Jasmine finds a lead

This weekend I’m off to Llanidloes in mid-Wales for their Tattoofest. Apparently it’s not all about tattoos and there will be a number of us offering our books to visitors to browse, and buy. I’m not interested in having a tattoo myself although I think some of the designs people have done are quite stunning. I think it is the permanence that is off-putting.  We like to change our hairstyle and clothes fashion from time to time, as well as our surroundings, so being stuck with the same skin decoration for ever strikes me as being a bit limiting. Nevertheless, everyone has the right to adorn their own bodies in any way that they like.

WP_20170704_10_16_10_ProThis is my first chance for a long time to market my books and offer my talks.  I don’t really count the Leominster Festival Bookfair because I spent so much time looking after everyone else I didn’t get to do much with my own publications. This will be the first outing for my new pop-up banner. It is quite an expense and of course will soon be out of date when Cold Fire is published, but nevertheless it should serve for a couple of years.  I think it looks pretty striking as well as informative.

I am on the lookout for other opportunities to promote my work – both the Jasmine Frame books and my fantasy novels. I’m willing to put up a stand or join discussions or give talks. My main talk will be “Murder – with frocks: transgender in life and fiction” but I am also very keen to talk about SF/Fantasy and the inspirations for my September Weekes novels, and about the business of writing and publishing (I’ve self-published in a number of ways, worked with large educational publishers and been published by a couple of small independents. so I think I have some experiences to relate).

I was hoping for a slot to participate (rather than just attend) the big Nine Worlds SF/Fantasy convention in London in August. I was told, however, that they could not match me to any of the 250 or so events! That’s despite there being sessions on mythology, monsters, writing, etc., etc.  I wish the organisers could have been honest in saying they wanted “names” instead of giving me the brush off.

Anyway, back to the business of writing. Here’s the next episode in the Jasmine Frame novella, Viewpoint.  We’re up to part 4 already and I think I know where the story is going now – yes, really!

Viewpoint: Part 4

Palmerston went on, ‘We also need to determine her last movements and how she got into the canal. Pathology will soon tell us whether she was dead or alive when she entered the water.’
Terry Hopkins spoke, ‘A road crosses the canal at Hambury, The body could have been dropped in the water there.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I doubt it. That’s a mile upstream from where I found the body and it would have had to pass through Renham lock. I doubt whether a boat has passed through the lock in the time that the body was in the water.’
Hopkins glared at her and moaned, ‘How come you know what goes on on the canal?’
‘Because I run along it most days,’ Jasmine replied. ‘The only boat on the stretch between Kintbridge to Hambury is old Harrold’s and he’s moored under the bypass. The flow has been too great on the river sections in the last few days for boats to be moving much and you may have noticed that it hasn’t been pleasant weather for boating.’
Hopkins grunted but had no further comment.
‘Could the body have been delivered to the north bank at Renham lock?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine gave another shake of her head. ‘There’s only a narrow towpath on the north bank and you’ve got the railway line and then the river alongside. The body must have been brought by a vehicle to the south bank up that track you used this morning, Tom.’
‘There are buildings where that track meets the road,’ Derek Kingston noted, ‘There must be people living there. Perhaps they noticed something.’
‘You’ve given yourself a job, Derek,’ Palmerston said, obviously glad to be issuing orders. ‘You and Terry get down there and start asking questions. Tom, you’re with me. Let’s see what pathology have found.’
Jasmine realised that she was the only one left without a task. Nothing changes, she thought. ‘What do want me to do?’ she asked knowing what the answer was going to be.
‘You can start going through missing persons, DC Frame.’ The DS tossed off her instruction, turned and started towards the door.
Tom saw Jasmine clenching her fists. ‘Sorry, Jas. You didn’t think that she’d change because you’ve resigned, did you?’
Jasmine let out the breath she’d been holding. ‘No, but I’ve been reminded why I did resign. Not that I needed to be.’
‘Shepherd! Come on,’ Palmerston called. Tom hurried to obey.
Jasmine sat at her old desk noting that no-one had laid claim to it yet. She booted up the computer and found that her log-ins were still valid. Well, there were still a couple of weeks before her employment was terminated. She quickly put in a request to receive missing persons data from her own and neighbouring police districts, then sat back and considered. She didn’t hold out much hope of finding a quick match among the dozens of persons reported as missing. She needed another angle. If her guess about the gender of the victim was correct then he appeared to be a good way through his transition. Many FtMs had breast removal before internal surgery to remove ovaries and sometimes the uterus. Phalloplasty, construction of a penis, was the last, most difficult and most expensive stage which many never reached. To be at any stage of that procedure meant that the victim was probably on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. Jasmine started composing emails to the eight GICs across England. She attached the photo taken of the body when it was lying on the canal bank. It wasn’t pretty but it was all she had for now.
When the task was complete, she sat back and stretched her arms. She realised that although she was alone in the outer office, DCI Sloane had been shut away in his own annexe. She got up and walked to his door. It was open and she could see the man sat his desk, his head bent over a pile of paper files. He rarely used the computer that was pushed to the edge of his large desk. He must have sensed her presence because he looked up and saw her. Jasmine saw his lip curl.
‘Ah, Frame. Any progress?’
‘Not yet, sir. I’m waiting for replies.’
‘Hmm. I see.’ His eyes dropped back to the papers in front of him.
Jasmine wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. There might not be another chance to speak to the Boss when no other officers, particularly DS Palmerston, weren’t around.
‘You agreed with my thoughts about the victim, sir,’ she said.
He looked at her. ‘Agreed?’
‘That he was a man.’
Sloane puffed out his lips. ‘Ah, that. I agreed with your surmise that the victim was undergoing the process of, what do you call it, transition, and I understand that this person may therefore be claiming to be male.’
‘Claiming to be!’ Jasmine felt her face heat up and her heart hammered in her chest.
‘That’s what this transsexual nonsense is all about isn’t it, Frame? People choosing their own sex and expecting their family, employers, even the health service to go along with their fancies.’
‘It is not a fancy. It’s not even a choice. Do you think someone would go through a double mastectomy just because they fancied being a man for a change? Do you think I’m looking forward to having gender reassignment surgery to make me the woman I am?’
Sloane was forced back in his chair by Jasmine’s onslaught.
‘Now, Frame. I know your change causes you some anxiety. I’m sure it’s those female drugs you’re taking. . .’
‘That’s right. Blame it on the hormones that make me behave like a silly female. Is that it?’ Jasmine paused for breath. ‘They do give me mood swings and nausea, but it’s my body that suffers the changes, not my mind. I am a woman and I am sure our murder victim, whoever he was, was certain he was a man.’
‘I think you need to calm, down, DC Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I am calm, but I can’t take much more of this. You know it’s why I resigned.’
Jasmine thought she noticed regret pass across Sloane’s face, but it disappeared quickly.
‘That was your choice, Frame. The Police Service was giving you every assistance in your decision to, er, transition.’
‘Officially, yes, but in practice, you know what was happening here and you let Palmerston sideline me in every investigation.’
‘That was your view of the situation. I see Palmerston dong her job to assign staff to tasks as necessary.’
‘So why did you call me back today?’
Sloane’s mouth opened but no sound came out for a moment. He closed it, swallowed then spoke. ‘DS Palmerston thought that as you were involved in the case through your discovery of the body, it would be better for the investigation if you were on the team and could be allocated tasks that suited your abilities and demeanour. You have a reputation for going off in your own direction, Frame, as you well know.’
‘I get results.’
Sloane sniffed. ‘Perhaps. Nevertheless, we felt it was wise to have you where we can see you rather than having you interfere as a free agent; or, what is it you intend being? A private eye. Hah!’
‘Well, you’ve only got to the end of the month to carry on telling me what to do.’
‘We’ll see,’ The DCI said quietly and glanced back at his paperwork, ‘I suggest you get back to your work, Detective Constable.’
Jasmine returned to her desk still feeling the anger filled blood pumping round her body. She looked at her screen. Some of the missing person data had arrived and she flicked through it not surprised to find nothing that had a connection to the victim. The monotonous task at least calmed her down. While she was doing so a ping indicated an email arriving in her inbox. She clicked on it and her heart thumped. It was from the south-west gender clinic in Exeter. She read the message eagerly. One of the staff had recognised the victim but medical confidentiality prevented them from releasing the patient’s details immediately. It didn’t matter – she’d got an i.d.

