The Politics of Mental Health

There is a really great thing going on in Bristol over the coming week. It is called the Freedom of Mind Festival, and it is a week-long series of events examining mental health issues from different angles. There’s a launch party which will raise funds for Off the Record (and therefore helps keep my amazing friend Henry in a job). There are workshops and films and art events. Nathan Filer will be dropping by for an event on the Thursday. And there will be a discussion panel at City Hall on Monday where local politicians will be asked what they are doing about mental health. One of the people asking awkward questions will be me.

This all comes out of the work I have been doing on the West of England “LGBT Manifesto”. There’s a whole bunch of us involved in that, and mental heath provision is going to be a major plank of what we are asking for. It also comes out of all the trans awareness training work I am currently doing for Bristol Mental Health. We had a planning meeting for that today and they were really positive and keen to get as many staff as possible trained. I will of course be armed with this fine survey done by my colleagues at The Diversity Trust on the health needs of LGBT people in the Bristol area. And as I have an MP on the panel with me I might just mention the Trans Equality Inquiry and the lack of action thereon.

There are, of course, many other social groups as well as LGBT folks who have major mental health issues. But given that up until very recently trans people were deemed insane simply for being trans I think we have a special stake in this and I’m delighted to be involved in the event.

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My BristolCon Schedule

A first draft (hopefully one which survives contact with the enemy) of the BristolCon programme has gone online. Here’s what I am up to.

9:50 (Room 2) – the usual welcome to the con thing that I do for Room 2 because we have not yet managed to clone Jo.

12:00 (Room 2) – SF&F On the Margins – The pros and cons of small press, indie and self-publishing for writers have been well explored over the past decade, but what benefits, if any, does the increased ease of access to publishing hold for readers and for the culture of speculative fiction? What exciting projects or changes in SF&F have come about through these marginal routes to market? With Sammy Smith (M), Joanne Hall, Cheryl Morgan, Adrian Faulkner, Jason Whittle.

I’m looking forward to this one. I may bring along one or two small press books to wave at people, including this one which I got in the post today:

I’ll also be talking about a brand new Wizard’s Tower venture which for now is known only as the Sekrit Projekt.

17:00 (Room 1) – It Takes A Village – From first draft to a table in Waterstones (we wish!) there can be a lot of people involved in producing a book. With representatives from all along the production line, we follow the journey of a book as it passes from one pair of hands to another, taking a close look at the roles of everyone involved and their working relationships. With Cheryl Morgan (M), Sammy Smith, Roz Clarke, Edward Cox, Nick Hembery.

Clearly Sammy and I are doing the publisher double-act this year. I shall mainly be moderating, but I’ll also wave books about and sing the praises of people like Ben Baldwin and Sophie E. Tallis who make my books look pretty.

Talking of books, when I am not in the bar (I’m sure that I must owe Ken MacLeod a drink or two from somewhere) I shall be in the Dealers’ Room because I will have stuff. I’m sharing a table with Pete Sutton, and on it you will be able to find the following.

Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom — the new Juliet E. McKenna book which we are putting the finishing touches to at the moment. Juliet will be at the con and I’m sure she’ll be happy to sign copies.

Something else from Wizard’s Tower that I’ll be telling you about later this week.

The existing Wizard’s Tower books: Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, Winter Song and Damage Time.

And if all goes according to plan, Fantastically Horny, the anthology that Pete and his colleagues at Far Horizons are producing, and which contains my story, “Camelot Girls Gone Wild”. I shall be rather schizophrenic, being both author and publisher.

Which reminds me, there’s the open mic reading event on Friday night. I should think of something for that, though I doubt that I can better last year.

It is going to be a busy weekend.

Posted in Conventions, Wizard's Tower | Leave a comment

Book Review – Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft CountryOld Howard has been in the news a lot of late. Everything from his ugly representation as the World Fantasy Award to the bizarre devotion that he seems to inspire in the people who run the World Fantasy Convention has been picked apart. It is kind of like if the Hugo was a bust of Heinlein, and 25% of programming at all Worldcons was about Heinlein, and Heinlein was someone whose work was only tangentially regarded as SF. Weird, one might say. But neither gibbous nor squamous.

Various attempts have been made to re-assess Lovecraft and his legacy in fiction. Jonathan L. Howard’s Carter & Lovecraft is one such. So is The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, which I have sat on my Kindle waiting to be read. The other well known one is Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, which I have read recently and can therefore review.

