Pride In Action

As Pride events become more and more popular, and more widespread, questions are being asked about what they are for. Are they too commercial? Are they just entertainment for the straights? Do we still need them? Why isn’t there a Straight Pride?

Prior to Bristol Pride, I was on the radio twice. A whole bunch of us got asked onto John Darvall’s show on Radio Bristol to justify the continued need for Pride. That’s not hard. Trans people are still waiting for the government to act on any of the recommendations from the Trans Equality Report (which was published 18 months ago.) The rabidly homophobic DUP are in government. If you don’t defend your rights, you’ll lose them. I was also on Miranda’s show explaining why the supposed 50th anniversary of “decriminalizing” homosexuality is anything but. It took us until 2003 until all of the laws criminalizing gay sex were off the statue books.

Nevertheless, Pride was once again a massive success. We had more room than ever before, and we filled it all up. The Community Tent, where all of the volunteer organizations were housed, was once again a heaving mass of humanity. The infamous gay weather control once again assured blazing sunshine. A fabulous time was, it seemed, had by all.

That did not mean that we all just gave ourselves over to partying. I missed the march due to having stayed home to watch the Lions game, but I understand that at one point, when they were held up by something or other, some students from Bristol University took the opportunity to stage a little protest and explain why Pride is still important. Part of that included reading the current Trans Remembrance List. Good for them.

I spent much of my time behind the main stage with the Shout Out crew. They have so many volunteers now that they don’t really need me, but I like to get on air during the broadcast to remind listeners that Ujima cares about Pride too. I wasn’t terribly interested in most of the acts, but I did want to get to see Jordan Gray and I’m glad I did.

I know nothing about talent shows. I never watch them, and mostly I have no idea who any of the winners are, let alone the contestants. However, many of the trans folks I follow on Twitter were very enthusiastic about Jordan, who appeared on a show called The Voice last year. She made it through to the semi-finals. That has got her numerous invitations to appear at Prides.

Jordan began her set by introducing herself. It went something like this. “You have probably heard that I’m transgender. If you don’t know what that means, it means that I used to be unhappy, but now I’m happy.” That’s a brilliantly simple and clever line, and I will doubtless steal it at some point.

What I won’t do is follow her example of proving the point. Jordan has a perfectly good female singing voice. But she’s a fan of Johnny Cash and did a couple of covers, including occasionally dropping into the Johnny Cash voice just to prove that she could. No way am I doing anything like that in public. The crowd loved it, though.

Out beyond the main stage there were load of younger people in evidence. Freedom Youth and Mermaids ran a Young Person’s Area. And there was also a Family Area for the littlest attendees. To keep the kids happy, a bunch of drag queens were telling stories. I donated a copy of Marcus Ewart’s 10,000 Dresses. I hope it went down well.

By mid afternoon the venue was so full that the security team had to put a temporary stop on people coming in. Late comers were understandably peeved. There were a lot of seemingly straight people at the event. I even saw one idiot sporting a Straight Pride t-shirt. But then again, some of the straights were there with a purpose. I spent a bit of time on the OutStories table and while I was there we were approached by a middle-aged couple looking for Mermaids because they wanted help to support their trans child.

The thing is that with an event that size you can’t have it all go the way you want. There were no major disasters, and for that Daryn, Freddie and their team deserve huge congratulations. That evening at the official after party I am being told that the security staff were operating a very strict binary gender toilet policy, which is very much not Pride policy but you never know when some random security guy is going to decide to invent rules so he can throw his weight around.

Is Pride getting overrun by straights? Not exactly, it is still extravagantly queer, but it is a great party and loads of people will come for that. Do we still need it? Absolutely. Does it bring out the worst in some people? Sadly yes. But all of the bad stuff gives you opportunities for teachable moments. Right now I think Pride is still doing good work.

