Sentence Jukka to Transportation

Yes folks, this is your chance to have Jukka Halme sent to Australia. And probably New Zealand as well. I can’t promise that he won’t come back, but you never know.

The reason for this is that Jukka is standing for GUFF, the fan fund that sends fans from Europe to the other end of the world. To find out how to vote for him to go, check out this fine web page put together by this year’s Administrator, Mihaela Marija Perkovic.

It appears that Jukka is the only candidate this year, but you do still need to vote if you want him to go. The other option is for the funds from this year’s race to be held over to a later date. Some people may think that the Aussies and Kiwis are better than everyone else at enough sports already, without Jukka teaching them to play ice hockey. And the Aussie authorities might be concerned about their people becoming addicted to Strange Finnish Food as a result of his visit. Who can tell?

Anyway, good luck, Jukka, mate. I expect you to come back able to play cricket.

Posted in Fandom | 3 Comments

Photo Shoot – We Have Results

Photo 172

So yeah, I figured that a serious professional photographer like Lou would manage to produce something I’d be OK with. It is her job to work miracles. I didn’t expect to be really pleased with some of the results.

Here’s a very different one that makes me look a bit more serious and professional.

Photo 132

There are others I like too.

If you need a professional photo shoot done, get Lou to do it, she’s great.

Posted in Personal, Photos | 4 Comments

Trans Pride – What’s Next?

I see from Twitter that this evening Sarah Savage will be on a panel about the future of Pride. Obviously that will be Brighton-specific, but many of the issues apply the world over.

As far as I see it, a public LGBT event can have three purposes.

Firstly it can be part of a political campaign, demonstrating a clear public desire for changes in the law. Most big Prides stopped being that some time ago. Trans Pride still has something of that feel to it, but if it carries on growing at the current rate then it will stop being political. In order to stay political, the event has to cater solely to people who are angry about the political issue in question.

Second the event can be part of a “hearts and minds” campaign. That’s basically what modern Prides are. They are big parties put on by the LGBT community for the entire community. That means they tend to get swamped by straight cis people, but because we put on a great party they come away loving us. That doesn’t garner support for a specific political campaign, but it is very useful for obtaining support when you do ask for more rights. I don’t think that the marriage equality campaign would have been anywhere near as successful had we not spent years convincing the general public that us queers are harmless, fun people who throw great parties.

Finally the event can be educational. The LGBT History Festival is an event of this type. While it is nice to give our fellow queers a good sense of our own history, the primary intent is to inform the public about how we have always been around, how badly we have been treated in the recent past, and how other cultures have often been more accepting of queerness.

Both the second and third purposes require that the event be swamped by straight cis people, because to a large extent they are the target audience.

Where Brighton’s Trans Pride chooses to go in the future will be up to Sarah and her colleagues because they are the people putting in the work. (Yes, I reject the “angry SJW” attitude that other people have a duty to do volunteer work in the way that I demand they do so, even though all I ever do is insult them in social media.) However, I do have some thoughts on where the trans community should be going politically.

One of the short interviews I did at Trans Pride was with one of the people on the Stonewall stall. Obviously there was very little she could say at this point. There is still a lot of work to be done to integrate the trans community into Stonewall. However, at some point they will need to choose an issue to campaign on. That will be a difficult choice.

The marriage equality campaign was hugely successful, but it has also come in for much criticism as being something that benefits mainly the well-off, socially conservative parts of the gay and lesbian communities, while doing little or nothing for everyone else. I think it has been valuable because of the huge amount of public sympathy it has won for our cause, but I also acknowledge the issues.

The question for the trans community, and our allies in Stonewall, is how to construct a campaign that has a good chance of widespread public support, but at the same time does not throw large portions of the trans community under the bus.

It is not an idle question either. When Press for Change campaigned for the Gender Recognition Act they chose to leave behind non-binary people, and conceded defeat on issues such as the Spousal Veto. They also created the Gender Recognition Certificate, which has been somewhat problematic in practice. Tactically they were probably correct to do all of these things, because the social climate of the time would not have accepted anything else, but that still leaves us with an Act that needs fixing.

