Transphobia? Or interesting plot line?

I love crime procedurals: that style of literature that focuses on the work of policing and detection of the nastier sort of crime. Forensics. Definitely my sort of thing.

So obviously i love Val McDiarmid, whose work has been transposed over the last few years to the TV screen. OK: she’s a bit sadistic for my taste. Some of her imagery makes me want to look away. But she tells good stories, with interesting people at the heart of each.

Now, before you read on, a warning. There’s a minor spoiler in what follows. So if you’re planning to read her end to end, you may want to look away now.

I’ve just finished one of her earlier novels (won’t say precisely which). It features, as most do, a sadistic, sexually twisted killer. Not exactly the sort you’d like to spend sunday teatime with.

So far so good. Until the denouement, when it turns out the killer is actually a transwoman who… was always a bit unstable…was diagnosed by psych’s as really being a gay man who refused to accept his gayness…gets gender re-assignment by paying for it privately…and ends up with an enormous chip on her shoulder about how she’s been treated.

Hmmmm. The issues are well caught: the “suppressed gay” angle is something that was common in the psych world around the time this was written. The damaging effects of a patronising psych establishment.

Still, though, i am left wondering whether Ms McDiarmid is buying in to that particular point of view. Or just writing around it.

She is, as far as i am aware, a fairly out lesbian – and not afraid to include sexual themes in her writing. So is this positive stuff, writing about trans from a position of greater awareness than 90% of our writers?

Or is it cover for the rather more hostile Julie Bindel take on trans: that really we all secretly fancy our own gender and just need a competent psych to teach us how to?

I would be fascinated by any views- or better still, informed insights – readers may have.



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