…………………….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 3 – an excerpt

No, I’m not going to comment on that and that. . . (you know what). Here’s something else that has exercised my rant cells this week.

I was at a meeting on diversity and minorities. I was told quite forcefully that sharing “fundamental British values” was the way forward for community integration. I didn’t know much about FBV so I’ve looked it up. It’s a policy from the dying days of the coalition in 2014 when Cameron was running scared from UKIP and promising all sorts of things (like a referendum on EU membership) if re-elected.  The DfE was given the task of introducing FBV into the curriculum of all schools in England.  I can find no trace of this happening in Wales and Scotland. The DfE seems to have forgotten that there was already a  subject called Citizenship in the National Curriculum which tackles what it means to be a citizen of the UK. Instead, FBV was tacked on to “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” across the curriculum. That word “fundamental” sticks out doesn’t it. It’s a bit too close to fundamentalism for my liking meaning, as my old Oxford dictionary says – maintenance of traditional orthodox beliefs in opposition to modernism. To be fair, “fundamental” merely means the base, the foundation, getting to the root of the matter, or a rule. Still sounds a bit authoritarian to me.

So what are these FBVs that we (or rather people living in England) should apparently share?

The first is democracy. This was invented by the Greeks (or perhaps earlier). Britain claims to be the first parliamentary democracy but it was the 1920s before women got the vote and 16 year olds are still denied a vote despite paying  taxes, being able to marry and die for their country in the armed services. A democracy where an unelected chamber can delay and attempt to modify new laws. A democracy where most MPs were voted for by a minority of electors and in most constituencies the winning party is unlikely to change from one election  to another.  That’s something to be proud of is it?

Second is the rule of law. This from a government that has refused to comply with a court ruling that it must do something to improve air quality. A rule of law that in living memory saw police officers being used to oppose striking miners, trap gay men in little used public loos, and infiltrate law-abiding protest groups with forged identities. At least we have an independent judiciary, but that means it’s a self-perpetuating white male judiciary. Something to be proud of?

Next there is religious freedom and acceptance and tolerance of other faiths. Yes, you can  believe what you like but the encouragement of faith schools is hardly encouraging a meeting of minds and the last time I checked the CofE was still the state-religion with bishops in the House of Lords. Something to be proud of?

Finally, there is identifying and combatting discrimination.  That’s all – the guidance doesn’t say how or what discrimination. This from a government that has targeted the poor and needy for the bulk of the austerity cuts, done nothing to stop the expanding gulf between the rich and the rest of us, and is now encouraging the view that immigrants are lazy scroungers. Something to be proud of?

They are fine ideals to aspire to but I would find it difficult to cheer the UK’s record in these areas throughout recent history particularly in a competition with other nations, particularly some of our near neighbours. Apparently they don’t have to be values unique to Britain, so what is the point? I am proud to be British, like I am proud to be Welsh, European and human, but I will not have my Britishness tested by how loudly I cheer for these fundamental British values.

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There that’s over.  Now to Jasmine.  Here’s a tiny taster of the soon-to-be-published novel number 3 – The Brides’ Club Murder. Actually this excerpt it doesn’t feature Jasmine at all, but here you are:

