Hardcore Rugby

Welsh flag
Today saw the latest round of Six Nations matches, headlined by the Wales-Ireland game. Having foolishly lost their opening game to England, Wales needed to beat the undefeated Irish in order to stay in with a chance of winning the championship. Short version, they did it, but it was a magnificent game.

Defense rarely gets the respect it deserves, but I think it is fair to say that defense won the match for Wales today. US readers may need reminding that in rugby the clock doesn’t stop when the ball-carrier is tackled. Your linemen have to get up there, secure the ball, and start a new down with no rest. Equally the opposition has to be ready for the next play, and above all not commit a penalty because is rugby that results in a turnover.

Well today the Wales defense withstood 28 consecutive downs inside their own red zone, before Ireland made a mistake. It was titanic.

So going into the final weekend we have England, Ireland and Wales all on three wins. None of them play each other. In the event of more than one team finishing on the same number of wins, the tie-breaker is points difference (points scored – points conceded). The current status is Eng 37, Ire 33, Wal 12. Ireland are the favorites because they play bottom-of-the-table Scotland. However, Wales have a chance of running up a big score against Italy. England have to play France, but they are the only one of the three with a home game. It should be a great weekend.

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Chatting With Joe

My interviewing duties at Sofacon 2 seem to have gone fairly well. I had an hour-long discussion with Joe Haldeman touching on a number of subjects. Judging by the comments on the convention’s chat room, and on Twitter, we went down fairly well. This comment was particularly kind:

I started off talking to Joe about The Forever War (which was rejected 17 times before finding a publisher, and yet still won almost every award going). When Joe wrote the book, the prospect of same-sex marriage becoming legal was probably deemed less likely than meeting aliens, but nevertheless he wrote a novel with a future society in which same-sex relationships were the norm. There are people around who want you to believe that the SF community was an evil right-wing plot before they same along to “save” it just a few years ago. It is good to be reminded that people like Joe were fighting for queer folks in the 1970s.

We touched on a number of other issues, including gender roles in ancient Rome, the place of women and queer folk in the armed forces, the convention that had Joe dress in drag, and America’s obsession with snipers. There was a lot of really serious stuff about war as well. Joe is a really easy interview, because he’s had such an interesting life and he’s always ready with a smart response to your questions. My thanks to Tony Smith for asking me to do this.

I took a break from the con to have dinner, but I’m now listening in again because there’s a cyberpunk panel with the awesome Pat Cadigan on it.

Posted in Conventions | Leave a comment

An Old Portrait

Pirate Queen
As most of you will know, I am quite old. One of the difficulties of advanced age is that you forget things that you did in your mis-spent youth. So I was quite surprised this morning when my Greek friend, Sissy Pantelis, found an old portrait of me from the days when I had a pirate ship in the Caribbean. (Sissy’s memory is better than mine. She was made immortal by Aphrodite some time around the days of the Trojan War and seems to have got the hang of this extended lifetime thing.)

Anyway, here it is. I’ve clearly put on a lot of weight since those days, though the artist might have flattered me a bit for fear of having to feed the sharks, personally. The hat still fits, though. I can’t for the life of me remember who the artist was, but maybe Sissy will help out.

Update: The art is by Sabine Rich. She has an Etsy shop, but it is currently closed, I suspect due to the VATMOSS nonsense (she’s French).

Posted in Art, Personal | 2 Comments

Me and You and Joe Haldeman

This weekend sees the second SofaCon, an online convention run by Tony Smith of Star Ship Sofa. Because it is international it doesn’t start until 5:00pm, UK time, but that’s good because it means I won’t miss the Wales – Ireland game. At 6:00pm, UK time, I will be interviewing the legendary Joe Haldeman. Huge thanks to Tony for asking me to do this.

You can find the schedule for SofaCon 2015 at the Kickstarter page. There have been some minor changes — in particular Charlie Stross won’t be able to make it, and Rachel Swirsky will open the event. If you’d like to join us, you can still get a ticket to the event here. There are a lot of great sessions lined up, including interviews with Kim Stanley Robinson and David Brin, and a World SF panel featuring Rajan Khanna & Aliette de Bodard. Gareth Powell will be reading from one of his Ack Ack Macaque books.