I don’t think we stand much chance campaigning for better treatment by the NHS. The last thing the public wants right now is more people asking for a share of government funds. They have been thoroughly bamboozled by the austerity mantra and will see any demand for money for us to be taking money away from them. Besides, the NHS is actually doing a pretty good job of reforming their treatment of us right now. We should let them get on with it and just keen an eye on proceedings to make sure they are going in the direction we want.

Nor do I think that we can campaign effectively on the flaws in marriage law. The trouble with the Spousal Veto is that it only affects trans people married to cis people. They reason we have it in the first place is that Home Office staff got themselves in a terrible tizzy worrying about how they would feel if their own marriage partner came out as trans. We’d have the same problem with the public. Besides, it would benefit a relatively small, and fast decreasing number of people, so I don’t think it is the sort of thing to pour lots of money and effort into.

What I do think would make a good campaign is Self Determination; that is, the right for people to determine their own gender (including non-binary), rather than have to get a doctor or psychiatrist to sign off on their identity.

Several countries have already enacted such legislation. Malta was the first, with Denmark following soon after. Ireland recently adopted something similar. Italy may have a law of this type too, though some of the coverage I have seen suggests that some sort of medical treatment is still required in their case. The UK is now most definitely lagging behind the curve when it comes to trans rights.

An important part of such a campaign is that it would directly benefit those who don’t identify within the gender binary, and who have until now mostly been left behind by trans rights campaigns. Again many countries in the world currently allow a third gender identification, including India, Pakistan and Australia.

Finally this is a campaign that does not harm anyone (except people who design forms that ask for your gender, and those awful companies who insist on gendering all of their products). In much the same way as two lesbians getting married does not destroy the marriage of an heterosexual couple, so the fact that someone chooses to identify as non-binary does not cause anyone else’s gender to change. The villains in this story are the doctors and psychiatrists, and the hated Gender Recognition Panel. I suspect that a lot of people would happily support a campaign that aimed to stop these people having God-like power over trans people’s lives.

So, that’s the campaign that I think Stonewall should help us to run. But we don’t have to wait for them. There is already a petition before Parliament asking for self-determination. It has more than twice the number of signatures needed to require a formal response from the government. If we can quadruple the current number of signatures then the question must be brought before Parliament. Go and sign it, please.

Posted in Gender | 2 Comments

Hugos – Don’t Give Up

I cast my Hugo ballot today. I figured I should get in before the last minute rush, because it is always a strain on the host Worldcon’s servers and this year is going to be much worse. I suggest that you get your ballot in well before the deadline too.

Also today I saw this article by Sarah Lotz on the Guardian Books Blog. It will, I suspect, make Little Teddy very happy indeed, because it is basically saying that he has already won.

Look, there will be some weird stuff in the results this year. There may well be a few No Awards given out, and possibly some really bad works winning awards. It is not as if that hasn’t happened before, though perhaps not in the same quantities. On the other hand, people are talking about the Hugos much more this year than they ever have before, and in many more high profile places. In addition vastly more people have bought supporting memberships, and we are looking at a record number of people participating in the final ballot. All of those people will be eligible to nominate next year. This isn’t the way I would have liked to get that result, but it is a result all the same.

Anyone who tells you that the Hugos are irrevocably damaged doesn’t have the awards’ best interests at heart. They, like Little Teddy, want the Hugos to go away, and presumably be replaced by awards that they, and people like them, can control. If you want awards controlled by, and voted on by, fans, then you need to support those awards, and believe that the vast majority of fans are not going to support narrow political campaigns.

Sure, I could be wrong. We could be seeing the start of years of slate voting. But we haven’t seen it yet. What is clear is that if we listen to people like Ms. Lotz and take the view that we have already lost that battle, then we most certainly have lost.

Don’t give up. Vote.

Posted in Awards, Fandom | 6 Comments

Athletics Discovers Intersex

Gender and sport have been uneasy bedfellows for a long time. Many of you will remember the story of Caster Semenya, and you may have seen me write about Santhi Soundarajan. The International Association of Athletics Federations have stumbled from one ridiculous rule to another trying to decide who is female and who isn’t. Thankfully they no longer require female athletes to strip and be examined. They have also given up on “gender testing”, by which they mean looking at chromosomes because, unlike Germaine Greer, they believe in the existence of intersex people — specifically in Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means that the person in question has been born with a Y chromosome but is unable to process testosterone and so develops naturally as female. Interestingly, while the incidence of AIS amongst the general population is around 1 in 20,000, the incidence amongst elite female athletes is around 1 in 420, despite those women not having any help from testosterone.