The Brides’ Club Murder

Chapter 1
 ‘Good afternoon. I’m Vernon Vokins. I have a reservation.’ Vernon’s booming voice alerted the receptionist while he was still some feet from her, as he intended.  Reaching the desk, he released the handle of the case he had been towing and used all of his six foot three inches to loom over the young woman. She looked up and gave Vernon a welcoming smile.
‘Welcome to Ashmore Lodge, Mr Vokins,’ she glanced at the screen hidden below the reception desk, ‘You have the suite in the Pang Wing booked.’
‘I should hope so,’ Vernon said, ‘and I trust all the preparations have been made for our weekend activities.’
‘I am sure the Manager, Mr Adams, has everything under control, Mr Vokins.’
‘I will ensure that he does. This is a very special occasion.’
‘The Ashmore Lodge is very experienced with special occasions, Mr Vokins.’
Vernon glared at the woman, wondering if she was being insolent. Deciding not to upbraid her, he took the pen she offered him and signed the registration card on the desk.
‘Ah, Vernon, you’ve arrived.’
Vernon turned his head to see a buxom woman in a flowery dress and shoulder-length, shiny black hair approaching him. He put down the pen and held out his hand.
‘Belinda. Pleased to see that you’re on the ball as always.’ Vernon’s hand received a powerful squeeze.
‘Well, as I’m no distance away I like to be here to welcome our guests.’
‘Of course. You have always been the perfect host, Belinda.’
‘How about your journey, Vernon. Not too exasperating I hope.’
‘The train was six minutes late, but one has come to expect that these days.’
Belinda gave Vernon a sympathetic look.
‘Well, you’re here in good time. Some of the girls have arrived but I haven’t see any of your group yet.’
‘Good. They were told not to arrive before two so I could get here first and check arrangements.’
‘Ah yes, Vernon. You’ll want to make certain everything is tip-top, especially as you have a real wedding as part of this year’s programme.’
Vernon felt a stab of annoyance at the thought that the official ceremony should take precedence.
‘Hmm. Yes. Well, that is an exception. Is your good wife here as usual?’
‘Oh, yes. Taking advantage of the calm before the storm to have a swim. Now I had better get on. I want to make sure the ballroom is ready. Shall we meet to go over things?’
Vernon glanced at his watch. ‘How about four-thirty.  I should have completed my transformation by then.’
‘Very well. Four-thirty it is.’ Belinda swept off towards the doors into the ballroom. Vernon turned back to the receptionist who was holding out a plastic card.
‘Here is your key, Mr Vokins.’
‘That’s a card.’
‘We’ve gone electronic since your last visit. You just need to hold the key close to the sensor beneath the handle of the door, it will let you into your room. If you do the same as you leave it will lock.’
Vernon took the card from the girl and looked at it suspiciously. ‘I’m not sure what’s wrong with old-fashioned keys. I hope this thing works.’
‘We haven’t had any problems,’ the young woman said.
‘Hmph. You’ll be the first person to hear if there are.’ Vernon reached down for the handle of his case and turned away from the desk. He noticed a slim woman in a pale blue skirt and jacket coming through the doors dragging a scuffed suitcase. She paused, straightened up and flicked her highlighted brown hair out of her eyes. Vernon recognised her. His upper lip wrinkled in annoyance.
‘Nolan. You’re here early. It’s only just two.’ Vernon said.
‘I’ll say I’m early,’ Samantha Nolan replied with a male, Irish voice. ‘Want to get my money’s worth out of this weekend. Cash is a bit tight since my wife threw me out. But you know all about that, don’t you.’ There was a quiver of emotion in Samantha’s voice.
‘How your wife and you resolve your problems is your affair.’ Vernon replied and turned towards the doors leading to the Pang Wing.
‘If only you had thought that before you told her I was a TV.’ The retort resounded across the vestibule but Vernon ignored it…

 

 

Jasmine climbs in

I’m posting this on the last day of 2016 which I suppose means that a review of the year is called for. Well, I am not going to go on at length about how awful it’s been. There have certainly been events which seem to foreshadow the descent into a dystopic future but perhaps I read too much SF. Let us hope that all our fears come to naught (or nought?) although my hope is a little weak. Also, in the last year we have lost a lot of people who have entertained us well in their lives.  It may be just a matter of statistics or, as one reporter said – our heroes are getting older just like us. Here’s a few of the names that made me feel sad for a moment or two – Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Robert Vaughan, Carrie Fisher.

The year has had its good times though.  The Olympics was one, although realising that it was four years since I was  Gamesmaker was a bit of a shock. Personally, there was the publication  of the third part of my fantasy series Evil Above the Stars, Unity of Seven; my first visit to Scotland; and celebrating Lou’s significant birthday. It was also the year when I decided to stop pretending to be something I am not; I gave up the sham of wearing silicone false breasts to give myself a more female figure, like I previously stopped wearing a female wig. Now I’m presenting the feminine me through my choice of clothes, accessories and make up and loving it. What that makes me in terms of labels – trans, gender-fluid, non-binary – I don’t know, but who cares.

Now we have to look forward to 2017. Though we may enter it, trembling with fearful anticipation, we have to look for the positives. I will be publishing  the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder (more of that in the next few weeks) and hoping to persuade my fantasy publishers to take Cold Fire, the 4th September Weekes novel (though separate to Evil Above the Stars). I’ve got ideas for at least five articles on the history of chemistry for Collins Freedomtoteach blog.  Once Cold Fire is put to bed and Brides’ is published it will be time to choose my next project – the 4th Jasmine or something else? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it here.

So, here we go, another rollercoaster of a year coming up, I think.

Best wishes for 2017

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And so to the penultimate (probably) episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame novella.