It is possible that Tony will make individual sessions available afterwards, but I don’t have any firm information one way or the other.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you in the audience tomorrow, but if you can’t make it and have a question you’d like me to ask Joe please comment below. I can’t promise to ask it, but input is always welcome.

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I Have Good Things

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Mike Dariano who runs a blog called 27 Good Things, via which he gets various people to recommend things that they like. Apparently he found me because I have a lot of Twitter followers, which is what passes for celebrity status these days. Anyway, I was asked to recommend three good things to read, three to watch, and three to use. You can find out what I wrote about here. My thanks to Mike for giving me space on his blog.

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A Day Out In Bath With Added Beryl Cook

My friend Lee Harris, formerly of Angry Robot and now starting a line of novellas for Tor, was in Bath on business yesterday. As he had some free time I offered to show him around. Naturally we ended up at a few bookshops, and a beer shop, but I had been told that the Victoria Art Gallery had a big Beryl Cook exhibition on, and I guessed (correctly) that this would appeal to Lee.

I heard about the exhibition from by friend Robert Howes, who has (literally) written the book on LGBT history in Bath. He’d been to see it and noticed something of interest. Cook was catapulted to fame in 1976 when Hunter Davies did a major feature on her in the Sunday Times Magazine (which he then edited). The picture that Davies chose to feature on the cover of the magazine showed a scene in a pub. All fairly normal, most people would have thought. However, the painting was actually of the Lockyer in Plymouth, which at the time was gay-friendly (and may still be for all I know). There were women in the foreground, but that’s because Beryl and her friends enjoyed the company of the gay boys, especially the drag queens.

Anyway, it is a great exhibition, with over 50 Beryl Cook originals. We also ended up having a fun evening out with Emma & Pete Newman, and Joe Abercrombie, amongst others. Emma is due for more surgery any time now. I do hope she’s OK. Sending hugs, love.

Posted in Art, Personal | Leave a comment

Inspiring Women

Inspiring Women

Amelia Maltepe, Andreja Pejic, April Ashley, Bethany Black, Caitlín R Kiernan, Carmen Carrera, Caroline Cosset, Charlese Saballe, Charlie Jane Anders, Christine Jorgensen, Christine Burns, Claire Parker, Dana International, Fallon Fox, Geena Rocero, Isis King, Jackie Green, Jaime Clayton, Janet Mock, Jan Morris, Jenna Talackova, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Joan Roughgarden, Juliet Jacques, Kim Petras, Lana Wachowkski, Laura Jane Grace, Laverne Cox, Lynn Conway, Parinya Charoenphol, Paris Lees, Roberta Cowell, Roz Kaveney, Ryka Aoki, Sarah Brown, Sarah Savage.

Did you see what I did there?

There were, of course, lots more fabulous women that I could have added (and a few fabulous people whom I wasn’t sure if they identified as female).

Posted in Feminism, Gender | Leave a comment

Justina on Women and SF

Justina Robson’s new novel, The Glorious Angels, is due out on the 19th (and if you live in the UK you can pre-order the Kindle edition for just £1.99). As part of the PR campaign, Justina has an article in The Independent today talking about women and science fiction. This comment leaped out at me:

A friend tells me: “I was told by someone who has been in publishing a lot of years that the content of my books really didn’t matter. They put a woman [author] on the cover and that would determine sales. A man on the cover, any man, and sales would be higher.”

Head * Desk * Repeat

Posted in Feminism, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Bristol Takes The Pledge

I spent much of today in Bristol at an International Women’s Day event in the M-Shed. It was organized by Bristol Women’s Voice and seemed to have been a great success. My congratulations to Sian Webb and her team.

From my point of view, the most encouraging thing about the day was how multi-cultural it was. There were lot of non-white women around, many of them playing important roles in the event. The amazing young women of Integrate Bristol, who campaign against FGM, were amongst the stars of the show. I was also very impressed with rugby player, Deborah Fleming (even if she is English). A special shout out to Refugee Women of Bristol who do amazing work.

