LGBT History Festival – Got Programme?

Bristol LGBT History Festival Programme
With Bristol’s leg of the 2016 National Festival of LGBT History happening next week, it is time for some more publicity barrage. Above is the electronic version of our flyer (designed by the incredibly talented Ceri Jenkins). Of course shrinking it down to fit in a page does nothing for readability, but click ye to embiggen and all shall be revealed.

For more details of the events, see the OutStories Bristol website.

Booking links for the ticketed events are as follows:

It is all free to attend.

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Trans People and Names

I’ve updated my post on the Twilight People project to register a name change for the director to Surat-Shaan Knan. I’ve always known him as Surat before, but he’s changing the name he goes by, as many trans people do. Both names are male-identified in Hebrew. However, the Shaan has personal religious meaning for him that I won’t pretend to fully understand but am happy to respect.

Obviously many trans people change their names on transition. Some are lucky enough to have names that work for more than one gender to begin with. Others being non-binary see no need for a name change. But if you are going from an obviously male name to an obviously female identity you’ll probably want to change. What many people don’t realize is that this isn’t always the end of it.

I was chatting to Shaan about the name change at the V&A on Saturday, and Fox Fisher happened to be stood nearby. He got in on the conversation because he too has recently changed his name. In his case, he told me, it is because his family has come out as supporting him and he wanted to go back to using his family name again. That’s wonderful. I changed my last name on transition to protect my family from association with me. I’m still doing that, because for some people being associated with an out trans person is still dangerous.

There are many other reasons why trans people might change their name a second time. If you pick a name without having tried it out much you might find that it doesn’t suit you. (I was using mine for years before going full time as female.) Or you may settle on a nickname or diminutive of the name you adopted.

Cis people do this too. Women may change their names on getting married, and may change them back again after separation. People become known by nicknames all the time. So hopefully it is fairly easy for people to cope with trans folk changing names. I think it is mainly newspapers who insist on knowing what our “real” names are. And as the Trans Equality Report succinctly put it, there is no such thing as a “legal name” in the UK. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Posted in Gender | 1 Comment

Before Stonewall – Compton Cafeteria

Ask most people when the gay rights movement began and they will say the Stonewall Riot in 1969. This is bollocks, of course. Things were happening in Germany in the 19th Century. But Stonewall wasn’t even the first such event in the USA. In 1966 there was a riot by trans people at a place called Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco. It probably wasn’t the first either, but it is the subject of an Emmy-winning film, Screaming Queens, written and directed by Victor Silverman and trans historian, Susan Stryker.

At the end of February, Susan will be in Manchester as one of the headline speakers for their part of the LGBT History Festival. There will be a showing of the film on Friday, 26th February 2015 from 2pm to 4pm. Susan will be present to answer questions. I’ll be there. Hopefully I will see some of you there too. This is a rare opportunity to learn about a key moment in LGBT history, and meet an expert in the field. Tickets available here.

Posted in Gender, History, Movies | Leave a comment

Schools & Families Day – Museum of London

Sir Derek Jacobi learns his lines
The final part of my weekend in London was the Schools & Families Day put on by Schools Out at the Museum of London. Whereas on Saturday I had been mainly supporting trans friends, and speaking myself, on Sunday I got to see new stuff. I had a fabulous day.

One of the first thing I noticed on arrival was a book stall. It turned out to be run by Letterbox Library, who specialize in books for children that have equality and diversity themes. I immediately encouraged them to get in touch with Fox and Sarah about stocking Are You a Boy or are You a Girl?, but I was delighted to see that they had 10,000 Dresses and I snapped a picture to send to Marcus Ewert. The day sort of took off from there.

Stuart Milk was due to read from the children’s book about his uncle, so I wandered along to say hello and ended up doing gopher work as he was expecting some people to come to interview him. I was passing through the museum lobby when I spotted a familiar looking gentleman looking a bit lost. So I introduced myself and took Sir Derek Jacobi up to where our event was taking place. He was due to read some children’s books later in the day, and to my delight he picked Marcus’s book as one of the ones to use. I snapped the picture above and sent it off to go viral, which it duly did.