It isn’t a book that is easy to review if you happen to be white and British, because you are a fair way away from the things Matt is writing about. But I did enjoy the book, and there are enough positive reviews about by more knowledgeable people whose opinions I trust to suggest that Matt has once again delivered a fine novel. If you are interested in my verdict, you can find it here.

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Introducing the Pop Queer-ies

A few weeks ago I did an email interview for a new podcast based in Toronto. Being a stupidly busy feline I then mostly forgot about it. I figured it would go online eventually. Then, a couple of days ago, I noticed that the podcast had a Twitter feed. Checking their website, I discovered that they had not only published my interview, but there had been four other episodes since. Whoa!

The hard-working young ladies responsible for all of this nerdly goodness are Justine and Gwen. They are very knowledgeable about a whole range of stuff I know little about (or, in the case of video games, nothing about). And their hearts are in the right places (metaphorically speaking, I have no idea whether they are Time Lords).

My interview was part of Episode 5, which was all about trans woman in comics. You can read it here, and listen to parts of it here. Much more interestingly, there is also an interview with Rachel Pollack, which you can listen to here.

There are lots more shows available here, including an episode devoted to the Suicide Squad movie that I ought to listen to before I see Rob Williams next. (I decided not to see it in the cinema because there were so many bad reviews of it.)

Ah, so many podcasts, so little time.

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River Kingdom Cover Reveal

River Kingdom cover
As announced last month, Wizard’s Tower will shortly be launching a brand new book by Juliet E. McKenna. This fabulous cover is by Ben Baldwin. I’ll be announcing details of how to pre-order the book soon. In the meantime, here’s some blurb.

Imaginary friends should be a comfort when other consolations fail. But what if these longed-for companions think different? What if they’re none too pleased to be summoned? What if untamed magic can spawn creatures from daydreams or nightmares? Could something eerie half-glimpsed in a shadow actually be there?

Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom introduces a brand new fantasy setting from acclaimed author Juliet E McKenna. This volume brings together stories previously available in a range of publications, not all easily found, as well as some new material.

Welcome to the River Kingdom, where shadows can be all too solid and dangerous.

And here’s the full wrap-around.


The book has a really great map by Sophie E. Tallis as well. Sadly we can’t do color, fold-out interiors, but something else interesting may happen.

Posted in Art, Books | 2 Comments

More Awards

FantasyCon has been taking place in Scarborough this weekend. Many of my friends were there, and at least two lots of awards were given out.

The Gemmells are traditionally a white guy sort of award, but Larry Correia did not win despite being shortlisted. Both the Legend (Best Fantasy Novel) and Morningstar (Best Fantasy Debut) were won by writers from the South West. Mark Lawrence took the Legend with The Liar’s Key and Pete Newman took the Morningstar with The Vagrant. I understand that Pete’s trophy is a statue of a guy wielding a couple of swords. I shudder to think what Latimer will say about having to clean that.

The British Fantasy Awards use a jury for the final stage so the likelihood of a Puppy win was pretty low. What sort of people did the jurors think award-worthy? Gosh, mainly female-type persons and non-whit-type persons. Preferably persons who were both. Here are the winners:

  • Best anthology: The Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow (Tor Books)
  • Best artist: Julie Dillon
  • Best collection: Ghost Summer: Stories, Tananarive Due (Prime Books)
  • Best comic/graphic novel: Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV and Cris Peter (Image Comics) (#2–5)
  • Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Macmillan)
  • Best film/television production: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Peter Harness (BBC One)
  • Best horror novel (the August Derleth Award): Rawblood, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Best independent press: Angry Robot (Marc Gascoigne)
  • Best magazine/periodical: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, ed. Scott H. Andrews (Firkin Press)
  • Best newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award): Zen Cho, for Sorcerer to the Crown (Macmillan)
  • Best non-fiction: Letters to Tiptree, ed. Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best novella: “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn”, Usman T. Malik (
  • Best short fiction: “Fabulous Beasts”, Priya Sharma (
  • The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award): The FantasyCon redshirts, past and present

Have I mentioned that I have an essay in Letters to Tiptree? And yet it is still winning awards, which shows you what a good book it is.

