Our Stories, Our Lives

Because even I need a break sometimes, I just binged on a TV show. All six episodes. Don’t worry, though, they were only about 10 minutes each. It didn’t eat my entire evening, though I may need a bit of time to calm down.

Her Story is a show put together and starring a bunch of queer women, principally — least from my point of view — Jen Richards and Angelica Ross. You may remember me nagging you about the Kickstarter campaign. It is a short series about the love lives of two trans women: Violet, a waitress with a controlling boyfriend; and Paige, a high-powered attorney. Jen and Angelica take the lead roles. Given how short it is, much more detail than that risks spoilers, but along the way the show tells you a great deal about the reality of trans lives.

The operative word there being “reality”. This is not some exercise in cis gaze, putting the weird trans folk on screen so that “normal” people can see how tragic and pathetic we are. This is actual trans people condensing lifetimes of hurt into an hour worth of TV that they hope will educate people. Whether it will or not, I don’t know, but it sure is real.

It took me a while to get up the courage to watch it. Watching Tangerine made me nervous, but Her Story scared me a lot more. I’m way too privileged to completely see myself in Sin-Dee and Alexandra. Vi and Paige, on the other hand, are both women that I could have been. They do things I have had to do, that scared me horribly at the time. Watching the show simultaneously reminded me how lucky I have been, and how much I miss Kevin.

I could put my critic hat on and pick a few nits with the show, but I’m not going to. Firstly, for what it is — something produced on a shoestring, many of whose crew are new to the business — it is damn good. Secondly it gets the important bits right. And, as I’ve just been saying to someone on Facebook, the show totally makes you care about the characters and want things to turn out well for them.

Here’s hoping something bigger happens as a result. I note that Eve Ensler has an Executive Producer credit, and in fact Laura Zak who co-wrote the show with Jen, and has a major role in it, is Ensler’s campaign manager, so there’s contact to influence there. Her Story isn’t going to win awards. Those are reserved for cis white people, it seems. But it is helping change the world, which is a much more important thing.

You can watch the whole of Season 1, for free, here.

Oh, and that taking a break? I lied. I needed to watch this show for a talk I’m doing later in the year.

Posted in Gender, TV | 1 Comment

Two Academic Conferences

OK, so I have quite enough to be doing right now. But here are a couple of calls for papers that I am considering responding to.

First up is the academic track of this year’s Finncon. It has the advantage that I am already planning to be there. The theme this year is, “Fantastic Visions from Faerie to Dystopia”, and I have an idea for something to write about. I just need to get my arse in gear and write it.

Secondly there is Fantasies of Contemporary Cultures, a one-day conference at the University of Cardiff. This has the advantages that a) I can get there and back in a day, and b) the keynote speakers are friends of mine (Cathy Butler and Mark Bould). Also the subject matter is right up my street. And it is an good excuse to visit Wales.

No rest for the wicked, as my mother was fond of saying.

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With Enemies Like These…

There used to be a time when trans people had a decent class of enemies. If we did get mentioned in the media those quoted would be highly respectable. Psychiatrists would explain how we were mentally ill and in need of incarceration. Chief Constables would explain that we were a danger to public decency. Politicians would ask why no one would think of the children that we were so obviously endangering. And archbishops would pray for our endangered souls.

Those days, it appears, are gone. These days we have the TERFs, whose submission to the Transgender Equality Inquiry was so bizarre that it left the MPs in no doubt as to who was unhinged here.

Fortunately for the TERFs, they do have allies. G*merG*ate loves them. And now, apparently, so does Jeremy Clarkson. All they need is Donald Trump and they’ll have a full house.

No wonder people are saying that being trans is a fashion. Who wouldn’t want to be hated by such people?

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

Western Shore in Store

Western Shore - Juliet E. McKenna
The latest release from Wizard’s Tower is now available in the usual ebook stores. You can find the purchase links here.

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

Sorry Prof. Einstein, But…

To cap a week of wild science stories, here’s a claim from CERN that they have measured neutrinos traveling at faster than the speed of light.

That one I’m taking with a pinch of salt for now, but if it can be reproduced that’s all sorts of excitement for theoretical physics.

