LGBT History Festival Comes to Bristol

This year the UK ran it’s first ever National Festival of LGBT History in Manchester. It was very successful, and there are plans afoot to hold one again in 2016. However, holding it in just one city limits the number of people who can attend. So in 2016 the Festival will be held over several weekends in several different cities. One of those cities will be Bristol. The Festival will be held at the M-Shed (the site of the very successful Revealing Stories exhibition) over the weekend of February 20/21. There will also be a film programme at the Watershed, and hopefully a theatre programme as well.

The Bristol weekend will be run by OutStories Bristol, and we hope that we’ll get a lot of interest in the event from all over the South West and South Wales. More details will follow in due course, but right now the important thing is that we need people to give presentations. Information as to how to apply to be a presenter are available here. The deadline for proposals is June 30th.

As you have probably guessed, a lot of this is my fault, and consequently I’ll be responsible for making a lot of it happen. I don’t have the final say on what presentations get accepted, but I do have some say. I’m very keen to see local history represented, and I want to see plenty of diversity. LGBT history isn’t just about cis white gay men. If you are interested in L, B or T history, or you are non-white, we’d love to hear from you.

By the way, you don’t have to be an academic historian to make a presentation. You could just be someone who has been part of LGBT history and have some memories you can relate. If you are an academic you may also be interested in the associated academic conference, which will take place in Manchester once again next year. The Call for Papers is here.

Posted in Gender, History | Leave a comment

Not Sporting

For several years the University of Nottingham has hosted a Football v Homophobia soccer tournament. That’s certainly a good thing, as soccer is one of the major sports that still has a big problem with homophobia.

However, this year a trans man called Luke Hutchinson wanted to play. He discovered to his horror that in order to get permission from the FA to compete he would need to provide medical records and blood tests that would cost him around £70. These are, of course, FA rules that cover all amateur soccer. They are nothing to do with the university. Nevertheless they are strongly discriminatory against trans people. Luke decided to make a fuss.

You might have thought, given the purpose of the tournament, that the university would have had some sympathy. Even if they could not change FA rules, they might have tried to help trans players get tested, and highlight the problems with that. But you would have thought wrong. Instead, in a fit of pique, the university cancelled the tournament, blaming Luke and his supporters for getting them bad publicity.

And this, dear readers, is what happens when people run “anti-homophobia” events simply for the money and brownie points that it gets them. Hopefully Stonewall and whoever in government is responsible for assessing Nottingham’s equalities policy will give them a good kicking over this.

Posted in Feminism, Soccer | 1 Comment

Launching Bloodie Bones

Yesterday evening I was in Foyles for the launch of the latest book by my historical novelist friend, Lucienne Boyce. This time she’s gone for a bit of genre-blending, because the book is a mystery, and has a tinge of fantasy to it as well.

Bloodie Bones is billed as a Dan Foster Mystery, Mr. Foster being a former pick-pocket who now works for the Bow Street Runners (an early London police force) and is an amateur pugilist (bare-knuckle boxer). The story is set in Somerset and is based around the events of the Enclosures, a time when the nobility were changing their lands from being open fields and woods to fenced private property. The net result of this was to force large number of agricultural workers off the land and into cities were they could be employed very cheaply by the new factories.

The title, of course, refers to the mythological figure, Raw Head and Bloody Bones, who featured in Jack Wolf’s novel.

The evening opened with Lucienne’s husband providing a powerful reading of “The Mores” by the working class poet, John Clare, who did fine work documenting this part of English history. There were also readings and questions, which inevitably resulted in yours truly putting her hand up because no one else wanted to be first.

The event was recorded by a lady called Suzie Grogan who works with a Somerset-based community radio station, 10 Radio. I’m not sure when the material will be aired, but I’ll be keeping in touch with Suzie to find out. They don’t appear to have a full Listen Again service like Ujima, but they do podcast some of the material. Suzie’s main interest as a broadcaster is books, so one or two of you reading this may hear from her soon.

Posted in Books, History, Poetry | Leave a comment

Update on the #VATMESS

There has been action on the VAT issue in Brussels this week. As per this post on the EU VAT Action blog, Commissioner Ansip has finally admitted that there is a very serious problem here, and that something needs to be done.

Unfortunately, this being the EU, doing something is likely to take many months. Indeed, they might not even start the process until next year. (And let’s not forget that next January all cross-border trading will come within the new VAT rules, so all of you folks out there selling jewelry, soap, art objects and so on will be caught by them.)

So they agree that we need a threshold of at least €100,000, which would be more than sufficient to get all of Wizard’s Tower up and running again, but nothing is likely to happen until next year. I think you can guess how frustrating this is.