Posted in Gender, Music | 1 Comment

The British Museum LGBTQ Trail & Exhibition

This post has been a long time coming because I have been busy doing lots of other things. What has finally shoved it to the top of my to-do list is that on Friday evening the British Museum has an event on. It is titled, “What makes an object LGBTQ?” and it features, among others, E-J Scott of the Museum of Transology and Sue Sanders of Schools Out. I’d love to be there, but I can’t, so I’m writing this instead.

The current version of the LGBTQ Trail is heavily based on the book, A Little Gay History by Richard Parkinson. There’s a lot of good stuff in it but, as I have mentioned before, quite a bit more that could be in it.

The main addition is a small exhibition in a side room off one of the main classical halls on the first floor. It is, rather appropriately, right next to the section on Amazons. It contains some interesting things I hadn’t seen before, such a different portrait of Beaumont and a bunch of Roman winged phalluses, together with a number of more modern items.

One of my favorite features of the trail was the presence of Xena and Gabrielle in one of the cases of vases with pictures of Amazons on them.

Sadly the nearby vase showing Achilles being dipped in the Styx had been taken off display. That might not seem like a queer artifact, but it is because the story of Achilles is proof that cis people have a gender identity. His mother, Thetis, had him raised as a girl in the hope that he’d never go to war, but Achilles knew he was a boy and refused to go along with this. Changing people’s gender identity is much harder than most people think.

One item that I think should be in the trail is this lovely little oil lamp decorated with pictures of Cybele and Attis. You can’t get a much clearer story of gender transformation than Attis, and of course it is an excuse to talk about the galli. The Museum doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that side of Roman culture. I can kind of see them not wanting to highlight the castration clamp, but then it is on display so squeamish people are going to see it anyway. Why not tell the whole story on the LGBTQ trail?

The castration clamp, by the way, is in the Roman Britain room, on the far side of the museum to all of the other Roman and Greek material. Also in that room is a collection of jet jewellery. As I understand it, jet was particularly significant for the galli, and so some of this jewellery may have belonged to Roman trans women. Certainly the galli burials found at Catterick included jet jewellery.

The Museum has tried to include Egypt in the Trail, but the only item they had to highlight is a stela featuring two characters called Hor and Suty. According to the accompanying text, some scholars have suggested that they were a gay couple as they are clearly fond of each other, but the text goes on to say, “This interpretation, though technically possible, is highly unlikely.” A much more obvious interpretation is that they were twins, because the inscription talks about them coming forth from the womb on the same day. If you are going to have an example of a controversial interpretation, it might be better to have one with more substance to it.

The Sumerian section is still identifying the Queen of the Night as Ishtar. There is more of an argument to be made for that than of Hor & Suty being gay, but by identifying her as Ereshkigal, which is more likely, IMHO, it gives you an excuse to talk about the Descent. The story of Ishtar’s descent into the Underworld is a very famous mythological tale with queer people right at the heart of it. Why not tell that story?

Of course they also have Silimabzuta somewhere in their archives. I know it is only a fragment of a statue, but it is hugely significant for trans history and I think it ought to be on display, at least for this exhibition.

A new addition to the trail is this fabulous stela of a Mayan king, Waxaklajuun Ub’aah K’awiil. He is dressed as the young maize god who is a character of ambiguous gender, and thus the king is wearing women’s clothing. For a long time this resulted in the stela being mis-identified as depicting a woman. I want to know a lot more about this god.

I am sure that there is still a lot more that can be found in the Museum that relates to LGBT issues. You just have to know what you are looking for. In view of that, I have a question for my friends who are experts on Greek vases. Look at this:

It depicts a scene as a symposium, and the Museum identifies the women present as hetairai — high class sex workers. However, when I see someone from the classical world with that double flute I immediately think “gallus”. I don’t know things worked in Greece. Did women musicians play that instrument regularly? Was it associated with the followers of Meter? Could we be looking at a picture of a trans sex worker? I suspect probably not, but it is worth asking just in case.

Posted in Gender, History | Leave a comment

Raining Runs at #WWC17

There were three games in the Women’s World Cup today, and a whole lot of runs were scored.