Falloff: Part 9

‘No! It couldn’t be Gemma or Carrie,’ Jess cried. ‘They were both very close to Raquel.’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Perhaps, but nevertheless they are the main suspects.’
Andy hauled himself to his feet. ‘I’ve had enough of this. Are you coming Jess?’
Jess looked up at him. ‘Where? Bed?’
Andy took her hand and pulled her to her feet. ‘No, somewhere, anywhere away from this place. All this talk of murder pisses me off.’  He tugged Jess’ hand and with some reluctance she followed him out of the hotel.
‘Well, I’m ready for a good night’s sleep,’ Angela said with a yawn to follow.
‘Me too. If Alvarez wants to question Gemma or Carrie that’s his job.’ Jasmine replied, finding that she did indeed feel drained of energy.  They went to the lift, hand in hand, and pressed the button for their floor.
The lift doors opened and they stepped out into their corridor.  Inspector Alvarez was there, thumping on a door two rooms beyond their own.  He stopped when he saw them.
‘Ah, Seňoras. You have come to settle for the night?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said. ‘Is that Gemma’s and Carrie’s room?’
‘That is so. I would like to question them but they are not replying to my call.’
‘Perhaps they’re not in,’ Angela said.
‘Perhaps not.’ The policeman shrugged and stepped away from the door. ‘I shall return in the morning.’  He walked passed Jasmine and Angela, towards the lift. ‘Good night.’
Jasmine and Angela waited till the lift door had closed on the Inspector before entering their own room.
‘But Gemma and Carrie came up, didn’t they?’ Angela said, frowning.
‘We saw them get into the lift. Perhaps they just didn’t want to talk to Alvarez and kept quiet.’ Jasmine crossed their bedroom to the French windows and stepped on to the balcony. She looked to the left, across the balcony of the adjacent room from which Raquel had fallen, to the next. There did not appear to be a light on but by leaning out over the balcony rail she was able to see that the door on to the balcony was open. She listened carefully. Over the night-time noises of traffic on the road below, music from the clubs and bars, and voices of the many people still out on the promenade, it seemed that she could hear voices from the room. One of the girls was speaking loudly in a tone that made Jasmine come out in goose-bumps.
She looked at the gap between their own balcony and that of the adjoining room. It was barely a foot wide. Jasmine pulled her dress up to the top of her thighs and swung her leg over the rail, putting her foot down into what had been Carl and Raquel’s balcony. She glanced down. The ground around the swimming pool was dark but she recalled the sight of Raquel’s pale body lying on the grass last night. She put the memory and the fear of falling out of her mind.
Jasmine transferred her weight on to the foot and brought her other leg over. Angela appeared at the door.
‘What are you doing Jas?’ she called.
‘Shh!’ Jasmine said holding a finger to her lips. She walked slowly and silently to the other end of the balcony. The voice was louder but she still could not make out the words or which of the girls was talking. She repeated the manoeuvre, climbing onto the girls’ balcony and advanced to the open door.
There were no lights on but, in the moonlight, she could see one of the girls kneeling facing the other who was standing with her back to the window. Jasmine wasn’t sure who was who but she knew that what she was seeing wasn’t a tender love scene. The standing girl had both hands wrapped in the kneeling girl’s long hair and was tugging it, eye-wateringly hard. The dominant girl was speaking in a voice that hissed with malice.
‘You will do as I say, Carrie. You will tell that policeman that we were together all last night.’
‘Yes, yes, Gemma. Stop it, you’re hurting me. Please.’
‘You won’t say anything about Raquel?’
‘No, Gem. Ow!’
Jasmine stood in the doorway. ‘What shouldn’t Carrie say, Gemma?’
Gemma opened her hands and span around.
‘Who! What are you doing here?’
‘I thought I heard someone was in trouble and came to help,’ Jasmine said as calmly as possible but now that she could see the expression of fury on Gemma’s face, her heart was beating fast.
‘It’s none of your business.’
‘Oh, I think it is. If one person is hurting another then it’s everyone’s duty to stop it.’
The situation confused Jasmine. She was expecting it to be Carrie who was the aggressive one because if it had been her name that Raquel had whispered in her dying breath then surely, she was the killer. It had been Carrie who had been surly in the club while Gemma was full of bonhomie. But Carrie was on the floor rubbing her head. It was Gemma who stepped towards Jasmine, her face twisted into a grimace of hate. What had gone on between these two girls and Raquel?
‘What shouldn’t Carrie say about Raquel?’ Jasmine repeated, ‘That they were lovers?’
‘Nooo.’ Gemma launched herself at Jasmine, her hands outstretched. She hit Jasmine on her chest, squashing her false boobs. Jasmine fell back across the balcony. Her back hit the handrail sending a bolt of agony through her. Gemma was on her, fingers groping for her neck, pushing her head back over the void.
Jasmine felt her weight shifting, her centre of gravity moving over the pivot of the rail against her back. She reached up with her arms, but shoving Gemma away only pushed herself further over the drop. Lifting her feet to kick at Gemma made her sense of losing her balance worse. She felt herself teetering as Gemma’s hands closed around her throat.
‘Stop Gem!’
The pressure on Jasmine lessened. The hands released her neck. Her knees buckled and she slid down the rail until her bottom touched the floor of the balcony. Carrie had her arms around Gemma’s waist and was pulling her backwards while the girl flailed her arms.
Jasmine pushed herself to her feet and made a grab for Gemma’s wrists as she struggled to free herself from Carrie’s grip. Gemma kicked out wildly but Jasmine stepped between the girl’s legs and pushed her and Carrie back through the door into the bedroom. The maul toppled, Carrie released her grip and rolled free as Jasmine pinned Gemma down, pressing her hands to the floor.
‘Get Angela,’ Jasmine gasped as she struggled to hold the wriggling Gemma down.  Carrie scrambled to her feet and ran to the door, fumbled with the lock, pulled the door open and went.
Jasmine pressed down on the girl with all her weight, just holding her until she gradually subsided and lay still.  Padding feet announced arrivals. The ceiling light came on.
‘What’s happened? Jasmine? Are you alright?’ Angela said.
Jasmine shifted her weight onto her knees, taking it off the girl who lay on the wooden floor. She continued to hold Gemma’s wrist and was ready for any sign that the girl was going to resume her struggle. Gemma lay still, her face turned to the side.
‘Help me hold Gemma,’ Jasmine said, ‘She may just think she can run away.’  Angela came to her side, knelt down and took Gemma’s hand. Jasmine swung herself to the side of the girl while still holding her other arm. Jasmine got to her feet and with Angela helped Gemma to stand.
‘What’s been going on?’ Angela said.
‘I think we have Raquel’s killer,’ Jasmine said.
Gemma twisted, wrenching her hand from Angela’s grasp. She swung her arm with the weight of her body behind it, slamming her hand into Jasmine’s face. Jasmine’s grasp slipped from Gemma’s wrist. She raised a hand to cup her injured cheek. Gemma turned and ran to the balcony.
‘No, Gemma!’ Carrie cried.
Jasmine turned and through one eye saw the girl vault the rail and disappear into the darkness.
……………to be continued.

Jasmine warned

Are you offended?  Do you think you have the right not to be offended?  A few things have come my way this week which caused me to think about taking offence.  First of all an article by Eddie Mair in the Radio Times referred to those warnings you get before TV and radio programmes about language or nudity. In particular he was troubled by the warning before a talk show of “opinions which some viewers may find offensive”.  Mair questioned what these opinions might be and why he needed to be warned. Why did someone have to pre-guess what opinions listeners may be offended by?