Another frustrating aspect of the whole affair is that it is becoming clear that much of the problem in the UK is our government’s over-zealous implementation of the new regulations. This is not a new phenomenon. Successive UK governments have had a habit of picking on particularly poor pieces of EU legislation and then going overboard on implementation so as to make the EU look bad. My guess is that their attitude now will be that there’s no need to do anything because by this time next year the UK will have left the EU and will no longer have to comply with EU laws. However, as I have discussed before, the regulations do, in theory, apply to the entire world.

What we would like the UK government to do is unilaterally opt out immediately. I have heard rumors that some EU countries have quietly advised micro-businesses that they don’t need to register. I can’t see us doing that, if only because it would be a tacit admission that there are lots of other EU regulations that we could have implemented less enthusiastically. What the UK government can to is implement what is called an Extra Statutory Concession. This would be an actual piece of legislation. It is something that may be worth writing to MPs, or to Treasury, about. The EU VAT Action post has suggestions as to how to go about that.

Sadly my expectation is that nothing will be done, because the current government doesn’t want people being self-employed.

Posted in Current Affairs, Wizard's Tower | 2 Comments

Yesterday on Ujima

Yesterday’s radio show was another one part-planned for me in advance, which I presented because Paulette is still in Jamaica. I’m very glad I did, because I got to meet an amazing woman.

Lisa Newman works with the Golden Key Project and the IF Group, both of which work with people who have the sort of complex and multiple needs that I was talking about on Monday. IF Group is particularly interesting because it is staff by what I have learned to call Citizens of Experience. That is, the people who have themselves experienced the same life problems that their clients are struggling with. Lisa talked bravely to me about her own struggles with addiction and homelessness.

With my trans activist hat on, I am all in favor of empowering people to help themselves. I’m sick and tired of being told that trans people need help, and that this can only be done by… bunch of weasel words meaning “respectable people”. If you allow yourself to be treated as a victim, you’ll always be a victim. So best of luck to Lisa and her colleagues. Here’s hoping that they achieve great things.

Lisa was with me for the whole of the first hour. You can listen to that here.

We had fewer people around for the second hour than expected, so I ran an interview with Juliet McKenna that I had recorded while I was in Oxford. The full interview is a lot longer and I’ll try to get it on Salon Futura soon. Chopping it down to two 7-minute chunks made it a bit messy, but hopefully it was coherent.

Juliet has an update on what has happened in Brussels this week on her blog. I’ll do a separate post about this.

By the way, I do 7 minute chunks because I have to play music and you can’t always predict what other material you’ll have to include in each 15 minute block.

In the final half hour I chatted to a couple of young people who are volunteering at the station at the moment. Emily is doing A Levels and hoping to study journalism, while Richard is on a journalism course at UWE.

You can listen to the second hour here.

Thanks also to my friend Jackie for popping in and helping out, and to my engineers, Ben and Eric.

The music for the show included Janelle Monae, Amanda Palmer, the great B.B. King, and a whole lot of funk, all produced by Nile Rodgers.

Next week Judeline will be in charge of the show because I’ll be at the Watershed listening to Cory Doctorow explain how information doesn’t want to be free. Tickets are still available. I hope to see some of you there. I’ll be back in the studio on June 3rd, when my guests will include Lucienne Boyce and Kevlin Henney.

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A Lesson in Crowdfunding

A couple of days ago I saw a tweet from Neil Gaiman promoting a crowdfunding campaign for a play about trans people. I went and had a look at the campaign page and sent back a concerned tweet to Neil. As it turned out, the project is indeed a good one, but the causes of my concern make for an interesting lesson, so I thought I’d blog about them.

The first thing is nothing to do with the campaign itself, but rather the Indiegogo website. These days I get most of my news from Twitter, and I normally access it via my phone and tablets, not via a PC. With the phone I am often doing that when I’m on a train, in a cafe, or otherwise away from my home network. Bandwidth is an issue. But when you click an Indiegogo link from Twitter on a phone you don’t get the website. You get an ad for their bloody app. When you have just spent several minutes waiting for the page to load (on a train, remember), this is enormously irritating. Companies should not do this.

However, eventually I got through to the campaign page, and I read the blurb. With crowdfunding all of the advice pages talk endlessly about the importance of the video, but if you are on a train with limited bandwidth you are not going to watch a video. You just read the text, and in this case it was problematic in two ways.

Firstly there was this:

People like actress Laverne Cox, model Andreja Pejic, celebrity Chaz Bono, director Lana Wachowski have led the charge, but it was Olympic legend Bruce Jenner whose declaration sparked a media frenzy and forever thrust transgender identity into the light of day.