There were lots of stalls, including my friends from TIGER. There was a really fun theatre company called Lady Strong’s Bonfire (check out Tomasin’s art). And I was fascinated by a new group called No More Taboo. They campaign on issues to do with menstruation. Did you know that in the average British woman life she generates 150 kg of waste from sanitary products, spending between £1400 and £3500 in the process? That’s can’t be good, either for the finances or the environment, but nothing is done about it because no one wants to talk about menstruation. There will be an article about this coming up soon.

The big news from today, however, is the launch of a city-wide campaign to pledge zero tolerance for gender-based violence. This is an initiative that has come out of the Bristol Women’s Commission that was set up by Mayor George Ferguson when he signed the European Charter for equality of women and men in local life back in 2013 (Bristol was the first UK city to sign up). Today Penny Gane, the Chair of the Commission, launched this pledge, and wheeled in a bunch of the great and good from around the city, George included, to support it.

There are two things I particularly like about the pledge. Firstly, any organization that signs it commits not only to having zero tolerance, but also to doing something about it. Secondly, it really is about gender-based violence. The pledge says:

Gender based violence includes domestic and sexual violence and abuse of women and children, domestic and sexual violence against men, sexual exploitation, FGM, forced marriage, honour based violence and sexual harassment.

So there is no room for the Men’s Rights Activists to complain, “What about us men!”. Nor is there much room for the TERFs and their claim that the mere existence of trans women is an act of violence against women. I might have worded it a little differently, but the principle of ending all gender-based violence is there.

Posted in Feminism | 1 Comment

Thoughts For International Woman’s Day

Technically IWD is not until tomorrow, but just about everyone is doing their thing today instead, if only because of the transport problems on Sundays. I’m grateful for that, because getting to Bristol on a Sunday is not easy.

Of course I have this sinking feeling that IWD is going to be mainly another occasion for cis white women to do amazing things for other cis white women. I’ve seen some buzz on social media about a new “let’s promote women” thing that Lauren Laverne is launching called The Pool. It is all very coy right now, but I’m not signing up to it to find out more because I’m pretty sure one of the first things I will find is a Trans Women Not Welcome sign, like has happened with just about every other feminist initiative in the UK over the past few years.

However, we have to keep plugging away the best we can. And in that vein here is something of mine that went up at Bristol 24/7 last week when I was drowning in LGBT History Month stuff and thereby slipped my notice. It is all about putting an end to sexism.

Posted in Feminism | Leave a comment

That Word “Transgender”

Yesterday I spotted a couple of young trans women scratching their heads on social media over a rant one of them had found complaining that the horrible “transgenders” were oppressing real trans people. This made no sense to them. I can understand why, but if you have been around long enough you know that all terminology changes. Here’s a bit of history.

A small caveat here in that over the period in question I lived in three different countries, and terminology can change between countries as well as over time. I may well have got a very confused view of things. Then again, I may have seen a lot more than someone who only lived in one country.

Anyway, “transgender”. Originally there were just “transsexuals”. They were people like Michael Dillon and April Ashley who underwent gender surgery and lived their lives as fairly typical members of their preferred gender.

The term “transgender” was first popularized by an American called Virigina Prince. She used it to distinguish people who underwent surgery and those who simply cross-dressed full time and had no truck with doctors or psychologists. The latter, including herself, she termed transgender.

According to Prince’s Wikipedia entry (which obviously isn’t by any means definitive) she preferred female pronouns but identified as a heterosexual male cross-dresser. That would make her exactly the sort of person that bathroom panic is all about. It is unsurprising that she’s not too popular with some transsexuals.

Meanwhile the idea of being transgender rather than transsexual gained traction with non-binary people, because it didn’t involve surgery and allowed people to find their own path rather than being forced into a stereotypical role of one gender or another by doctors. For a long time I understood it as meaning “non-binary”.

Around the same time it acquired a political meaning in that being transgender rather than transsexual meant that you were only changing your social role (gender) rather than your “real” sex. This was popular with some feminists. I remember being invited along to a transgender support group being set up by feminists in Melbourne. When we got there we were all asked to sign an affidavit stating that we were only living as women, and were still “really” men.