Update: And, you know, sometimes caution is warranted. Thanks to Andrew Butler for pointing me at this.

Posted in Science, Science Fiction | 3 Comments

Parthenogenesis – How It Is Done

Yesterday I posted a a story about one of the classic themes of biological SF – regenerative medicine. However, there is one area of SF that sees quite a different aspect of biology as more important. Feminist SF has for some time been very keen on the idea of Parthenogenesis, the ability to have babies by asexual reproduction, without the need for men.

Can it be done? Well sure. Amoeba do it all the time. For that matter is has been observed in lizards, sharks and chickens. There are (according to Wikipedia) a few cases of it having been done on small mammals. But now a German-Israeli team of biologists think that they have found a genetic trigger that turns on the ability in any species that has that gene. Thus far they have only done it in plants, but that’s obviously just a start.

Posted in Nature, Science, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

Best Trans Fiction of 2015

The lovely people at Lethe Press are already well known for producing the Wilde Stories and Heiresses of Russ series of anthologies which collect, respectively, the best gay and the best lesbian speculative short fiction of the year. Now at last there will be a trans-themed companion series. Transcendent, edited by K.M. Szpara, will look for the best speculative short stories featuring trans characters. The call for submissions for stories published in 2015 is here.

Please note that this is a “best of” series. They want reprints, not original fiction. Pay is correspondingly lower.

Also the requirement is that the story should contain a trans character of some sort. The author does not have to be trans-identified. However, the editor is someone I would trust to filter out anything hamfisted or offensive.

The call for submissions is a classic example of the dangers of trying to list every sort of identity you want to include. It manages to not list how I identify, and it includes at least one category that will have some activists furious. Don’t try to cover all of the bases, folks, it always ends badly. Thankfully I know it is being done in good faith.

I don’t have anything to submit from 2015, but I will have at least one story from 2016 because I have sold one with a trans character to Holdfast Magazine. So I want this thing to be a success, OK?

Posted in Books, Gender, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Breakthrough in Regenerative Medicine

Here’s something I have been meaning to post about for a while. Earlier this week Bristol University issued a press release about a remarkable piece of work in bioinformatics. A big problem with regenerative medicine is that up until now if you wanted to grow new bits for a body you had to do so from stem cells. You can’t just take a random bunch of cells of one type and turn them into another type.

Mogrify (great name) is a software system developed by Professor Julian Gough and colleagues around the world which, “predicts how to create any human cell type from any other cell type directly”. That’s a pretty big claim, and the sort of things it might lead to are equally impressive:

The ability to produce numerous types of human cells will lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds, to treat conditions from arthritis to macular degeneration, to heart disease. The fuller understanding, at the molecular level of cell production leading on from this, may allow us to grow whole organs from somebody’s own cells.

Cue journalists muttering about, “the stuff of science fiction”. Because it is. It is almost the biology version of FTL, except there is no inconvenient Einstein to claim that it is impossible.

Also I happen to have met Prof. Gough and he is a science fiction reader.

Obviously there is a long way to go yet before they are re-growing livers and kidneys instead of transplanting them, let alone re-growing legs or, perhaps, growing wombs inside trans women. However, the possibilities are jaw-dropping.

For those of you interested in reading further, here’s the paper.

Posted in Science, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Diversity Trust Winter Newsletter

It is kind of incumbent on me to recommend organizations that I work for, especially when I am a Director of said organization, and therefore I commend to all of you the Winter Newsletter of The Diversity Trust.

There is a big article about me in there (showcasing one of Lou Abercrombie’s wonderful photos), but there’s a lot more than that. Most significantly I’m by no means the only trans person available to do training. This is definitely a growth area, and thanks to the Transgender Equality Report it will doubtless continue to grow. The other article I would particularly like to draw your attention to is the one about Hannah Jaine’s work at Ashfield Prison. I am in awe of what Hannah has achieved there.

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Farewell, David Hartwell (?)

I woke up this morning to some very confused reporting about David Hartwell. Apparently he’d had a fall and hit his head, and been taken into hospital. Some reports said that life support had been turned off, but Locus is currently just saying that he suffered, “a massive brain bleed and is not expected to recover”. The source for that is his wife, Kathryn Cramer.