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ShoutOut Does Trans Pride

The nice folks at ShoutOut Radio did some promotion for Trans Pride South West in their Thursday show. Part of that involved using some of the material that I collected at Brighton’s Trans Pride. Those interviewed include Sarah Savage, Fox Fisher, Kate Adair and, of course, Ren Stedman. Kate makes mention of this little episode from my trip to Hay. Should you wish to listen to the show, you can find the podcast version here.

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The Emmys, Part Three

There are International Emmys. Who knew? Not me. It is starting to seem like every time I look at social media a new set of Emmys is being announced. I don’t mind, because the results keep getting better.

Why? Well to understand my excitement we need to travel back in time to June 1998. I am in Wellington, New Zealand for a convention. I’m there partly to promote the (as it was then) San Francisco in 2002 Worldcon bid, partly to see my old friend Neil Gaiman, and partly to meet the other Guest of Honor at the event, a chap called George R.R. Martin whose new novel, A Game of Thrones, I had got quite excited about. (Foolishly, at the end of my review of the book, I had written, “Get on with it, George, there are a large number of people out here who are on tenterhooks”.)

Anyway, there I am in an Indian restaurant in Wellington with George & Parris, Neil, and a lovely Australian couple called Medge & Bean. Also with us is a friend from Melbourne, Sean McMullen, whose writing I had been championing, and his daughter. Of the young lady I wrote:

Catherine is very sweet, but boy can she be hard work at times. For a nine-year-old, she is exceptionally bright, and she holds her own in fandom with ridiculous ease. The trouble is, we just don’t have her energy. How Sean copes I do not know.

Fast forward now to August 1999. I was doing an Australian special edition of Emerald City in honor of the Melbourne Worldcon. I wasn’t the only editor thinking that way, because one of the things I reviewed was an all-Australian edition of Interzone. Sean had a story in it, and so did Catherine. She might just have turned 11 by then, and she went on to charm the whole Bay Area crew that came to Melbourne where our Worldcon bid was being voted on. (It was a three-year cycle back then.) I commented:

If Sean’s daughter isn’t famous by the end of the next decade I’ll eat my keyboard.

Ten years later Catherine was at Melbourne University studying for a joint degree in Film Studies and Law. She’d won something called the Melbourne National Scholarship which is a university study grant (all tuition fees paid) for student of outstanding academic achievement. I wasn’t surprised. I did not eat a keyboard.

Since graduating Catherine has racked up a host of credits on TV shows in a variety of roles, including Production Secretary on the SyFy mini-series of Childhood’s End. And now, drum roll please…

The 2016 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award Winner is C.S. McMullen for her script, “Living Metal”.

Sir Peter Ustinov Award

The Emmys website says:

Each year, The Foundation administers the Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award. The competition is designed to motivate non-American novice writers under the age of 30, and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting. Entrants are asked to create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script.

The award winner receives $2,500, a trip to New York City, and an invitation to the International Emmy® Awards Gala in November.

I am well impressed. Congratulations on the award, Catherine. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Typically studios queue up to produce the Ustinov-winning script, so I’m sure we’ll see “Living Metal” on our screens in the near future.

Posted in Australia, Awards, TV | 1 Comment

Happy Bi Visibility Day

By happy coincidence, Bi Visibility Day happened to fall in the week of Trans Pride South West. Therefore we are having a joint flag raising in Bristol today. I believe it is the first time that the Bi flag has ever been raised at City Hall. (And if it isn’t that shows you how visible the event has been in the past.)

Anyway, I’ll be off to the flag raising ceremony shortly. After that I’ll be attending the launch of a book called Purple Prose at Hydra Books. I expect to see a few people I know there. (Jacq Applebee did a launch event for the book at Parliament earlier in the week. Hydra is a similar venue, right?)

Many trans people do identify as bisexual, of course. Or pansexual, but let’s not get into that. It is also true that many trans people, including me, had sexual relationships with people of one gender before transition, and people of another gender after transition. Whether that makes them bi, I do not know. Given how much transphobia there is in gay and lesbian communities, I don’t want to go there. I’m happy to do my bit to support people who do identify as bi (or pan).

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County Cricket – Down to the Wire

County cricket and nail-biting excitement are not terms that are generally used together. The County Championship is old-fashioned cricket played the way God intended before she realized that T20 games could be a whole lot of fun. Matches are played over four days and often end in draws. It is enough to send your average American sports fan into a coma.