There were also some radical transgenderists who insisted that all trans people were non-binary and that any trans person who claimed to be a “man” or “woman” rather than transgender was a traitor to the cause, a dupe of the patriarchy and so on. This too was popular with some feminists.

However, all of these meanings eventually got steamrollered by the fact that “transgender” is a much better word to use in PR than “transsexual”, because it doesn’t include that troublesome word, “sex”. So trans political activists quickly adopted “transgender” as an umbrella term for all gender-variant people, eventually shortening it to “trans”, probably in part to get away from some of the historical negative connotations of transgender.

I like to think that these days we have mostly got away from that sort of squabble and allow everyone to find their own path, but there are still people out there who regard themselves as “true” transsexuals and everyone else as perverts. There are also people who will remember that days of transsexual v transgender wars. Every so often they re-surface.

I have probably only scratched the surface of the terminology wars here, and haven’t gone anywhere near the troublesome *, but hopefully that has given you some inkling as to why people still occasionally get hot under the collar about such things.

Posted in Gender | Leave a comment

Making eBooks Work – The Anime Encyclopedia

Inevitably, this being “World” Book Day in the UK and Ireland, some bright spark in the media thought this would be a good time to do some more controversy farming on the subject of ebooks. Stepping up to the plate as designated outrage merchant is Fay Weldon, who opined in The Independent that authors should write specially dumbed down versions of their books for release as ebooks because people who read such things can’t be expected to be as intelligent as those who read paper.

Yes, well. The less said about that the better. However, I do have an ebook that I want to bring to your attention, because it makes brilliant use of the format.

I have not seen a physical copy of the new 3rd Edition of The Anime Encyclopedia, but I expect it to be huge because Amazon tells me that it is 1160 pages. They don’t give a weight, but it is 9.2″ tall and 2.5″ thick. Reading it in bed would probably give you a wrist injury. In any case, the price of the paper edition is over $80 (though it may be cheaper in the USA as I’m probably getting stung for VAT). In contrast the Kindle edition is a bargain at under $18, and is in some ways a much better book.

Why? Because it is cross-referenced with hyperlinks. So if you go to the section on Sailor Moon you will find links to everything from other works by Naoko Takeuchi to the inevitable erotic parody of the series (Venus Five, for those of you sufficiently desperate to go and look for it). General entries such as “Science Fiction” or “Wartime Anime” inevitably contain heaps of links. As someone who has edited ebooks, I am well aware of the vast amount of work involved in producing something like this, and am delighted to see it has been done.

Of course both books contain the fabulously erudite and often cutting text provided by Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements. I naturally headed straight for the Sailor Moon entry to see what they had to say about the initial US releases. I was not disappointed:

With reincarnation a given, the show is unafraid of death; the first season closes with a harrowing assault on the icy lair of the evil Queen Beryl, in which the entire cast is killed off (albeit temporarily). Needless to say, the sanitized U.S. release unconvincingly pretends they have merely been detained elsewhere.

You can spend ages just flicking through the book and following links. I’m by no means qualified to judge the content, but I know Helen and Jonathan and have great respect for their knowledge.

I am also reminded that I really need to get a copy of Wandering Son, one of the few animes to actually address the issue of real trans people rather than using gender-swapping as a plot device or joke. (I am likely to thump the next person who tells me that Ranma 1/2 is a story about a trans kid.) The entry for Wandering Son is very positive from the artistic point of view, and when it comes to the subject matter McCarthy & Clements say:

This is a magical series, one of very few to address the issues facing transgender or gender-conflicted children with the respect and love they deserve, but so rarely find.

Yeah, if you have any interest in anime, buy this book in electronic form. It is a bargain for all sorts of reasons.

Posted in Books, Ebooks, TV | 1 Comment

Putting the T in the Reverbathon

Radio Reverb, the Brighton-based community radio station, is 8 years old this weekend, and to celebrate they are having a Reverbathon to raise funds for the station. Time 4 T, the UK’s only trans-themed radio show, is going to be part of the celebrations (live on air from 7:00pm on Sunday 8th) and presenter Claire Parker is looking to raise the massive sum of £60 via this crowdfunding campaign. I’m sure we can do better than that, people.