My very best wishes to Kathryn and the family. This sort of uncertainty must be horrible.

Long term, of course, it doesn’t sound at all good. On the assumption that David is now a guest of Ereshkigal in the Underworld, a couple of things occur to me.

Firstly, that dismal place will be considerably brightened thanks to the arrival of the most eye-popping collection of ties ever known to man. Don’t let them dim you, David.

And secondly, if you ever want to know what an editor can do for a writer, just look around the blogs and social media of the science fiction community right now and see how many brilliant writers are talking about how much they owe to David.

Posted in Personal, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

November Fringe – Tom Parker & Lucy Hounsom

The podcasts from the November meeting of BristolCon Fringe are now available online. Here they are.

First up is Tom Parker, ably deputizing for poor Stephanie Burgis who had been kidnapped by publishers bearing cake. Tom read us a couple of stories from a horror collection that he is working on. The first one is definitely not recommended if spiders upset you. The other one is just about how horrible Christmas can be.

Our second reader was Lucy Hounsom. I was expecting an extract from her novel, Starborn, but instead Lucy read a couple of chapters from the as yet unfinished sequel. That makes this a very rare opportunity to learn a bit about the new book. There are no spiders in this one, though a few people do get knocked about a bit.

In the Q&A we talked about the very different natures of horror short fiction and epic fantasy. Tom talked about the fact that the power of story in the world appears to be growing rapidly, though he blames Amazon rather than Anansi. Lucy talked about a blog post she had written but had been advised not to publish in case it offended some men. Naturally we bullied her into publishing it, and you can find it here.

In the announcements we mentioned that Jo Hall had won an award for the grimdarkness of her writing. Tom mentioned an event he would be hosting in the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. The podcast from that, which features Jo Hall and Pete Sutton, can be found here (warning, autoplay).

The January Fringe went off well last night. The readings included a guest appearance by Robin Day and some general warnings on the evils of bureaucracy. But before I edit those I have to get the December event done.

There were several interesting things in the announcements last night, including the launch party for Fight Like a Girl, which promises to be a fabulous book.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings | 1 Comment

Coming Soon – Western Shore

Western Shore - Juliet E. McKenna
Barring unforeseen disasters, the latest Juliet E. McKenna novel should be in ebook stores later this week. Western Shore continues the saga of the Aldabreshin Compass. More fabulous Ben Baldwin artwork. Next up, Eastern Tide. I’m looking forward to being able to show you the full cover set.

Posted in Art, Books, Wizard's Tower | 1 Comment

Fringe Tonight

Tonight will see the first BristolCon Fringe event of 2016. The readers will be Will Loram and Nick Walters. Nick will apparently be reading from a new Doctor Who tie-in novel featuring characters from UNIT. Presumably he’ll be doing his best Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart impression. It will make a pleasant taste from stories about bad horror movies. Mind you, the Scrunge Worms would make great Doctor Who villains.

Anyway, I will be there to host. We’ll be at the Shakespeare Tavern as usual, with the event starting at 7:30pm. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

If you are wondering where the next podcast is, it is uploading as I type. I will have it available for your listening pleasure tomorrow. Be warned, it is full of spiders.

Posted in Readings | Leave a comment

Well Done, Passport Office

I have to go to Canada in March for a conference and to visit some clients. As my passport will have less than 6 months validity left I need to renew it. Any interaction with officialdom is a scary thing for trans people. Last time I needed a new passport I went in person to a passport office with a ton of documentation, just in case. Everything went smoothly. This time I was pleased to discover that the Passport Office actually has a special leaflet explaining the situation for trans people.

Some of the language is a little clunky — I can see the more shouty trans activists getting upset by the term “acquired gender”. However, the process itself seems straight forward. For people applying for their first passport, the leaflet makes it clear than you can get one in your correct name and gender, even if you don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate (though you will need a letter from a doctor in that case). As for people like me, the leaflet says:

You should fill in the application form using details relating to your acquired gender and reflect both your current name and any other previous names you have used in your acquired gender in section 2. You do not need to include any previous names in your birth gender.

This is good, because the question on the form about previous names is very scary. That comment makes it clear that the deadname is not required.