This year, however, is different. As we entered the final week of matches, three teams were in with a shot at the title. Excitingly the top two teams, Middlesex and Yorkshire, were due to play each other at the “Home of Cricket”, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Lord’s is the home ground of Middlesex, and Yorkshire are the defending champions. It was a perfect set up.

Except that there was a joker in the pack. Way out in Taunton, tiny Somerset had a game against a hapless and already relegated Nottinghamshire side. It looked like an easy win for the cider boys, and if the two titans of the game slugging it out in London fought each other to a draw, then the cheeky West Country lads could sneak off with the title.

Today was day 3 of the matches. There was much excitement during the day regarding matters of bonus points, but I will spare you the neepery and cut to the chase.

As expected, Somerset wrapped up a victory easily — with a day to spare, in fact. They missed out on only a single bonus point and so racked up a lot of points. They now sit happily on top of the table.

Meanwhile in London fortunes swung back and fore. Yorkshire currently have the upper hand, but there’s a whole day to play and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Middlesex could get a win. Sides have come back from worse positions before. A win for either side will net enough points for the title.

Or it could rain all day. Who knows?

We’ll find out tomorrow. The bookmakers have Yorkshire as firm favorites. They are they reigning champions. They know how to win. And there is enough playing time for them to get there. But Somerset have points in the bag. If Yorkshire slip up tomorrow, something momentous might happen.

In thinking of how to explain this to Americans, my first thought was to talk about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were founder members of Major League Baseball and have a history dating back to 1876. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 (though this year they look to be hot favorites). But they have won, twice.

Somerset’s cricket club was founded in 1875. County cricket was started by Yorkshire and Gloucestershire in 1890, and Somerset was the third team to join the tournament in 1891. In all of that time they have never won the championship.

Tomorrow we could see a little bit of cricketing history being made.

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Happy Equinox!

I have been so busy today that I almost forgot. However, Liz Williams had this beautiful image on Facebook and I couldn’t help but swipe it.

And for those of you who saw this when I first posted it, yes, that is how much my brain is fogged. I feel more like a mucus-stuffed corpse than a cat, but at least I got the radio show done.

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Trans Pride On Ujima

Today I devoted the whole of my show to the South West’s first ever Trans Pride. I was joined in the studio by Sophie Kelly of the TPSW committee, and Tara Fraser who works with our friends ShoutOut on BCFM.

Our one non-trans guest was Liz Sorapure of Bristol Mind who is helping set up a new helping specifically for trans people. Liz is looking for trans people who would like to be trained up to be helpline volunteers, because it makes a big difference to know that someone with similar life experiences is on the other end of the phone.

I had a whole pile of pre-recorded interviews, mostly from my trip to London last week. These included Ruth Cadbury, MP; Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch; Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence; and journalist, Jane Fae. Obviously they were all talking about the state of the campaign for trans rights.

Later in the show I spoke to Henry Poultney of Off the Record who talked about issues facing young trans people in Bristol.

All of the music on the show was by trans artists. I also included an interview with the headline act from trans pride, Ren Stedman. I played three of Ren’s songs, including a new one he tells me has never been heard in public elsewhere.

Apparently we were off FM briefly at the end of the show. I’m told that there were some power cuts in Bristol and the building that houses our transmitter was hit. Thankfully the studio was OK. Internet streaming was unaffected, and the Listen Again links are fine. My apologies to anyone listening on FM in Bristol. Hopefully you can catch the missing bits of the show via the links below.

You can listen to the show’s first hour here, and second hour here.

The playlist for the show was:

  • I Am What I Am – Amanda Lear
  • What I Have Become – Ren Stedman
  • White Wedding – CN Lester
  • You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
  • Grow Up – Ren Stedman
  • Love Will Save the Day – Koko Jones
  • Alfred Parks – Ren Stedman
  • True Trans Soul Rebel – Against Me
Posted in Gender, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

The Chalk Playlist

Work this afternoon has been accompanies by the playlist for Paul Cornell’s forthcoming novel, Chalk. It is mostly classical 80s pop — things like Human League, Culture Club, Duran Duran and of course Let’s Dance era Bowie. However, there are a few older songs in it too. I have a couple of tunes I’d like to highlight.

