost moved from side to side.
‘It was because of his mother, your wife, who had supported him. Alfie had her genes and had a high risk of getting breast cancer. So, they gave him the mastectomy that helped him become the man he knew himself to be. But you, his only remaining parent, denied him.’
‘He wasn’t my girl,’ Taylor blurted.
‘Not your girl, but the same person he’d always been. The child of you and your wife, left in your care after his mother died.’
‘It was a bloke that appeared on my doorstep. He said he was my son. I told him I only had a daughter.’
‘He wanted your help. A father’s help.’
Taylor cried out. ‘He wasn’t my girl.’
‘He was the same person,’ Jasmine repeated.
‘She’d had things done to her. Like my darling Rosie. It made me angry to see how she’d changed.’
‘So angry that you had to get rid of him?’
‘Riley said he’d see to her.’
‘He took him away, kept him prisoner, hurt him. You gave your son to two heartless thugs who thought they could have their sadistic fun with someone they barely thought of as human, because you had rejected him. They beat him, raped him, killed him.’
Jasmine saw Taylor’s eyes widening in horror.
‘I didn’t mean them to kill her,’ he appealed. ‘I didn’t know what Riley and Owen were like. When he told me that Lucy was dead I didn’t know what to think.’
‘But they had to get rid of the body so you helped them.’
‘I didn’t know what else I could do.’
‘You helped them put the bodyin the back of your car and drove it to the canal.’
‘Yes.’
‘And dumped the body of your son in the water.’
Taylor raised his hands to his face and sobbed. ‘Yes.’
Derek Kingston stepped forward and took Taylor’s arm. ‘I think we’d better go back into the interview room, Mr Taylor. Perhaps you will answer some questions now that we’ve heard you admit to helping dispose of your son’s body. Maybe you’d like the solicitor that you refused earlier.’
Taylor, shrunken, with tears streaking his grubby cheeks, nodded, and was led by the custody officer back into the interview room.
Derek turned to Jasmine. ‘Thanks. We got our breakthrough. Why don’t you go down to the canteen and get a fresh coffee.’
Jasmine nodded and trudged off reluctantly. She wanted to complete the job and get Taylor’s signed statement admitting his part in Alfie’s death, but she accepted that she wasn’t going to be given that opportunity.

She sat alone at a table, with a steaming mug of instant coffee, munching a soggy sausage roll. The canteen was quiet at this time of day, just a few officers and civilians chatting on their break. The canteen wasn’t very cheery but it was a place of refuge from the often-frenzied work taking place on the floors above. She took a sip of coffee thinking it would probably be the last time she would have to drink the not very palatable fluid.
‘Derek said he’d sent you down here.’
Jasmine looked up to see Tom standing over her. ‘Hi, Tom.’
‘Sloane asked me to find you. He wants to see you.’
Jasmine put her mug down. Another coffee that would turn cold. She stood up. ‘Okay then. I don’t suppose he wants to congratulate me.’
‘You did get us a result, Jas. Derek said how you got Taylor to break down. That was great work.’
‘I was letting my feelings out, that’s all. I just wanted that chance to tell him about his son, making him see that Alfie was the same person as Lucy. The little girl he thought he had brought up had become a young man. Unfortunately, a depressed and disappointed young man.’
‘Well, however you did it, Taylor is now answering questions and with the evidence we’ve got and a witness statement from your mate Harold, we’ve found him by the way, the case against Riley and Owen is wrapped up.’
They climbed the stairs to the V&SCU office. The main room was empty but the door to Sloane’s own office was open.
‘You’d better go in,’ Tom said, urging Jasmine forward. She crossed the room and tapped on the door before stepping into the inner sanctum of Sloane’s domain. He looked up from the pile of files he had in front of him.
‘Ah, Frame.’ His nose creased as his eyes took in Jasmine’s tights, skirt, bosom and lipstick. Jasmine stood in front of his desk not surprised that she was not invited to sit down.
‘I understand that the body in the canal case is all but completed,’ the DCI said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied wondering what was coming next.
‘So, you can go home and resume your final leave prior to the termination of your employment at the end of the month,’ Sloane continued.
‘Yes, Sir.’
Sloane sniffed and drew in a breath. ‘I am sorry that this is the conclusion of our acquaintance.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine found herself stuck in a rut of affirmatives with nothing else to say.
Sloane hadn’t finished however. ‘When you joined this unit, Frame, I had high hopes for you and indeed at first you showed that you had the potential to be a fine detective. But, this change you’ve undergone, are, um, undergoing, has unbalanced you. You have become insubordinate, impetuous, careless of your safety, and have placed responsibilities on your colleagues. That is not good in a member of a team, so while I am sad to lose an officer I think you have made this parting inevitable.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks beginning to flush. ‘Please, Sir, may I say something.’
Sloane’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Yes, of course, Frame.’
She summoned the words for what she felt. ‘The Police Force has been very helpful concerning my transition, Sir, but I don’t think my senior officers in this unit have been so understanding. I was side-lined and left to do the in-office tasks instead of joining in other aspects of investigations. Jobs which I had shown I had an aptitude for. Even in this case, DS Palmerston ignored the information that I supplied regarding the victim.’
Sloane puffed out his cheeks. ‘DS Palmerston has been a very successful senior investigating officer. In fact, I recommended her for promotion to Detective Inspector and as a result she is moving to another post, in Warwickshire, I believe.’
‘Palmerston is leaving?’ Jasmine said, feeling simultaneously victorious and disappointed.
‘Yes. It means I have two places to fill – one for a DS and one a DC. But that won’t concern you Frame. I understand you are becoming a private detective.’ His nose and mouth creased with disdain. ‘I hope you are successful in your new career.’
‘I will be, DCI Sloane, I will be.’ Jasmine turned on her heels and strode out. She passed Tom as she crossed the office.
‘Oh, Jas,’ he called, ‘here are your car keys.’ He held out the Fiesta’s key fob. She took it.
‘Thanks, Tom.’
‘I hope she starts okay. Derek had a bit of trouble last night bringing her back.’
‘She’s temperamental, Tom.’
‘Like her owner.’ Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper, ‘I heard you having a go at Sloane about Denise. I didn’t know she was leaving.’
‘Well, there you are Tom, your chance to get your Detective Sergeant post. Good luck.’
She walked out of the office, waving goodbye to Tom and her career as a police officer.

