TDOR in Bristol


Photo by Tom Renhard via Facebook

Bristol’s TDOR event took place on Friday evening. However, I’d like to start much earlier than that. I was in town by lunchtime because I had been invited to attend a “Corporate Strategy” event at City Hall. Like many councils across the UK, Bristol is facing a massive funding gap as central government withdraws support. The Council is limited by the government in its ability to raise revenue through taxes, so it has little choice but to cut services. Friday’s meeting was an attempt to brainstorm ideas with the voluntary sector as to how the effect of those cuts on minority groups can be minimized.

The meeting took place in the Cash Hall which is in the newly refurbished part of the building. It is on the lower ground floor as you see things from College Green, but there is street-level access at the back. The refurbishment has been very nicely done, but the thing that stood out to me was that all of the toilets in the new section are gender neutral. As far as I know, the Council has made no announcement about this. They just did it, because it seemed an obvious thing to do.

At my request, Mayor Marvin Rees opened proceedings by making mention of the Trans Day of Remembrance events taking place later in the day. It’s not perhaps the level of mayoral enthusiasm for trans support that we saw in Bath, but is good to be recognized.

There’s not much more to say about the meeting because it is very clear that the City Council is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is very upset about what is happening, but any attempt to push back against government will only result in Bristol being treated more harshly than other major cities who would be seen as more compliant. (Ideally they should work together, but there are 10 “core cities” and I suspect that some of them have Conservative-run councils.)

At 4:30pm we had a flag raising ceremony outside City Hall. Bristol has been doing this for a few years now, but it has got much more complicated to arrange such things since the cuts forced reduction in staff levels and hours. We may have to abandon these in future and just settle for getting the flag up when staff can manage it. At least that will mean we won’t have to stand out in the cold and wet. My thanks to the Lord Mayor for standing patiently while I wittered on about the importance of the event, and to the chap from the Council’s LGBT staff group who helped do the actual flag raising (which isn’t as easy as it looks).

From there we went on the Bristol University Students’ Union, where the amazing Jamie Cross had once again secured a fabulous venue for the TDOR ceremony. Sarah Minter from LGBT Bristol once again provided food and drinks for the attendees, and also provided me with transport for which I am deeply grateful.

Special thanks are also due to a number of people who helped out massively this year. Charlie Oxborough did the work of collapsing the official document from Transgender Europe into something more manageable for printing and reading. Alfie Green helped me read the list of names of the departed. Al, a trans person from Devon who happened to be in town for the day, came and sang a lovely song. And the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence added a splash of color to the event.

We had around 75 people at the event (folks were coming and going as I was reading so it was hard to get an accurate count). The University people, and Henry and the kids from Freedom Youth, made up a large proportion of that. One person (thanks Katie!) came all the way from Portsmouth, and of course Brother Bimbo came all the way from Edinburgh.

As always at these things I want to make clear that the day is not about me. If other people want to take more of a leading role I’ll be happy to hand over to them. In particular I would love to be able to stand aside and let a trans woman of color take charge. My primary qualification for being the public face of the event is that I’m sufficiently hard-hearted to be able to stand there and read all of those names without cracking up.

Normally I try to keep the event fairly sombre, but a conversation with the Lady Mayoress of Bath on Thursday made me realize that I needed to end on a message of hope, given how worried trans people are about the potential effects of Brexit and Trump. I can’t print my speech because it was all off the cuff, but essentially what I said was this.

Back when I transitioned, in the 1990s, trans people had no civil rights. There was no Gender Recognition Act, and no Equality Act. I still transitioned, because I had to, but I had no expectation of fair treatment and my family expected me to be dead within a few years. I survived. Not because I am “brave” or “inspiring” or any of the ridiculous epithets that the media likes to label us with, but because I had friends, and because there were plenty of people who were happy to accept me for who I was. Even if May and Trump take away all of our hard-won rights, we will still have the community that we have built over the past two decades, and we will still have many friends and supporters. We need to remember that in the days to come.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

TDOR in Bath

On Thursday I was honored to attend the first Council-sponsored Trans Day of Remembrance event in Bath. In previous years ceremonies have been held at the Metropolitan Community Church, but this is the first secular event, and the first to be officially recognized by the City Council.

The way in which the Bath event came about is very different from what happened in Bristol. When we started doing public events in Bristol it was very much a grass roots effort. It happened because of efforts by LGBT Bristol and by the Rainbow Group of LGBT staff at the City Council. We had a room in City Hall, and 18 people attended. A good proportion of them were cis – people from LGBT Bristol, the Rainbow Group and my friends from OutStories Bristol.

