Suspension Bridges – Invented by a Woman

Suspension bridges are one of the iconic features of Victorian England. Thomas Telford’s bridge over the Menai Straits to Anglesey, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s bridge over the Clifton Gorge in Bristol, are world famous. But neither of these great bridges was designed by the engineer credited with their construction. Both were based on a patent filed by another great Bristol inventor, Mrs. Sarah Guppy.

Well, actually Mrs. Guppy didn’t file the patents herself. That would have been illegal in Victorian England. She had to get her husband, Samuel, to file them for her. Mr. Guppy owned a sugar refining company in Bristol. He’s not listed among the residents of Bristol who were awarded compensation under the Abolition of Slavery Act, so we can assume that he didn’t own plantations, though his fortune must have been based in part on cheap slave labor in the Caribbean.

Mrs. Guppy ended up making a fortune in the arms trade. That probably wasn’t her intention, but her invention of a system for keeping barnacles off ships netted her some £40,000 (£3.5 million in today’s money) from the Royal Navy. Of course all of the money went to her husband, because that patent was in his name too.

To give him his due, Samuel Guppy did actually register the patents in the name of “The Guppy Family”. Nor was Sarah unknown to her peers. Telford and Brunel both appear to have been her friends and she advised them both on the design of their bridges. As a good Victorian housewife she asked not to be credited for her work so as not to appear boastful.

The Oxford Dictionary has recently added Mrs. Guppy to its list of notable British biographies, which has given the Bristol Post the opportunity to celebrate her work.

Sarah’s son, Thomas, clearly took after his mother as he became an engineer when he grew up. He’s a character in my story in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, where I have him recruited to be the chief engineer on the Severn Barrage (which the Victorians did seriously consider building).

The family is probably best known for Sarah’s grandson, Robert, who became a naturalist and had a fish named after him.

Posted in Feminism, History | 2 Comments

New Juliet McKenna Short Story

Juliet has published a new short story on her blog. “Rocks and Shoals” is the third in a series of stories branching off from the events of the Aldabreshin Compass series. To read it, and the others in the series, click here.

Posted in Science Fiction, Wizard's Tower | Leave a comment

Girls Can’t Code

Many thanks to the Girls Who Code movement for this hilarious video parodying the excuses given for not employing women as programmers.

In my case it is even harder. I suffer from autogynephilia, so not only do my boobs get in the way of my seeing the screen and keyboard, but the mere sight of them keeps me in a constant state of sexual arousal. It is very distracting.

Posted in Feminism, Software | Leave a comment

Some Sportsball Congratulations

Or, in the first case, sportspuck. Huge congratulations to the San José Sharks for making it to the Stanley Cup final. It has been a long time since I have been to the Shark Tank, but I haven’t forgotten. Go get ’em, boys!

Also congratulations to Bristol Rugby on finally making it back to the Premiership. Of course this means that you will be up against the Mighty Bath, but that’s only two games a year you’ll lose, right?

Posted in Ice Hockey, Rugby | Leave a comment

Sophie Walker in Bath

The other event in Bath this evening was a visit from Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party (and recent candidate for Mayor of London). I may have more to say about this tomorrow when I have a bit more time and can talk in detail about how WEP works as a party. For now all I want to say is that Olly and I were impressed. (We had sent Ceri home because she’s sick.)

The bottom line is that WEP knows it has to appeal to a broad audience to succeed. It can’t be a major force in UK politics if it only appeals to cis straight white able-bodied middle class women. Olly and I talked to Sophie and Halla, her chief policy advisor, about trans issues, and it is clear that they are on board. What they need to do, and presumably need help with, is to reassure the many rank and file members, and prospective members, who have been taken in by the appalling lies spread by Sarah Ditum and her ilk. That, I am sure, can be done.

In the meantime there is lots of important work to be done, particularly with respect to the e-Quality campaign. I spent part of the evening plotting with Jess from the Bristol branch. Expect a special radio show later this year.

I should note that no political party is perfect. WEP’s policy on sex work is, IMHO, absolutely wrong. But Sophie knows this is a contentious issue. As with the trans thing, there is education to be done. Unlike the trans thing, I’m not best placed to do it. (Looking at you, Brooke.)

Oh, and there was talk of a WEP football team. Not involving me, I hasten to add.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism | Leave a comment

Come Into My Parlour, Said the Mayor

This evening I was in Bath for two events. The first was in the Guildhall. There were no fairies, but there was a mayor.