In Derby India took on Sri Lanka. They won the toss, batted, and set a reasonable total of 232. Deepti Sharma (78) and Mithali Raj (53) were the top scorers. Sri Lanka made a brave attempt at chasing the total, but ultimately fell just 16 runs short. Dilani Manodara (61) was the pick of the batters, while Poonam Yadav with 2/23 off her 10 overs was the best of the bowling.

In Leicester Australia were without their captain, Meg Lanning, who has a shoulder injury. Resting her against Pakistan was probably a good call, but it looked like they might come unstuck when they found themselves 7/2 early on. Fortunately for the Aussies, Ellyse Perry (66) once again took control. She was ably assisted by Elyse Villani (59), making up for her golden duck in Bristol on Sunday, and by Alyssa Healy (63*). Eventually Australia posted an impressive 290. Pakistan never got close, with only Sana Mir (45) putting up any serious resistance on their way to 131 all out.

And so to Bristol, where England took on a highly fancied South Africa. Heather Knight won the toss and opted to bat, taking on the fearsome bowling attack that just a few days ago had dismissed West Indies for 48. Of course conditions in Leicester on Sunday suited fast bowling, whereas the Bristol pitch was baking under a hot sun right from the start. Lauren Winfield went early for 24, but then Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor dug in and batted, and batted, and batted.

275 runs later they had set the highest partnership ever in the Women’s World Cup. Taylor was out for 147 having looked absolutely majestic. At one point she hit Shabnim Ismael, probably the fastest bowler in the tournament, for five successive fours. She was playing reverse ramps and scoops with impunity. At the other end Beaumont was less flashy, but timed the ball beautifully and reached 148 without seeming to try hard. With both of them gone, England still had overs left, and threw the bat at everything, finally ending on 373.

The quality of the wicket was shown when SA batted. They had 128 on the board before England took their first wicket, though a few hard chances had gone down on the way there. The key to the match, however, was Katherine Brunt’s bowling. With a miserly 16 off 8 overs she kept the run rate well below what was required. Soon SA were in an impossible position and wickets started to tumble as they took risks. A powerful and breezy 54 off just 24 balls by Chloe Tyron gave a glimpse of what was required, but they needed everyone to score like that for the last 10 overs. It wasn’t going to happen, and they ended up 68 runs short.

Tomorrow New Zealand take on West Indies in Taunton. Here’s hoping that the weather is more typical of the Caribbean and of Wellington.

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Today on Ujima: Bookshops, Podcasts, Art for Health & Drag Queens

Despite the fact that England Women were playing South Africa in Bristol (of which more later) and it was a beautiful sunny day, I took myself off to the Ujima studios to do a show. I love you folks that much.

First up was my good friend Alistair Sims who runs Books on the Hill in Clevedon. We talked about bookselling, tea, and some of his personal projects. If you want to buy some of their specialty tea (which I highly recommend), you can do so here.

My second guest was Gwyneth Rees whom I met at the Sound Women event last week. She’s been getting into podcasting, and we talked about that. You can find her Woman of the Week podcast on iTunes. I suspect that you’ll be hearing more from Gwyneth in the near future.

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

In the second hour I began with Joy Johnson who is an art therapist. I had no idea anything like this existed, but apparently it is quite common. Joy doesn’t have her own website, but this is the Art & Heath South-West site that I mentioned during the interview.

Finally I was delighted to welcome Donna La Mode who is part of the Drag Queen Story Time project. Donna and her friends will be at Bristol Pride on Saturday telling more stories. If you can’t make it there, the crowdfunding appear that we mention on the show is here. Every little helps.

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

The music for today’s show has a very summery theme.

  • In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry
  • Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
  • Sun Is Shining – Bob Marley
  • Long Hot Summer – Dizzy Gillespie
  • Summertime – Sam & Dave
  • Farewell My Summer Love – Michael Jackson
  • Summer Night City – Abba
  • Hot Stuff – Donna Summer
Posted in Art, Books, Gender, Podcasts, Radio | Leave a comment

Penguin Does Diversity

Attention UK writers: the local branch of Random Penguin is making a serious effort to diversify its list by reaching out to members of minority communities and offering training.