Today I saw a clip on Facebook of an interview on American TV with one of Trump’s team. He didn’t care whether anyone was offended by anything that Trump or his supporters said.  He thought that for too long people who took offence have been pandered to and that in the Trump future people who had these feelings didn’t matter. This seemed to give a free-rein to racism, homophobia, etc.

Finally I saw a report of a BBC radio programme with Nick Grimshaw and David Walliams during which they played a game of trying to guess the gender of callers from their voice. Not surprisingly, trans people were offended that people’s gender should be questioned and ridiculed for the sake of a few minutes of entertainment. It might encourage people to point (and do worse) to people who didn’t fit their stereotypical view of male and female.

Penny ears

I hear no hate

I have often told people that I can’t be offended if they ask me questions about what it means to be trans. I don’t want people to be put off by the thought that I might be hurt because they don’t understand. I hope that by asking the questions they can learn, even if they use words or express opinions that I don’t agree with.

A lot is made of our right to freedom of speech (and freedom of the press). I have disagreed with attempts to deny certain people (for example radical feminists who deny that MtF transsexuals are women) a platform to express their ideas. So long as there is a debate and that both (or more) sides have a chance to give their opinions, backed up by explanation, then I am happy. What does annoy me, I might even say offends me,  is the wild sloganising that characterised the American election and the Brexit referendum; slogans with no basis in fact and often downright lies accepted as truth. I am worried that people in power in the USA, UK and elsewhere are feeling confident enough to spout baseless, hurtful opinions that can only be socially divisive.

I believe we have the right to give opinions. We do not have the right denigrate someone for their race, religion, abilities, sexuality, gender, gender identity, age or any other personal attribute. I believe we have the responsibility to back up our opinions with reason and fact. I believe we have the duty, not to feel offence, but to refute any opinions which we disagree with or which we think are harmful. If we do feel hurt and offended what people say it is not sufficient to simply complain about it, instead the offensive opinions must be opposed and answered.

There, that’s todays rant over. I hope you weren’t offended.

And now to part three of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s July 2005,  Jasmine and Angela are on honeymoon, enjoying sun, sea, sand and dancing, but a death disturbs the peace.

Falloff: Part 3

James looked up into Angela’s face lit by the pale night-time light diffusing through the curtains. Her expression showed horror.
‘Murder?’ she said.
James pulled her down against him, wanting to hold her tight and feel secure.
‘Her nails must have got shattered fighting an attacker, and scrabbling to hold on to the balcony.’
‘That’s awful. Someone deliberately made her lose her grip and let her fall?’
‘It fits.’
‘But who? One of her group?’
‘They were in and out of each other’s rooms.’
Angela shook her head as far as she could while held in James’ arms. ‘But they seemed to be having a good time. They were all friends. Weren’t they?’
‘I wasn’t watching them closely enough to know, but they seemed okay with each other.’ He paused. ‘Mind you she was all over that big guy at the airport but I don’t remember seeing her actually with him yesterday.’
They were silent for a few minutes but James knew that Angela hadn’t fallen asleep.
‘What are you going to do?’ she said eventually.
‘What can I do? I’m just a visitor here on holiday as far as the Spanish police are concerned.’
‘But you could tell that detective, Alvarez, about her fingers.’
‘I’m sure he’ll have noticed them himself.’
They were quiet again until James had another thought.  ‘There was another thing though.’
‘What?’
‘She wasn’t dead when I got to her. She was still breathing and said something. Well, she made a sound.’
‘What kind of sound?’
‘Well, it may have been just a groan. It was very soft but it sounded like a name, or part of one.’
‘What name?’
‘Car.’
‘That’s something else for you to tell the detective.’
‘Hmm, yes, if he comes to question us again.’
They fell silent and while thoughts continued to pass through James’ mind, he drifted into sleep.
There were more people in the dining room for breakfast than there had been the previous day. For the late and all-night revellers, it was an unaccustomed gathering. Looking around the pale, tired faces and the quiet talk, James guessed that the news of the death had circulated and the young people wanted to discuss it, to make some kind of sense of the tragedy.   A few people who they had nodded to or spoken a few words to previously approached them and asked if they knew about the girl who had fallen. James and Angela nodded but he didn’t reveal his part in the discovery of the body or his suspicions.
The whispered speculations made James feel uncomfortable so after hurriedly eating a croissant and drinking a coffee they made a speedy return to their room.  As James bent to put the key in their lock a familiar voice spoke from behind him.
‘Ah, Seňor and Seňora Frame.’ It was Inspector Alvarez, the detective.
James straightened up and turned. The policeman’s eyes were heavy and his face a little more grizzled than it had been in the night, but he still seemed alert.
‘You have had breakfast perhaps?’ he continued.  James and Angela nodded. ‘And you slept well?’
‘No, not really,’ James admitted.
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Well, that is not a surprise. No doubt you were thinking about the girl. Your neighbour.’
‘Yes,’ James said wondering when the policeman was going to get to the point.
‘I am sorry your holiday has been affected by this incident.  May I see in your room please?’
‘Of course,’ James replied. He pushed the door open and invited the detective to step inside. He and Angela followed.
James watched as Alvarez scanned the room. He eyes paused on the unmade bed.  I bet he’s wondering if we had sex after returning to bed last night, James thought. His eyes moved on to the two dresses and sets of female underwear still lying scattered on the floor. Then Alvarez went to the window, pushed the curtain to the side and stepped through the open door onto the balcony.
‘You had the door open when you were in bed last night?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Angela replied. ‘The room was still hot when we got back but there was a nice breeze blowing.’
‘There’s no air conditioning in the room,’ James explained.
‘Ah, Hotel Arena is not expensive,’ Alvarez said.
‘That’s right,’ James agreed wondering what the point was.
‘So affordable for young people with not a lot of money, Right?’
James shrugged, ‘Yes, that’s why we booked it.’
Alvarez turned and stepped to the rail around the balcony. He looked to the left from where the girl had fallen and then leant over to look at the ground. He turned around and returned to the bedroom.
‘You said you heard a cry and then a thud.’
‘I did,’ Angela said.
‘I didn’t notice it. Angela told me,’ James added.
‘Because your concentration was on other things,’ Alvarez said without a smile.
‘I suppose so,’ James said not wanting to go into details. Was the guy being voyeuristic?
‘But you didn’t hear anything else from the room next door?’
‘I don’t know,’ Angela said, ‘Nothing that caught my attention.’
‘There were all sorts of noises. Like now,’ James said. They all froze listening to the sounds that surrounded them. There was traffic noise from the road along the seafront, and from people around the pool. There were sounds of conversations, of taps running, of loos being flushed, of beds creaking from rooms above and below and to the right of their room.
‘Even in the middle of the night?’ Alvarez said.
‘Yes. You know that lots of the people were coming back from the clubs at all hours, partying in their rooms, and the traffic never stops.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘The walls are thin.’
James recalled the noises from their first night, the rhythmic thumping of a mattress above them as a couple had vigorous intercourse.
‘It’s a cheap hotel,’ James repeated.
Alvarez cocked his head to one side and looked at Angela. ‘So why did you notice the cry the girl made as she fell and the thud as she hit the ground?’
Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘Um, I don’t know. I suppose they were different types of sound.’
The detective nodded, ‘The cry that escaped the girl’s lips as she lost her balance and the impact of her landing would have a different quality to the more familiar sounds.’
‘That’s the reason,’ James said a little more forcefully than he intended. He couldn’t decide whether Alvarez was doubting them.  The policeman gave him a thin smile.
‘Let us see if you can remember more. Sit down please, Seňor, Seňora.’  James and Angela sat side by side on the edge of the bed. Alvarez eased himself into one of the two small armchairs by the window.
‘Now, you arrived back in the room before most of the other guests.’
‘Yes.’ James agreed, ‘We were still a bit tired and not up for really late night dancing.’
‘Ah, you like the dancing to the music the clubs play.’
‘It’s one of the things we like doing together,’ Angela said. James caught her eyeing the crumpled dresses they had each worn.
‘So you came back and got into bed?’  James and Angela nodded. ‘But you didn’t fall asleep?’
James answered. ‘No. We weren’t quite that exhausted and it is our honeymoon.’
‘Of course,’ Alvarez kept a straight face, ‘Now remember. You are in bed, your minds may have been on other things, but think about the noises.  Did you hear a door open?’
James’ mind was a blank. He recalled sliding under the thin sheet and beginning to explore the familiar contours of Angela’s body. That totally absorbed him.
‘Yes, I may have done,’ Angela said.
‘The girl’s room, on that side?’ Alvarez pointed to their left.
Angela nodded slowly, ‘I think so.’
‘Once, twice, more times?’
‘What?’ Angela said.
‘The door. Did you hear it open and close more than once?’
Angela sat rigid, her eyes closed. James watched her as her brow crinkled.  ‘I think so. Yes, a while after the first time.’
‘And was there conversation?’
Angela shook her head slowly, ‘I don’t know, there may have been. There were voices from various places, I couldn’t tell.’
Alvarez let out the smallest of sighs. He stood up. ‘Thank you Seňora Frame.’ He started to move towards the door.
‘Wait!’ James said. The policeman paused, looked at him and frowned.
‘Yes, Seňor?’
‘What do you think happened to the girl? What was her name?’
‘Her name is Raquel Thomas,’ The detective replied immediately, ‘And I think she fell to her death.’
‘But how? Was it an accident, suicide or, um, murder?’
The detective glared at James, unblinking. ‘That is my job to find out, Seňor Frame.’
‘Which do you think it was?’
‘I am sorry. I do not discuss my thoughts. Do you have an opinion?’
James opened his mouth, paused. Should he say what he had observed? He took a breath, swallowed. ‘I think she was murdered.’
The policeman’s expression did not change. ‘Do you have evidence for that conclusion, Seňor Frame.’
‘Her fingernails were broken and her fingertips were bloody.’
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, you noticed that. You are a detective Seňor Frame?’
‘I’m a police constable, at home in England.’
The detective took a deep breath and frowned. ‘Well, PC Frame, thank you for your opinion and observation but please remember that you are on vacation here. The death of Seňorita Thomas is my case and I do not allow interference.’
James shook his head violently. ‘No, of course not.’
‘Enjoy your honeymoon Seňor, Seňora. Do what honeymooners do.’ Alvarez turned, pulled the door open and departed.
……to be continued.