Will Sandry is the 788th Mayor of Bath, and as far as I know the first openly gay one. He has been an excellent friend to the Bath Gender Equality Network over his year in office, and today he invited Ceri and the gang for drinks in the Mayoral Parlour, a room full of bling and history used by mayors for entertaining visiting dignitaries. Thus it was that a bunch of mouthy feminists (many of them trans people), and one young unicorn got to tread in the footsteps of various kings and queens, Baden Powell, Winston Churchill, Emperor Haile Selasie and most recently the Chinese Ambassador. We all behaved ourselves, more or less. There are some pictures on the BGEN Facebook page, but I’m not sure if all of them are public.

The room is a Victorian extension to the Guildhall, so Jane Austen would not have been there.

Huge thanks to Will for inviting us. When I get a chance I’ll process my photos of the bling and history. They have charters signed by Richard I and Elizabeth I, over £1million worth of gold bling, and a nice big sword. It is quite impressive.

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

Pete Newman Interview

The Vagrant - Pete Newman

I am continuing to sort through my archives of author interviews and publish stuff that is still relevant. The following interview with Pete Newman took place on Ujima in May 2015. Pete and I talk mainly about The Vagrant, which has just been released in paperback. The sequel, The Malice, is also new out in hardcover. We spend a lot of time talking about demons, babies and goats.

As is fairly inevitable, there are a few things in the discussion that are dated — primarily where we talk about Tea and Jeopardy being a Hugo finalist. However, most of the discussion is still very relevant. Also Emma’s Planetfall is now out, and it is wonderful.

Next week the May 4th show will have fallen off the Listen Again system at Ujima so I will be able to bring you the full rambling glory of the Guy Gavriel Kay interview.

Posted in Books, Podcasts | Leave a comment

Writing Class Scholarships

Cat Rambo runs excellent online writing courses (I can say that because I have taken one). However, being a professional writer, she does need to charge for them. This can be a problem for the more disadvantaged parts of the community. I am therefore delighted to see that going forward each class will have one slot available for free to someone who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Full details as to how to apply, and an explanation as to why Cat decided to call these things Plunkett scholarships, are available on Cat’s blog. I see that she says that applications from QUILTBAG folk and People of Color are particularly welcome. A special shout out is due to Keffy who inspired the whole thing.

Posted in Writing | Leave a comment

SHIELD and Puppies

I was watching the latest (for the UK) episode of Agents of SHIELD last night. This was one featuring a group of inhuman-hating bigoted thugs who call themselves The Watchdogs. I noticed that everyone kept referring to them as “Puppies”. This has to be a coincidence, right? I mean, why would anyone writing a science fiction show associate the idea of puppies with spreading hatred?

Posted in Fandom, TV | 2 Comments

WEP’s e-Quality Campaign

I have email from the Women’s Equality Party. Tomorrow they are launching a new campaign called e-Quality. It is aimed at tackling the issue of harassment and bullying of women online which, unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years, you will know has become a major issue.

It’s not just fanboy tantrums over girl gamers or the all-women Ghostbusters movie we are talking about here. As this Telegraph article points out, girls as young as 11 are becoming victims of revenge porn attacks. Any woman who pokes her nose above the parapet is deemed fair game. I have no idea how people like Brianna Wu and Laurie Penny cope with the level of shit directed at them on a daily basis.

Wisely, in my view (and I’ve been saying this on the radio show for some time), WEP is making a core part of its platform a demand for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. This is something that was proposed earlier this year, with the backing of both the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, but was vetoed by the Prime Minister. The work that groups like TIGER do in Bristol is invaluable, but right now schools can just ignore such issues and let me media do all of that side of kids’ education.

Personally I think that the campaign should also target social media companies, particularly Facebook. It is becoming increasingly obvious that their “community standards” are being enforced by people who are misogynistic and transphobic. That may not be company policy, but it happens and you have to create a huge stink to get anything done about it.

While this is a specifically UK campaign, it isn’t a UK-only issue. This morning I saw an article from another SF-writing journalist, Kate Heartfield from Canada. She too was wrestling with the issue of the need to tackle certain issues as women, not as members of a political party, a position that WEP has to spend a lot of time defending.

There will be an online thing happening tomorrow morning with the hashtag #CtrlAltDelete. I shall be interested to see how that goes, and how much trolling it attracts. As Sophie Walker, the WEP party leader, will be in Bath on Wednesday evening, I should be able to get an up-to-date report on how things went.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism | Leave a comment

The Age of Apocalypse is 10-Year-Old Cheryl

Scott & Jean
So, I have seen the new X-Men film, and I absolutely loved it. This does not mean that you will. Bear with me a moment, please. I will try to make this as spoiler free as possible.