The End

 

Jasmine empathises

There is a row going on about whether human rights in the UK will be damaged by the Brexit Great Repeal Bill. I don’t want to see any reining back of our rights as human beings but I have to say that as a gender-fluid person I am feeling more comfortable when I am out and about. Either that or I’ve lost all feeling of being examined and judged.

While I dress in skirts or dresses, and wear jewellery and make-up I don’t try, any longer, to mimic a woman by wearing false breasts or a feminine wig. Yet visiting a number of different towns in recent weeks I have been struck by how comfortable I feel and the lack of strange looks.  Everyone who I have spoken to has treated me as a normal person which is very gratifying and encouraging.  I wish everyone, regardless of their colour, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or disability felt the same.

I hope I am not being naïve.

 

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With Sharon, a lovely person, especially as she purchased all three Jasmine Frame novels

Last week’s trip to Llanidloes went very well and I was fascinated by the tattooed convention goers. They are themselves, perhaps another maligned community, but for that weekend I (in male persona this time) was in the minority. But they bought some books which was great and I had a good time with the other authors and visiting an area of the country I adore.

 

I returned cheered and more optimistic about my writings and publications, so here is the next part of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder, follow sequentially over a fairly short time period after this story.

Viewpoint: Part 5

Jasmine let out a silent yell of glee and quickly wrote down the information in her notebook and on a slip of paper. She tapped at the computer keyboard and printed out a map, then stood up, picked up her jacket and strode to Sloane’s office.
‘There. I’ve got an i.d. on the victim.’ She dropped the notepaper in front of the DCI. ‘He was on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. There’s his name and address although that is apparently over a year out of date.’
Sloane picked up the piece of paper and read out the name. ‘Alfie Benson. Male? Why do you say that this address in Weymouth is out of date?’
Jasmine had the answer. ‘The GIC says that he has not replied to their letters and emails for a year so they are not sure he was living there before he died.’
Sloane continued to stare at the note. ‘Why was, er, his body dumped in Kintbridge if he was living in Weymouth?’ he muttered.
‘Exactly.’ Jasmine turned away and started to walk out of the office.
‘Where are you going, Frame?’
‘Exeter.’
Sloane growled, ‘DS Palmerston told you to work here.’
‘I’ve done what she wanted. I’ve identified the victim. Now I’m going to speak to people who knew him.’
‘Why not go to Weymouth?’
‘Because I know there are people at the Exeter clinic who can tell me about Alfie. There may be no-one in Weymouth who knows him.’
‘DS Palmerston is in charge of the case, Frame. She’ll allocate her staff.’
‘I’m the best person to speak to the GIC staff. I attend one myself.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for Sloane to come up with any other reasons for her to stay. She hurried to the exit. Sloane didn’t follow nor call after her.