That immediately sounds alarm bells for me. Laverne Cox has done a huge amount of work for the trans community (as has Janet Mock). It was Laverne appearing on the cover of Time that started everyone talking about a transgender tipping point. Jenner, in contrast, has spent most of the last few months in “no comment” land. A focus on Jenner suggests to me that this is a campaign aimed mainly at well-to-do cis white people, not something that will help the trans community.

Anyway, I read through the text, and what I saw was a lot of talk about using the stories of real trans people, but nothing about their involvement beyond that. What I was looking for was how trans people would be involved in the production and staging of this play. I saw nothing.

When I tweeted Neil he asked me about the video. Of course I hadn’t watched it. (On a train, remember.) When I got home I fired up a laptop and checked it out. Immediately I saw trans people, including some who were fairly obviously in the cast (Calpernia Addams, for example). There was much relief in my corner of the world.

So the lesson here is that if you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, don’t put important information in the video, and leave it off the text (or vice versa). You need people to get the whole message, no matter how they end up consuming it.

And now, if you’d like to back the Trans Scripts campaign, that would be a fine thing. If you happen to be very rich and a big Neil Gaiman fan you can get a personal Skype call from him. If you live in Edinburgh, or are going to this year’s Fringe, I’d love to hear a report of the play.

Posted in Gender, Internet | 6 Comments

Hello Brighton, Coming Your Way

I’m delighted to report that I’ve been selected to present a paper at Trans Studies Now, an academic conference taking place at the University of Sussex on June 12th. Roz Kaveney and Lewis Hancox are keynote speakers, so I’m in excellent company. Plus I get to go to Brighton and talk about science fiction. Sounds fun.

Brighton folks, obviously not all of you will be able to make the conference, but I’ll need to stay over the night before so maybe we can catch up then.

Posted in Academic, Gender, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Flying the Trans Flag

This morning I was up early and off into Bristol again. I’m not good in the mornings, but this was important. I’d been invited to a meeting of social support agencies in Bristol — people who work with the homeless, with victims of domestic violence, with those struggling with addiction and so on. The event was organized by LGBT Bristol, because they have found that they end up dealing with a lot of people with complex, intersecting needs.

Why? Well it goes like this. Many people who suffer social problems know that there are agencies that they can go to for help. However, if they are from an ethnic minority background they might be afraid to go to an agency that appears to be run by and for white people. They might instead go to an agency that specializes in helping ethnic minorities. LGBT people are afraid to go to regular agencies as well, but may go to an LGBT-specific agency like LGBT Bristol. Trans people, in general, are afraid to go to anyone for help. We only find out about them when they end up in hospital, in trouble with the police, or as victims of hate crime.

Around 90% of the people that LGBT Bristol ends up supporting have complex needs, suggesting that they were afraid to ask for help. More than half are trans.

So my colleague, Sarah Minter, called this meeting to let these agencies know about the sort of problems we are sweeping up, and to encourage them to do more to make themselves welcoming to LGB, and in particular T, clients. I went along as a token trans person prepared to stick her head above the parapet.

Actually I felt a bit of a fraud, because I haven’t suffered any of the serious problems that were being discussed. Obviously I have been discriminated against, but it has mostly been very middle class discrimination, not homelessness, addiction or physical violence. I’m very grateful to a very brave trans lady whose work with the St. Mungo’s charity sparked the event. After coming out she had been fired from her job and unlawfully evicted from her home, and had suffered multiple hate crimes. That’s real life for far too many trans people, even today.

My role in all this is to stand up and talk, because shooting my mouth off is something I’m good at. Hopefully the end result will be more trans awareness training for various agencies, probably in collaboration with the fine folks at Diversity Trust who know far more about social work than I do. Even if it doesn’t, at least a whole lot of people sat there and listened to my Trans 101 talk. Progress is made of small steps.

Posted in Gender | Leave a comment

Updated Review Policy

Because I have better things to do with my life than respond to people who won’t take no for an answer, I have a new review policy. Basically, if you ask me for a review then you won’t get one.

Posted in Admin | Leave a comment

Fringe Tonight

For those of you in Bristol, the May Fringe event takes place tonight. The readers are Sophie E. Tallis & Ben Galley. I hope to see some of you there.

Those of you not in Bristol are doubtless wondering when the April event will be podcast. Soon, I hope. Remember that it includes a reading by me, so I am being kind to you in delaying it.

Posted in Readings | Leave a comment

Want To Write A Letter To Tiptree?