The leaflet reassuringly makes clear that even if you did have to include evidence of a change of name and gender, this will not appear on your documents. In the FAQs at the end it states:

All records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office are protected in line with the Data Protection Act. We have protections in place in our policy, systems and procedures to ensure any record relating to a previous gender is only made where absolutely necessary and such records are protected from inappropriate access or disclosure. This applies regardless of whether you have obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate or not.

Obviously there are still issues here. The leaflet is written within the current framework of the Gender Recognition Act. Hence the need for medical evidence of a permanent gender change, and the lack of non-binary options. But given those restrictions it does very well. Which just goes to show what can be achieved if only people care enough to try.

Posted in Gender, Personal, Travel | Leave a comment

Trans Inquiry – A Little Backlash

It was entirely expected that the media would use the publication of the government’s Transgender Equality Inquiry Report to say terrible things about trans people. Here are a couple of examples of the sort of thing they get up to.

Firstly poor Jack Monroe got ambushed on Channel 4 News last night. Jack turned up expecting to talk about the report, and was instead forced to “debate” a well-known TERF on the subject of whether all trans people are rapists.

Of course Channel 4 billed this as a “debate” between a trans person and a feminist, as if TERFs speak for all feminists. Which is kind of like asking someone to debate Donald Trump and billing it as a debate with “Americans”.

The claim that trans people are rapists comes, initially, of course from Janice Raymond. However, she was talking purely symbolically. She believes that merely by taking on the public appearance of a woman I am “raping” all women. These days the TERFS prefer to quote a Swedish study from 2011 which they say comes to all sort of horrible conclusions about trans women.

Sadly for them, the author of the study doesn’t agree with the TERF interpretation of her work and is rather annoyed about how it is being used. In this interview with The TransAdvocate she explains what her work actually shows.

Nevertheless, this paper keeps on getting cited in anti-trans articles and interviews. Last night it was quoted on Channel 4 by Julia Long, and Jack, having been ambushed, didn’t have the evidence to hand to refute it.

Julia Long, by the way, is one of the TERFs who picketed a London Dyke March in 2014 because Sarah Brown had been invited to speak.

Jack had agreed to appear on the programme for free but Long had apparently asked for a fee:

I put out to tweet linking to the TransAdvocate article asking Channel 4 to tweet the link themselves to show how their guest has misrepresented the paper she was quoting. They did not do so. They did link to a Huffington Post article about the show, but that too failed to expose Long’s dishonesty.

Naturally TERFs on Twitter thought they could “disprove” the TransAdvocate piece by quoting the original paper.

Meanwhile I understand that several media outlets have been going on about “sex changes for children”. This, as always, is nonsense. No one gives puberty blockers to a 4-year-old. Unless if course they are actually going through puberty in which case doctors would have no hesitation in prescribing them. Interestingly doctors give out puberty blockers like candy to girls whom they think are developing too quickly, but still claim that the same drugs are too dangerous to give to trans kids.

Also, puberty blockers merely delay puberty. They do not cause a “sex change”, no matter how often tabloid newspapers say they do.

One statistic you will hear quoted in these debates is that 80% of trans kids “grow out of it”. This one is quite dangerous in that it is almost true. The majority of kids who exhibit some sort of gender-variant behavior in childhood grow up to be cis adults. But that includes girls who like playing sport and boys who don’t like playing sport, both of which groups are likely to be viewed as “gender variant” by parents brainwashed by the Pink & Blue nonsense.

If you look only at those kids who express a very strong desire to transition socially, pretty much none of them grow out of it (as far as we can tell, given the small numbers involved). Equally some of the kids who “grow out of it” may end up identifying as non-binary but not want any medical intervention, or may identify as one of LGB. Medical treatment should only be given to kids who need it, and the job of the doctors is to sort out which ones do, not to refuse to treat any of them.

Saying that you shouldn’t treat trans kids because most children who exhibit some gender-variant behavior grow out of it is rather like saying that you shouldn’t treat brain cancer because most patients with a headache can get by on painkillers.

Here’s an actual gender specialist making the same point.