Then it was back to the lecture theatre to catch up with Juno Dawson. I’d not read any of her stuff before, but having now heard some of it I can thoroughly recommend it. She’s also lovely. We had a bit of a chat about transitioning in the public eye.

Sir Derek was up next, and I managed to get a quick chat with him. I told him how his old friend Claudius had been responsible for making the Rites of Attis part of the official Roman Religious Calendar. (There’s even an official Castration Day, when Roman trans girls got their op done.) His readings of the kids books were fabulous. There was video taken, so hopefully one day I’ll be able to share his reading of 10,000 Dresses with you.

Little did I know that Chris Riddell was also in the audience. He did a few sketches, including this one (thanks to Marjorie for the link):

Next up I went to see a great presentation by Subodh Rathod about gender fluidity in Hindu religion. Vishnu has a female avatar called Mohini who is, naturally, incredibly beautiful. She has a famous dance. Obviously Mohini is of great interest to the hijra community. Subodh was assisted by Kali Chandrasegaram who performed the dance at the end of the talk.

That was at least 2000 years of living trans history right in front of our eyes.

Sir Derek Jacobi learns his lines

I also got to meet the fabulous Juno Roche, got to hear my new pal Laila El-Metoui talk about the amazing work she does on diversity in adult education, and saw the Gay Men’s Choir perform. All in all, it was a pretty fabulous day.

Huge congratulations to Niranjan Kamatkar and his team for putting on a great weekend, and to Sue Sanders for the fabulous work that she does making these things happen. Bristol has a lot to live up to. No pressure, eh?

Posted in Books, Gender, History | Leave a comment

Karen Lord and Maria Turtschaninoff in Conversation

On the BBC World Service, on Monday. Thanks to Farah for the tip off.

As it is World Service it should be accessible everywhere. And it will be on iPlayer afterwards if you can’t tune in live.

Posted in Radio, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Crawford Award Results

I’m a bit late with this — sorry Gary — but the results of this year’s Crawford Award (for a debut fantasy book) have been announced. The winner was The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson which is indeed a very fine book. With so many books to cover these days, not all of the judging group gets to read every book, but I can also recommend The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Natasha Pulley), The Grace of Kings (Ken Liu) and The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Seth Dickinson). The Devourers (Indra Das) was only published in India but will apparently be out in the USA this year so I’ll snap up a copy. I know nothing about The Daughters (Adrienne Celt), but those who read it spoke highly of it so I’ll look for that one too.

Maybe this year I can get started on the reading list early. Hmm, what’s this All the Birds in the Sky thing…

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LGBT History Festival, Up and Running

The London Hub of the 2016 National Festival of LGBT History is well and truly underway. On Friday night we were at Islington Town Hall for the Civic Launch. It was splendidly municipal bling. Roz Kaveney was a star for reading a poem rather than giving a speech, therefore helping get the event back on track after various political people had droned on a bit. The rendition of Labi Siffre’s “So Strong” by the Diversity Choir that closed the evening was superb.

Today we were at the V&A. I attended talks by Stuart Milk, Sabah Choudrey, Fox Fisher and Bisi Alimi, all of which were very good. My apologies to Jana Funke and Travis Alabanza, both of whom I would have loved to see, but they were scheduled against each other and that was the only time I had to sit down with Stuart and go over plans for his visit to Bristol.

Fox had an amazing piece of film with him. If you have seen the My Genderation films you may remember one about an young trans lad called Ruben who was filmed just before he stared on testosterone. Fox has now done an update a couple of years later. The contrast is amazing, as is what has been done with the footage.

By the way, I understand that Sarah Savage will have some previously unseen film footage in her talk at Bristol in two weeks time.

I did my Michael Dillon talk. It wasn’t the best talk I have ever done, but it seemed to go down OK. Also I got some really exciting news about Dillon after the talk which I hope to be able to share soon.