Jasmine glanced at the dashboard of the Fiesta. Petrol was low. She hadn’t thought about fuel when she leapt into the car and headed south out of Kintbridge. The old car wasn’t going to get all the way to Exeter on the fumes left in the tank. As the wipers half-heartedly dispersed the rain from the windscreen she saw the sign for a service station ahead. She pulled in, filled the tank and went into the shop to pay. It was then that she realised that it wasn’t just the car running on empty. It was past lunchtime and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She bought a BLT sandwich and tore open the packet before she got back into the driver’s seat. She set off again along the A303, munching on the bread.
It was another two hours and already getting dark when she reached the city. Now she had to find the clinic from the address and the map she’d pulled off the computer back in the station. She had a sudden desire for a satnav or one of those smart phones that included one. After one or two mistakes, she pulled into the parking area at the front of a large Victorian house, just as her mobile phone gave out its ring tone. She dug it out of her bag, saw that it was Palmerston and dropped it back in. The phone fell silent.
Jasmine approached the main door, found it unlocked and stepped into a hallway that had once been grand but now needed a fresh coat of paint on the walls and woodwork. A reception room was on the left. There were two people sitting waiting. One was a middle-aged woman in a knee length dress and sheer tights with shoulder length blonde hair. A wig, Jasmine guessed. The other was a young man wearing track suit bottoms and a hoody. They were sitting apart and avoided eye contact with Jasmine. She knew how they felt. When she had first attended her GIC she had felt like hiding and thought that everyone was staring at her and wondering about her gender.
A woman in white uniform sat at a desk. ‘Can I help you?’ she said in a welcoming voice.
Jasmine pulled her warrant card from her pocket and showed it to the receptionist. ‘I’ve come to speak to a nurse, Hazel Sullivan, who I’ve been in contact with.’
‘Ah, yes, Hazel is on duty. I’ll see if she is available.’ She picked up a phone and put through a call. She spoke quietly and soon put the phone down.
‘Hazel will see you now. She’s in the office next door to here.’
Jasmine said thank you and left the room noting that the two pairs of eyes of the patients, or clients, followed her covertly. As she looked up the hallway to see where she was headed, the door opened and a short, chubby, woman in a blue nurse’s uniform stepped out.
‘DC Frame?’ she said advancing towards Jasmine with her hand outstretched.
‘Yes, Ms Sullivan?’ Jasmine said shaking the hand.
‘Hazel. Come on in,’ she said as she turned and re-entered the room. Jasmine noted that it was furnished partly as an office with a desk and two chairs and partly a lounge with a small sofa and armchair grouped around a coffee table. Hazel pointed to the sofa.
‘Take a seat. This is where we chat to patients. It’s a bit more welcoming than the medical examination rooms.’
Jasmine nodded. She settled herself on the sofa and tugged her skirt down her thighs. ‘I’ve been in a similar room,’ she said.
‘Ah, yes. You’re GD too. How long have you been in the system?’ Hazel sat in the armchair and examined her closely.
‘It’s nearly two years since I decided to transition but only eighteen months since I began. Then it was six months before I got my first appointment.’
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, it does take a long time, if you have to go with the NHS.’
‘Like Alfie?’ Jasmine was relieved to move the conversation away from herself.
‘That’s right, but he was with us longer than you have been.’
‘Oh, how long?’
Hazel leapt up to pick up a folder from the desk. She opened it.
‘Six years,’ she said, ‘He was just eighteen when he had his first appointment.’
‘So, he was twenty-four now, when he died.’
‘That’s right.’
‘That’s quite a while to be in the queue,’ Jasmine commented.
Hazel frowned. ‘It is, but Alfie was in and out of it a bit.’
‘Why?’
‘He had mental health issues – depression. There was always the question about his fitness for transitioning.’
‘That held up his treatment?’
‘Yes, and he was never able to apply for his Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘But he lived as a man.’
‘Oh yes.’
‘And he had a double mastectomy,’ Jasmine added keen to confirm Alfie’s maleness.
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, that was his one bit of luck, if you can call it that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘His mother died from breast cancer when he was a teenager and his aunt, his mother’s sister, died of it soon after. Alfie had a test and was found to carry the BRCA gene. Do you know what that means?’
‘Yes. Alfie was likely to get it too.’
‘Alfie was offered the mastectomy as risk-reducing surgery. It would have been delayed if there was a chance pf Alfie having children but he insisted on having it immediately. All FtMs want rid of their breasts. He refused breast reconstruction but because he was under our care we managed to get some cosmetic treatment to give him a more masculine chest.’
‘But that was as far as he went?’
‘Yes. There was the possibility of having his ovaries removed for a similar reason but it was delayed and as I mentioned we have lost touch with him in the last year.’
‘What about hormones – was he on testosterone?’
‘Not with us. The question-marks over his mental state meant that we couldn’t prescribe him medication. There was one occasion when he got testosterone off the internet. He nearly got thrown off the programme for that.
Jasmine sighed. ‘So, he was probably depressed because he couldn’t get treatment for his gender dysphoria.’
Hazel shrugged. ‘Probably but that wasn’t the root cause of his mental problems.’
‘Oh, what was?’
‘Well, I’m not a psychiatrist, but his notes suggest that it was the loss of his mother just when he was going through puberty – growing the breasts, having periods, all that – and the abuse by his father.’
Jasmine’s eyes opened wide. ‘Abuse?’
‘He beat Alfie when he refused to wear dresses and when he had his hair cut short, and he raped him.’
‘Did this come to court?’
Hazel shook her head. ‘Alfie didn’t reveal it until he came to us and he didn’t want to go to the police. He left home at sixteen and was a bit of a mess. It’s quite amazing that he got himself together enough to even start coming here.’
Jasmine was struggling to take in what Alfie’s life must have been like to transition with a father like that. She realised that she had had it easy – an understanding wife, generally supportive family and friends and a helpful employer, up to a point. But the difficulties she had experienced with DCI Sloane and DS Palmerston gave her some feeling for the turmoil that Alfie had undergone. On top of the abuse from her father, Alfie had faced the catch 22 of not being deemed sane enough to go through life-threatening and altering surgery so was left in an intermediate state.
‘Alfie still had his original birth certificate,’ Jasmine stated. Without a Gender Recognition Certificate, he couldn’t have changed that document even though he’d changed his name.
‘That’s right. The name he was given at birth was Lucy Taylor.’
‘Oh, he changed his surname too?’ Jasmine had kept her surname when she transitioned but she knew that some transsexuals used the opportunity of changing their forenames to give up every aspect of their former lives.
‘Yes, Alfie didn’t want any reminder of his father. Benson was his mother’s maiden name.’
Jasmine scribbled in her notebook. She stopped and looked at Hazel. ‘So why did he stop responding to your letters and messages?’