Posted in Gender, Journalism | 3 Comments

Trans Inquiry – A Step in the Right Direction

The report of Parliament’s Transgender Equality Inquiry was published overnight. As is inevitable with such things, it is a mixed bag. Some of its findings are very welcome; others could do with improvement. However, this is still a momentous occasion. To see an official government report open up like this brings tears to my eyes:

Fairness and equality are basic British values. A litmus test for any society that upholds those values is how far it protects even the most marginalised groups. Britain has been among the countries going furthest in recognising lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, but we are still failing this test in respect of trans people, despite welcome progress.

One of the things that quickly becomes obvious reading the report is that the committee found they had opened a can of worms. They realized that they knew very little about non-binary identities, and even less about intersex people. Much of what they say in the report is a call for more investigation and fact finding. This will obviously be disappointing to many people, but at least it is a start.

When reading through such documents it is always wise to take account of the language that is used. When a government report says that someone “must” do something that has a very different weight to saying that they “should” do something, or that it is “recommended” that they do something. Of course the Inquiry doesn’t have the power to compel anyone to do anything, but what it says has weight and will be difficult for people to ignore.

Amongst the things the report says must happen are the following.

With regard to the government it says that it:

Must advance the Transgender Equality Action Plan, and conduct a wholesale review of issues facing non-binary people.

This is basically Maria Miller (chair of the Inquiry) asking Nicky Morgan (Minister for Women & Equalities) for permission to carry on working on trans issues. The report adds that the government:

Must make a clear commitment to abide by the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This doesn’t actually do anything, but signing up to these two declarations of principle will make it harder for the government to backtrack on or ignore trans issues in future. Significantly the report also says that the government:

Must look into the need to create a legal category for those people with a gender identity outside that which is binary and the full implications of this.

Given the way British law has been written over the centuries, this is actually a major undertaking, but one that has to be done if proper gender equality is ever to be implemented. There are far too any places in law where gender is used to differentiate between classes of people.

Moving on to the trans-specific legislation, the report says that the government:

Must bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration that have been developed in other jurisdictions. In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers.

This is extremely welcome. Sadly they are not prepared to extend the same consideration to young trans people, of which more later. They cling to an idea known as “Gillick Competence” which basically says that parents have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children. The only exception presented to this is the following:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission must be able to investigate complaints of discrimination raised by children and adolescents without the requirement to have their parents’ consent.

Which I guess is better than nothing.

The report thoroughly rubbishes the NHS. As various people have pointed out, this probably has as much to do with the desire of the government to sell off health services as it does with sympathy for trans people. However, this is useful:

The General Medical Council must provide clear reassurance that it takes allegations of transphobia every bit as seriously as those concerning other forms of professional misconduct.

That’s Parliamentary code for, “Oy, GMC, stop whitewashing transphobic behaviour by doctors!”

There is lots of additional comment about capacity in gender clinics, but no real idea how improvements will be achieved.

Turning its attention to the Ministry of Justice, the report says:

The Ministry of Justice must ensure that it consults fully with the trans community in developing the Government’s new hate-crime action plan, so that the proposals are well-targeted and likely to be effective in increasing levels of reporting. This plan must include mandatory national transphobic hate-crime training for police officers and the promotion of third-party reporting.

Whether they do or not is another matter, given the long-standing antipathy that the Minister for Justice, Andrew Selous, has for trans people. I’ll have more to say on hate crime later. Meanwhile, here’s a big one:

The UK must follow Australia’s lead in introducing an option to record gender as “X” on a passport. If Australia is able to implement such a policy there is no reason why the UK cannot do the same. In the longer term, consideration should be given to the removal of gender from passports.

This is very welcome. It is also evidence that the Inquiry Committee is listening. Some news reports suggested last week that Maria Miller wanted to call for removal of gender form passports immediately. A lot of trans folk were quite concerned about this. Long term I do think it is a good idea, but in the short term while proof of one’s gender is a social necessity having gender markers on passports is a good thing, provided that the X option exists.

By the way, Australians, please don’t take this as a slight. That comment about you guys being able to do it is an attack on the people in the Civil Service who have said that we can’t have X passports because the Americans would be upset with us. The Report is pointing out that you have done this without any adverse effects.

On education the report says:

Schools must understand their responsibilities under the Equality Act. They must abide by their legal responsibility to ensure that all staff receive sufficient training to ensure they are compliant across all protected characteristics, including that which relates to trans people, especially gender-variant young people.