More recently the IAAF has adopted a test for that they call “hyperandrogenism”, which basically measures the level of testosterone in the body and checks to see if it is within the typical male range or within the typical female range. Unfortunately those ranges do overlap, especially where athletes are concerned. What is more, athletes who had been assigned female at birth, who were raised as women, and who identified as women, were being banned from competition because according to the hyperandrogenism test they were “really men”, unless they agreed to undergo medical modification similar to that used on trans women to change their biology.

Once such woman was Indian sprinter Dutee Chand. She decided not be allow herself to be bullied by the old men in blazers and took the IAAF to court. On Monday the Court for Arbitration of Sport ruled in her favor. The IAAF has been given two years to provide better scientific evidence to back up their rule, but it seems unlikely that they will be able to do so given that the Court’s ruling was based on science that blew holes in it.

As the excellent Indian feminist paper, The Ladies Finger, notes, this is not just a matter of science. It is very much a case of how women’s identities are policed. They rightly connect it to the fuss about Serena Williams who is constantly accused of being “really a man” even though there is no scientific basis for this claim.

Their article also points to the case of trans women athletes. As I noted above, the treatment that trans women undergo specifically blocks the effect of testosterone on the body and, if surgery is used, can prevent it being made. This is exactly what the IAAF wanted done to Dutee Chand to remove the supposed advantage of her elevated testosterone levels. Nevertheless, women like Fallon Fox are constantly accused of having an advantage in sport because they once had much more masculine bodies. To their credit, most sporting bodies now understand the science and allow trans women to compete, but this doesn’t stop the media and general public complaining.

Goodness only knows where Janae Marie Kroc fits into all this. She’s got one heck of a body as a result of her time as a world champion weightlifter, and it isn’t clear how much medical intervention she is planning on having. From what she says about herself she identifies as non-binary, and that is likely to explode the brains of most sports administrators.

It is a brave new world that we are creating, and sport is stuck on the bleeding edge whether it likes it or not.

Posted in Gender, Sport | Leave a comment

A Bristol Bioethics Story

Bristol seems to have a knack of being in the forefront of controversial developments in medical science. Michael Dillon, the first trans man to undergo full medical transition, began his journey while living in Bristol during WWII. Years later, Bristol was the location of the world’s first Test Tube Baby birth. Louise Brown was born on July 25, 1978. She has just written her autobiography. My guess is that her life has been nothing like what Heinlein imagined in Friday, but she is nevertheless a hugely important figure in the history of the way that humans meddle with their own biology. If nothing else, what she and her family went through in the years following her birth is a valuable case study in how modern society treats the results of such meddling. If you are interested in Louise’s story, you can pre-order the book from my friends at Tangent.

Posted in Science | Leave a comment

Photo Shoot

I spent the morning in Bath pretending to be a fashion model.

Of course I’m not one. What was actually going on is that I have discovered that I need a professionally done head shot for publicity purposes. This is what happens when you do radio, public speaking and so on. Doing this is beyond scary, because cameras hate me. I have a couple of pictures that I can just about tolerate, but mostly seeing photos of me makes me want to curl up and die. (Please remember this, especially if you are about to post photos of me to Facebook.)

Thankfully I happen to know a very good photographer who lives nearby. Joe Abercrombie’s wife, Lou, has done publicity shots for many of my author friends, including Paul Cornell, Gareth Powell, Emma Newman and Sarah Pinborough; not to mention Joe himself, of course. I really like her work, so I arranged to go and get snapped.

I found the process of being photographed both fun and educational. As long as I could forget the fact that there will be actual photographs at the end of the process I could just enjoy the process and learn how to pose for a camera. It isn’t easy to do well, and I have a great deal of respect for professional models who manage to look happy and sexy to order for hours on end. Striking a pose is also a skill that I probably don’t have, but enjoyed trying to learn.