In Bath things came from the top. The current Mayor of Bath, Paul Crossley, is using his time in the job to promote diversity in the city. He told his staff that he wanted to hold a TDOR event, and that they should make it happen. Members of the Council’s LGBT staff group, CHaT, then worked with SPACE, the local LGBT youth group, to organize the event. Special thanks are due to Louise Murphy who did most of the work.

One of the advantages of doing official things in Bath is that you can put them in the Guildhall, a ridiculously posh building which normally only comes into its own for things like Emma Newman’s fairy ball. As you can see from the photo, we looked very official. The Council also put some money into the event, bringing Rebecca Root and Jay Stewart into town to speak at the event. They did a fine job.

On the downside, the event was run primarily by cis people and there were not that many trans people present. Inevitably in such circumstances there were a few faux pas. In particular I think that the Bath folks have learned that TDOR is a very solemn event and you can’t try to cheer it up. If you want to do a more positive thing aimed at younger trans people you need a separate Trans Awareness Week event.

Hopefully this is just the first of many Bath Council events aimed at the local trans community. They are very keen to do the right thing, and that’s usually more than half of the battle.

Posted in Gender | Leave a comment

Yesterday on Ujima – Art, Books, Steampunk

It was a busy Women’s Outlook show on Ujima yesterday. It started with a full studio as three artists came to tell me all about this year’s North Bristol Arts Trail. SF&F readers will be most interested in the work of Lou Gray who is a set designer, costume maker and puppet maker. I’m very sad that I’ll be out of town the weekend of the Trail because I would love to see her work.

For the second segment I welcomed Rebecca Lloyd, whom some of you may remember was a World Fantasy nominee last year for her collection, Mercy and Other Stories. Her latest book is Oothngbart, which is one of those delightfully uncategorizable novels. Hopefully the interview will give you some idea of the flavor of the book. I’ll try to get a review soon, because it is a lovely story.

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

Next up were Kate and Tina, two fabulous ladies who are setting up the Bristol Steampunk Museum. They are looking for all sorts of fun steampunk things to exhibit and sell. They plan to have an online shop as well, so steampunk fans around the world will be able to order from them. The major interest from my point of view is that they also want to host readings of steampunk stories, and I happen to have an entire anthology full of them. I may end up buying some clothing and jewelry too.

Finally I had a pre-recorded interview with Tade Thompson about his newly released novel, Rosewater (which I warmly recommend) and other forthcoming work. We also discussed the newly-formed African Speculative Fiction Society, and there was brief mention of Piracity.

There’s a lot more of that Tade interview. Some of it has been badly mangled by the Internet, but I hope to be able to post a much longer version on Salon Futura in due course.

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

The playlist for yesterday’s show was as follows:

  • Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley
  • Expression – Salt ‘n’ Pepa
  • You Gotta Be – Des’ree
  • Working Day ‘n’ Night – Michael Jackson
  • Night Train – James Brown
  • The Ascent – Ren Stedman
  • Automatic – Pointer Sisters
  • Loving the Alien – David Bowie

I’d like to draw your attention in particular to the new Ren Stedman single. It is a charity record. All proceeds are donated to Hesten Lodge Activity & Wellbeing Centre to raise the money to build a sensory room for adults with severe learning disabilities. You can buy it for as little as £1 here.

Posted in Airships, Art, Books, Clothes, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

TDoR 2016

The usual date for the Trans Day of Remembrance is November 20th. As that falls on a Sunday this year, lots of people are having their events earlier or later. I’ll be attending one in Bath this evening, and the Bristol event (which I am again hosting) will be tomorrow evening. Bristol will also have a flag raising with the Lord Mayor outside City Hall at 4:30pm tomorrow.

The usual reminders apply. TDoR was starting in by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in San Francisco 1999 following the (still unsolved) murder of Rita Hester in Boston in 1998. It is now a worldwide event. The vast majority of victims are trans women of color. This year there are 295 names on the list. That’s a record, and while we should remember that increases can occur due to better reporting the tenor of world politics suggests that things will get much worse in future. You can find the full data here.

You’ll note that one death has been recorded in the UK this time. It is Vikki Thompson, one of the trans women who took her own life last year while being held in a men’s prison. Suicides are not normally included, but presumably the folks at Transgender Europe felt that Vikki’s multiple unsuccessful attempts to get herself moved to a women’s prison amounted to culpability on the part of the prison service. I am very relieved that the Ministry of Justice has finally got around to issuing new guidelines.