The project, called WriteNow, will be running one-day courses in London, Bristol and Newcastle in September, and 10 lucky writers from those will go on to be put on a year-long mentoring program.

Now of course the chances of your being selected may not be good if you say you want to write science fiction or fantasy, though you might get away with it if you said it was YA. Then again, you might have a really good pitch. You will also need to have something in the works that you can show them. For details of how to apply (and you need to get in by July 16th) see here.

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Writing and Gender Class

Back in 2012 (when my life was less busy) I took an online writing course taught by Cat Rambo. I wrote about it here.

Cat keeps me updated with new offers just in case I have time to take another one. I have certainly been tempted, especially as she’s started to do one-offs on specific topics (see here). One such course that is right up my street is “Writing and Gender”, but I don’t need to sign up for that one because Cat has kindly asked me to help teach it.

The class will take place on Saturday, August 26, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. Cat and I haven’t finalized the details as yet, but I’m expecting to be talking about writing trans characters, and helping the class navigate the profusion of genders people are identifying with these days. I will probably mention things like the cis gaze, and victim narratives. Cat writes a bit about the course here.

These classes are not free. The usual charge is $99, or $79 for former students. However, if you really can’t afford it, and very much need that class, you can apply for a scholarship.

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Super Sunday at #WWC17

All 8 teams were in action today at the Women’s World Cup of Cricket, and I got to see my first live game. The main TV commentary team was in Derby along with a sell-out crowd to watch India play Pakistan. Nearby in Leicester South Africa faced off against West Indies. England were in Taunton taking on Sri Lanka, but I opted to go for Australia v New Zealand in Bristol because I thought it would be the best game of the four. I was right.

The SA-WI game was a disaster. South Africa won the toss and asked West Indies to bat. They then proceeded to rip through the fragile WI batting order, dismissing them for a mere 48. Only Chedean Nation of the WI bats got into double figures. When it was their turn, SA knocked off the runs required in under 7 overs.

Are West Indies really that bad? Certainly they are 0-3 for the tournament thus far, and much be looking forward to playing fellow basement-dwellers, Pakistan. But the smart folks at CricketHer point out that South Africa have a great pace attack and conditions at Leicester this morning suited them perfectly. We’ll see how well those bowlers do when they front up against England in Bristol on Wednesday.

Batting appeared to be difficult in Derby as well, with India struggling to 169/9. The in-form Mandhana and Raj both failed, and it was down to Punam Raut (47) and Sushma Verma (33) with two aggressive knocks to enable them to post a decent total. It was a different matter when Pakistan batted. They could muster only 74 runs between them, with Ekta Bisht taking 5/18. Pakistan must be terrified of her. She took 5/8 against them at a match in Colombo earlier this year.

In Taunton Chamari Atapattu was unable to repeat her heroics from Bristol, but Sri Lanka managed an almost-respectable 204/8 batting first. It wasn’t going to be a stroll for England, and when they lost both openers leaving them 50/2 it looked like it might be a contest. However, Heather Knight (82) and Sarah Taylor (74*) gradually took control and brought home an impressive 7-wicket victory. They looked like they could have chased down 300 without any difficulty.

And so to Bristol. New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat. This was, after all, the pitch on which Atapattu and Lanning had both passed 150 just a few days ago. However, the NZ batters never seemed to be able to get going. Suzie Bates was the most impressive, but a lapse of concentration after passing 50 saw her back in the pavilion. Thankfully Katie Perkins (62) and Erin Bermingham (35) put on a fine rearguard action allowing NZ to post a final score of 219. Interestingly it was the spinners who did most of the damage, with Ellyse Perry looking very ineffective despite getting the ball up around the NZ women’s chins a lot.