Eventually I will have to choose a picture or two to use, and I’ll put them up here for you to laugh at. Please don’t judge Lou’s work by this. Check out her website instead. She’s really great at putting her subjects at ease too.

Posted in Personal, Photos | 7 Comments

Trans Pride – Day 3

I didn’t actually see much of the Sunday events. I needed to grab an interview with my friend Kathy Caton who has been shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards (in the LGBT role model category) this year. Kathy was busy at Radio Reverb producing a show, so I headed on up to their studio and did radio stuff for a while before heading home. Some of that may end up on Shout Out eventually, and of course I’ll put all of the audio up on my gender podcast at some point. In the meantime, I have found a couple of vlogs on YouTube that will give you a taste of the atmosphere.

The second one has a brief glimpse of me in the background, but it is very brief so it should be OK for you to watch it without risking going blind.

Posted in Gender, Video | 2 Comments

Trans Pride – Day 2

Well, that was amazing. When I got to the Marlborough in the morning it was clear that there were way more people than last year. I found Roz Kaveney, and we stood on the kerb together watching the parade leave. We estimated around a thousand people, and when I found Fox to ask about numbers I learned that the police had suggested a similar number. You got a real feel of it entering St. James Street because that goes up a hill and you could see people all the way up as far as the turning where they headed off to Dorset Gardens. Presumably they stretched all the way there as well, as there was a backup while the marchers got through the gate into the park.

Of course many people didn’t go on the march, and the park was packed all day. I don’t think that they had to start controlling access, but it can’t have been that far off needing to. Hopefully today I’ll find out how many wristbands they gave out.

There were also more stalls this year, most significantly the addition of Stonewall. Their process of incorporating trans people into their organization is going quite slowly, mainly because Ruth Hunt and her team are being very sensible and are trying hard to listen to lots of people before making any moves. But change is happening, and thus far it is looking good.

As far as I know, the day went very well, though there were the inevitable angry activists ready to complain at the slightest infraction of how they think things should have been done. There was certainly a good point to be made about access to the park, but the organizers do have to work with what the City Council will let them have, and are not rolling in money.

Talking of which, there must be a question as to what to do next year, because if the event keeps growing at this rate Dorset Gardens will be too small for it then. And, as we have seen with other Pride events, the bigger you get the more likely you are to be swamped with straight cis folks wanting to benefit from the free entertainment and gawp at the queers. Brighton Pride has apparently responded by getting hugely commercial. I’m very glad that Bristol hasn’t done that, but I understand the pressures that can cause it.

While it was very heartwarming to see so many people being happy and proud of being trans, the fight is far from won. A big crowd is a sign of some social acceptance, but it won’t necessarily result in political action, nor does it mean that everyone is onside. Here are a few examples of why we still have a long way to go.

On arriving at the park I learned of yet another murder of a trans woman in the USA. That’s 11 so far this year.

On my way into town to get dinner I saw, coming the other way, a tall, well-built woman with a shaved head. Once she had passed us the people behind me (apparently tourists) started making comments about “tr*nn*es”. Given the woman’s prodigious curves, that was one heck of a transformation if she was trans, but over 6 foot tall and shaved head said “really a man” to these idiots. It is instructive to hear what people have to say about your kind when they think you are not listening.

I had dinner at the Brighton Giggling Squid, partly because I wanted seafood and partly because Kevin and I had eaten there so doing so would help him feel part of the day. The food was good (there are photos in my Twitter feed), but after I had paid the bill the waiter deliberately addressed me as “sir”. There’s no doubt this was a calculated insult. It is not as if I don’t present as obviously female, it hadn’t been an issue before, but once he had my money (including his tip) he felt free to make his feelings known. I complained on Twitter. The chain has seen my tweets because they took notice of others, but they have not responded to the complaint. That’s one restaurant I won’t be going back to. Thankfully there are many other really good places to eat in Brighton.

So yeah, there’s a long way to go. The questions we have to address are, now that we have Stonewall on board, what campaign do we run, and how do we make sure it doesn’t leave a large part of the community behind the way that the Gender Recognition Bill did?

