I know it is wrong to judge people on their appearance, but is it wrong to judge them on their thoughts and actions? I find I am doing it more and more and it’s scary. It began, of course, with that confounded referendum. Since then, when I meet someone for the first time and get a hint that they were/are a “Leaver”, various thoughts go through my mind: They succumbed to the lying propaganda of the Leave brigade once; do they still follow what is said in certain, unmentionable, newspapers and other media sources? Is their reasoning so faulty that they cannot see the harm that leaving the EU will bring? They voted to remove immigrants, so are they racist? What is their opinion on other minorities?
I don’t necessarily know or learn the answers to these questions but my suspicions remain and I find that I don’t want to be associated with the person if I can help it. Am I being stupid or is my fear shared by others? I didn’t used to care too much what people voted in elections (although UKIP supporters stretched my goodwill somewhat) but this referendum has caused or highlighted divisions that were suppressed before. As we stumble ever closer to leaving the EU the strains are growing stronger and I really do fear for the future. And that’s before even considering the situation elsewhere in the world.
Let’s get away from such issues and get back to my fictional world where Jasmine Frame is a living, breathing transsexual detective. Here is the next part of the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and its sequels.
Reflex: Part 4
DS Sharma lead James into the interview room. Matthew, or Melissa as James was sure he preferred, was slouched in a chair pushed back from the table. His eyes were dark hollows and his skin was pasty. He appeared exhausted but looked up as they walked in. A glint of recognition came into his eyes and he shuffled into a more upright position. The woman sitting in the chair next to Matthew also looked at James, scanning up and down his uniform as if deciding whether he was a proper police officer.
Sharma sat down and beckoned James to sit beside him, opposite Matthew. The DS flicked the switch on the recording unit.
‘Resuming interview at. . . two-twenty p.m. PC Frame has joined us.’ He nodded to James.
What do I say, James thought. The boy was looking at him, an appeal in his eyes.
‘Hello, Melissa. Is that what you’d like to be called?’
‘I’m James. Do you remember that we met last night?’
James searched for a question that would draw some words from the young person.
‘Do you remember when you first realised you were a girl.’
Melissa frowned and shook her head.
‘You don’t remember?’ James expressed a little surprise.
With a voice that croaked, the girl replied, ‘No. I mean it’s not that I don’t remember it’s just that I’ve always known I was a girl.’
‘You weren’t confused?’ James asked.
Melissa leaned forward, dragged her chair closer to the table, her eyes focussed on James. She was suddenly animated.
‘I was confused because people kept on talking about me as if I was a boy, but I knew I was girl. I can remember that from when I was about four I think.’
‘I see,’ James said, wondering what effect that had on the young child. His own experience wasn’t quite as marked. He could recall wondering why he was treated like a boy while uncertain as to what he was. That confusion was still with him almost every minute of the day. ‘So how did you learn that you were supposed to behave like a boy.’
Melissa’s face sagged. ‘My father. . . my father made me.’
‘He hit me, shut me in my bedroom, took my dresses away.’
‘You had dresses?’
Melissa shrugged. ‘One or two. Mum bought them for me when I asked her. She let me wear them when my father was out.’
‘Oh, so your mother knew about Melissa. Has she always known?’
Another shrug, ‘I guess so.’
‘Did she do anything to stop your father hitting you and locking you up?’
‘Now and again, but he hit her too.’
James nodded. He was beginning to get a picture of family life in the Chapman household.
‘For how long has this been going on – your father beating you and your mother.’
‘As long as I can remember. Anytime he thought I wasn’t behaving like a boy.’
‘You’re fourteen aren’t you Melissa, so it’s been ten years or more?’
‘Did anyone else know that you were really a girl.’
The trans-girl shook her head, ‘Mum made me promise not to tell anyone. She said my father would be really angry if he found out that someone else knew.’
‘You never played dressing up games with friends?’
‘I never had friends. I didn’t want to play with boys and I was afraid what would happen if I got friendly with girls.’
James felt a weight of sadness on his chest. He had kept Jasmine secret for years and it had been a huge relief when she was revealed to his sister, Holly. When he went to university, the freedom to be who he wanted to be was a joyous relief. How had Melissa survived for so long with just the support of her mother?
‘I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you, Melissa,’ he said, looking into the girl’s eyes. She seemed to absorb his sympathy. ‘Had things been getting better or worse?’
‘In what way?’