Suicides of trans people are under-reported, in part because of an understandable desire not to cause further distress to families. Nevertheless they happen. There have been two in Wiltshire in the past month. In this article Fox Fisher highlights the terrible effects of the recent US election on trans youth. Back in April I met a lovely young trans woman in London. She was delighted to have a good job in IT and be able to go through transition here, because she came from a part of Europe that was much less welcoming to trans people. She took her own life the day after the Brexit vote.

It has apparently become fashionable in right wing circles to claim that all of these reports of death are lies; made-up left wing propaganda. I’m sure that you can guess what I think of people who say these things. Don’t expect me to be in any way polite to them.

Posted in Gender | Leave a comment

Book Review – Dreadnought

dreadnoughtI suspect that I am probably a little too close to this book to be fully objective about it. A superhero novel about a trans girl, written by a trans woman? Of course I lapped it up. But it is a fun book, and it does also make some fine and sharp political points.

Dreadnought, by April Daniels, will not be published until January. I got a copy off Net Galley. I’m publishing the review now for two reasons. Firstly I needed to read the book now as I have an essay on trans-related speculative fiction due at the end of this month. Secondly it is Trans Awareness Week and I wanted something light-hearted to go along with all of the doom and gloom of the Trans Day of Remembrance.

Mention of Trans Awareness Week reminds me that The Gay YA is doing a whole series of posts on trans characters in YA this week. By fortunate coincidence the first one is by April, and she says all the things in it that I would expect her to say having written a book like Dreadnought.

In the process of writing the review I managed to do a brief history of trans characters in YA, which may also be of interest.

If, after all that, you want to read the review, you can find it here.

Posted in Books, Gender | Leave a comment

Pirates of Bristol – #Piracity

The fabulous Eugene Byrne has done an short essay for the Piracity crowdfunding campaign about Bristol’s connection to pirates. There really are quite a lot of them. You can read his essay here.

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

A Virtual Pirate Party

Thanks to some conversations during Eurocon, the lovely people at The Future Fire have offered to run a virtual pirate party this coming weekend to help raise awareness for the Piracity crowdfunding campaign. Details are available here.

I’m going to be very busy towards the end of the week with Trans Day of Remembrance things. Thankfully, because the official day falls on a Sunday, everyone seems to be scheduling events for earlier in the week. Come the weekend I am going to be in need of something cheerful to think about.

Of course the Piracity campaign is ongoing. Tomorrow we’ll have an update from Eugene Byrne about some of Bristol’s pirate connections. Hopefully we will have made it to 20% funded before then. You can pledge here.

Posted in Books, Wizard's Tower | 2 Comments

Eurocon Day 3

Last night we went out for dinner with Charlie Stross and Feòrag. I am going to be very evil and tell you that Charlie has some great projects in the pipeline. Also, if you think the prospects of a Trump presidency are awful, be grateful that you don’t live in the world of the Laundry Files.

We got a bit of a lie-in this morning as the first panel I needed to be at wasn’t until 11:45. Barcelona was still waking up as we took the short walk to the convention center. The panel was on weird fiction. It featured Johanna Sinisalo, Karin Tidbeck, Haralambi Markov and Ángel Luis Sucasas. I didn’t know Ángel before this, but he’s a very interesting guy. He talked about using interactive fiction techniques as a means of weirding out the readers. He also has a friend who uses VR to help reform people convicted of hate crimes by requiring them to spend time in a virtual environment in the body of one of the types of people they hate.

The others are hopefully all well known to you and were their usual brilliant selves.

Kevin and I then headed out to see La Sagrada Familia which is absolutely jaw-dropping when seen in person. Photos don’t do it justice, though of course we have many and will post them in due course. We also successfully navigated the Barcelona metro system which turns out to be very clearly signed.

Back at the convention we attended a panel on promoting European SF. The main item of interest to come out of this is that Helen Marshall (on behalf of Anglia Ruskin University), assisted by folks at Leeds University and by Strange Horizons are looking at a possible online magazine dedicated to translated SF&F. The project is in very early days at the moment, but I’ll keep an eye on it and update you as and when I know more.

Unfortunately the panel got a bit bogged down. It is very true that awards and “best of” anthologies are useful ways of showcasing work. It is not necessary to spend ages in pointless discussions about whether these really identify the “best” stories, because we all know that’s a subjective question.