Posted in Gender | 1 Comment

Trans Pride – Day 1

So, here I am at the seaside. Today the weather has been endless torrential rain. Welcome to the British summer.

Thankfully the forecast for tomorrow is mostly dry, and I have been told that it has been very dry in Brighton of late so the water should mostly sink in and not leave the park we are using a quagmire. Unfortunately the forecast for Sunday is more torrential rain, so the Picnic on the Beach has been relocated to the Marlborough.

This evening’s event was the film festival at the Duke of York Picturehouse. They opened up with a film of Alice Denny reading a poem about last year’s Trans Pride, followed by the first episode of Heartichoke, a comedy series that Fox & Lewis are putting together. Watch the teaser here. The final support piece was a film about a trans activist from India which was much more positive that the “tragic hijra” stuff I’m used to seeing, though still a bit cliched.

The main entertainment for the evening was Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, a film about Kate’s life made by Sam Feder. I knew most of the story already, though you could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that Kate was introduced to Sandy Stone by Janice Raymond, of all people. However, most of the audience were much less familiar with Kate’s life and work. The film ends with Kate still in the middle of her cancer crisis, so they added a little postscript to assure the audience that it all turned out alright in the end. Lots of people got rather emotional.

The thing that resonated most for me was when Kate talked about going on book tours these days and meeting loads of young people living happy trans lives — something that Kate and I could only dream about when we were that age. I know exactly what she means, and I was able to see a movie theatre packed full of exactly that sort of young person.

The Duke of York seats 280. We sold every seat, and could have sold more.

I’m now back at my hotel catching up on the day’s email. Fingers crossed that tomorrow’s weather is indeed fairly good.

Posted in Gender, Movies | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, @UjimaRadio

Ujima 7th birthday

Ujima Radio is seven years old this week. They are having a special on-air party today. I can’t be there as I have to head to Brighton for Trans Pride, so I’m sending them birthday wishes instead. If you have been on, or listened to my show, why not tweet them birthday wishes too.

Posted in Radio | Leave a comment

Once Upon A Time – Season 1

Thanks to the Evil Pusher Woman (a.k.a. Tansy Rayner Roberts) I have become addicted to the TV show, Once Upon A Time. I knew that getting a Netflix subscription was going to be trouble one way or another. Thus far I have binge-watched my way through season 1, all 22 episodes of it. There are 3 more seasons on Netflix and a fifth season is apparently planned. Doubtless many of you know far more about the series than I do, but I figured it would amuse you to see my thoughts after just one season. Feel free to laugh, but perhaps not too pointedly in the comments.

I must admit to feeling a bit guilty about liking the show, seeing as to a certain extent it is a giant rip-off of Fables. Then again, Bill can hardly claim copyright on fairy stories, and the show’s writers have done a decent job of making the story quite different. The only major point of commonality is having a heap of fairy tale characters trapped in our world. In any case, Jane Espenson is one of the major creative forces behind the project, so it is gonna be good, right?

The principle interest for me is seeing how the show makes use of the various fairytale characters, and comparing that to Fables. I rather liked the way that Fables made Prince Charming a serial seducer of princesses whom all of the women now despise. Once Upon a Time has a seemingly endless stream of cookie-cutter handsome princes, though only Snow’s Prince Charming gets a major role, and he’s just dumb. Then again, I really liked what the show did with Red Riding Hood, and their use of the Beauty & The Beast story.

With the show being a Disney property, they are required to throw in major Disney characters that are not from fairy tales. I really liked how they used the Mad Hatter. Mulan also seems very interesting, and a much more believable warrior princess than Snow. I am waiting with steadily decreasing patience for Ariel’s first appearance. If it doesn’t happen soon there may be some muttering about bias against redheads.

The first season is all about Snow and Charming’s daughter arriving to break the curse that has all of the fairy tale people trapped in a small town in Maine. I’m not sure that it needed 22 episodes, but then again there’s always the question of what to do next. Thus far what I have seen of season 2 is doing OK, but I worry about things down the road. With time, any long-running series will run out of plot ideas and descend into silliness.