 

Jasmine in lists

I’ve been thinking about misogyny i.e. hatred of women. Some time ago a police force in England announced that it was considering treating acts of misogyny like other hate-crimes of minority groups. This means that all incidents are logged even if no actual crime can be said to have taken place (e.g. swearing at someone can be an offence in a public place but not in a private home). There are enhanced punishments for those convicted of a hate-crime. Women may not be a minority group but they are certainly targeted in various ways, from wolf whistles in the street to rape and murder, simply for being women. This is the indicator of a hate-crime.

Many men would no doubt say that they do not hate women and the whistles and comments and groping are signs that they are actually attracted to the object of their attention. That is not the point. That sort of behaviour shows that they hate the idea of a woman as an independent, thinking person with the same rights as themselves. The case of Trump (I hope that he will soon be forgotten and we don’t have to keep using him as an example) shows this. Treating any women as a plaything and bragging about it in “the locker-room” or the saloon bar or wherever to other blokes reveals the true misogynist nature of the man.

Of course whenever this kind of crime comes up we are reminded of George Orwell’s thoughtcrime. Is it wrong to think of women in this way? Well, I don’t think people should be prosecuted for their thoughts but I do think it shows that we have a long way to go to educate men and boys that women and girls have the right not to be the object of their attention whether verbal, manual or sexual, at least until they have consented. Education does not mean brain-washing, it means explaining and developing an understanding. It is disappointing if some men still show their misogyny in the way that they talk to other men but it is their actions towards women that should be punished.

A final thought. Some feminists refuse to accept transwomen as women or allies in the fight against misogyny.  I think that though wrong they have some reason for their actions. There are some transvestites (not, I think transsexuals) who reinforce outdated stereotypes of women and think that by dressing as women they can act like the fluffy-headed dolls that they perceive women to be. As someone who feels that I reside somewhere in the middle of the male-female spectrum that attitude appalls me as much as it would any woman.

