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.
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 There’s his name and address although that is apparently over a year out of date.’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 Why do you say that this address in Weymouth is out of date?’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?’
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 quite a while to be in the queue,’ Jasmine commented.
Hazel frowned. ‘It is, but Alfie was in and out of it a bit.’
‘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.’
‘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.