In an interview at the interval Meg Lanning said that the pitch looked older and slower, suggesting that there were not a lot of runs in it. Certainly Australia started slowly. Lanning and Perry then built up a partnership, with Lanning looking her imperious self. She hit the only 6 of the match which flew over my head and smacked into one of the flats that line the Ashley Down Road end of the ground. However, she was caught behind off Amelia Kerr on 48, and when Ellyse Villani was bowled the very next ball it looked like we had a match on our hands. Australia were not scoring quickly enough, and if NZ could just keep things tight they were in with a real chance.

The slow scoring continued as Perry and Alex Blackwell rebuilt the Australian innings. With 8 overs left they needed almost a run a ball. However, they had plenty of wickets in hand. Perry picked this moment to accelerate, passing 50 and, shortly thereafter, 2000 career runs in one-day internationals. She holed out on the boundary for 71 trying to end the game with a six, but Blackwell calmly finished the match off with 8 balls to spare.

With everyone having played three games, India and Australia are both 3-0. South Africa look like dark horses with two wins and that wash-out against NZ. England and NZ both look in the hunt, while Sri Lanka have played better than their 0-3 record suggests. The action resumes on Wednesday with Australia-Pakistan, England-South Africa and India-Sri Lanka. I’ll be in the radio studio that day so there will doubtless be some live updates.

My next live game will be England-Australia next Sunday.

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Bristol Makes Women’s Cricket History

Because I have three businesses to run, I’m not able to go to every local match in the Women’s World Cup. Looking at the Bristol games in advance of the tournament, I decided not to bother with the Australia v Sri Lanka game. I expected the Aussies to win easily. I was so wrong. Yesterday Bristol produced a game that will go down in legend, and be talked about for decades to come.

Mostly I was right. 10 of the Sri Lanka team, plus extras, managed a measly total of 79 runs. But I had reckoned without Chamari Atapattu (full name, Atapattumudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani, but that’s way too much for white people to cope with). Her 178* lifted the Sri Lankan total to a very defensible 257. Along the way she hit 22 fours and 6 sixes.

Australia had to be at their best to get out of that. Fortunately in Meg Lanning they have probably the best batter in women’s cricket. Ably supported by Nicole Bolton (60) and Ellyse Perry (39*), her 152* powered the favorites to victory with six overs to spare.

In the past, women’s cricket has been notorious for relatively low scores. This tournament is putting an end to that. As far as I can see, there have only been two men’s one-day internationals where players on both sides have scored over 150. One was a match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Bulawayo in 2009 when Charles Coventry made 194* for the hosts only to see Tamin Iqbal (154) lead Bangladesh to victory. The other was the legendary 2006 match in Johannesburg when Ricky Ponting’s 164 helped Australia to a massive 434, only for it to be overhauled by South Africa for whom Herschelle Gibbs (175) was the top scorer.

Meanwhile in Taunton India thrashed an increasingly sad-looking West Indies. Only Haley Matthews (43) of the top order fired for the Caribbean side. Smitri Mandhana (106*) continued her fine form in guiding India to victory.

The tournament is taking a short break at the moment, but action will be resumed on Sunday when I, weather permitting, will get to see Australia take on New Zealand. Expect tweetage.

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Say Goodbye, Parsley

The UK papers are all full of fine obituaries for Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, who died yesterday. Like many people of my age, I loved Paddington as a kid, but I have never been a huge fan because, well, I don’t much like marmalade.

Bond, however, created much more than Paddington. My favorite of his creations is The Herbs, an animated TV series that ran on BBC and featured a group of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic herbs. There were Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog and Sage the Owl. There were Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary, and their rustic gardener, Bayleaf. There was bumbling Constable Knapweed. There were Mr & Mrs Onion and all the little Chives. And there were occasional guest characters such as Belladonna the Witch, and Tarragon.

Who was Tarragon? Well the best thing to do is show you. Here is the story of how Bayleaf spilled his sack of plant food, and how Tarragon (with a little help from Parsley and Sage) came to live in the magic herb garden.

Posted in Personal, TV | 1 Comment

Trans Kids in School – The Good and the Bad

On Tuesday (just in time of the course that Berkeley and I were giving at Plymouth University) Stonewall published the latest in the 5-yearly surveys of British schools. For the first time trans issues were included in the report, and the results were pretty shocking.