Again there’s no ability to force them to comply, but that paragraph will be of enormous use to Mermaids when they find schools unwilling to accommodate trans kids.

We now come on to the things that people merely “should” do, or which are “recommended”. We start with the Equality Act.

The protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity”.

This is very important. Previously the Act only protected people who were either proposing to undergo, were undergoing or had undergone medical treatment for gender issues. This change will extend protection to all trans people. The report also says:

We recommend that the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Again this is very important. The Equality Act tried to push back against the Gender Recognition Act by separating out trans women from the general group of women and stating that we could be legally discriminated against on that basis. As of now, the change above only affects those of us who have Gender Recognition Certificates. However, if the other recommendations of the panel to make GRCs easier to get are put in place then more people will be protected by this.

On sport the report says:

We recommend that the Government work with Sport England to produce guidance which help sporting groups realise that there are likely to be few occasions where exclusions are justified to ensure fair competition or the safety of competitors.

This is basically a warning shot across the bows of sporting bodies, and a useful weapon for trans activists.

I found the section on hate crime particularly interesting. Right up front the report states:

Legal changes are critical, but they will only bite if there is cultural change too—by society but also by those who enforce the law.

This is absolutely true. No amount of hate crime legislation will help if society, and the police, have no respect for those laws. The report recommends that:

The Government should introduce new hatecrime legislation which extends the existing provisions on aggravated offences and stirring up hatred so that they apply to all protected characteristics, as defined for the
purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

This is a direct criticism of the Law Commission which, a while back, said that specific protection for trans and disabled people was not necessary. This piece of evidence quoted by the report stands out:

Chief Constable Sawyers told us: if you are either transgender or disabled, how on earth can you ever believe that the law is fair in relation to you?

Think about that. A police Chief Constable told the report that trans and disabled people can’t possibly have any confidence that the law is fair in relation to them, as things currently stand.

Finally I want to look some of the ways in which the report fell short, starting with the infamous Spousal Veto, which is fast becoming a line in the sand that transphobes in government will defend with their lives if need be. There is all sorts of nonsense about marriage being a legal contract that can’t be changed. All this does is show that the government thinks that there are straight marriages and gay marriages, which are two very different things, and that the idea of turning one into the other is horrifying to them. We need proper marriage equality.

The report says:

We do take very seriously the evidence that we have heard regarding the scope that the spousal-consent provision gives for married trans people to be victimised by spouses with malicious intent. Where this occurs, it is, of course, deplorable and inexcusable. The Government must ensure that it is informed about the extent of this and ways of addressing the problem.

I interpret this as meaning that they want evidence of how the Veto is being used. If evidence shows that it is only used for abuse, or not used at all, then presumably it can go. Given the way the timing works, in that the Veto can only be applied after the trans person has undergone full transition, the Veto can only be possibly be used maliciously, so I am confident of the outcome here.

As far as young people go, the report asks for improvements in treatment, but only recommends legal recognition at 16 (as opposed to 18 as it is now). It says:

It is important that clear safeguards are in place to ensure that long term decisions about gender recognition are made at an appropriate time.

The trouble is that long term decisions are being made about people’s gender. They are made by doctors and midwives, and if mistakes are made they can’t be fixed for years. There is nothing magical or sacred about the gender people are assigned at birth, and we should not be afraid of correcting mistakes. Also, if Germany can allow an X gender to be assigned at birth, why can’t we?

The report spends quite a bit of space on the provision in the Gender Recognition Act that criminalizes the outing of trans people without their permission. It says:

we note that not a single prosecution has yet been brought under this Section. There is a grave danger that this provision will become (if it has not already become) a “dead letter”.

Sorry folks, but it is already a dead letter. Anyone who does get outed will probably be far too traumatized to go through the process of prosecution. Plus it will be very hard to prove, and will it cost a fortune to bring a case.

Another disappointing area is the reluctance of the report to embrace an informed consent model for treatment of trans people. It says:

However, we are unconvinced of the merits of the proposed informed consent only model. While there is a clear case for the granting of legal gender recognition on request, with the minimum of formalities, this approach is less appropriate for a medical intervention as profound and permanent as genital (reassignment / reconstructive) surgery.