As anyone who has seen the previous films in this Bryan Singer series will know, each one is being set 10 years apart, and much of the X-Men chronology has been thrown up in the air. The primary constants of the series are Charles, Hank, Eric and Raven. This film is set in the 1980s and introduces Jean and Scott, along with Kurt, Warren and Ororo, all as teenage additions to the team. Of course the original series had a much more traditional X-Men team in it, but that series went downhill rapidly as even Singer acknowledges in this film. This film was a chance for redemption, and Singer has grasped it with both hands.

The jumbled chronology has set up some odd effects. Having been seen on television facing down Magneto in Days of Future Past, Mystique has become a hero to young mutants all over the world such as Ororo Munroe growing up in Cairo, and Kurt Wagner in Berlin. This is probably the last thing that Raven wants. Eric is trying his best to hide away from everything and lead a normal life. Meanwhile Charles and Hank have the school up running again, and are recruiting new students, the most powerful of whom is this girl with red hair.

Sophie Turner does an OK job as Jean. It isn’t her fault that when I look at her I only see Sansa Stark. She doesn’t look any more like Jean than Famke Janssen did, and neither of them has captured Jean’s personality. However, the story is there; all Singer & co have to do is tell it, and that they do very well.

I totally accept that if you haven’t grown up on X-Men and don’t have a huge emotional investment in the characters the way I have then you may get a bit bored by the long and somewhat silly plot involving some guy called Apocalypse. That wasn’t what kept me watching, often in tears, and at one point in serious danger of sobbing out loud, which I have never done in a cinema before. That was one of the defining mythologies of my childhood being played out right there on the big screen.

There were dodgy things, of course. There was rather a lot of fridging, which I do wish screenwriters would learn to do without. Scott and Alex being brothers doesn’t make much sense if Scott is a teenager now and Alex was one back in the ’60s. We can’t have Wanda because she’s in the Avengers universe, and Quicksilver’s name is Pietro, not Peter.

There is one thing, of course, that I am very sad about. But then nothing is perfect.

On the other hand, there was good stuff. I loved the scene where Scott, Jean and Jubilee take Kurt to see Return of the Jedi (and no one bats an eye at the teenager with blue skin because those kids are obviously science fiction fans). There are probably more brown-skinned Egyptians in the introduction than in the whole of Gods of Egypt. Alexandra Shipp is delightful as the young Ororo, as is Lana Condor as a very young Jubilee. As you have probably heard, Weapon-X makes a brief and bloody appearance. The Quicksilver time freeze sequences are as much fun as ever, if even more improbable.

There’s an awful lot of new X-Men material in production. Fox appears to be determined to turn the X-Men into as massive a franchise for themselves as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Disney. Eventually this has to be bad, because Claremont happens and we all know that things will go to shit in the end. But maybe there will be a few more movies before that happens. Also, of course, Singer hinted at the end of Days of Future Past that the universe in which the first three films existed (and Patrick Stewart is the Professor) had changed, and that possibly the events of Last Stand would not happen. If he’s prepared to do that, maybe he can make changes here too. After all, Emma is already dead in Singer’s universe. Who knows what might happen?

Posted in Movies, Personal | 1 Comment

Why Trans People Can’t Get Healthcare

In an effort to respond to Parliamentary criticism of their poor treatment of trans patients, health care bosses been trying to find ways to reduce the pressure on gender clinics. The General Medical Council and NHS England have issued new guidelines for GPs on management of trans patients. These include trying to get GPs to comply with long-standing instructions to provide life-time care for trans patients who have completed their medical transition and been discharged by the gender clinic, and more controversially to provide “bridging hormones” to trans patients who are waiting for appointments. The main reason for the latter policy is the large number of trans patients who are self-medicating. The GMC has taken the view that if people are going to take hormones anyway it is much better that they should do via trusted suppliers and under supervision.

I can’t see gender specialists agreeing to this unless they felt it was safe. They are fairly notorious for defending their specialisation, especially against people in private practice. Basically all GPs have to do is prescribe the hormones, take regular blood tests, and only if the results of those tests come back anomalous do they need to consult a specialist. That specialist will probably be an endocrinologist, not a psychiatrist.

Nevertheless, many GPs are outraged about this new development. An organisation called the General Practitioners Committee has written to the GMC to complain that this is requiring GPs to do something that is “clearly outside their expertise and competence”. It is clear that a significant number of GPs do not want to be responsible for providing health care to trans people.