………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine returns

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A selfie of me at the Pride event that was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival

I did something earlier this week that I didn’t used to do.  I was giving a talk about being transgender and mentioned both my male and femme names. At one time I would never reveal my male identity when I was being Penny, but my use of two names is one of the remaining  indications that I can’t completely get rid of my gender stereotypes. I may have given up wearing a wig and false breasts to accentuate my femininity but I still present myself as male or female.  Gender fluid, I think I am, but non-binary is a difficult concept to realise. Most people still want to categorise you as one or the other and forms still demand a title without giving a genderless option – unless you happen to be a Dr or Rev.  Most important is the need to blend in rather than making an issue out of my gender.

I chose my femme name a long time ago because I didn’t consider that my male name, Peter, worked for me as a female.  Yes, I know there are feminine variants such as Peta and Petra (I have known women with both those names) but I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wished I had one of those names that could be used for either gender. There are names used by both genders, such as Evelyn, Hilary, Leslie/Lesley, Lee/Leigh and Robin (male in UK, female in USA) or names that have a genderless diminutive e.g. Chris (Christopher/Christine), Alex (Alexander/Alexandra), Nicky (Nicholas/Nicola) etc. There are new names which are genderless  such as the hippy names  River and Willow, and others, like Jayden, that I don’t know where they come from .  As I am not going to change my legal name then I think I am stuck with Peter and Penny although I may use them interchangeably.