And then, far too early, it was time for the Closing Ceremonies. There were some fun video clips. Cristina managed to make thanking all of the con staff entertaining (though a rolling slide with all of the names on might have helped her out). The ESFS Awards were presented.

The ESFS Awards ceremony is a difficult problem. There isn’t really time in the schedule for a separate awards ceremony, given that Saturday night is usually given over to national awards. I have seen awards ceremonies that go on for ever. This year they went to the opposite extreme and just read out the names of the winners very quickly. There wasn’t even a slide with their names on. The full list of winners is available here.

I am particularly pleased with the win for Tom Crosshill. I think I first met him at the very first Finncon I attended. Irma and I can now say, “I knew him when…” I saw that he’s gone on Facebook slightly perplexed as to why he deserved such an honor when Europe has so many fine writers, which is typically modest of him. But the ESFS awards work in interesting ways. They are voted on by the delegates (2 from each country) after presentations made by nominators at the Business Meeting. A good speech can sway the voters.

In Tom’s case a long-time Latvian fan called Imants (whom I knew from previous Eurocons) had made a great speech about how much harder it is for someone from a small and little-known country to attain recognition. Tom, of course, has three Nebula nominations behind him already. I’m very pleased for him and look forward to more great fiction in future.

I’d also like to highlight Sophia Rhei’s win for children’s fiction. She has this great series featuring the young Moriarty and a whole host of other Victorian personalities, both real and fictional. It sounds very much like Kim Newman for kids. Or possibly fun kids books that parents who are Kim Newman fans will love to read to them. The books are not yet available in English, but the publishers tell me that they have rough drafts of translations are are looking for a publisher. I could tell that this was out of my league. I hope someone big in the UK or USA picks them up.

After that all we had left to do was eat tapas and drink beer. Huge thanks to Croatians for organizing an impromptu dead dog tonight because the official one isn’t until tomorrow afternoon by which time many of us will have left.

And now, packing. Farewell Barcelona, it has been brief but hugely enjoyable.

Posted in Architecture, Awards, Conventions, Translations | 2 Comments

Eurocon Day 2

Kevin and I were planning to spend the morning on Ian Watson’s Orwell Walking Tour, which visited locations in the city mentioned in the author’s book, Homage to Catalonia. However, the tour group ended up being so large that it was hard to get close enough to Ian to hear what he was saying, so we bunked off and headed down to the waterfront. The Columbus Monument is a masterpiece of colonialist art, managing to be deeply offensive in a variety of ways.

On the way back we visited the main market, which is awesome. So Much Food. In particular lots of fish and squid and shellfish and off-beat stuff like sea urchins. There was meat too, including lamb’s heads which are apparently a local delicacy.

After eating rather a lot of seafood we headed for the convention and did a tour of the dealers’ room. I made sure I had a membership to Dortmund next year, and we signed up as pre-supporters of the Belfast bid for 2019. Kevin passed the Banner of WSFS on to the Helsinki people. There was a stall selling the most beautiful patterned leggings, but the XL size was too small for me. *sigh*

Then it was time for the panel on Spanish science fiction. Because fabulous Spanish fans have been doing such a great job of promoting local writers there wasn’t much new for me, but for you folks here’s a few recommendations that are translated into English.

  • The Map of Time – Felix J Palma (novel)
  • Castles in Spain (anthology of the best of Spanish SF)
  • Terra Nova (anthology of contemporary Spanish SF
  • Spanish Women of Wonder (anthology of Spanish SF by women)

I’m not sure on the availability of the women’s anthology. I got my copy through their Kickstarter. I can’t see it for sale yet, but the book only arrived the other week so maybe it will go live once people have recovered from the convention.

Generally the con seems to be going pretty well, but we have noticed a few small things that experienced con runners would not do. First up, don’t segregate your registration lines by membership number, because no one can remember their number when they get to the con; use last name instead. Second, don’t have different streams of programming starting at staggered times. That will lead to people getting up and walking out in the middle of one panel to get to a different one they want to see more that is just starting.

We went back to the hotel early because the Finns were holding a 50th birthday celebration for TJ, one of the regular Finncon attendees. Jeff VanderMeer may remember him as the guy who wiped the floor with us in the Mad Scientist Laugh competition a few years back.

Then it was time for the second Business Meeting. Amiens was duly elected as the 2018 Eurocon. Kevin, as a neutral observer, was asked to count the votes, which he did with his usual efficiency. He’s very good at this stuff.