First up, Tracey Ullman’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”. I love just about everything that MacColl wrote. This one was a huge hit.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that I was never a Bay City Rollers fan. The other is that I used to own a pair of pink slippers exactly like the ones that Tracey wears in the video.

Here’s the other one. This isn’t the video used in Paul’s playlist but it is more appropriate. White Horses was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid and I particularly loved this song. As I said to Kevin in email just now, I was such a girl, it is a wonder no one noticed.

There was Follyfoot too, of course. Mind you, what I really wanted was Comet, not a Lipizzaner. And Streaky to go with him.

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Bristol Festival of Literature Events

The full publicity for my two events at the Bristol Festival of Literature is now out.

The “Stories of Strong Women” panel only exists as a Facebook event. You can find that here. Apparently we have 85 people going already, which is awesome.

I have created an EventBrite event for “Ageing in the LGBT Community”, which you can find here. I’m hoping we’ll get good attendance from people who work with the elderly, both via the NHS and the voluntary sector. I certainly got interest when I mentioned it at some of the trans awareness courses I have been doing.

While I’m here I would also like to highlight the Annual General Meeting of OutStories Bristol (of which I am co-chair). This year Bristol University has kindly provided us with a beautiful venue, and we are lucky enough to have the brilliant Dr. Jana Funke of Exeter University to come and talk to us about her research into the archives of Radclyffe Hall. Jana is a great speaker. She did a short version of this for me in February as part of the LGBT History Festival. She’s got twice as long this time. I’m looking forward to it.

Posted in Academic, Gender, Health, History, Readings | Leave a comment

Farewell Dave Kyle

Science Fiction lost one of its oldest fans yesterday. Dave Kyle, who chaired the 1956 Worldcon, has died at the age of 97. I chatted with him at various Worldcons when he must have been in his 80s. He seemed a lovely bloke. Mike Glyer does obituaries far better than I do, so here’s his.

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More Emmys

Laverne Cox at the Emmys

No, Laverne didn’t win one. She was presenting one. How cool is that?

Also she had by far the best dress of the night, and the second best red carpet photo (of which more later).

So, I did not get to Trans*Code today, and I am not at Fringe. I am still sick. But one of the very upsides of being woken regularly through the night by sinus pain is that you get to check on the Emmy results as they come in. This weekend was the high profile stuff: actors, directors and the like.

Game of Thrones won loads of gongs again, and George got to go on stage even though his name wasn’t on any of the trophies, which made me happy. Well done, mate. You’ve done us all proud.

Transparent won two awards: Jill Soloway for Director of a Comedy Series and Jeffrey Tambor for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In her speech Soloway said, “We need to stop violence against trans women and topple the patriarchy.” In his speech Tambor said, “please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a transgender character on television.”

Of course it hasn’t escaped people’s notice that it is all very well for a couple of cis people make such comments when being heaped with awards. It is the second year that Tambor has won for the same role. Nevertheless, I think last night was pretty important. Here are a few things to note.

I have to admit that Transparent isn’t for me. I’m not good with TV comedy of any kind. But other trans folk have had good things to say about the show. One of Soloway’s parents identifies as trans, and the show has recruited a whole slew of trans people to work on it behind the scenes. Zackary Drucker has an associate producer credit on the show, which should be very good for her career.

Also here’s what a couple of people in the business had to say.

Both Boylan and Richards have seen Hollywood from the inside. They understand how the politics works, and the importance of having people like Soloway and Tambor stand up for them. Sure it is privilege at work, but change isn’t going to happen any other way.

I’m particularly pleased for Jen Richards. When she took a stand against the new Matt Bomer film (yet again a cis man playing a trans woman, and with far less justification than is the case with Transparent) it was clear from her tweets that she felt she might have just killed her career. Hollywood doesn’t like people who rock the boat. Thankfully That Moment has come. A few days later she went on to land a recurring role in Nashville. I like to think it was that event that gave Soloway and Tambor the confidence to speak out as they did.

So where now? Eden Lane had a very good point:

Looking over the press coverage, it is interesting to note which outlet’s reported Soloway’s comment about the patriarchy but left out her comment about violence against trans women, or which note Tambor’s win but leave out his support of trans actors.

We saw another major step forward last night, but it is only a step on the road. There’s a long way to go yet.