The reason for this is fairly obvious from the comments on those two articles I linked to, which are from a doctors’ website called Pulse. One commenter compared trans people to heroin addicts. Another states:

What if they get PMT and commit suicide? Or testosterone fueled rage attacks?

The fact that trans people are committing suicide in large numbers because they can’t get treatment doesn’t matter to these people. What they are scared of is dealing with patients who, in their eyes, are insane and a menace to society.

Guess where they get that idea? Hello mass media, especially you, New Statesman. Which is why I think the training that The Diversity Trust, Gendered Intelligence and similar organisations do is so important. Sadly, while the NHS has been generally supportive of what we do, GPs themselves are extremely resistant to attending such training.

Fortunately there are GPs who are helpful and understanding. The trouble is that if you live in a country town or village you are unlikely to be able to find one. My own view is that the way forward in the short term is to establish regional centres of excellence, probably in big cities but also perhaps on a traveling basis in areas like Wales where travel is difficult, where trans people can go is they are denied healthcare by their local GPs. Long term, of course, we need proper training in medical schools.

In the meantime, some of those comments are going to find their way into my training slides.

Posted in Gender, Health | Leave a comment

Get Your Loteria Posters Now

La Calavera - John Picacio

The fabulous John Picacio has released some signed, limited edition posters using art from his Loteria range. (For those who don’t know, Loteria is a Mexican equivalent of the Tarot.) I’ve just ordered a couple. If you want one, they are available until Monday. Sadly US shipping only (I’ve had mine sent to Kevin).

Posted in Art | 1 Comment

A Whisky is Born

Whisky label - art by Jennie Gyllblad
Last night I took myself into Bath for a very special event – the launch of a new whisky. My pals at Independent Spirit have been wanting to have their own bottling for some time, and finally it has happened, complete with fabulous artwork from the amazing Jennie Gyllblad.

Now the boys aren’t actually distilling this stuff. They are just bottling it. That might seem a bit of a cheat, but it isn’t. Explaining why requires delving into whisky arcana.

All distilleries tend to have a certain amount of excess production. They know roughly how much of the single malt they can sell, and they will get orders from blenders for more. But you don’t want to be short, so you always make more than you need and have some left over.

This excess whisky is sold to people called “independent bottlers”, and my pals have just joined those ranks. Now you may wonder what the point is. Isn’t the single malt just the single malt? Won’t an independent bottler’s product be just the same as the malt? Well no. To start, it may be that not all of the whisky is matured in the same type of barrels. The distillery may chose only to sell certain casks as their own single malt, and sell on the output of other casks. There is the question of how long the cask has been left to mature before being bottled. Also, the independent bottler has the choice of what strength to bottle at.

Commercial malt whisky is generally sold at around 40%-43% alcohol by volume. That will have been watered down. You will see some whiskies sold at higher strengths. The highest levels you will find are so-called “cask strength”, which means it is not watered down at all before bottling.

The Independent Spirit whisky is 56.2%. That’s a bit eye-popping. It also has a lovely, peppery flavor which makes it seem ever more fiery. Chris Scullion, the whisky expert in the shop team, explained the decision to bottle at cask strength as follows: you can always add water, but you can’t take it away. The taste of a whisky can vary dramatically as water is added. By bottling at cask strength, Chris gives you the option to add as much or as little water as you want before drinking it.

Jennie Gyllblad & Matt Hoskins
Jennie with Matt Hoskins, who did the graphic design on the label

The whisky in the bottle is from Fettercairn, a small distillery in Aberdeenshire. It is fairly light and fruity. Chris said it reminds him of Dalwhinnie, a judgement I very much agree with. At cask strength is is most definitely the stuff of fire breathing, hence Jennie’s art. It is a limited edition with only 50 bottles available. I have one on order. I might be persuaded to bring it to Finncon with me.

The event took place in the Igloo bar which is in the basement of the Abbey Hotel (hence no live tweeting as we were underground). It is a lovely venue. Tim the barman treated us to a couple of whisky-based cocktails. The first was a whiskey sour, which proves that there is a purpose in the world for bourbon after all. It should have egg white in it, though I suspect that most bars will omit that just in case. The other was a Godfather, which is just whisky and amaretto. You can make this with a blend. Jennie and I, being amaretto addicts, loved it.