The existing ESFS Board was re-elected unopposed saved for Bridget Wilkinson who is stepping down after 25 years. We gave her some presents and a standing ovation. Her place as Awards Administrator is being taken by Carol Connelly from Ireland.

I did my delegate duty and voted in the ESFS Awards. The results will be announced tomorrow.

And now we are making dinner plans. More seafood may be consumed.

Posted in Books, Conventions, Translations | 1 Comment

Me At Eurocon

As I mentioned last week, much of this year’s Eurocon is being live streamed. You are being spared the Business Meeting, but you can get to watch my panel on Queer Utopias and laugh at how fat I look. Here it is.

The other panelists are Mariano Martín Rodríguez (Moderator), Lawrence Schimel and Arrate Hidalgo.

I also make a brief appearance at the end of Johanna Sinisalo’s Guest of Honor interview. I’d suggest that you stop watching as soon as the interviewer, Meritxell Donyate, asks for audience questions, but Johanna gives a great reply so you’ll just have to fast forward through me.

Posted in Conventions, Feminism, Gender | Comments Off on Me At Eurocon

Eurocon Day 1

Kevin and I arrived in Barcelona by train late last night. We barely had time to grab some food before needing to get to bed. The one things we did register is that Barcelona is a Food Town. We are going to eat well here.

That was borne out in spades by the hotel breakfast which was magnificent.

We managed to get to the convention center and get registered in time for the Opening Ceremonies that were the usual round of speeches, enlivened by a brilliant chap who noted down everything said (presumably in shorthand given how fast he was going) and then translated each speech into whichever two of Spanish, Catalan and English had not been used by the speaker. Kevin and I were well impressed.

My one panel of the convention was immediately after Opening Ceremonies. It seemed to go well. Certainly some people came up to me afterwards and said they enjoyed it. More on that in a separate post.

Then it was on to a lunch meeting with a new academic pal (Hola Agnès!) to chat about trans women in Mesopotamia and a possible academic conference here in February. Kevin and I also got a short tour of Barcelona University which is absolutely gorgeous in places (the old bits, obviously).

Next up was the Johanna Sinisalo Guest of Honor interview, in which I had to ask a question because everyone else in the audience was too shy. I encouraged her to have a bit of a feminist rant.

Kevin and I then headed back to the hotel for a meeting for small presses. We ended up being quite late due to some banking adventures that Kevin has detailed on his LiveJournal. Having got that sorted, we went and chatted about small press publishing. There are some really great little companies operating in Europe. I’ll try to find out more about some of them.

The same room was used later for the ESFS Business Meeting. I had allowed Saija Kyllönen to persuade me to come along and volunteer to be a UK delegate. Most of UK fandom looks down its nose at Eurocon, and after recent events you probably understand this much better. Other countries send official delegations. The UK delegates end up being whoever is in the room at the time. In this case it was Martin Hoare and myself, meaning that it was actually a Welsh delegation. The downside was that I was stuck there for two hours, missing the Evil Females panel, and the Gender and Post-Humanism panel, and watching Kevin try not to explode over the lack of formal parliamentary procedure.

The meeting went fairly smoothly compared to previous Eurocons I have seen. There was a minor constitutional crisis caused when the Russian delegation proposed an Israeli magazine (written in Russian) and Cheeky Frawg Books (who are of course American) for awards. This was swiftly dealt with by Gareth Kavanagh who pointed out that what the Russians had done was only illegal under the new award rules that we had just adopted, whereas their nominations had been made a month ago under the old rules which did not specify that nominees had to be European.

Personally I am delighted for Ann & Jeff VanderMeer who have done an enormous amount to promote European SF.

The full list of award nominees is available here. I have no idea who made the UK nominations. The voting takes place tomorrow, and as a delegate I apparently have a vote.

Bridget Wilkinson is retiring after 25 years as ESFS Awards Administrator. We gave her a well-deserved round of applause.

The meeting also included news of forthcoming Eurocon bids. Next year’s convention is already seated and will be in Dortmund. The French have a bid for 2018 for the city of Amiens, where Jules Verne spent most of his working life. They are unopposed and seem set to be officially elected tomorrow.

Belfast is bidding for 2019, and plan to hold their convention the week after the proposed Dublin Worldcon. There is also a bid for Rijeka in Croatia for 2020. That’s a very nice city which I visited on my last Croatian trip. Rijeka was where one Fiorello La Guardia worked as US Consul prior to WWI. It is also the place where I discovered a Tyrolean cocktail called The Hugo. Sadly the Eurocon may be out of Hugo season as it is planned for early October.