Tomorrow I’ll be off to the Museum of London where I will hopefully get to meet Juno Dawson. Sadly Gandalf appears to be off the bill, but the Emperor Claudius will be there instead.

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Launching Twilight People

Twilight People collage

I am in London, for their leg of the 2016 National Festival of LGBT History. The first event was last night at Islington Museum. It was the opening of Twilight People, a photographic exhibition of trans people of faith.

The show has been put together by my friend Surat-Shaan Knan, who is amazingly good at magicking up funds and volunteers for this sort of thing. The photography is really good, and it is fascinating to read all of the stories about the intersections between gender journeys and journeys of faith. If you happen to be in London, do pop in and take a look.

The people in the exhibition come from a wide range of backgrounds including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Paganism. There are, of course, a lot of faiths missing, but Surat-Shaan can only work with people who offer themselves as volunteers. Hopefully he can add to the mix in time.

I am particularly impressed with Liberal Judaism for all of the support that they give to Surat-Shaan in his projects.

I managed to snag a couple of interviews while I was there. One is with Christina Beardsley who is a Christian minister. The other is with the Deputy Mayor of Islington. Shaan dear, you owe me an interview, and I owe you coffee.

Tonight is the Civic Launch of the London weekend. Roz Kaveney is one of the guest speakers.

Posted in Gender, Photos | 1 Comment

Today on Ujima – Football, Lesbians, Rhodes and Bowie

I was hosting the Women’s Outlook show again today on Ujima. We started off with an interview with some football (soccer) players from a local sports club. Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls are perhaps most famous for the fact that Banksy was once their goalkeeper, but they deserve to be far more famous for the wonderful work they do in the community, and around their world. They have a slogan, “Freedom Through Football” and they have done amazing things in places like Mexico and Palestine. The main reason that they were on the show is that the Cowgirls team has just got back from the West Bank and they are going to be showing a film about their trip. What the Palestinian footballers have to put up with is beyond belief.

The club is also very inclusive, taking players of all ages and abilities. They now have netball and cricket teams as well as football. And they are fully LGB and T inclusive, and multi-ethnic.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

In the second half of the show I was joined by my lesbian author friend, Bea Hitchman. She’s doing a PhD about lesbians in fiction, in particular addressing the fact that their stories so often come to a sad end. I suggested that she talk to Malinda Lo. We were joined in the studio by my colleagues, Judeline and Frances, both of whom had seen Carol, and we talked a bit about the film.

For the final half hour we were joined by playwright, Edson Burton, and poet, Miles Chambers. They had some events to plug, and in return they joined us in discussing the legacy of Cecil Rhodes and the Rhodes Must Fall campaign currently being waged by students at Oxford University.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The music for today’s show was all Bowie, but many of the tracks were covers by black musicians. Here’s the playlist:

  • Let’s Dance – David Bowie & Nile Rodgers
  • Heroes – Janelle MonĂ¡e
  • Young Americans – David Bowie & Luther Vandross
  • Life on Mars? – Seu Jorge
  • Ashes to Ashes – Warpaint
  • Sound & Vision – Megapuss
  • Modern Love – The Sunshiners
  • Starman – Culture Club

There’s one cover that I wish I had included. The show before me played it. It is a ska version of “Heroes” performed by the Hackney Colliery Band. Here it is:

Posted in Current Affairs, Fiction, Music | Leave a comment

My February Schedule

It being LGBT History Month, I have a pile of public engagements. Most of you won’t be able to get to them, but I’m listing them here just in case, and because it will explain why I’ll be so busy.

That, of course, does not include the three training courses I am doing for different NHS organizations (in Minehead, Bristol and Exeter), the events in London and Manchester I’m attending but not speaking at, and the whole week of looking after Stuart Milk in Bristol. With any luck, I’ll get to meet Susan Stryker, Tom Robinson and Juno Dawson. If I am really lucky I might get to say hello to Gandalf.