Melissa dropped her head and muttered. ‘I was afraid.’
‘Afraid? Of your father?’
‘Yes, but not just him.’
‘Becoming a man.’
Mellissa’s meaning dawned on James. ‘You mean puberty.’ Melissa nodded. James recalled the same horror when he found changes happening in his body, changes that made it more difficult for him to pretend to himself that he was a girl.
Melissa lifted her head up to reveal tears running down her cheeks. ‘I knew what was going on. They told us at school. But I didn’t believe it. I dreamt of my breasts growing, my dick dropping off. Of course, it didn’t happen. Instead I started to get hairs on my chin and hard-ons. My body isn’t me anymore.’
‘You could have got help,’ James said thinking about the agencies that helped young transsexuals to transition in their teens, but he realised as he said it that it was nonsense. There was no help available to Melissa.
‘I know,’ Melissa gave an ironic laugh, ‘I use the internet you know. I know about Mermaids and the Portman Clinic. I’ve read about other trans kids, boys and girls. I thought of sending an email, asking for help, but I knew that they couldn’t do anything for me until I was sixteen without my parents’ – my father’s – consent.’
‘You felt trapped?’
‘I s’pose that was it.’
‘Did you do anything?’
Melissa glared at James, ‘I bought girl’s clothes and make up and hid them. I dressed up whenever my father was out.’
‘Did your mother know?’
‘Of course she did. She helped me put on eye shadow and stuff.’
‘Did your father find out?’
The girl shrank in on herself. She whispered, ‘A couple of times.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He beat me and Mum; threw my girl’s stuff out. Said he’d do me in if it happened again.’
DS Sharma had been listening to the conversation, taking notes, but now he leaned forward.
‘So, what was different about last night?’
Melissa jerked upright in her chair. ‘I. . . I don’t know. He should have gone to work for the evening, but he came back.’
Sharma pressed on, ‘What were you wearing when he came in?’
‘Jeans and a t-shirt.’ That wasn’t the answer James expected.
‘What happened?’ Sharma asked
Melissa trembled. ‘He went mad. He ran at us, knocked Mum over and slapped me.’
The DS frowned. ‘Why did he do that? You weren’t wearing girl’s clothes.’
‘Mum was brushing my hair and putting grips in.’
‘What?’ Sharma said.
James answered instead. ‘He realised that your mother was giving you a feminine hairstyle. That was enough for him to lose his temper.’
‘Don’t put words in his mouth, Frame,’ Sharma said, glaring at James.
Sharma turned back to Melissa. ‘Is PC Frame correct?’
‘Yeah. He was always going on to me to get my hair cut. He cut it himself once. He wanted me to have a buzzcut but Mum stopped him.’
The DS eased himself back on his chair. ‘Okay so your father realised that you and your mother intended having a girly evening while he was at work. That might have made him angry. What happened next?’
Melissa shook her head. ‘I don’t know. One moment he was slapping me around the kitchen and the next he stopped and looked down at his chest. There was blood. . .’
‘You stabbed him with the kitchen knife.’
The girl shook, not with denial but with fear. ‘’I don’t know, I must have.’
Sharma pressed on. ‘Where did the knife come from? Did you get it out of the drawer?’
, ‘No, no. It was just there.’
‘On the table or the worktop?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘You picked it up and stabbed your father?’
Melissa covered her face with her hands. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I did.’
James asked, ‘Where was your mother, Melissa?’
The girl looked at him, confusion in her eyes. ‘Um, I don’t. . .on the floor?’
DS Sharma leaned forward. ‘It was you, Matthew Chapman, that thrust the knife into Eric Chapman, your father.’ He spoke as if pronouncing a verdict.
Melissa looked at him, her face blank. ‘Er, no, yes, I think, I’m not sure.’
The children’s support officer spoke. ‘I think that’s enough Detective Sergeant. Matthew is distraught.’
‘Thank you.’ DS Sharma stopped the recording. ‘We’ve got what we needed. You can take the boy back to the secure unit now.’
‘Girl,’ James said. ‘Her name is Melissa.’
‘It says, Matthew on the birth certificate,’ Sharma growled, ‘He’s a boy.’
Melissa was being helped out of the chair.
‘We’ll talk again, Melissa,’ James said, ‘You can tell me how you feel.’
‘Yes, we will interview you again,’ Sharma said, ‘but not today. Come on Frame. I want a word with you.’ He strode out of the interview room.
…………………..to be continued.