The fine folks at Twelfth Planet Press are currently working on a non-fiction piece in which contributors share their thoughts about the life and work of James Tiptree Jr.. They have commissioned a number of pieces, but they are also having a period of open submission. The guidelines are given below. It is possible that I’ll have a piece in this myself, though there is still plenty of time for Alex & Alisa to come to their senses.

The great James Tiptree Jr was born sometime in 1967, a little over forty-eight years ago. Fifty-two years earlier Tiptree’s alter-ego, the talented, resourceful and fascinating Alice B. Sheldon was born. And somewhere in there, about forty years ago, poet Racoona Sheldon showed up.

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Sheldon’s birth, and in recognition of the enormous influence of both Tiptree and Sheldon on the field, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans to celebrate her, to recognise her work, and maybe in some cases to finish conversations set aside nearly thirty years ago.

Letters to Tiptree will be a collection of letters written to Alice Sheldon, James Tiptree or Racoon Sheldon; a set of thoughtful pieces on the ways her contribution to the genre has affected (or not) its current writers, readers, editors and critics.

Edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein, we are looking for two types of submissions.

Firstly, letters that are between 1000 and 2000 words, exploring personal and/or literary reflections on Tiptree/Sheldon.

Secondly, briefer responses addressing questions such as:

  • Does it make a difference, reading James Tiptree Jr’s work, knowing that Tiptree was Alice Sheldon?
  • Who is James Tiptree Jr to you?
  • Why do you care about James Tiptree Jr?
  • What impact has reading James Tiptree Jr’s fiction had on you?

We are paying 5cpw up to $USD100 to be paid on publication. We are looking for World First Publication in all languages, and exclusivity for twelve months. Letters to Tiptree will be published in August 2015.

Submissions are open between May 18 and June 8.

Please send your essay to

Posted in Books, Feminism, Writing | Leave a comment

Thank You, Exeter Pride

Well that was a lovely day out. This year’s Exeter Pride took place in Rougemont Gardens, which is a lovely little venue right in the center of the city, and once the inside of a Norman castle. The weather was beautiful, and I met lots of great people, including a few good pals from Brighton. My talk went OK. The audience was a little thin at the start because of an overlap with a panel discussion on religion, and because the weather was so good, but we got a decent number in the end.

Thanks in particular to the Exeter Pride team for inviting me, and to Emily and her colleagues at Exeter Library for providing me with a venue.

Posted in Gender, Where's Cheryl? | Leave a comment

The Ujima Women’s Outlook Dementia Special

Wednesday’s show was put together for me by Subitha Baghirathan. All I had to do was ask good questions and deal with a few technical problems that we had at the start.

The first hour saw Subitha along with Dr. Judy Haworth, a dementia specialist, and Wayne Song from a Chinese community group tell us what is happening in South Gloucestershire. Dr. Haworth gave us some really great information about the nature of dementia conditions, and how we can at least try to stave them off. Keeping active, both physically and mentally appear to be key.

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

In the second hour I was joined by Jan Connect from the City Council plus Daisy Rajput, Sato Black and Ade Couper, all of whom are involved in dementia support work in some way.

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

The one really important thing that I learned from the show is that there are still far too many people out there who associate dementia with mental illness, and therefore believe that those living with dementia can make themselves better by “pulling themselves together”. It is really important for everyone to understand that dementia is caused by actual physical deterioration of the brain, that the main cause is aging, and that consequently there should be no shame attached to the condition.

My thanks again to Subitha and all of my guests for helping create this really important show.

Subitha also suggested some of the music for the show. As I result I have been introduced to Amadou & Miriam, a hugely talented couple from Mali, and to the amazing blues pioneer, Memphis Minnie. This also gave me an excuse to play Little Feat, and Led Zeppelin.

Posted in Health, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

A Little #VATMESS Rant

Visiting Juliet has reminded me of the dreadful ongoing mess caused by the EU’s new VAT laws for digital services. Despite sterling work by Juliet and her colleagues, and many lobbyists and politicians, we still don’t have a workable solution.

Meanwhile I have email from Podbean encouraging me to add a patronage feature to my account. Whoever set this up for them appears to be totally unaware of the need for any sales into the EU (and possibly now Australia) to charge VAT (or GST) on the transaction, and pay the appropriate tax authorities in the country where the customer resides. So a whole lot more people are being gently encouraged to break EU law by a third party platform that is based safely outside of the EU and so will doubtless escape any legal action.

Today Juliet posted an excellent blog entry on the EU VAT Action website explaining how the new laws disproportionately affect the poor, the disabled, those from less developed countries and so on. The government is simultaneously trying to prevent people from claiming benefits, and preventing them from starting businesses that might help them no longer need benefits. It’s ridiculous.