Posted in Gender, Radio | Leave a comment

Get Your Diversity Here

One of the best online news sources around at the moment is the Media Diversified website (which tweets as @WritersOfColour). The great thing about it is that all of the articles are written by actual people of color, so when it is talking about PoC lives, PoC politics, and what is happening in countries inhabited largely by PoC it tends to be far better informed, and far more accurate, than the pontifications of the white chattering classes who infest British and American newspapers.

You would have thought that if newspapers editors wanted informed comment on something like the Ebola epidemic, or attitudes amongst Muslim girls in the UK, or the controversy over gang rapes in India, that they would go to someone who actually knew what they were talking about. But no, they almost always trot out some well known white columnist who is allowed to pontificate on the issue without any requirement to have knowledge of anything other than their own ill-formed opinion.

However, understanding their own culture, and things that go on in countries to which they have close ties, is not the only area where people of color can add knowledge. They may be doctors, or physicists, or linguists, or psychologists, or literary critics. Sadly the chances of their being called upon to provide expert commentary on such subjects is vanishingly small. The media almost always looks for a white man to be their chosen expert.

According to the latest Creative Skillset 2012 Employment Census, employment in the creative media industries grew by more than 4,000 between 2009 and 2012. However, during this same period the number of BAME people in the industry fell by 2,000.

Not to be deterred, the Media Diversified folks have set up a Directory of Experts where non-white people can register their skills and media organizations can look for a suitable expert. The Directory was officially launched today. I haven’t been able to test it — I’m not eligible to be listed and I can’t afford the fees to access it — but I understand that it has been getting tested by people from major news outlets, and there’s a quote from someone from Sky News in the press release.

“News channels have become increasingly aware of the importance of hearing from a diverse range of contributors. There have been visible improvements in getting more women onto news programmes, but more work needs to be done to cover other types of diversity. Having a directory of experts is a valuable tool in alerting producers to a wider pool of contributors.” — Tami Hoffman, Sky News, Interviews Editor

If any of you folks are in search of expert opinion, you can find out more here.

Now, when are we going to have a directory of expert trans people, eh?

Posted in Journalism | Leave a comment

“We’re not anti-fairies but…”

Ah, Somerset, what a magnificent source of daft news stories you are.

Many of you will already have seen this on Twitter & Facebook, but it is worth repeating here. According to the BBC, a wood near Somerset village is suffering from a plague of fairies, and is having to bring in “fairy control” to deal with them.

This is a part of England where I expect UKIP support to be fairly strong. I am sure they have something to do with it. After all, fairies are Celtic creatures, and the Kippers are most definitely English. It’s a wonder that they haven’t demanded that all of the fairies be sent back to Cornwall or something.

Of course it is also true that the Somerset economy is very much dependent on its dairy industry. All that cream and cheese has to come from somewhere. What people are going to do when the milk starts coming out sour because the fairies are annoyed I do not know.

My guess is that at some point they will have to call Liz Williams in to broker some sort of peace agreement. I hope she gets well paid for it.

Posted in Weird | 2 Comments

BristolCon Fringe – Emma & Pete Newman

Planetfall - Emma Newman

I have another set of BristolCon Fringe podcasts uploaded for you. Both readings are from forthcoming books, so this is an ideal opportunity to try before you buy.

First up we have Pete Newman reading from The Vagrant, forthcoming in the UK from Harper Voyager on April 23rd. Pete will be at Forbidden Planet in London on the 23rd, and in Bristol on the 30th. In the blub on Podbean I described the book as “science-fictional-post-demon-apocalypse” which pretty much sums it up. It certainly sounds very interesting.

Emma’s reading is from Planetfall, which is due out in the USA from Ace/Roc in November. It has an amazing cover (see above), which is even more amazing after you have heard Emma talk about it. I’m really excited about the book too. The chapters that Emma read totally got me hooked. Do I need to rant about the fact that Emma doesn’t have a UK publisher for it? You know the script by now, don’t you: “woman writing science fiction, no one in the UK will buy it”. *sigh*

Finally we have the Q&A, which focuses mainly on the issue of having two writers in the house. Do they kill each other? In fiction, in podcasts, or in real life? Honestly, people, would you marry a writer, knowing how neurotic they are?