Choosing names for characters is one of the important but fun parts of planning a story. A character’s name must not be anachronistic and can convey their origins both in ethnicity and class.  I chose Jasmine as the femme name for my transsexual detective, back in 2001, because I thought it sounded a little unusual and exotic. In fact it is a much more common girl’s name than I thought but I’m afraid Jasmine is Jasmine now. Many of the trans characters I have created have pairs of names that connect such as Glen and Glenda when Jasmine was acting as a transvestite and Sandy/Sandra (both spoilers from Painted Ladies.). Vernon/Valerie and Gerald/Geraldine (The Brides’ Club Murder), David/Diana (Darkroom), Andy/Andrea (Aberration) are some of the many others. I don’t think that trans people do choose names like that but I think it helps readers to connect the male and female sides of the character.

There are no new names of characters yet in Viewpoint, the new prequel to Painted Ladies, but we’re only at part three so far.  Here it is.

Viewpoint: Part 3

Jasmine let the hot water cascade over her for minutes longer than her usual showers. She knew the electricity meter would be spinning but she waited till the last vestige of cold had been driven from her body. All the while she saw that cold corpse lying on the towpath. She tried to make sense of what she had seen. When she finally turned the shower off she felt she had an image of the person it had been, and she was worried.
She stepped from the cubicle and quickly wrapped a towel around herself, not merely to dry her body and keep warm but to avoid having to see herself naked. Her body didn’t match her self-image. Surgery was needed for the most dramatic transformation but that was a long way off. Nevertheless, now she was taking the drugs she was hoping for some changes but the hormones had yet to make a noticeable change to her figure. The doctor at the gender clinic had not been too confident of her developing the breasts she desired and nothing could change her broad shoulders and narrow pelvis. Still, she had hopes that one day her body would be recognisably female.
Once dressed in thick tights, a colourful but short woollen skirt and a thick jumper over her bra and false breasts, she prepared her breakfast. She was later than usual and there were things to do – not a lot, but she needed to continue preparations for going into business. She was munching a piece of toast and peanut butter when her mobile phone gave out its urgent ring.
She picked it up and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Tom Shepherd calling. Of course, they would want a statement from her on the discovery of the body.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Jas! How are you? Have you warmed up?’
‘Yes, I’m fine now, Tom, but it was cold out there.’
‘Yeah. Look, you’re needed here.’
‘Where?’
‘The station.’
‘For my statement?’
‘Not just that. Sloane wants you on the case.’
Jasmine felt her muscles tense and heart beat increase.
‘But, Tom, I’m not part of the team any more. I resigned. Remember?’
‘I know that, Jas, but you’re still employed to the end of the month, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, I know, but what is it called? Gardening leave? I’m not expecting to work as a police officer anymore. I’m sure Palmerston doesn’t want to see me in that office again.’
There wasn’t an immediate reply but Jasmine heard conversation at the other end, and one familiar raised voice. The muffled exchange was brief.
‘Frame, are you there?’ It was DS Denise Palmerston’s voice blaring at her from the phone.
‘Yes I am. I thought I was talking to DC Shepherd,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage.
‘Well, it’s me telling you to get yourself to this office, now!’
‘I’m not part of the V&SCU,’ Jasmine insisted, knowing that she was just dragging out the inevitable. What DS Palmerston wanted she invariably got.
‘Do you want me to send out a car to arrest you for obstructing an investigation.’
‘No, but . . .’
‘You are still a police officer, DC Frame. Get here now.’ There was an abrupt click of the call being ended. Jasmine imagined that if Palmerston could have slammed the phone down on its cradle she would have done. Perhaps, fortunately, you couldn’t make the same gesture with a mobile phone.
She wondered why her senior officers were so keen to call her into the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office. It surely wasn’t because Denise Palmerston valued her assistance on a case; her tone revealed her discomfort at that prospect. So why had DCI Sloane taken the initiative of bringing her in? That presumably was the cause of the DS’s anger – having to accede to her boss’ request. Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to facing the female detective again but she was intrigued enough by the case and the reasons for her recall to want to find out more. She pulled on her boots, put on her old puffer jacket, grabbed her bag, dropped her phone in it and was about to open the door when she remembered the electric fire. It had been blasting out heat on full power now for a couple of hours and she had got used to the comfort. She turned the fire off knowing that the flat would be cold when she returned but did not want to deplete her meagre funds.