Obviously a major attraction of the series is the female-led cast. Snow White, her Evil Stepmother (Regina), and her daughter (Emma) are all major characters. Red Riding Hood and her Grandma, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle have all had important roles, as did King Midas’s daughter, whom I think the show invented. In addition to Charming we have Snow’s grandson (Henry) and Rumpelstiltskin as major male characters. When you throw in the supporting characters, especially all seven dwarfs, I’m sure there are more men than women on the show. But it is so rare to see more than one or two token women that the show seems female-dominated.

I haven’t done any proper Bechdel Test analysis, but I’d be prepared to bet that Snow, Regina and Emma spend the majority of their conversations talking about Charming and Henry. Then again, at the start of season two we’ve had Snow, Emma, Mulan and Sleeping Beauty set off on a quest together, which is pretty awesome.

Emma’s last name is Swan. I’m assuming that she’s a swan maiden of some sort, and that Henry’s missing father will turn out to be a prince called Lohengrin (or possibly Logan as the show will assume that a US audience would balk at a complicated German name).

The show makes to usual clumsy Hollywood efforts at diversity. There have been a few non-white characters (including Lancelot), but none of them major and they seem to die or become evil very quickly. Mulan is the only one likely to have staying power, because I don’t think Disney will allow them to kill her off. I can’t remember seeing any QUILTBAG characters.

Fairy stories are, of course, moral tales, and the show is no exception. The main planks of its morality appear to be the value of true love and the importance of personal freedom and self-expression (as long as you are cis and straight?). Duty of parents to children is absolute, but duty of children to parents is mostly frowned upon. Goodness only knows what my grandparents would have made of that, but the world changes, probably for the better.

Anyway, it is an interesting show, and I shall keep watching it to see how it develops. If you haven’t seen it, and can stand a show with lots of women in it, you might want to give it a try.

Posted in TV | 1 Comment

A Little Feminist Ranting

My latest column for Bristol 24/7 is now online. It is basically a response to a (female) conservative MP implying that trying to get more women on the City Council would mean that they would not be getting elected on merit. As if the current system where almost everything in the country seems to be run by white men is somehow fair and just. Meritocracy my arse. But I’m not allowed to use that as a title in a newspaper.

The article also contains a few thoughts on the statistical probability of the books on Waterstones’ SF promotions tables being fairly chosen.

Posted in Feminism | 2 Comments

Sarah Savage Interview

Last night in Brighton Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher had a launch party for the book that they have written. Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl tells the story of Tiny, a child whose family has moved home, and who therefore needs to go to a new school. The other kids at the school can’t tell whether Tiny is a boy or a girl. Some of them cope with this better than others. Tiny remains ambiguous throughout. This being a kids’ book, the whole thing is beautifully illustrated by Fox.

Obviously I’m not a great expert on children’s books. However, from a trans point of view I was very impressed with the book. I gather that Sarah and Fox have already sold their initial print run and are looking for a publisher who can help them get the book into stores. There’s an interview coming up in the Independent sometime soon.

Last month Sarah was in Bristol. I interviewed her for Ujima. We talked about the book, about her time on My Transsexual Summer, and about Brighton’s Trans Pride, which just happens to be taking place this weekend. So I figured that this was a good time to put the interview out as a podcast. Here it is.

I’ll be heading down to Brighton tomorrow afternoon. I plan to report on the event, and will be doing some interviews for Shout Out.

Posted in Books, Gender, Podcasts | Leave a comment

Today on Ujima – Fashion and Feminism

First up on today’s Women’s Outlook show was fashion designer, Kieran Mceleny. He’s just 19, but he staged his first fashion show aged just 16, and established his own label a year later. That’s pretty darn impressive, if you ask me.

If that wasn’t enough, Kieran also models some of his own clothes, even if they are intended for women. He’s trained as a dancer, and has the effortless grace and control of poise that you’d expect from someone with those skills. He identifies as a gay male transvestite, and we had a little chat about labels within the vast and complicated trans umbrella.

Unfortunately there was a mixup with the arrangements for our second guest, Christina Zaba. My deepest apologies to her for that. Thankfully we have been able to reschedule her for two weeks time. Also thanks to Kieran who agreed to stay on and chat for another half hour.