Oh, and I promised you another photo. You have probably all seen this by now, but it is great so I’m doing it anyway. Her name is Jessie Graff and she’s a stunt woman. Some of her recent work includes doing stunts as Supergirl, and as Bobbi Morse on Agents of SHIELD.


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June Fringe – Stephanie Burgis & Justin Newland

The recordings from the June BristolCon Fringe event are now online. We did things slightly differently that month. Firstly thanks to a technical hitch we had no microphone on the AV system. That meant we had to record people direct rather than off the AV system, which caused a few problems with the sound. In addition Stephanie had to leave early to catch a train back to Abergaveny so we had her read first, then did her Q&A, all in one session.

Stephanie read from the opening chapter of her novel, Masks and Shadows, which I reviewed here. It being an historical fantasy featuring secret societies and a eunuch, I had a lot of questions to ask her. The opera connection is very important too.

Our other reader for June was Justin Newland, better known as “the man who asks questions” from our Q&A sessions. Justin read a short story set during the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and the opening chapter of his novel, The Genes of Isis.

Stephanie was able to stay for the reading but had to leave during Justin’s Q&A session. We had a short break while she left, but when we came back no one had any new questions so we just did announcements, which have been tacked on to this recording.

The September Fringe event takes place tomorrow night. The readers are Cassandra Khaw and Jonathan L Howard. I should be there, though I am supposed to be in Cardiff during the day for a Trans*Code event and the Severn Tunnel is closed so travel will be a bit unpredictable. Also I have to get my body functioning again after a couple of days of being dead of cold. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow.

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Trans Equality Update

If you want some confirmation that the TERFs did themselves more harm than good by trying to disrupt Tuesday’s meeting in Westminister, just check out this report from a young woman who is doing a year’s placement work in Parliament.

Also something new and interesting is happening. It is called the Trans Equality Legal Initiative, and it is a joint effort between trans activists and human rights lawyers. I’m a big fan of what the Transgender Law Center has done for trans rights in the USA, and if these folks can deliver the same sort of service in the UK that would be very valuable indeed.

Parliament isn’t the only place where laws are created. Legal precedent is also a very important area. Test cases can clarify what laws actually mean, or flag up the need for Parliamentary action. And what has been happening in courts with regard to cases of obtaining sex “by deception” has been hugely harmful to trans people. We need highly qualified specialists who can take on these cases and win them for us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | 2 Comments

Foz Meadows in The Salon

Last week I did an interview with Foz Meadows about her recently published novel, An Accident of Stars. As might be expected when you get two ranty feminists with a strong interest in gender together, we had a lot to talk about. In particular I wanted to talk about how Foz manages to do a whole bunch of things I would not normally recommend when writing a trans character and make them work. One of the reasons for this, of course, is that if you create a world in which transphobia doesn’t exist then most of the usual rules go out of the window.

Of course we managed to find lots more topics to discuss as well. In particular Foz sheds some light on her thinking when creating the matriarchal society in the world of her book. Foz also explains how the book is, in part, about the “Susan Problem”, something which all teenage girls who read Narnia will recognize.

Along the way there’s a brief shout out to the wonderful Trudi Canavan, and some words of praise for Seanan McGuire’s wonderful Every Heart a Doorway.

The interview took place over Skype with Foz in Queensland and me in England, so the sound quality isn’t up to studio standards. But hey, video phone call to Australia; we are living in the future.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Gender, Podcasts, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

Trans Equality: What’s Next?

That was the title of a public meeting held today at Portcullis House, an office block over the road from the Palace of Westminster used for all sorts of parliamentary business. I got a formal invitation, probably because I had submitted evidence to the Trans Equality Inquiry, and I went along because I have a radio show on trans issues coming up next week so I wanted to be up to date on the issues.

The meeting was chaired by the Rt. Hon Maria Miller MP (Con), who was the chair of the Inquiry, and by Ruth Cadbury MP (Lab), who was also on the Inquiry. Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch, who is also prospective Lib Dem candidate for Chippenham, a large town just north of me, was also on the panel, as were Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence and Ashley Reed, a student activist. Maria had to rush off half way through to speak in a debate on sexual harassment, which everyone in the room agreed was very important.