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100 Women Making Comics

That’s not a threat, it is the title of an exhibition opening in London this weekend. It is curated by Olivia Ahmad and Paul Gravett and will feature, to no one’s surprise, the work of 100 women comics artists. The women featured include Alison Bechdel, Audrey Niffenegger, Claire Bretecher, Katie Green, Posy Simmonds and Tove Jansson.

The exhibition will run from Feb. 5th to May 15th. You can find it at 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4BH. Further details are available here.

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Le Guin Documentary on Kickstarter

Now this is a project worth backing:

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a feature documentary, explores the remarkable life and legacy of the groundbreaking 86-year-old author.

It is serious stuff too. Seven years of filming is already in the can, and the project has a production grant of $240,000 available from the National Endowment for the Humanities. However, this is one of those matching funding type things, so they can’t get that money unless they raise and extra $80,000 themselves too, hence the crowdfunding.

This is so very much a film that I want to see. Hopefully you do too. If you are not yet convinced, watch this.

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

LGBT History Month Is Here

It is February. The insanity is starting. I am going to be so busy over the next four weeks.

I’ll have more about my schedule in a later post, but write now I want to draw your attention to a magazine that Schools Out UK has produced to send around the country. There’s an online version of it available here. Congratulations to my pal Adam Lowe for doing a fine job with the layouts.

The magazine runs to 64 pages it in. Much of it is ads, which supports it being given out for free. However, there are lots of interesting articles. It includes messages of support from a bunch of VIPs. There’s some guy called David Cameron in it, and Jeremy Corbyn. And Nicola Sturgeon, of course. And then it gets down to the substances with things like a Bowie retrospective, an interview with Bisi Alimi, and an article by me about trans people and religion. I’m on pages 26 and 27.

Writing serious historical stuff for a magazine like this is a bit hard. I kept wanting to put footnotes in. I believe that there will be an HTML version of it available soon, with links and a recommended reading list. I’ll let you know when that goes up.

Posted in Gender, History | Leave a comment

Cover Girl

Locus - February 2016So yeah, that’s the cover of the new issue of Locus. As you can see, it has my name on it. Obviously there are a lot of other names too. That’s because it is the Recommended Reading List issue, and a whole bunch of us who contributed to that list have been asked to write short “year in review” pieces. Mine is sort of an “Own Voices” thing, and yes I do talk about trans stuff. I also talk about Sami and Arabic fantasy, and as wide a range of other stuff as I could fit in.

You can find the whole Recommended Reading List here. If your favorite book isn’t on it, please don’t yell at me. Firstly, I can’t read everything, and secondly they don’t allow a book onto the list on just one person’s say-so.

Elsewhere in the issue I am delighted to see some good coverage for Carter & Lovecraft. Well done, Jonathan!

Posted in Books, Personal | Leave a comment

That Time of Year

It's Nominatin' Time - Ben Grimm
Somehow that seems like an appropriate image this year. If nothing else I guess it will allow certain people to claim that they are being horribly persecuted, which will make them happy. I’m all for spreading happiness.

So yes, the Hugo Award nominating period for 2016 is now open. Details here. You have until March 31st to vote, but if you don’t yet have nominating rights you need to get your supporting membership of Worldcon today.

I don’t have anything much that is award-worthy this time around. There is, of course, this. However, getting nominated for making jokes about John Scalzi is probably too meta, even for the Hugos.

On the other hand, there’s a book that I have a short essay in that I would like to see get a bit of recognition. That book is Letters to Tiptree, which is eligible in the Related Work category, and which is currently on sale in ebook formats so you can get it really cheaply (for example, via the piranhas). I note that should it get nominated the glory will go to the editors, Alex Pierce & Alisa Krasnostein, and not in any way to me.

Apropos which, I still occasionally get spam emails address to Mr. Hugo Pimpage. I have no idea why, but it always cracks me up.