I should add that Emma has recently had a recurrence of the health problems that plagued her last year. Further surgery will be required. Thankfully the NHS will cover the costs, but Emma’s earning ability will be seriously curtailed. This might be a very good time to support the Tea & Jeopardy podcast via Patreon. It is a very silly thing, and therefore needs to be continued.

Posted in Books, Podcasts, Readings | Leave a comment

Much Better Trans Actress News

So yeah, as per yesterday, mostly Hollywood is pretty crap when it comes to trans characters. But what if one of the directors happens to be a trans woman herself.

Yesterday Netflix set a date of Friday June 5th for the Premier of Sense8, a new SF TV series from Lana & Andy Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. The cast list looks every bit as diverse as that for Jupiter Ascending: Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah, Brian J. Smith, Tuppence Middleton, Aml Ameen, Freema Agyeman, Tena Desae, Doona Bae, Max Riemelt, Alfonso Herrera, Erendira Ibarra, Jamie Clayton, Miguel Silvestri and Terrence Mann.

Daryl Hannah needs no introduction. You should all remember Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones in Doctor Who. Tuppence Middleton was in Jupiter Ascending, and Doonae Bae was in Cloud Atlas. But the name that jumps out to me is Jamie Clayton. I believe that she’s playing the part of a young trans blogger. Guess I need to sign up for Netflix, though doubtless there will be some stupid reason why the show is not available in the UK.

#TeamLana #GirlsLikeUs

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

War of the Worlds: TNG

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the HG Wells novel, The War of the Worlds. It was first released in 1978, and you can get an idea of its popularity by the fact that it is still going strong now. In 2006 Wayne created a stage show so that the work could be performed live, and in 2013 a performance at the O2 Arena in London was filmed. Last week I picked up a DVD of it, and having now watched it I am pleased to have done so.

Obviously the new version has a very different cast. The seemingly impossible job of replacing Richard Burton in the part of The Journalist has fallen to Liam Neeson who does a remarkably good job. Obviously someone as high profile as Neeson isn’t going to be able to tour with a stage show, so his part appears on a giant screen. There’s a lot of green-screen work, which looks horribly amateurish compared to something like Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, but does the job. Much more impressively, there are short sections in which Neeson appears on stage as a hologram, interacting with the live actors. That’s appropriately science-fictional.

Neeson doesn’t sing, of course. When he is required to do so his part is taken by Marti Pellow, formerly of Wet Wet Wet. Again it is a tough ask to take on songs originally recorded by Justin Hayward, but Pellow does OK. In any case I’ll forgive him a lot for the way he disposes of the idiot interviewer in one of the bonus features. Mr. Pellow is clearly a fan.

The original stage production saw Jason Donovan take the part of The Artilleryman, but for this production he has moved sideways and plays The Parson. He’s very good indeed. Kerry Ellis, who plays Beth, The Parson’s Wife, is a great singer but can’t match Donovan’s acting.

The part of The Artilleryman is taken by Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs. He too turns in a superb performance. Wayne has got in a specialist rock front man, Will Stapleton of Jettblack, for the song, “Thunder Child”, and that works well too.

One of the most obvious things about the new version is that it has gone totally steampunk. The stage dressing, and even the outfits of the orchestra and band, are now all very clearly from an imagined version of Victorian England rather than the real thing. There is a little more material now that Wayne isn’t limited by the length of two vinyl albums, so the story is a little easier to follow, but you have to look for most of the new stuff.

From a musical point of view the best thing is the presence of Chris Spedding and Herbie Flowers (whom I believe were both on the original recording). However, my eye was caught by the woman playing harp and percussion. It turned out that she’s Julia Thornton, who has toured with Roxy Music and is part of The Metaphors, a band formed by Andy McKay and Phil Thompson. Cue squee from the aging Roxy fangirl. She also has good taste in corsets.

Strangely the albums appear to be only available as expensive imports in the USA, but the whole of the original version has been uploaded to YouTube if you want to look for it. Here’s a taster.