One things that came through very clearly at the meeting is that both Maria and Ruth care very much about trans issues and want to help us. What is much less clear is how much they can achieve. The Government has pretty much fobbed off the Inquiry’s report. Helen did a great job of exposing how much of what little the Government said it was doing, or would do, had been done before to no effect.

A major issue, and the MPs were very upfront about this, is that trans equality requires a great deal of work on many fronts. There are issues in health, in education, in the justice system, in the media, in immigration and so on. Most of the work that needs doing is in other ministerial areas outside the control of the Equalities department. Of course this affects work being done on women’s rights, on LGB rights and just about anything else the Women & Equalities Committee does.

In the short term, much of the work that has to be done involves getting the rest of society on board. Maria encouraged everyone to write to their MPs (though that’s rather pointless in my case because mine is a Farage wannabe). Both Helen and Jane Fae mentioned the need to get the Civil Service on board, though how we can do this is another matter.

While it was great that the meeting happened, it achieved rather less than it might for several reasons. Firstly it was overwhelmingly white and a substantial majority female-identified. Such meetings need to represent the whole of the UK’s trans community, not just those of us willing to turn up (and financially able to do so).

Second, once the meeting was opened up to public comment, almost every speaker took the opportunity to make the most of their time in the spotlight. Please try not to do this, people. I understand that many of you have harrowing personal stories, or situations that you are very angry about. We know this. The MPs know this because they read all of the evidence sent to them. We need to move forward now and have some serious debate about where to concentrate our efforts.

Finally a great deal of time was wasted because a large group of TERFs* turned up determined to disrupt the meeting by making speeches about the evils of “men” (by which they mean trans people of all genders).

As is common with such people, most of what they said is dubious at best. The claim about trans women being proven to be violent is one of several claims debunked here. It is absolutely untrue that doctors are “sterilising” children. And to claim that Gendered Intelligence goes into schools telling young girls who like to play with cars that they must be trans and must transition to male when Jay has just been talking about the need for people to be able to define their own identity is a breathtaking piece of dishonesty.

The claim that 80% of trans kids “grow out of it” is a particularly interesting one. In version 4 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) there were five criteria for diagnosing a child as trans. Only one of those involves the child positively identifying as a gender other than that assigned at birth. The other four did not require the patient to identify as trans. Diagnosis could be made if the patient fitted four out of the five criteria. It was therefore possible to diagnose a child as trans even if they said they weren’t. On this basis doctors could identify kids as trans, and then claim to have “cured” them when it turned out they didn’t want to transition. So 80% of the children were “cured” of being trans. What a surprise. For more in this see Kelly Winters.

Having said that, a significant number of children who present at gender clinics do not go on to transition. Some may have been referred by worried parents who are obsessed with “correct” gendered behavior. Others might be trying to find their true selves. The job of the doctors is to prescribe the correct treatment for each patient individually.

Lots of people go to the doctor because they have a headache. Many of them can be dismissed with a box as aspirin and perhaps a suggestion to consume less alcohol. Others will have serious migraines that need a great deal more medical help. And a small number will have brain tumors that need emergency treatment. No one suggests that people with migraines or brain tumors should not be helped because a majority of people with headaches have the flu or a hangover. Nor would any doctor insist that every patient with a headache be given radiotherapy just in case. The same should be true of gender medicine.

Of course in the bad old days doctors (and politicians) were obsessed with the gender binary. They were the ones who said that patients either had to go the whole way and become stereotypical members of the “opposite” sex, or get no treatment at all. Trans activists have fought long and hard against this, and the medical profession has, by and large, come to agree with us. It is rather ironic that the TERFs keep accusing us of being in favor of a practice we fought hard to end.

Anyway, the good news is that MPs, parliamentary employees, human rights lawyers and various other cis folk who were present at the meeting were horrified at the behavior of their TERFs. As I said on Twitter, if you want to convince others of the rightness of your cause, it helps a lot to not be utterly vile to people. Though the TERFs wasted a lot of our time, they did a huge amount of damage to their cause, for which I am duly grateful.

I have bagged interviews with Ruth Cadbury, Helen Belcher, Jay Stewart and Jane Fae which I hope to use in the radio show next week. Job done from my point of view. As for trans equality, we still have a very long way to go. But at least we have allies. And thanks to the TERFs we are getting more.

* TERFs = Trans Exclusionary radical Feminists, though they are neither radical (they are deeply conservative) or very good feminists

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