I don’t think the Committee quite understands what it is saying here. Basically they are creating a situation where lots of people will be able to self-identify in a gender other than that which matches their body, but they won’t be able to get surgery because they can’t get medical approval. The idea of men with vaginas and women with penises horrifies most conservatives, yet here is a Conservative-run Committee saying that it wants lots more of them. I mean, good for them, but did they really mean to say that?

There are also a few places where the Committee seems to have failed to understand the issues. On the “real life test” they say:

The requirement to undergo “Real-Life Experience” prior to genital (reassignment / reconstructive) surgery must not entail conforming to externally imposed and arbitrary (binary) preconceptions about gender identity and presentation. It must be clear that this requirement is not about qualifying for surgery, but rather preparing the patient to cope with the profound consequences of surgery.

First of all they have completely missed the fact that some gender clinics were demanding that patients complete the “real life test” before they were even allowed hormones. That’s exceptionally cruel, and the fact that it was done should be recognized so as to prevent any of them backsliding.

In addition people wanting surgery are generally totally OK with the profound consequences, and can’t wait to get rid of the body parts they hate. The above statement is another example of cis people being terrified by the idea of losing beloved body parts and not being able to understand why trans people don’t suffer from the same existential horror.

The one area where I expected total failure is when dealing with the media. The report says:

Both the Independent Press Standards Organisation and Ofcom should consider what steps they might take to encourage more trans people to come forward with complaints.

I’m sure that they will consider this. For all of about half a second. They will then decide to do nothing. Because everyone knows that complaining is pointless. Also see Helen Belcher on how the IPSO responses to her complaints were deeply disingenuous.

That’s it for now. Sorry it is so long. But hey, this is an historic day. I’m glad I lived to see it.

Update: I knew I’d forget something.

There are (at least) two important areas that the report says nothing about. Firstly it says nothing about the plight of trans asylum seekers, who are treated appallingly by the UK border services. Secondly it says nothing about the increasing tendency to prosecute trans people for fraud if they have sex without revealing to their partner that they are trans. The latter was actually in my submission to the inquiry, and they have ignored it completely.

Also I have seen a lot of talk today about groups within the trans community not being left behind. We definitely do not want this to happen. As of now mostly what the Committee has said is that it doesn’t know enough to include everyone. When actual legislative proposals are put forward, that is the time to see if anyone is being left behind, and to make sure it doesn’t happen. The people are are specifically being left behind by the report are young trans people, and that’s something we can complain about.

Update 2: If anyone wants a good, 12-page summary of the 98-page document try here.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | 2 Comments

Stolen – Monetizing Online Harassment

People are always looking for the next big way to make money out of the Internet. It doesn’t surprise me that someone is trying to make money out of online harassment.

Stolen is a new online game that allows players to “steal” the Twitter accounts of others, to buy and sell the people that they now “own” and to make comments on the game pages of the people they “own”. Of course they can’t give you access to someone’s actual Twitter account. They describe the game as more like collecting trading cards. Except they don’t just have trading cards of famous people, they have cards for everyone on Twitter. The potential for abuse is phenomenal.

In this interview with Holly Brockwell at The Gadgette the CEO of the company behind Stolen makes pretty-sounding noises about how they won’t be bad guys like Twitter and will ban people who use the site for abuse. I don’t believe a word of it.

Firstly I can’t believe that anyone could have been so stupid as to design a game like this and not realize that it would be a magnet for trolls. Heck, their own Twitter profile currently describes their product as, “literally the worst app”. They know what they are doing.

And second, even if they do start off trying to rein in the worse excesses, as soon as they find out just how much money people are prepared to throw at online harassment they are not going to be able to resist taking that money.

So, if you are not a straight cis able-bodied white male, and possibly even if you are, send them a DM and ask to opt out of their game. I did, and I have got a DM back assuring me that my account won’t be included. I’ll now be doing the same for every other Twitter account that I own.

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment

Hollywood Men in Dresses

I promised you a post about cis men playing trans women in movies. This is it.