…………………….

discovering jasmine final cover

Murder in doubt cover

Painted Ladies front cover jpegLayout 1

 

 

 

 

 

Following the end of the Jasmine Frame story, Perspective, last week I’m taking a rest this week.  There have now been ten novellas and three novels which are listed below in chronological order

Discovering Jasmine    2000    novella   e-book          James ventures out as Jasmine

Murder in Doubt            2001     novella  e-book          James meets Angela at university (formerly Soft Focus)

Aberration                       2004     novella  unpublished   James living with Angela after uni.

Flashlight                        2009     novella  unpublished  PC Frame seconded to V&SCU

Resolution                       2009     novella  unpublished  sequel to Flashlight

Blueprint                         2009      novella  unpublished  James reveals Jasmine to Tom

Self-portrait                   2010      novella  unpublished  Jasmine starts transition

Close-up                          2010      novella  unpublished   starting hormone treatment

Split Mirror                      2011      novella  unpublished   moves to flat, alone.

Perspective                      2011      novella  unpublished   resigns from police force

Painted Ladies                 2012     novel     e-book/pbk    called in to catch serial killer

Bodies By Design            2012     novel     e-book/pbk    assisting Sloane to trace killer

Brides’ Club Murder       2012    novel     unpublished   solving a country house murder.

Jasmine decides

This may be considered navel gazing but I thought this week I would consider further where I see myself in the gender selection-box. You may be satisfied with just male and female but actually it’s rather more complex than that. First of all let’s get this straight – gender is not sex and gender identity is not related to sexuality. For the vast majority of people sex is determined by whether or not they have a Y chromosome. If you do then under normal circumstances you were born with penis and testicles and a body that from puberty brims with testosterone; if not, then you have ovaries, uterus, vagina, clitoris etc. and at puberty felt the effects of oestrogen. A small proportion of children are born with genetic or congenital abnormalities that render them intersex, i.e. their sex can not be determined at birth.

Gender and gender identity are something  else. As you grow up you become the sum of your genes and experiences. This process doesn’t stop at puberty or adulthood; you change throughout your life. You develop a feeling of who you are and where you sit in masculine-feminine spectrum. For most people this probably isn’t even a question they ever ask themselves. Their gender identity matches their body’s appearance and that’s all that matters. For a considerable percentage of us though, there is a mis-match in the person we think we are and what we look like.

Gender isn’t just male or female. If you think about all the people you know then you will realise that all the men don’t have the same personalities and neither do the women. There is a whole range of behaviour that positions a person somewhere on the gender spectrum.

For those of us who question our gender identity there are a number of pigeon-holes in which we can place ourselves, that’s if we are prepared to be pigeon-holed at all.

Transsexuals – are people who identify with a gender different to their physical sex. i.e. MtF or FtM. For many this feeling is so great that they detest the body that doesn’t fit with their self-image. They may decide to live as the person they identify as which will involve transition and may or may not include medical and surgical procedures to achieve that. Improvements in medicine and changes to the law and societal attitudes have enabled more people to transition in recent years. The media still focusses on celebrity transitions but is less sensationalist thanks to TV shows like Transparent and Boy Meets Girl.

Transvestites – are people who dress up in the clothes of a gender different to their sex. This applies almost exclusively to men dressing as women since in western culture the acceptable clothing choices available to women now include most, if not all, male attire. The thing about transvestism is that it reinforces gender stereotypes e.g. the tarty/show-girl look, the dress-like- Mum style, and so on. The transvestite almost feels obliged to adopt a look that enables them to pass as female (i.e. wearing wigs, false breasts and other enhancements). The term was originally applied to men who dressed up to get aroused so it has sexual connotations that I dislike.

Cross-dresser – means the same as transvestite but tends to be used by those men who dress as women for non-sexual reasons, but in other respects means the same as the above.

Transgender – is an umbrella term that covers all identities and behaviours where perceived gender and physical sex are at odds.

Gender queer and non-binary – are more recent terms adopted by people who reject the traditional labelling of male or female. Their appearance may be difficult to categorise as masculine or feminine e.g. Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst who wore feminine dresses while sporting a full beard.

Androgyny – a mixture or union of male and female (hermaphrodites with male and female sexual organs are androgynous). Previously, a woman who adopted a male appearance was labelled as androgynous (think flat-chested, short-haired Twiggy, or Tilda Swinton) but now the process is being reversed, with males adopting a feminine appearance without seeking to change or enhance their body shape.

wp_20160919_09_48_13_proHaving thought I was a cross-dresser and occasionally wondering if I was transsexual I now feel that I fall into one of the last two categories. I don’t want to mimic a stereotype of a woman but I like the choices in dress, accessories and make-up that woman have available. How I look may make observers question what they see but I am no longer trying to fool them into believing I am something that I am not.

……………………..

So, to the final episode of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (available from me and all good bookstores). Jasmine is definitely transsexual, by the way. This episode sets Jasmine up for Painted Ladies but, who knows, I may be able to fit in another story.