There are lots of other things I think are nomination-worthy this year (Rat Queens!), but if I were to put a list of them here I’d probably get accused of running a slate. Instead I have filled this post with subliminal messages (Squirrel Girl!) that will compel you all to vote for my preferred works without realizing that you are doing so (Radiance!). I apologize for making you all my helpless, robotic slaves, but I was born EVIL and therefore have no choice in the matter.

While I am on the subject, I see that Mr. Scalzi had a lengthy post on the topic of Imposter Syndrome yesterday. I can assure you, from experience (and I suspect that John will back me up here), that by far the best way to get “found out” and be told that you are a worthless, talentless hack who has cheated their way to success is to win a major award or two. It helps a lot in this regard if you happen to be female, and being able to tick various minority boxes is also a bonus. So, dear readers, if there is a writer out there who you really hate, and who you think needs taking down a peg, why not considering nominating them. I’m sure you will find the reaction, if they win, deeply satisfying.

This post was brought to you by the meme, “Ye Gods, not more award drama!”. My sympathies go out to all of the people involved in Hugo Administration this year. Here’s hoping for a less bumpy ride this time around.

Posted in Awards | 3 Comments

Science, Smarter Than TERFs

One of the interesting things about supposedly progressive newspapers like The Guardian and The New Statesman is that, while their politics pages are often resolutely transphobic, and quote “science” as proof that trans women are “really” men, their science pages are generally supportive of trans folks.

Why might that be? Well, possibly it is because the understanding of science possessed by the White Feminist clique that does all of the political stuff is seriously lacking.

In view of which, here, from last weekend, is a little history of the concept of “sex chromosomes”. I was pleased to discover that the fact that the whole X/Y thing is simplistic nonsense was known right from the start. What’s more, the idea that X and Y chromosomes are vital to determining sex gained currency because it was championed by a man, whereas the more nuanced view was championed by a woman scientist. Which makes it even more ironic to see anyone who disputes that a Y chromosome is the ultimate arbiter of masculinity called a Dupe of the Patriarchy.

It also makes perfect sense that the sex chromosome idea was favored by eugenicists, because like the TERFs they have an obsession with biological determinism.

All of this comes from a book called Sex Itself: The Search For Male And Female In The Human Genome, by Sarah Richardson, which clearly I need to read. I was particularly amused by this observation from the New Statesman article:

Richardson points to several different groups as responsible for digging genetics out of its chromosome-determining rut: criminal psychologists, clinical physicians and, above all, feminists, whose interrogations of gender and sexuality (often from outside the scientific academy) created an important body of empirical evidence.

Feminists, responsible for persuading scientists to have a less essentialist view of gender? Oh dear. Anyone would think that TERFs aren’t very good feminists.

Posted in Admin | 1 Comment

The Mind LGBT Conference

I spent yesterday in Bristol at a conference run by Mind, the mental health charity. It was specifically aimed at reducing suicide among LGBT people. There were a lot of local activists there.

The morning session was basically talking heads, including a prerecorded video from Stephen Fry. My colleague, Berkeley Wilde, from The Diversity Trust got to do the local people bit. The headline speaker was a young lad called Owen Jones. He was very good, even if he did look to me like he ought to be in a boy band.

The main messages that came out of the morning were that LGBT people suffer mental health problems at a far greater rate than straight people; that bi and trans people have it worse that LG people; and that austerity measures are significantly reducing the amount of money available to tackle this. Not only that, but services to LGBT people (and other minority groups) are being reduced proportionately more than for other groups. The government apparently has a policy of “mainstreaming”, by which they mean closing down specialist services for minority groups and incorporating that coverage in general services, which then fail to provide the specialist treatment that minorities need, and may be actively hostile to them.

All of the big shots and much of the audience evaporated after lunch, but the best point of the day was made in the final session by Alessandro Storer, Mind’s Equality Improvement Manager. He noted that because LGBT people suffer mental health problems at a much higher level than the bulk of the population, they are actually a core constituency for mental health services. Dropping services for them, while keeping services for people who need them less, makes no sense.