By the way, Kieran has a crowdfunding campaign going to allow him to hire a venue for a Christmas fashion show. As he lives fairly locally to me, I’m hoping it will happen.

Also, for all you drag queens out there, one of the things Kieran does is make totally over the top dresses for ladies like you. He does understand your requirements.

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

For the second half of the show I was joined by Sian Webb of Bristol Women’s Voice. We talked initially about the fact that Bristol does poorly compared to the rest of the UK on the issue of the gender pay gap. Sadly one of the likely explanations for this is the city’s concentration on engineering and IT, both of which professions are somewhat hostile to women. Of course it is a very complicated issue. We also talked a but about Italy, which does much better than the UK, but probably only because it has far fewer women in employment.

In the final half hour Sian was joined by Bristol’s Assistant Mayor, Daniella Radice, and we talked about the campaign to get more women elected to Bristol City Council, which you may recall me tweeting about last Wednesday when I attended the official launch. I have an article about that due up on Bristol 24/7 any day now. I’ll point you at it when it goes live.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Love Will Save the Day – Whitney Houston
  • Love Will Save the Day – Koko Jones
  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone? – Savage Rose
  • God on Our Side – Bob Dylan
  • Respect – Aretha Franklin
  • Independent Woman Part I – Destiny’s Child
  • Doubt – Mary J Blige
  • Sisters are Doing It for Themselves – The Eurythmics

Koko Jones is an African-American trans woman and a top class percussionist. Prior to her transition she worked with many great acts, including Whitney and also the Isley Brothers. She has a solo album out titled Who’s That Lady, and I warmly recommend it. Here she is playing the title track.

Posted in Clothes, Feminism, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

May Fringe Podcasts

Got there at last. The podcasts for the May BristolCon Fringe meeting are finally available online.

First up was Sophie E Tallis who is an excellent illustrator as well as a great writer. If any fantasy writers out there are looking to have maps drawn for their books, I suggest getting in touch with Sophie. Her reading is from her latest novel, White Mountain, which is published by Grimbold, an imprint of Kristell Ink. That makes Sophie a stable mate of our Jo Hall. Sophie was very nervous before the event, but I’m sure you’ll agree that she did a fine job.

Next up was Ben Galley, who is very well known online as a self-publishing guru. Ben’s latest series is a fantasy western, and his reading is from the start of the first book, Bloodrush. One of the incentives to get the podcasts online now is that book 2 in the series, Bloodmoon, is being published on Friday. I figured Ben could do with something to use in the PR campaign.

By the way, if you are checking Ben out, do take a look at the graphic novel version of his book, The Written. The artist, Mike Shipley, turned up at Fringe to see Ben, and I think it was the first time the two of them had ever met in person. It’s a really nice-looking book, so well done both.

In the Q&A session I got both Sophie and Ben to talk about the inspirations for their work. Sophie, fairly obviously, talked about Tolkien, but also about Eastern mysticism and the legend of Shamballa. Ben talked about how the Scarlet Star trilogy is steampunk alternate history with fairies. It has trains in it, so I guess I should try Kevin on Bloodrush.

The we got onto a discussion of the pros and cons of being self-published, or published by a small press. There was quite a bit of talk about the problems of getting your books into Waterstones, and why it is so much harder now than it used to be. There was also much love for independent bookstores, as there should be. Sophie managed to earn us an explicit tag for that episode. Of course most of the things that were talked about in the announcements at the end are now over, but there is some interesting news about the Bristol Festival of Literature that isn’t until October. You’ll be hearing more about that in the months to come.

A special guest for the evening was Jo’s dog, Lyra, who was remarkably well behaved, all things considered. Author readings are not really good doggy entertainment.

Last night’s Fringe featured horror fiction from Nick Walters and Ken Shinn. I’m hoping to get those online a little bit more speedily than this lot. Just in case I don’t, those of you living in Edinburgh, or going there for their Fringe, should check out The Accidental Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which features our good friend Tom Parker as Doctor Watson and Jasmine Atkins-Smart as Holmes. (Feòrag – hint, hint)

The August Fringe event will feature Gaie Sebold and David Gullen. If you got to meet Gaie and David at Archipelacon, you won’t want to miss the podcasts of that.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings | Leave a comment

Am I Transhuman?