On the good side, homophobic bullying has decreased significantly, at least in part to the greater number of teachers who are comfortable being out. Transphobic bullying, however, is still commonplace. This comment from a student from Yorkshire really hit home for me:

No one I’ve spoken to at school has ever knowingly met a trans person before or been taught anything about trans people and what we might need.

This is why I did that Stonewall role model course.

The headline statistic that appeared in many newspapers is that 45% of trans school children have tried to take their own lives. That’s horrifying, but journalists rarely try to understand that statistic.

When trans kids do take their own lives, newspapers and other media often run articles by professional concern trolls who go on about how this is all the fault of the horrible “trans agenda”, and if only the parents had been more supported in their attempts to “cure” the child this would not have happened.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Studies in the USA show not only similar suicide rates to the UK, but also that those rates drop like a stone if the parents are supportive of the young person. A 2012 survey of trans youth quoted here has a 57% suicide attempt rate for kids without supportive parents, but only 4% if the parents are supportive.

Fortunately many parents, and many schools, do understand and do their best to support trans kids. Yesterday Stonewall announced the results of their annual Education Equality Index. The winning local authority was Bath & North-East Somerset. They have always done well in the past (and indeed narrowly lost out to Brighton last year), but I’m pretty sure that their triumph this time is a result of their leading the way on trans issues.

Obviously I’m not involved in the day-to-day running of schools and youth services, but I have done a fair amount with the folks who do that work over the last year. I’m very proud of them, and grateful that they listened to me banging on about trans rights.

Bristol Council, in contrast, doesn’t bother to submit an entry for the Stonewall Index, and has recently dismantled its Equalities team.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

Eurocon Trip Report


Germany’s recent Eurocon was quite small in comparison to recent events in places such as Spain, Sweden, Croatia and Finland. The total attendance was under 300, and seemed to skew towards an old, white male demographic. That was a shame, but nevertheless it ran well and was an enjoyable weekend for those of us who attended.

Dortmund is not high on the list of German tourist venues. Razed to the ground by the RAF in WWII, it boasts a modern, mostly pedestrianized city center surrounded by a ring road. The small airport has direct bus links to the railway station which sits on the ring road and is a short walk from several hotels and the convention venue. It was all very convenient.

The city seems obsessed with winged rhinos. Not only do they have a large collection scattered around the street, they are also used widely on signs and posters. Apparently the animal is the mascot of the local orchestra.

Dortmund’s main tourist attractions are a large soccer museum (reflecting one of the city’s abiding passions), a beer museum (reflecting the other) and a tram museum. The city’s tram network has been moved underground recently, though part of a line through the center has been preserved, complete with a tram restaurant. The museum was running vehicles on the Sunday and a fair number of British fans disappeared off to see them.

Back at the convention, I spent most of my time behind the Worldcon #76 table. We were not expecting to sell many membership, but sometimes it is good just to fly the (bear) flag. Also I wanted to gauge feelings about the convention in Europe. Most people, of course, simply couldn’t afford to go, but of those who could more than half cited fear of the current political regime in the USA as a reason for not attending.

I got to see very little programming, but I was delighted to get a chance to listen to my Czech friend, Julie Nováková, hold forth on the subject of icy moons. There is way more water in the solar system than anyone expected, and the possibility for some form life existing on one of those moons is encouragingly high.

The Art Guest of Honor was German-based Brit, Autun Purser. In his day job he works with as a deep sea ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremen, doing fun things like photographing life on the sea floor using remote controlled submarines. Julie, as an astrobiologist, and I, as a former oceanographer, we delighted to see some of his footage.

To get an idea of the sort of thing Autun does, check out this article in which he is talking about the supremely cute ghost octopus. And of course he does art too.

Sadly I didn’t get to see any program items featuring the other Guests of Honor: Aleksandar Žiljak, Andreas Eschbach and Dave Hutchinson.