We had dinner at a tapas bar with some lovely Czech fans, who I may be writing more about later. And now I am busy trying to keep you updated before hitting the hotel bar.

Posted in Awards, Conventions, Where's Cheryl? | 2 Comments

Living the High Life

Kevin has arrived safely in London and we have checked in to our usual London haunt, the Holiday Inn at Camden Lock. Kevin is very high status in their rewards program and therefore we often get a room upgrade. Today we are in a penthouse suite on the 5th floor with a nice view over Camden.

For dinner I treated Kevin to a visit to the Darwin Brasserie at the Sky Garden. The food was good but very expensive because you are paying for the view: 35 floors up looking out over the Thames and South London. You can get in for free during the day. We had to do dinner because of our schedule. I heartily recommend the view.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be up before the lark and off to catch the Eurostar to Paris where we change onto a TGV to Barcelona.

Posted in Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on Living the High Life

River Kingdom Availability

River Kingdom cover - Ben Baldwin
Copies of Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom are available through all of the usual channels now. Links are provided here.

Amazon will probably tell you that the book is out of stock and will take weeks to re-order. That’s because they do that to all small presses who don’t print through CreateSpace. They can get the book from our printers very quickly if they want to.

UK readers may prefer to buy the print edition from Tangent Books rather than Amazon. Turnaround will be a few days until I can get some stock to Richard, which I will do as soon as I get back from Barcelona.

The other thing I’d like you to do is go into your local bookstore and ask them to order the book. They should be able to do so very easily. I know that Mr. B’s has ordered some in, and if they found it in wholesale catalogues any other store can too. This goes for people in North America as well. The book is available for printing in the USA, so it should be no more expensive to get it than it is here. Sorting out printing in Australia is on my list of things to do.

If you are going to be at Eurocon, I will have some copies with me. If you want one, tell me, because I can’t carry that many and I don’t want to run out.

Posted in Books, Wizard's Tower | Comments Off on River Kingdom Availability

Mermaids on Newsnight

The media fuss over trans kids has reached both Parliament, with the Jurassic wing of the Tory party calling for a ban on talking to children about trans issues, and the BBC. Susie Green of Mermaids was on Newsnight last night to discuss the issue. Sadly she didn’t manage to have sensible conversation because she was put on with a TERF who seemed determined to set a new record for the number of untruths uttered in a single interview.

The TERF woman they had on was the same person who, at the Westminster meeting in September, stood up and accused Gendered Intelligence of going into schools and persuading children to become trans, despite the fact that Jay Stewart had just said that GI’s philosophy was to let children find their own path.

On Newsnight she once again came out with the claim that children were being “sterilized”. Standard NHS practice is not to provide cross-sex hormones until the patients are at least 16. Surgery is not permitted until the patient is 18. No medicines are provided until the child is obviously starting puberty.

Much hand-wringing is currently happening over the effects of puberty blockers. These are reversible, in that if you come off them puberty proceeds as normal. We don’t have lifetime studies of people who take these yet, though Susie’s daughter is a happy adult woman now. What never gets mentioned in such discussions is that these medicines were not developed for treating trans kids, they were developed for treating what the medical professional called “precocious puberty”; that is when kids start to go through puberty at a very young age. No one complains about safety in those cases. It is only when they are prescribed to trans kids that we get this panic.

The other massive whopper that the TERF came out with is that 80% of children who are diagnosed as trans later regret it and transition back. This again is completely untrue. The TERFs are always wringing their hands about how kids might be incorrectly diagnosed as trans, but when faced with evidence that the vast majority of kids referred to clinics are diagnosed as not trans they insist on labeling all of these kids as “regretters”.

Clearly there will be a grey area in the case of kids who will grow up to be happily non-binary and don’t need medical intervention, but clinics are becoming better with time at identifying who needs what treatment. By far the best diagnostic yardstick is what the child says about their gender. Those are also the kids who insist on transitioning fully at a young age. The others tend to be happy going to school in the gender they were assigned at birth, though they’d doubtless be even happier if schools were less gender-obsessed.

Then there was the claim that chromosomes are the ultimate indicator of “sex” and that “sex” cannot be changed. This again is scientific nonsense. There are plenty of people who were assigned female at birth and are living happily as women despite having Y chromosomes. Sex is as much a social construct as gender. There are specific physical attributes that are commonly associated with sex, but many of those can be changed, and their absence is not proof of gender. For example, women who cannot give birth do not suddenly become men.

