Last Chance to See…

If you haven’t read the previous short story Backstop, hurry up because it’ll be disappearing in a day or two. I’m about to send it to a magazine and whilst they don’t mind it having been on my blog they ask you to take it down before you submit, so that’s what I’ll be doing. Meanwhile I hope you’re enjoying Two Looks Like Murder. Comments welcome as always.

Kirk out

My Guardian Article – Three Looks Like a Crowd

Thanks for all the comments I’ve had about the above article and for the suggestion that I should write a response. I will do that but first I want to tell you how it came about. As regular readers will know I’m a member of a support group called Straight Partners Anonymous which exists to support the straight partners of people who come out as gay or transgender. A while ago a journalist got in touch asking for people to tell their stories; however no-one was very keen as they wanted us to put our name to the story and most members prefer to stay anonymous. I decided that I would do it, and so in the fullness of time I got to meet Colin.

By this time lockdown was in full swing so we met on Zoom. He’d prepped me by sending some questions for me to think about and this gave me a chance to consider my boundaries – what I would and wouldn’t talk about. I decided I’d give my name but no photos and just a vague geographical area rather than the specific town. Of course anyone who knows us would realise straight away that it was me but it just felt like too much to have a photo out there.

Colin turned out to be quiet, very personable and respectful of my boundaries. He didn’t push me to talk about anything I didn’t want to discuss and was understanding of my feelings. If I’d had a fear about this stage of the process it was that he might question my responses; to say (as people have done in the past) why didn’t you leave? or why can’t you just accept this? That last question has caused me a great deal of grief at times. He did ask gently whether I’d considered leaving and I said in moments of crisis, yes, but not otherwise. He went away and wrote up the interview and then emailed a copy for my comments.

Thus far all was good. I felt that it was my story and that there was a concerted effort to tell these neglected narratives of people left behind by the trans agenda. It very much feels that we are a forgotten people and it seemed important to me to talk about this.

The problems began with the editorial process. Colin is freelance and whilst he was firmly aiming the story at the Guardian, it wasn’t certain they’d accept. And at some point I got the distinct impression that the editors at the magazine were getting twitchy about it. The first hint I had was an email about pronouns. Since this is my story I used the pronoun I generally use (in private) which is ‘he’; Colin was fine with this but now they were suggesting we should use the trans person’s preferred pronoun throughout. I found this a quite outrageous suggestion: if this is my story it should be told in my words. I put my foot down. I said that I felt strongly about pronouns and this was a red line for me. As a compromise I would accept my (public) pronoun, which is the gender-neutral ‘they.’ This was accepted: so far so good.

But the problems escalated. The next suggestion was that the trans partners should be given the ‘right to reply’ to what we’d said – and at this stage I nearly pulled out. It seemed entirely wrong to me; when trans people’s stories are told, do the straight partners get a right of reply? We do not. I fulminated to OH who was as concerned as I about this new direction and – bless their little cotton socks forever – declined to be interviewed, saying it was my story and should remain so. I can’t tell you how good that felt – but the situation should not have arisen in the first place.

There followed such a long hiatus that I more or less gave up on ever seeing it in print. Colin was supposed to let me know and when the weeks went by without a word I decided that for whatever reason it wasn’t going to happen. Then on Saturday I just happened to get a paper – and there it was. On the front cover. What is it like when your partner comes out as trans?

There are several other stories and I’ll perhaps comment on the whole thing in another post, but for now here it is in case you missed it.

Kirk out

Short Story Serial: Two Looks Like Murder Episode 4

I need to phone work. Carol answers and I say I’m sorry I can’t come in today and she says where have you been and I say, I can’t explain now but I’ve not been well, I’ll be in tomorrow (when they see my scalp they’ll think cancer) and she says sorry to tell you this but you’re fired, you haven’t been in since Friday. What? Friday? What?

What day is it today? I say in a small voice, feeling like an idiot.

She seems to be suppressing a laugh. It’s Thursday. I drop the phone and collapse onto the bed.

Three whole days lost!

Enough. I drag myself into the shower, wincing as the water hits my scalp, and when I’m dry I throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, put a scarf over my lumpen head and ransack the drawers flinging clothes, money and passport into a bag. I slink out the back door and hail a taxi. I’ve already called May, said I needed a break; she sounded a bit curt but she’ll understand. She told me to leave years ago. Well May, I’m leaving now.

I hit the platform, ignoring the sidelong stares at my wild appearance, hoping the train won’t be delayed. As I look anxiously down the platform I see the stubbly brown hair and unmistakable gait of my least-favourite person in the world; Barry, my office nemesis and Dave’s best mate. Can I hide? Too late – he’s seen me. He strides over like a minder come to pick up his charge. What’s going on?

Without preamble he takes my arm in an iron grip and starts to steer me away from the platform. ‘Time to go home,’ he says out of the corner of his mouth. I’m trying to speak, to say what the hell are you doing, you can’t do this; to call out this man’s taking me by force, help, call the police, but the words won’t come. Barry propels me to a quiet spot under the bridge. ‘Now,’ he says.

Now? What does he mean, now?

He leans in to pull off my scarf and I wince, more in embarrassment than pain – in spite of needing help I don’t want anyone to see the state I’m in. He surveys my sorry scalp, nods in approval and hands the scarf back, then seizing my arm once more (why can’t I scream?) propels me into the lift, up and out through a barrier where he puts my return ticket through, a cancelled journey. In the side-street a taxi idles. Barry opens the door and shoves me in giving the driver our address, Dave’s and mine. Another cancelled journey.