Mostly when this issue comes up on social media it is portrayed in very simplistic terms. Certainly cis people (and some trans folk) defend the idea of cis men playing trans women with comments like, “it’s only acting, and any actor should be able to play any part”. Also some trans people don’t get beyond, “no cis man can ever play a trans woman well”. The issue is much more complicated than that.

I spent a fair amount of time helping cis people write convincing trans characters. It can be done, it just takes work. If a writer is good enough then I don’t have a problem. My issues (many of them aired here) are to do with when cis people write trans characters badly, and/or perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

If authors can get inside the heads of trans characters, I don’t see why actors can’t. I thought that Terence Stamp did a decent job in Priscilla, and I understand that Lee Pace did pretty well in Boys Don’t Cry Soldier’s Girl (sorry, brain fade there). I’m getting good reports of Eddie Redmayne’s performance from some people.

There is also the question of the visual match. With a film like The Danish Girl your actor is going to spend a lot of time presenting as a man. If they do spend screen time as a woman, it will be as a trans woman who is only just starting transition, probably hasn’t had surgery, and won’t have had time for any hormones to work their magic. Consequently the character’s body will look more male than female. That’s a (shaky) argument for having a male-bodied person play the part.

This is another reason why I hate transition narratives, because they back you into this sort of decision.

If your character is a trans woman who is a long way post transition it makes a lot more sense to have a trans woman play her. Or indeed a cis woman.

However, as I said, the issues are much more complicated than just who gets to play who. I try hard to avoid comparisons with other oppressed groups, but it is useful to look at the issue of blackface. There are two significant complications here (possibly more, PoC please enlighten me) beyond simply who gets to play what role. Firstly blackface is often used to caricature black people, rather than simply represent them. Secondly, the minstrel shows used blackface so that they didn’t have to employ black singers.

Hopefully we will eventually get past the stage where studios have a man play a trans woman solely for the purpose of mocking trans women, but we are not there yet. There is most definitely an issue that trans women actors exist, and they need work. Employing a cis man to play a trans woman very directly discriminates against trans actresses who might be expected to be first in line for the job.

Finally we come to the really important issue — the effect that casting has on the viewer. Every time a cis man is asked to play a trans woman in a film or TV show, that reinforces the idea that trans women are merely men who are dressing up and pretending to be women. You get “before and after” pictures, you get “isn’t he convincing!” articles in newspapers. You get the sort of nonsense that I understand appeared over the weekend in The Scum. That’s very harmful, and it needs to stop. The only way it will stop, is if studios stop casting cis men to play trans women.

(A brief note of thanks here to Shadi Petosky whose comments on this issue on Twitter helped me crystallize my own thinking on the subject.)

Posted in Gender, Movies | Leave a comment

18th Century Surround Sound

Bristol’s Old Vic is apparently the oldest working theatre in the UK (The Globe is of course, a modern reproduction). This year it will celebrate its 250th anniversary. As part of that they are doing a lot of historical work, and today the folks at Bristol 24/7 revealed one of the cool things that will happen.

Back in the 18th Century, there were no sound systems in theatres. You could have an orchestra, or people could make noises on stage, or backstage. But what happened if you really wanted to wow the audience? Obviously an 18th Century play wasn’t going to involve a Imperial Star Destroyer flying overhead, but it might involve a thunder storm, or simply wish to indicate that Thor is having a bad day. Should that sort of sound effect be required, the Old Vic was prepared.

The theatre has something called a “thunder run”, a series of wooden tunnels up in the roof along which a collection of different sized balls can be rolled. The overall effect for the audience down below is a very convincing rumble in the skies. The Old Vic plans to resurrect this system, which hasn’t been used since the 1940s, and use it in some modern plays. I hope it works, and that it turns out to be LOUD!

Posted in Theatre | 3 Comments

Well That’s Just Perfect

I have been looking around for some Bowie covers by black artists, because I want to play all Bowie on my next Ujima show and I don’t want to get in trouble for playing too much white music. Of course my absolute dream result would be to find one of my favorite Bowie songs covered by Janelle Monáe. So here it is.

Suggestions for other tracks to play are welcome. Please note that I do know about Seu Jorge and I have the We Were So Turned On album. I reckon I have a good excuse to play “Let’s Dance” too.

Posted in Music, Radio | 1 Comment