Perspective: Part 12

Jasmine listened as Palmerston went over the case with reports from Tom Shepherd, Terry Hopkins, Derek Kingston and the other members of the team. Not once was she asked for information or a comment. She sat in her chair feeling increasingly as if she wasn’t really there, that her position as a detective in the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was a dream.
The meeting didn’t last long. DS Palmerston wrapped it up and the group began to disperse to deal with other work. DCI Sloane started to move towards his office. He beckoned to Jasmine.
‘With me, now please, DC Frame,’ he said. Jasmine stirred herself and followed him.
Sloane took his seat behind a desk covered with piles of files and the computer monitor and keyboard gathering dust on the side.  Jasmine stood in front of the desk feeling a little like a naughty school boy, or girl, summoned for punishment by the headmaster.
‘It’s up to the CPS now,’ Sloane said as if continuing a conversation from another time and place, ‘Gayle will probably be charged with manslaughter but as he is still legally a child, he’ll be free soon.’
Jasmine blurted out, ‘What about the injury to his mother, carrying an offensive weapon and the robberies?’ She regretted her words immediately. It sounded as if she had a grudge against Nate Gayle. She was still pretty sore about being mugged and she thought Nate knew what he was up to despite his tender year but she didn’t actually have any ill feelings towards the boy. DS Palmerston was the hate figure in her eyes.
Sloane replied calmly, ‘We accept that Mrs. Gayle’s injury was an accident. As you heard, certain items were found in Gayle’s bedroom that did not belong to him but we have no statements from their owners and with William Smith dead it’s unlikely that the CPS will pursue that aspect of the case.’
Jasmine nodded. She didn’t totally agree with her DCI’s conclusions but perhaps now was not the moment to press her opinions.
‘The outstanding matters relate to your involvement, Frame,’ Sloane continued. ‘Your continued interference, even after suspension, was insubordination at the highest level. Indeed, it could be argued that Mrs Gayle’s wounding was partly caused by your presence in her house without her permission.’
Jasmine opened her mouth to complain, but Sloane held up his hand to stop her and went on. ‘Yes, I know your actions helped to slow the bleeding and you called for assistance, but you should not have been there or anywhere in the vicinity. Explain yourself, please Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I’m sorry, Sir, but I felt that DS Palmerston was following the wrong line of enquiry. She ignored what I had reported about my, er, meeting with Gayle and Smith, and my opinion on the involvement of the drag queens.’
‘The DS was following procedure and collecting evidence and statements,’ Sloane growled.
‘And excluding me, Sir, as she had done on every case she has been in charge of since she joined the unit.’
‘Are you accusing Detective Sergeant Palmerston of discrimination, DC Frame?’ Sloane’s neck had turned a shade of crimson and the colour was rising up his cheeks.
‘Now that you mention it, Sir, yes I think it is. She doesn’t like me or what I am and doesn’t want me working with her.’
‘You are deluded, Frame. DS Palmerston is a very able officer who makes efficient use of the resources and personnel that are available.’
‘She hasn’t made efficient use of me, Sir.’
‘The trouble is, Frame, that since you began this, this, what do you call it, transition, you see prejudice everywhere.  I thought you had the makings of a good detective once. . .’
‘When I was a man?’
‘Well, since you put it that way – yes. Having decided you want to be a woman you have been distracted.’
‘I didn’t decide to be a woman, Sir. I am a woman. I decided that I needed to live in my true identity instead of continuing to live an act.’
Sloane’s upper lip crinkled and his eyebrows rose. Was he disgusted or merely confused?
‘Look here, Frame. I know that we as your employers have to allow you to do this thing of yours but in my opinion your performance as a member of this unit has become less than satisfactory and in particular your disobedience with respect to DS Palmerston is unprofessional in the extreme.’
Jasmine was unable to stop herself. ‘Unprofessional. That’s rich. She’s the one who is unprofessional, side-lining and undermining me at every opportunity.’
‘That’s enough,’ Sloane roared, his face now approaching beetroot colour. ‘You will remain suspended while your future in this unit, and perhaps in the force, is considered. I do not want to see you again in this office or station until you are summoned to explain yourself. Is that clear?’
Jasmine matched Sloane’s lack of restraint. ‘You can stick your summons, Sir. I’m resigning.’ She turned and marched from the office holding her head up. She heard gurgling noises from behind her but didn’t turn to see the look on Sloane’s face. She stared straight ahead as she crossed the larger office but saw in her peripheral vision that the whole team was gazing at her. There was silence. No one called to her and then she was through the door and walking down the corridor.
It was a mile or more to the Gayle’s house. Her car had been left there the previous evening when she was taken away by DC Kingston and she needed it back.  It was a dull, chill, winters’ day but Jasmine appreciated the fact that it was dry. Being wet would have added one thing more to her list of miseries.
Did she have to resign on the spot in front of Sloane? Shouldn’t she have given it some thought, awaited the outcome of inquiry into her behaviour? No, she could guess what the result would be if DS Palmerston had any influence over it. She would be demoted at best, kicked out of the police force at worst. Pleading that she was a special case because of her transition was not on; she wouldn’t make that excuse, but she couldn’t think how to overcome Palmerston’s prejudice. She didn’t want to give up her dream job but she was convinced that she had done the right thing. There were implications; she knew that. Being without a steady job didn’t just mean she had no source of income for everyday living expenses, it also meant that she wouldn’t have the funds for the treatments she needed during her transition. What would be the reaction of the Gender Clinic? They might think that she was mentally unstable and refuse to support her through the process on the NHS. It could put back the changes to her body that she needed for years if not for ever.
By the time she saw the old red Fiesta sitting outside the house in the otherwise deserted street, she was thoroughly miserable. The car was inside a cordon of blue and white tape that blocked off the pavement as well as the front garden of the Gayle’s house. There was a solitary police officer standing guard at the front door. He looked up as Jasmine approached as if woken from a reverie brought on by boredom. He watched her step over the tape and approach the car. She put the key in the lock and pulled the door open.
‘Hey, what are you doing?’ he called out, advancing down the garden path.
‘Taking my car,’ Jasmine replied.
‘It’s in a restricted area.’
‘I know; I came here in it last night.’
‘You can’t move anything from a restricted area.’
‘Yes, I can when it has nothing to do with the case and belongs to me.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Detective Constable Frame.’ How many more times would she say that, she wondered.’
‘Frame? I think I know that name.’ The PC had stopped at the gate and looked nonplussed.
‘Look, if you’re anxious, call in to your boss and check that it’s alright for me to take my own car away.’
‘Er, yes, I’ll do that.’ He muttered into his radio. Jasmine leaned on the roof of her car with the driver’s door open.  There were a few minutes of two-way conversation including a hiatus while the officer waited for a reply. Finally, he stood up straight and looked happier.
‘They say that’s alright. You can take the car away.’
‘Thank you,’ Jasmine gave him a broad and appreciative smile.
‘I’ll undo the tape for you,’ he said, moving to the front of the car and unwinding the tape from the bollards. Jasmine got in, inserted the key and turned the ignition. Now was not the time for the car to refuse to start, she thought. The starter motor groaned and the engine fired. She puffed out the breath she had been holding. Then she waved polite thanks to the PC and pulled away.
As the car warmed up her mood improved. She was her own boss now, not bound by police regulations and hierarchy. She would pursue the idea she had had a day or two ago – become a private detective. Surely, there would be lots of demand for someone with CID experience. Of course she would be a success. Also, there was the proceeds from the sale of her share of the house to Angela. It wasn’t a lot but it would provide some capital for her business until the revenue from successful investigations came in. What should she call herself? She thought about it. Frame Investigations – that was it. She smiled. A new life beckoned as the independent female private eye.
…………the end.