These days some TERFs have taken to saying that they are not opposed to “genuine” trans people. The woman on Newsnight said this, though it was by no means clear what she meant by it. In any case, you can’t be in favor of “genuine” trans people if you insist that treatment should be denied to all trans kids, regardless of how strongly they identify. They know as well as we do that withholding treatment leads to suicides.

Then there is the hand-wringing that goes on about why can’t we just let children dress and behave how they want without “forcing” them to transition. Well we do. That’s the whole point. The trouble is that if the kid absolutely insists that their gender is other than that assigned at birth then the TERFs insist on forcing them to behave in the stereotyped way associated with their birth gender in order to “cure” them of being trans.

Which brings us to this whole conversion therapy thing. We keep getting told how impressionable children are, and that if we talk to them honestly about issues of sexuality and gender then that will somehow cause kids to become gay or trans. If that was true, then surely the decades we have had of people trying to cure kids of being gay or trans would have shown lots of success stories. In practice conversion therapy normally ends in failure or in the suicide of the patient. It is widely regarded as dangerous in the case of LGB people. Yet the likes of Helen Lewis, Sarah Ditum and Julie Bindel still promote it for trans kids. The only other enthusiastic supporter of the technique I can think of right now is Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate. One of these days I hope that the TERFs will think long and hard about the company they keep.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Comments Off on Mermaids on Newsnight

Some #Piracity FAQs

I have posted a bunch of FAQs on the Piracity campaign page (go here, scroll to the bottom).

The most important stuff is about the size of the final book, and how the money will be used. As I say in the FAQ, the plan is for 18 stories of not more than 7,000 words. If everyone maxes out that’s 126,000 words, which is a pretty substantial book. I haven’t made that a specific campaign promise because a whole variety of factors may prevent us from doing exactly that. As for the money, most of it will go to pay the authors, printers and Kickstarter. We’ll need a cover, and I want to pay Roz and Jo as well. I’m not going to get any money until the project makes a profit, which I doubt will happen until well after publication.

Posted in Books, Wizard's Tower | Comments Off on Some #Piracity FAQs

Convention Tour, Leg 1: BristolCon

Roz as Pirate
I am into convention madness season, with Juliet’s new book and the Piracity Kickstarter to promote. There is a long way to go yet, but the first leg is over. BristolCon has happened.

Friday night was the traditional open mic. I read part of a Lovecraftian story, though I suspect that many of the audience didn’t know that’s what it was. The competition was very stiff with Anna Smith-Spark reading from the first chapter of her forthcoming Grimdark novel (which she promises me is deeply feminist and homo-erotic). The star of the show was Stephen Poore who read from a Fox Spirit anthology, a story about a superhero being menaced by a man from Heath & Safety.

I overslept badly on Saturday morning and barely made it to my first duty, the opening remarks in Programme Room 2. Thankfully I didn’t have a 10:00am panel and breakfast was served until 11:00am so I managed to get food.

Both of my panels went very well. I did a lot of promotion of interesting small press projects (mostly not mine) and we gave a very good overview of the process of making books. Special thanks are due to Sammy Smith who was doing her first ever moderator gig and Nick Hembury who was on his first ever panel. Also thanks to John Meaney who stood in for Ed Cox at the last moment, Ed having been struck down by a particularly nasty stomach bug.

With the convention being close to Halloween we got more costumes than usual. That made me feel less stupid for having to dress up to promote Piracity. Roz Clarke was particularly impressive, and looked even better in my pirate hat (see above). The hall costume prize was won by a young girl in a Ren costume.

Ken MacLeod and Sarah Pinborough did entertaining interviews. Special thanks are due to Gareth Powell for standing in for Ed Cox and interviewing Sarah with zero preparation time. The art Guest of Honour was Fangorn (Chris Baker). I missed his talk but there was some very nice art on show. Jim Burns and Chris Moore attended too, so we had a really good art show.

I attended a workshop on writing characters given by Gaie Sebold. It was very impressive for a 45 minute slot. If you have a chance to do the full two hour workshop I recommend it.

Business was encouraging, with a whole bunch of River Kingdoms going and Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion still selling well. Lots of people told me that they wanted to submit to Piracity. I spent a lot of time explaining that if we don’t fund then there won’t be anything to submit to.

The writer guests of honour for next year will be Jen Williams and Jonathan L Howard. An artist guest has been approached, but said person is unable to confirm just now so you’ll have to wait.