She got into the red Fiesta and turned the ignition key. She was always grateful when the engine started but was not sure how she could perform as a private detective, which would presumably mean a lot of time spent on the streets, with the battered old Ford. At least it was pretty undistinguished and she could not foresee being able to afford a newer model until her income grew, if ever.
It took just a few minutes to drive into the centre of town and to pull into the police station carpark. That action felt both familiar and strange – it wasn’t something she had expected to be doing after walking out a couple of weeks ago. She tried to feel confident as she entered the building and strode passed the desk.
Sgt Gorman glared at her and growled, ‘I thought you weren’t coming back.’
‘Sorry to disappoint you GG but this is as unexpected for me as it is for you.’ Jasmine continued through the secure door without a hesitation. She climbed the stairs to the unit office and only paused, for just a moment, as she pushed the door open. There was a small group of people standing around the whiteboard, the sign that a case conference was taking place. Tom Shepherd turned his head, saw her and smiled. He drew himself up to his full two meters plus height and nodded for her to come and join him. The other two male officers, Derek Kingston and Terry Hopkins, like Tom were facing DS Palmerston who was at the board.
‘Ah, we have Detective Constable Frame,’ Palmerston said. ‘We are pleased to see you, aren’t we gentlemen.’ Her tone revealed the exact opposite but Kingston responded with a smile towards her. Hopkins managed to hide any emotion at her reappearance. ‘Come and join us and give us the wisdom of your experience,’ Palmerston continued in the falsely gracious voice. Jasmine took her place beside Tom, and undid the zip on her jacket. She wasn’t going to make it look as though she had slipped comfortably back into her old environment, but it was warm in the office.
‘We were going over the facts in the case,’ the DS explained. ‘We have a body with no clothes or means of identification so our first problem is finding out who this woman was.’
Jasmine half raised her right hand as if in a classroom. ‘Um,’ she muttered to draw attention to herself while wondering if she needed to or even desired it.
‘Yes, DC Frame,’ Palmerston’s eyes glared at her as if wishing to strike her dead for daring to interrupt. ‘You have a contribution to make.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, ‘I don’t know how much has been reported about the body, but I don’t think the deceased was a woman.’
Palmerston’s eyebrows rose and her cheeks took on a pink tinge. Jasmine felt, rather than saw, the three men stiffen beside her. They were either expecting the DS to explode in rage or had been jerked out of their complacency by her words.
Denise Palmerston spoke softly and slowly, ‘I know you were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia at the time, DC Frame, but I am sure that you in particular might have noticed that the body lacked a penis. In fact, she has, according to the pathologist, the complete female genitalia – vulva, vagina and clitoris. But of course, you don’t consider them a necessary part of being a woman do you.’
The three male officers squirmed. Jasmine told herself to remain calm. To have made such a blatant reference to her pre-op transsexual status Palmerston was obviously going to the limit to incite her.
‘Yes, I did observe that, ma’am,’ Jasmine said equally quietly and carefully, ‘I also observed that the body had had a double mastectomy. Coupled with the short hair and a hint of beard growth I suggest that the person was a transitioning transman, a female to male transsexual.’
‘There are other reasons for having a mastectomy,’ Palmerston’s voice had risen a few tones. ‘Cancer for example. She was a woman.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘We have different viewpoints,’ she said, ‘but I think the possibility that I suggested should be taken into consideration when seeking the i.d.’
‘I think DC Frame has a point.’
The three men and Jasmine turned to see the speaker, DCI Sloane, standing in the doorway of his office as imposing as ever in his three-piece grey suit.
Sloane went on, ‘I think you should take the possibility that this person presented as a male in planning the investigation.’ He turned around and returned to his office. Jasmine wondered how much he had been listening to the exchange between her and Palmerston.
The DS sniffed, shook her head and pulled herself upright. ‘We shall use all the evidence available to identify the victim and determine what and who caused her death.’