Posted in Music, Theatre | 5 Comments

Of Actors and Plots

Some of you may have seen a fair amount of discussion online about the decision to cast Eddie Redmayne in the part of the pioneering trans woman, Lili Elbe, for a forthcoming movie, The Danish Girl. Paris Lees does her best to cut through the binary thinking here.

So yeah, it’s not simple. Here are some thoughts.

Before we go any further I’d like to dispense with the excuse being put about that the part has to be played by a man because they didn’t have hormone therapy back then. Bollocks. Magnus Hirschfeld, the German doctor at whose clinic Elbe was a patient, pioneered the use of hormones for gender medicine. Obviously Lili would not have been treated in childhood to save her from going through male puberty, as can happen today, but I’m pretty sure she will have had access to estrogen.

Anyway: trans actor, male actor, female actor? I’m not too fussed. I suspect that Redmayne will do a pretty good job. I would like to see more trans people get high profile work in acting. In fact I’d like to see them get to play cis people, because if we have a world in which trans women can only play trans women, and cis women can only play cis women, that plays right into the hands of the TERFS who insist that trans and cis women are two radically different things that should never be confused with one another. Maybe we have to get a start by playing trans parts, but I want to see us move way beyond that.

What concerns me far more is what Hollywood will do with our story. I have read a lot of books written by cis people that include trans characters. In many cases these are essentially voyeuristic. That is, the books are there to “explain” trans people to a cis audience. Often they exist to reassure cis people who might be afraid of us, or who might fear that their lives might somehow be destroyed if a friend or family member came out as trans. Even when the books are written by people who are supportive and sympathetic, sometimes even when they are written by my friends, the book can go wrong because the person writing it doesn’t have the experience to get inside the head of the trans character.

How much worse is Hollywood going to be? I think we all know the answer to that. Just in case we didn’t, here’s Bethany Black explaining why she didn’t audition for the part:

So yeah, I would have loved for Saga Becker or Rebecca Root or someone like them to have gotten the part, but I suspect their reaction to the script might have been the same as Beth’s. What I want much more is for the film not to be awful. Could you manage that, Eddie, please?

Posted in Gender, Movies | Leave a comment

Trans History Update 2: An Ancient Greek Trans Man

My other update comes courtesy of a Twitter used called Snek who posted an extract from a work by Lucian of Samaosata. Lucian was a Greek writer who lived in what is modern day Turkey under the Roman Empire (2nd Century CE). He is probably best known to my readers as the author of True History, a work that is often cited as the first ever science fiction novel. It is certainly true that the book tells of voyages to other planets. However, Lucian was a satirist, and the book has more in common with Gulliver’s Travels than with the world of Verne and Wells. It is doubtful that Lucian intended it to be taken as serious scientific speculation.

While this might be Lucian’s most famous work, it is by no means his only one. Another book that he wrote is The Mimes of the Courtesans. This is a set of fictional reminiscences by hetairai — Greek high class sex workers — which again is a work of satire. The original English translation of the work was made in 1905 by HW & FG Fowler, who are more famous today for their magnificent book, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which is still widely considered to be the ultimate English style guide. However, the Fowlers omitted several sections from their version, deeming them unsuitable for a modern audience. Snek quoted from a 1928 translation by someone only known as “ALH”. This includes the three missing sections, one of which is titled “The Lesbians”.

This short section features a conversation between a hetaira called Leaina and a young man called Clonarion. The lad has heard tell of a relationship between Leaina and a “wealthy lady from Lesbos” called Megilla. Leaina is somewhat embarrassed by the whole affair, but explains that Megilla prefers to be known as Megillos and identifies as a man. The story is called “The Lesbians” because Megillos and his wife, Demonassa, come from Lesbos, though Lucian would undoubtedly have been aware of Sappho and would have set the story there accordingly. However, reading the story, it is very clear that Megillos is someone whom we would identify as a trans man. You can read the whole thing here.

Obviously this is a work of fiction, not an historical report of an actual trans man. But it seems unlikely to me that Lucian would have come up with such a story had he not at least been aware of butch lesbians, and quite likely of trans men.

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