However, the big news from the closing ceremony is that Jo Hall is stepping down as chair. She and Roz are planning to move to Wales (where property is much cheaper) so they can concentrate on their writing and editing careers. (They have plans, but that’s for them to tell you.) BristolCon has now run for 8 years and has grown from 57 attendees to well over 300. That would not have happened without Jo’s brilliant leadership. I hope she enjoys her retirement (from con-running) because she deserves it.

MEG is taking over running the committee. She has done a magnificent job running programming for BristolCon for many years so she’ll well placed to step up. Here’s to many more glorious years.

I have a couple of days at home to get turned around, then it is off to Barcelona for Eurocon. I’m picking Kevin up from Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon, and we are taking a long train trip.

Posted in Conventions | Comments Off on Convention Tour, Leg 1: BristolCon

Please #StandWithMermaids

In the wake of last weekend’s disastrous court case there has been a sustained attack on trans children and their mothers in the British press. Naturally the New Statesman led the way, and the Daily Malice managed to be the most horrible. None of this is surprising, especially the deeply sexist nature of the attacks.

The mothers (and many fathers) who work with Mermaids are not professional charity staff. While they achieve many wonderful things, they don’t have the resources to stand up to this sort of sustained media assault from professional journalists. To help support them, the hashtag #StandWithMermaids has been created on Twitter. There is also an open letter that you can sign.

If you haven’t done thus far, please also sign the petition about last weekend’s court case.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender, Journalism | Comments Off on Please #StandWithMermaids

Eurocon Live

In a week’s time I will be in Barcelona and will be in the middle of my one panel (on same-sex utopias). You might not be able to be there, but the whole convention is being streamed live, and will be available for viewing after the con. How cool is that? Get your Eurocon here.

Posted in Admin | Comments Off on Eurocon Live

Me at Party Conference

I spent quite a bit of time in yesterday’s panel talking about the Women’s Equality Party and how to move feminism forward. Huge thanks to the young woman in the audience who had a go at the TERFs so that I didn’t have to.

WEP is having their first annual conference in Manchester at the end of this month. I will be there. That’s partly because I want to see what goes on, partly because I hope to get some interviews for the radio show, and partly because I am going to be running some workshops. The details are here, but to save you scrolling down I have a handy screenshot.

And I pleased? You bet!

Posted in Gender, Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on Me at Party Conference

Strong Women of Bristol

Arnos Vale
Photo by Becky Walsh. Panel is (left to right) Jean Burnett, Lucienne Boyce, Deenagh Miller and me.
Yesterday I did a Festival of Literature panel (“Storied of Strong Women”) in a cemetery. Well, in the Anglian Chapel at a cemetery. As houses of the dead goes, Arnos Vale in Bristol is pretty spectacular. Long-time readers may remember when my friends Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr created an illustrated guide to the site.

The chapel is a fabulous venue, as you can see from Becky’s picture above. It has a crypt too. One day I want to do a book launch there. Has to be the right book, obviously.

I thought the panel went very well. Becky knows how to run this sort of thing, the panelists all had interesting and different contributions to make, and the audience chipped in with some good questions.

Obviously I plugged books. I talked about Fight Like A Girl, and about Juliet McKenna being able to beat up most men I know. It turns out that Jean Burnett is an even bigger Amelia Edwards fan than me. Deenagh Miller had some fairly horrifying personal stories to tell, as well as some amazing art. Lucienne made some impassioned pleas about not adopting violence to fight the Patriarchy. And Becky had some interesting things to say about neuroscience and the different effects of testosterone and estrogen on the brain.

The most interesting question I got asked was about what I thought had made the biggest difference to women’s lives over the course of history. My answer was the invention of the contraceptive pill. Women can no have children only when and if they want. Our role in the world is no longer simply to make babies as quickly as possible. That’s a change that has happened in my lifetime, and human society is still working through the consequences. It is also a change that, as William Gibson would note, is unevenly distributed. Given a few more generations, if we manage to avoid doing anything stupid in that time, the effects will be much more pronounced.

Becky also asked me about my view of the future of gender. As I always do in such circumstances, I talked about Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy.

My thanks to Helen for organizing the event and to the Arnos Vale people for giving us the venue and making us so welcome.

I spent the afternoon in a historical fiction writing workshop being run by Lucienne and Mike Manson. It was very interesting, and I met Tamsin from the Popelei Theatre Company who I hope will be appearing on my radio show in December.

Posted in Books, Gender | Comments Off on Strong Women of Bristol