The papers here in the UK have, as is traditional at this time of year, been full of discussion of the New Year Honours List. Who has been justifiably recognized? Who has been shamefully snubbed? Who turned down an honour? Are the honours a disgraceful anachronism?
I tend towards the anachronism end of the spectrum. Certainly I think it is daft to have titles that reference a “British Empire” that no longer exists. But at the same time I see people like Christine Burns (herself an MBE) celebrating the people who are honored for their work in Equality & Diversity.
You see, one of the things about the Honours is that they indicate who is an acceptable member of British society and who is not. In a country as obsessed with class and status as this one, that’s important. So I’m happy that people such as Christine and April Ashley have been recognized for services to trans rights, and I look forward to the day when trans people start getting awards for things other than asking to be treated as human beings. Many of them are, after all, very talented.
Then again, the Honours don’t happen by magic. Nor does the Queen scour the newspapers looking for people to recognize. No, you get on an Honours list because people have suggested you are a suitable recipient. I was not surprised to see Ben Goldacre complaining on Twitter about people lobbying him in search of nominations. One of the reasons that trans people, and indeed science fiction writers, don’t get awards is that we think our people have no chance, or don’t even know that we can suggest them. Promoting your community’s star performers for honors is, I submit, a legitimate form of E&D campaigning. Had they worked in others fields, I suspect that Dave Langford, Paul Kincaid and Vincent Docherty would all have had some sort of recognition by now. It’s worth thinking about.