Of course, as Berkeley never tires of saying, we need good academic studies to make this point. Thankfully a lot more work is being done in this area these days. I particularly recommend this study done by Scottish Trans in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University.

One of the things I had been interested in was how inclusive the event would be. The speakers made an effort to mention bi and especially trans people, so the awareness was definitely there. However, the event was very white, and we didn’t get to an actual trans speaker until late in the afternoon. A brief shout out to my new pal Jacqui here, of whom more later, but the only speaker to get a standing ovation all day was Erica from Ystradgynlais Mind. Welsh trans girls FTW! What a shame half of the audience had gone by then.

For me the highlight of the day was the workshop on reducing stigma. It was run by a group called The Outsiders who specialize in human libraries and the like. You may remember that I did a human library thing last year.

The subject of the workshop was an idea called SoMe. That’s short for Social Media, but also works as a thing about identity. What happens is that you get a bunch of volunteers, each of whom produces a SoMe Profile about themselves. Attendees at the event can then choose to have a one-to-one chat with one of these people.

The idea here is to make a personal connection between the attendees and someone who represents the group whose social profile you are trying to improve. In our case that was people who had suffered mental health issues. The point of the SoMe profile is that, as an attendee, you can choose to talk to someone who sounds interesting to you, possibly someone with him you have a lot in common. That makes it much easier to get into a conversation with them, and to sympathize with them. I got to talk to Peter, who is autistic and a science fiction fan, and to Jacqui who is a young trans woman.

I must admit that the idea seemed a bit mad to be at first, but it worked really well. So well, in fact, that I want to talk to Berkeley about doing this sort of things as a trans awareness exercise in Bristol. Obviously we’d need a bunch of trans folk as volunteers, but that’s a good thing because the trans community is massively varied. I’m painfully aware that I’m something of a stereotype.

All in all, it was a good day, even if most of the messages coming out of it were somewhat negative. At least there were a lot of people there determined to do something about that. Also the chocolate brownies were superb.

Posted in Gender | 1 Comment

The Cis Gaze at Work

Bad toilet signage
Today The Guardian has an article titled, “Top 10 books about gender identity”. It is written by a cis person, for cis people. Here’s why.

Let’s start with that photo, which gets bathrooms wrong in just about every way possible.

No, wait, let’s start with the fact that it’s a picture of a bathroom being used to illustrate an article about books. OK, so I have been guilty of reading on the loo from time to time, but surely books and toilets are not that closely related, are they? No, of course not. Trans people and toilets, on the other hand, well there’s your word association test right there. Mention trans people and what comes immediately to mind for way too many cis people? Toilets. That’s what we are about: threatening their toilets.

Next up, why is this a combined trans and accessible toilet? Accessible toilets are there for a reason, because some people need them. Putting a trans sign on the accessible toilet will mean lots of able-bodied people using that toilet when they don’t need the special facilities.

And the sign, what does it mean? As far as I can see it says, “this is the toilet for trans people, because we don’t want you perverts in our toilets.”

Look, I have been using women’s toilets for over 20 years. No one has complained. I have not sexually assaulted anyone in the process. I do not appreciate being told that I now have to use a different toilet because trans people are suddenly in the public eye and loads of people have become obsessed with bathroom panic.

Of course there are some trans people who do identify outside of the binary, and would prefer a separate toilet. That’s fine, but that’s not what that sign says.

It does of course say “inclusive”. As far as I can make out that means “inclusive of all the icky people we don’t want in our toilets”. I am only mildly surprised that there wasn’t a little picture of a woman in a hijab along with it.

On now to the article. Top ten books on gender identity, eh? Are any of them written by trans people? Well if they are there are no names that I recognize. Those books I do know about are written by cis people. I’ve only read one of them, but it is #1 on the list, and it is a book I absolutely do not recommend as being good about gender identity.