Over the weekend I spotted an interesting article on a philosophy blog. In “Queering the Human: Is the Transhuman already here?” BP Morton argues that trans people, especially if medically modified in some way, can be defined as transhuman. Morton’s argument also touches on the cyborg nature of people with medical implants, and on groups such as Otherkin who openly reject human identity. A major inspiration for the article was the work of my philosopher friend, David Roden.

It is an interesting question, and one that is very much tied up with politics. As I explained to BP and David on Facebook, the struggle for trans rights is currently framed very much as one of human rights. Trans people spend a lot of time being treated as if we are sub-human; as if we don’t deserve the same rights that are accorded to supposedly “normal” people. Because of this, it is politically important for trans people to be seen as human. However, the philosophical argument is very different. From a science fiction point of view, it is obvious that the concept of “human rights” won’t survive contact with intelligent aliens. Furthermore, we don’t seem to be that far away from a point where we start granting rights to other Earth species on the grounds that they too are intelligent.

I note also that these issues are addressed in Pat Cadigan’s wonderful Hugo-winning novelette, “The Girl Thing Who Went Out For Sushi”.

Convention panel, anyone? It is a bit late for this year’s BristolCon, but maybe we can lure David along next year.

Posted in Gender, Philosophy, Science Fiction | 3 Comments

Fringe Tonight

For those of you in easy reach of Bristol, there is a BristolCon Fringe event tonight. The guest readers are Ken Shinn & Nick Walters, and they are promising us a night of horror. There will be Tales of Blood & Gore. There will be Blood, Terror, Hideous Death, and apparently Pudding. There may also be a spot of mild peril.

As usual we will be in the back room of the Shakespeare Tavern on Princes Street. The event starts at 7:30pm. I will be there, and I hope to see some of you.

I have almost finished editing the podcasts of the May Fringe. Hopefully they will be online tomorrow.

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National Diversity Awards Shortlists

The shortlists for the UK’s 2015 National Diversity Awards have been announced, and I’m delighted to note that I know a few of the finalists.

In the Positive Role Models for LGBT category I spotted Kathy Caton who hosts the Out In Brighton radio show and who I have had the honour to interview a couple of times. I’ll be seeing her at the weekend when I am down in Brighton for Trans Pride.

There are two Trans groups in the Community Organisations for LGBT list. I don’t know much about Trans Men Support and Advice UK, but I am delighted to see Mermaids listed.

In the Community Organisations for Multi-Strand category we have BCfm, one of Bristol’s community radio stations where Shout Out is hosted.

And finally, in Community Organisations for Race, Religion & Faith we have Ujima Radio! Well done guys!

The winners will be announced on Friday, September 18th in a ceremony at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. I am keeping my fingers crossed for all of my friends.

Posted in Awards, Gender, Radio | Leave a comment

Tiptree Award Fellowship

The good folks who run the Tiptree Award have created a Fellowship Program designed to support speculative works during their creation. The Fellowships provide recognition for the new voices who are making visible the many forces that are changing our view of gender today, including those don’t fit within the traditional boundaries of genre fiction. Tiptree Fellows may be writers, artists, scholars, game designers, media producers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely.

The Tiptree Fellowship Committee particularly encourages applications from members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy genre and from creators who are creating speculative narratives in media other than traditional fiction. In keeping with the focus of the Tiptree Award, the selection committee is seeking projects that explore and expand understandings of gender, particularly in relationship to race, nationality, class, disability, sexuality, age, and other factors that set individuals or groups apart as “other.” Fellowship applicants do not need a professional or institutional affiliation, as the intention of the Fellowship program is to support emerging creators who lack institutional support for their work.

Each Fellow will receive $500 and the resulting work will be recognized and promoted by the Tiptree Award. Over time, the Fellowship program will create a network of Fellows who can build connections, provide mutual support, and find opportunities for collaboration.

Information as to how to apply for a Fellowship, and the requirements that Fellows will be expected to fulfill, can be found at the Tiptee Award website.

Posted in Gender, Writing | Leave a comment