…………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine meets the brides

Support for populist power-seekers is gathered by generating fears: the migrants/refugees will take our jobs/homes; all muslims are radicalised terrorists out to kill us; women are being attacked in public loos by men in dresses. None of these assertions are true and I refuse to use the current term of “alternative facts” for them as anything called a fact has evidence to verify it. By encouraging these fears, the alleged perpetrators can be turned into figures of hate and the people’s anger used to boost the support of those peddling the lies. That is the tactics of the Brexiteers and Trump-fanatics.  In certain parts of the USA it is also being used to build suspicion of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth anatomy.  Some states have passed laws that forbid transgendered people from using the lavatories they feel comfortable with although how the law-enforcers are supposed to prove who is entitled to use a particular toilet escapes me.

As with all things American, thanks to the media, social and traditional, similar issues are beginning to arise in the UK. Here however the law is different.  The UK has the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. A bearer of a gender recognition certificate is, in law, the gender they say they are, regardless of the bits of anatomy between their legs. Those people are also protected from the discrimination by the 2010 Equality Act.  For the rest of us the picture is less clear.  Transsexual men and women who have not had time to get the certificate or have not met the criteria and gender fluid people like myself who flip, have no such protection. Nevertheless, we occasionally have to use a loo and we choose that most appropriate for our appearance. Although we may not have the weight of the law behind us anyone wanting to stop us has to be certain that we are not the gender we are presenting as. The evidence is hidden in our knickers and very few people have the right to delve in there. Thus no transgendered person should ever have their gender questioned by an ordinary citizen.

imgp5648I don’t believe that there has ever been a case of a man in a dress attacking a woman in a wash room. The fear is completely unwarranted. Neither do I think anyone would be harmed at seeing another person washing their hands, combing hair or applying make-up and appearing a little effeminate or masculine, depending on which facilities we’re talking about. In other words it is a manufactured fear which is being used by some to generate anger towards those whose are in a minority.  The solution is to accept people for who they say they are rather than ban them or provide them with alternative facilities (as is happening in some schools). This only serves to discriminate by setting the minority apart from the majority.

I hope sense will prevail, but I doubt it.

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The Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom, was concluded last week, so before I began a new novella I thought we’d take a look at the new novel, the 3rd., The Brides’ Club Murder.  The novel is a traditional whodunit set in a country hotel.  Jasmine is called in to help solve the murder of the the leader of the Wedding Belles. She meets the suspects who are members or partners of members of the group and finds that they have a selection of motives and opportunities which take some sorting out.

There is one 5* review on Amazon but there are two other reviews:

Another great story and Jasmine becoming more understandable and sympathetic all the time. I like the way you brought out all the characters and their location on the non-binary spectrum, and the fact that there were all the loves, hates, power struggles, resentments,wishing the boss dead, that you get in any group of people( club,workplace,etc). V. Wood-Robinson

The 3rd JF novel . . . is a terrific read, a whodunit with a setting that will be familiar to many BS members, a transgender weekend.  I’m glad that we’ve never had a murder at one in real life. The novel is filled with interesting, well-portrayed characters and Penny Ellis has done well to introduce enough friction between the en-femme guests to leave a reader guessing as to the culprit’s identity. . . This is the best novel in the series so far. . . Beaumont Magazine

So, here is a excerpt. where Jasmine, known as Sindy undercover, is meeting the Belles for the first time.