There is a trans person in Luna, by Julie Anne Peters, but the book isn’t about her. It is about Luna’s sister, Regan, and how hard it is on a girl to have a trans sibling. There’s no question that Regan is the character we are supposed to sympathize with, and given Luna’s behavior at times that’s not hard to do. Thankfully for Regan, the book has a happy ending. Luna comes into some money and is able to leave home. Great.

Looking at the descriptions of the other books, most of them focus on how awful trans people’s lives are. Which of course they are at times, but the message I’m getting here is that trans people are pathetic individuals whom we should all pity because they are so tragic. Could we maybe have something a little bit positive?

This is probably a good point to give another recommendation for Vee’s great article on the “acceptance narrative” that informs so many books about trans people. That narrative is popular because it allows cis people to feel squicked out by trans folk and tells them that’s OK. That’s the sort of book about trans people that cis people seem to want to read. It is certainly the sort of book that publishers want to publish, which perhaps says rather a lot about the attitudes of commissioning editors.

That’s really what this is all about. In the same way that many men won’t read books about women, many white people won’t read books about non-white people, and so on, many cis people don’t want to read books about trans people. They might want to read books about cis people having to come to terms with the existence of trans people. That’s what The Guardian means when it talks about books being good on the subject of gender identity.

Oh, and to all of those people thinking, “but we must have an easily understood sign for a toilet that can be used by anyone,” what’s wrong with a little picture of a toilet?

Posted in Books, Gender | 3 Comments

On Adding Diversity to Events

Last night I spotted a tweet from Juliet McKenna linking to this article about the pressure on people to do things for free. Although the article is ostensibly about the tech industry, much of what it says applies to publishing too. The current discussion in the UK about paying authors to appear at literature festivals is an obvious connection.

And yeah, I relate to it. Almost everything I do outside the day job I am expected to do for free. And, as I noted to friends on Twitter the other day, I can’t even do things for “exposure” the way authors can. I am expected to do things for “the good of the community” and not take any credit for it, because taking credit would be exploiting the community for my own selfish ends.

But I’m not here to whine. I’m here to talk about one specific point that the article makes. It says, “We know that not paying speakers and not covering speaker expenses causes events to become less diverse.”

Now that’s true, and the article links to this lovely X-Men-themed post to make the point. However, it is very easy to come away from that thinking that paying speakers will make your event more diverse. In fact it might get you into even more trouble. Here’s why.

Once you get to the point of paying speakers, you start having serious budget issues. You have to get that money from somewhere, and that somewhere probably means your attendees. The only way you can get people to pay more to come to an event is to put on speakers that the public will pay a lot of money to see. That means having speakers who are famous, which in turn leads to having more straight cis white men, and paying them more than you pay the other speakers. Before you know it, you end up like UK literary festivals and are spending all of your money on celebrities and politicians who haven’t even written the books with their names on the cover.

So no, paying speakers alone will not make your event more diverse. The only way to do that is to have a specific policy to implement diversity by encouraging the sort of speakers you want to attend, and helping them financially if they need it. And you have to be prepared to swallow the drop in attendance and revenue that may bring. Because when it comes down to it, this is the real problem.

Posted in Conventions, Feminism | Leave a comment

Job Security While LGBT, Lack Thereof

Yesterday a story that I have been following for some time finally broke so I am able to talk about it. My friend and colleague (via the Translation Awards), Rob Latham, has been fired from his job as a tenured professor at the University of California Riverside. His dismissal was against the recommendation of the UCR Faculty Senate, and is based primarily on charges which almost everyone involved appears to agree were fabricated.

Obviously I only have Rob’s side of the story, which you can read here. However, even if the charges are true, they are considerably less serious than things that straight professors just get a rap on the knuckles for.

The point here is that Rob is by no means the only person to be a victim of this sort of thing. It used to be the case that you could be fired just for being gay. In many parts of the US you can still be fired just for being trans. These days we are supposed to have employment protection. All that means is that now your employers have to go through the effort of creating trumped up charges of misconduct as an excuse for firing you.

There are many reasons why I am self-employed. This is one of them.

Posted in Feminism, Personal | Leave a comment