The Igloo bar
The Igloo bar, with Chris standing to the left

Posted in Whisky | Leave a comment

Archangels in Audio

I am delighted to be able to report that Archangel Protocol, the first book in Lyda Morehouse’s AngeLINK series, is now available as an audiobook. This is nothing to do with Wizard’s Tower — we don’t have the capacity to do that sort of thing — but I am delighted that it has happened because I love those books. You can find out more from Lyda’s LiveJournal.

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

Notches Follow-Up

Further to yesterday’s post on lesbian erasure, my friend Catherine Baker has also weighed in on the subject. She’s an actual history lecturer, and among other things she compares the questions of sexual and gender identities with the problem of national identities in the post-Yugoslavia Balkans. These things are never easy.

Posted in Gender, History | Leave a comment

Notches on Lesbian Erasure

There is a great blog post up on Notches, the history of sexuality website, today. It is by Rachel Hope Cleves who is at the University of Victoria, BC and was one of the organizers of the conference that Kevin and I attended earlier this year.

The subject of Rachel’s post is the erasure of lesbians in history. This comes about partly because of sexism (gay men are important, lesbians less so), partly because gay male sex has always been treated as much more dangerous, whereas lesbian has been more ignored, and partly because historians have an annoying habit of refusing to recognize that an idea or activity exists until it is named.

This is a problem for trans history too. The concept of a transsexual is clearly a 20th century invention. However, there is massive of evidence of people having cross-gender and third-gender identities in history, and even of medical intervention. Making a eunuch is, after all, both surgery and hormone therapy. And yet many historians refuse to admit that trans people existing prior to the 20th Century because the definitions we now use had not been invented.

So I have a lot of sympathy with the lesbians whose anger Rachel is reporting, at least thus far. Of course any tale of lesbian anger is not complete without intervention from the TERFs. As Rachel explains, the TERFs not only believe that lesbian history is being erased, they also maintain that the future of lesbianism is being erased, by trans people. They worry that in future there will be no lesbians, only trans men.

Part of this fear is based on the persistent lie that trans people are “really” homosexuals who are so ashamed of their desires that they “mutilate” their bodies so as to appear heterosexual. No trans person I know is like that. Indeed, the prevalence of post-transition trans folk who identify as gay and lesbian ought to be sufficient proof that the idea is daft. Nevertheless it is an idea that refuses to die.

There is also the fear that the medical establishment will force young lesbians through gender transition in order to “normalize” them. No trans person wants this. If we have an “agenda” at all it is to be left alone to live our lives the way we need to, not to be pushed into any particular course of action by doctors or social convention.

What is true is that there is a grey zone between butch lesbians and trans men. People do cross that boundary. Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, and Feinberg’s own life, are classic examples of the quandary. But this only represents a fraction of trans male identities and, once again, the aim should be to allow people to find a place that they are comfortable with, not to force their choices.

It is, I suppose, possible that there are young female-identified-at-birth people in the non-binary community whose reason for being their is solely sexual attraction to women. But if there are then they are not really non-binary because being trans is not about sexuality. I find it hard to believe that any female-identified people would chose transition when they can be happy as lesbians. People who come up with these ideas have no idea how tough transition actually is.

Mostly, then, I think the fears expressed by the people Rachel encountered are spurious, based on false views of trans people, and what trans people want, spread by TERFs. I’d love to be able to reassure them. Trans people, and particularly trans women, have no desire for lesbians to be phased out of existence. After all, many of us identify as lesbians.

What really annoys me about this attitude, however, is that the prime culprits for erasure of trans people from history are not historians but TERFs. They like to claim that no one had a cross-gender identity before modern medicine invented the idea. That they should (falsely) claim that we are trying to erase them, while they are actively and openly trying to erase us, is a magnificent exercise in hypocrisy.

Posted in Gender, History | 1 Comment

Today On Ujima: Judy Darley, No More Taboo, Predatory Peacekeepers and Mike Carey

Well that’s a fair old mix of a show.

I started off with local writer, Judy Darley, who is running a literary fundraiser for St. Mungo’s, a charity that works with homeless people. The event is going to be in St. John on the Wall, a fabulous 13th Century church built into the old city walls. Pete Sutton is having his book launch there later in June, though I’ll miss that due to Finncon.

The second half hour saw a welcome return for Chloe Tingle who runs No More Taboo, a non-profit which promotes the use of cheap and recyclable sanitary products. The main project they are raising money for is in Nepal where, unbelievably, women who are having their periods are still shunned socially and required to stay out of the family home until they are “clean” again. You can find the crowdfunding campaign here.