‘Tell us about yourself, Sindy,’ Melody said reaching for her glass. ‘We don’t know anything about you at all.’
‘Um,’ Jasmine took another slug of wine and soda while composing her reply.
‘Well, who is this gorgeous creature, you’ve found, you love birds?’
The loud but slurred voice with the Irish accent made Jasmine turn her head and she found a figure looming over her.  She had a wig of brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders with highlights that matched the lemon yellow of her lace dress. The capped-sleeve dress clung to her prominent breasts and slim but waistless body, ending at mid-thigh. Her legs were cased in sparkly sheer stockings and she wore an impossibly high pair of black patent leather, platform stiletto shoes. Possibly it was the shoes but more probably it was the alcohol that caused her to sway unsteadily while desperately trying to avoid spilling the sparkling wine from the glass she held.
‘Hello, Samantha,’ Geraldine said with a note of resignation in her voice. ‘Do you think you had better sit down? Here, have my chair.’ She started to rise.’
‘No thank you, Geraldine,’ Samantha had difficulty pronouncing the name, ‘I want to sit next to this delightful person.’
Geraldine continued to stand up. ‘Alright, I’ll find you a chair.’ She went in search of another vacant and moveable seat.
‘This is Sindy,’ Melody said.  Samantha put her spare hand on the arm of Jasmine’s chair and leaned down.
‘How do you do, Sindy?’ She wavered like seaweed in the tide, ‘I don’t seem to have a spare hand to shake with you.’
‘That’s alright, Samantha.’ Jasmine was sifting through her memory of names and facts about members of the Wedding Belles. She came up with Samantha Nolan, cross-dresser recently separated. There was also something about a brief exchange with Valerie Vokins. ‘You’re one of the Wedding Belles?’ she went on.
Samantha’s head hovered over Jasmine, wobbling as if it was attached to her neck by a spring. Her words came out in a drunken garble. ‘That’s right. Are you? I don’t think we’ve met before.’
Here I go again, Jasmine thought. ‘It’s my first time. Valerie fitted me in. I wanted to thank her but now she’s dead.’
Samantha swayed. ‘Miserable old goat. Do you know what the old fart did? He let it out to my wife that I dressed. She walked out on me.’
‘Was it deliberate? Perhaps Valerie-Vernon didn’t know that your wife was unaware that you were a cross-dresser.’
‘Oh, the bugger knew what he was doing alright. He wanted me out of the Belles but I showed him.’
‘Really? How.’
‘By coming here of course.  He couldn’t refuse my booking. I’m making the most of this weekend now that I don’t have to hide. But I’ll be skint once she’s taken me to the cleaners.’
‘She?’
‘My wife.’
Geraldine appeared behind Samantha carrying a chair. She placed it on the floor carefully behind her legs. ‘You can sit down now Samantha.’
Samantha swayed and wine slopped from her glass.
‘Careful!’ Geraldine said, as the drops of wine fell onto the carpet.
Samantha’s knees bent and she slumped into the chair. She recovered and bent towards Jasmine. ‘That’s better. Now we can have a lovely girly chat can’t we.’
Geraldine returned to her seat and took Melody’s hand.
Geraldine called across the table. ‘Give the girl a chance, Samantha.  She’s only just arrived and she hasn’t been before.’
Jasmine wanted to interrogate Samantha some more about her relationship with Valerie Vokins but wondered whether the cross-dresser was in the mood for questions. She seemed more determined on flirting.
‘That’s a lovely dress. I like sequins,’ Samantha said, reaching out a hand to touch the shoulder of Jasmine’s dress. Her face was so close that Jasmine could see through the wig and the thick make-up.  Samantha was considerably older than her slim figure, high, pert breasts and young woman’s dress suggested. Mid-fifties perhaps? Trying to live the youthful female life she’d never had?
‘Are you dressing more now that you are separated from your wife?’ Jasmine asked as innocently as possible.
‘I’ll say,’ Samantha replied, giggling. ‘Every chance I get. And I’m buying clothes. Spend it before she gets her hands on it, I say. I’ve got a sexy new wedding dress for tomorrow you’ll see. Now why haven’t I caught up with you, you gorgeous young thing, before.’
‘I haven’t been to one of these events before,’ Jasmine answered truthfully.
‘Where do you live, darling?’
‘Hastings.’
‘Don’t you go up to the clubs in London? I’m sure I would have seen you there.’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘You must. We’d have so much fun. Let’s get another drink. I want to spend more of Jill’s divorce money.’  Samantha lurched unsteadily onto her platforms.  Jasmine realised her own glass was empty.
‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Samantha?’ Jasmine said.
Geraldine chipped in, ‘Yes, Samantha, you’re drunk enough already.’
Melody warned, ‘You’ve got to be fit to show off your new dress tomorrow.’
Samantha wobbled towards the bar. ‘I’m going to get another drink and I’ll get you one too, Sindy.’
Jasmine got up and took Samantha’s arm to support her. She called over her shoulder to Geraldine and Melody, ‘I’ll look after her.’
Geraldine and Melody were also rising from their chairs. ‘Thank you, Sindy,’ Melody said, ‘We’re off to bed. See you in the morning.’
Jasmine escorted Samantha through the crowd to the bar. There they stood next to a tall, thin, coloured woman with a massive afro-style hair-do and a very short white dress.
‘Ha!’ Samantha shouted, ‘My room-mate. Hi there, Tammy!’
Tammy’s expression did not show delight at seeing Samantha. ‘Oh, hello, Samantha. Sloshed again, I see.’  Her sober male voice reminded Jasmine of Viv with his Caribbean lilt.
‘This is Sindy,’ Samantha slurred, ‘she’s new. Isn’t she gorgeous and young?’
Tammy looked Jasmine up and down, examining her obvious wig, her colourful but relatively thinly made-up face compared to most of the other “women”, and her figure.  After a pause she held out a dark hand with pale blue nails.
‘Pleased to meet you Sindy. You’re not a Belle are you?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Samantha said before Jasmine could reply, ‘Vokins fitted her in late. What do you think of that?’
Tammy’s eyes widened. ‘The conniving old bigot.’
‘Why do you say that?’ Jasmine said.
‘Because he is, or was,’ Tammy said. ‘He put me off for weeks before he gave me the last bed available, so he said; sharing with Samantha. Filling the spaces became more important than keeping the gathering racially pure.’

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