Posted in Current Affairs | Leave a comment

Oxford, Briefly

Yesterday was a lot of fun.

The radio show went well after a slight technical hitch at the start. More on that tomorrow.

I got to Oxford on time, and Lev Grossman’s talk was very interesting. He’s a very nice chap too. More on that tomorrow as well.

Today I spent a bit of time in the Ashmolean. The Great British Drawings exhibition is nice, though it does serve to emphasize once again that Byrne-Jones wasn’t very good. I went mainly to see Rossetti’s Proserpine, which is indeed lovely, and to confirm my suspicion that there would be nothing from Simeon Solomon in it. There wasn’t. You would have thought that the British art establishment would have grown up by now, but clearly it hasn’t. Still, there was a Ronald Searle and a Gerald Scarfe, which cheered me up.

The Caricatures exhibit is interesting mainly for the evidence that slut-shaming of women has a very long history. The best thing in it is this gorgeous little cartoon of gout.

The Ed Paschke exhibition is very bright. I suspect that the cover of Roz Kaveney’s Tiny Pieces of Skull may have some Paschke influence.

The exhibition I really wanted to see was Gods in Colour, where they have taken a selection of Greek and Roman statues, and painted them up to look like they would have looked when they were new. It was great. I wish they had done more.

Oh, and I had lunch in a pub called the Eagle and Child, which was apparently the venue for some sort of fannish pub meet years ago. A bunch of wannabe fantasy writers known as The Inklings used to go there and discuss their work over a pint or several. I did not find Viriconium.

Posted in Art, History, Where's Cheryl?, Writing | Leave a comment

Tomorrow on Ujima – Dementia Special

Tomorrow I’ll be on Women’s Outlook again. This isn’t one of my shows — I’m covering for Paulette while she’s in Jamaica on family business — but it should be very interesting. We have a dementia special, which has been planned for us by our good friend Subitha Baghirathan. I’m just there to ask old-person-in-the-street questions.

By the way, I’ll be leaving for Oxford straight after the show so I can get to the Tolkien lecture. Don’t expect me to be online much tomorrow.

Posted in Health, Radio, Where's Cheryl? | Leave a comment

Stories For Chip Entering Final Week

It is crowd funding reminder time, folks. The Stories for Chip anthology, which is an amazing collection of fiction being published in tribute to the great Samuel R. Delany. Their target is $10k, and they’re only at 83%. There are 9 days of the campaign left to go. We can get them there, right? Check out the contributors and pledge here.

I must say that I find it very depressing that a diversity-themed crowdfunding campaign run by a bunch of white folks gets massive over-support, but if the campaign is being run by PoC for PoC then the level of support drops dramatically.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Hello Australia, #VATMESS Warning

This morning’s news includes items about the Australian government adopting new rules on taxing digital downloads. Ostensibly this is to crack down on tax avoidance by companies such as Netflix, but as with the new EU laws it appears that the regulations will be applied to ebooks, and there will be a zero threshold. If this is correct (and I am by no means confident in the ability of online news sources to get this right) then the end result is likely to be blocking of sales to Australia by large numbers of small businesses who simply can’t afford to comply with the regulations.

Australian friends, I suggest that you check this out. Feedback would be appreciated.

Posted in Current Affairs | Leave a comment

August Is Cancelled

This summer the track work upgrading the Great Western Main Line reaches Bath. This is essential work and should result in a much better train service in years to come. However, there will be disruption. Specifically I will be unable to get to Bath or Bristol by train for the whole of the month of August.

Of course there are the notorious replacement bus services. However, it will take an hour longer each way to get to Bristol. Also, if you want me to arrive at an event in a good mood, and unlikely to throw up on you when I get there, I advise against suggesting that I use them. Short of hiring a car for the month, which I certainly can’t afford, I think it is unlikely that I’ll be attending any events in Bristol or Bath in August. You can all go on vacation, right?

Posted in Personal, Travel | Leave a comment

Trans Rights In Europe

Trans Rights in Europe, 2015

Transgender Europe has just issued this map showing the state of trans rights across Europe. The color key is brown for no legal recognition, red for sterilization required for legal recognition, and blue for it not being required.

A full copy of the map, and detailed index of various rights which gives a much clearer picture of where each country is, can be found here.

Ireland’s Gender Recognition Bill has passed through the Seanad but is not yet law. Hopefully some of my Irish readers can update me on what the remaining steps are. If they are not too busy campaigning for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum. Good luck, folks!

The Council of Europe’s position on trans rights is very clear. This resolution is in advance of just about every country in the EU, except possibly Malta. Which is doubtless one of many reasons that the Conservatives want to leave the EU.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | 2 Comments