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

My planned 3rd quarter guest had to cancel, so I took the opportunity of spending a few minutes talking about the Predatory Peacekeepers campaign. This is attempting to hold the UN, and the French government, to account for sex abuse carried out by “peacekeepers” in the Central African Republic. The petition I mention on the show can be found here.

Rant over, I went straight into my final guest interview of the day, which was with Mike Carey. He’s in town promoting his latest (and very good) novel, Fellside. Mike and I will be discussing the book at the Bristol Waterstones tonight. We managed to find the time to discuss the state of the Girl with All the Gifts movie (which will be out in September) and our love for the X-Men as well.

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

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Papa Wemba – Show me the way
  • Billy Paul – Me & Mrs Jones
  • The Specials – A Message to you, Rudy
  • The Selecter & Prince Buster – Madness
  • Madness – Night Boat to Cairo
  • The Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
  • The Bodysnatchers – Lets Do Rock Steady
  • The Specials – Ghost Town
Posted in Books, Current Affairs, Feminism, Movies | Leave a comment

Fringe, Dead Sherlock & Writing as a Woman

Last night’s BristolCon Fringe was really good. The podcasts will be available in due course, but you can hear Paul Cornell read from Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? at his previous Fringe appearance in March last year.

Martyn Waites chose to read from one of the stories he had written under his Tania Carver pen name. Naturally I was interested to know how writing as a woman worked for him. After all, we hear endless stories of how women in SF&F have to hide their gender in order to get published, or because they fear that their books will be ignored otherwise.

Again Martyn’s full explanation of the story will be in the podcast, but I wanted to highlight a few things here. First up, the whole thing came about somewhat by accident. His editor was bemoaning the lack of a hard-edged British female crime writer and Martyn, being a former actor and wise to the ways of freelancing, immediately said, “I can do that, gis a job”.

The important point, however, is that it worked. Tania’s first book was heavily promoted and became a best seller. The question is, why? How does this sort of thing work in crime but not in SF&F?

Martyn has some ideas. I do too. One thing that particularly fascinated me was Martyn’s assertion that women like gory crime stories. So why is there this impression that they would not like equally gory fantasy?

On the spot I came up with a panel idea for BristolCon. Obviously the idea has to be approved by MEG and pass the audience interest test, and participants have to agree, but hopefully we can make it work. I’d want to chair it, and have Martyn on the panel. I’d also want Sarah Pinborough who is one of this year’s Guests of Honour and a purveyor of gory horror tales, and Sarah Hilary who is turning out to be exactly the sort of crime writer that Martyn’s editor was looking for when they invented Tania. I think the panel also needs a publisher representative, and probably a male one for panel parity reasons. Any volunteers?

Posted in Books, Conventions, Gender, Publishing, Readings | 1 Comment


Given that I post about LGBT rights rather a lot, it is probably a bit over the top to do a special post just because it is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. However, I did have something I wanted to talk about.

Last week the UK Parliament published the first reports from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global LGBT Rights. The Secretary of the group is Ben Howlett, the MP for Bath, and it is this work that Ben principally wanted to talk about when I arranged for him to meet Stuart Milk in February.

You can find a copy of the full report here (PDF). As we have a Conservative government, they have the some of the most senior posts. The Chair is Nick Herbert, and of course Ben is a Tory too. However, the group is genuinely cross-party, with representatives from Labour, the SNP, the LibDems and the Greens.

One of the more notable things about the report is that it doesn’t just bash foreign governments. It is openly critical of both the Foreign Office and the Home Office. The former, under Philip Hammond, has significantly backtracked on its support for LGBT rights around the world. The latter has a major problem with how LGBT asylum seekers are treated.

The report quotes a number of academic studies and will this be very useful to Berkeley and I when we are putting together evidence in Diversity Trust work. It will probably seem all very dry and impersonal to many of you, but this sort of thing is necessary to convince governments.

In addition the report majors on the economic benefits of equality. Persecuting some 10% of your population just because they are LGBT is not a recipe for good government. It isn’t even a recipe for good corporate governance. The chart below shows how the share prices of companies with strong equality policies are well above the average. There are, of course, many possible explanations for that, but a happy and diverse workforce is certainly one of them. Public confidence in the company many be another.

Chart from APPG report

Some of you are doubtless shaking your heads and saying that people shouldn’t need an economic incentive to treat others with fairness and respect, but again this sort of thing works. One of the biggest problems we have with selling diversity training is that far too many companies see no benefit in doing it. The big stick of compliance with the Equality Act can only take you so far. You need a carrot too.

Posted in Feminism | 1 Comment