There were a lot of dealers. Thankfully most of the books on sale were in German, so I did not get tempted to buy any. However, I was very impressed by the steampunk group who had a big stall covering one end of the room I was in. Steampunk is clearly a big thing in Germany, and they told me how they tried to avoid any association with Prussians and German imperialism. The Griffin that they use in their arms is the symbol of the Grand Duchy of Baden.

A much more suitable hero for a steampunk story might be King Ludwig II of Bavaria, most famous for his fairytale castle but also a keen designer of airships. Which brings me to mention of my new pal, Ju Honisch. She has a lot of big fantasy novels out in German. However, she has one available but unpublished in English which features Ludwig, albeit briefly. You may hear more of this book in the near future. Charlie Stross and I both liked what we heard of it. Ju (pronounced “you”) is also a very fine filker and those of you on the convention filk circuit may have already met her.

I didn’t manage to get to the Business Meeting as I had a table to manage, but I understand that there was not much business to discuss and the sessions were over very quickly. Efficient meetings are appreciated by all.

The ESFS Awards were given out on Saturday evening. Many of them are encouragement awards for up and coming talent, so I don’t expect to know their work. One may be known to you, however. Hanuš Sainer is a talented Czech writer, one of whose stories, translated by Julie, has appeared in Strange Horizons.

In the career awards I was pleased to see some recognition for Judith Clute. Ian Watson, having staged a very successful Eurocon in Barcelona last year, was given the Best Promoter award (which he rightly said he was sharing with his Spanish wife, Christina). This year’s Hall of Fame award went to Serbia’s Zoran Živković, and about time too.

Incidentally, all of Zoran’s work is in the process of being reprinted in beautiful new editions. See here for details.

That was Eurocon done for another year. In 2018 we will be in Amiens in France, a city that was home to Jules Verne for most of his writing career. The easiest way to get there is by train, either from Paris, or Eurostar to Lille if you are coming from the UK or Belgium. In 2019 the Eurocon will be in Belfast, hopefully the weekend after the Dublin Worldcon if all goes according to plan. Rijeka in Croatia is still unopposed for 2020.

My thanks to Ju & Jela Schmidt who were great company in the dealers’ room, to the Ukrainians for the honey-chili vodka, to the convention committee, to the kind people who transported Worldcon #76 materials back and fore for me, to Fluff Cthulhu for refraining from eating me, and to all of the fine folks who made it such a lovely weekend. I still owe you a beer or two, Christina.

My final picture is the most science-fictional thing in Dortmund, the space elevator.

Posted in Art, Awards, Conventions, Nature, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

Cricket Update

The Women’s World Cup continues apace. Tournament favorites, Australia, got their campaign underway on Monday with an 8-wicket thrashing of West Indies. Hayley Matthews (46), Chedean Nation (39) and Stafanie Taylor (45) all made decent scores for the Caribbean side, and Deandra Dottin made a rapid-fire 29 off just 20 balls, but the rest of the side was not at the party and a total of 204 was never going to stretch the Aussies. Nicole Bolton (107*) was the star of the Australian innings.

On Tuesday England got back on track with a demolition of Pakistan. Batting first, they racked up a massive 377/7. That total has only been surpassed once in a Women’s World Cup match, by Australia against Denmark who are not exactly top class opposition. Heather Knight (106) and Natalie Sciver (137) scored the bulk of the runs. The match was ended prematurely by rain, but Pakistan were nowhere near the required run rate so no one is going to complain about a calculated result.

New Zealand had an easy time of it against Sri Lanka in their first game, but today they came up against a much tougher opponent: the English weather. Their match against South Africa was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Here’s hoping the weather improves for the rest of the month.

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Pride on the Radio

Today on BBC Radio Bristol John Darvall has been discussing whether or not we still need Pride. Many of my friends were on, including Daryn Carter of Bristol Pride. I was on too. I may have had a bit of a rant about the DUP getting into government.

John and I had a discussion about Theresa May’s voting record without having the info to hand. I have since looked it up. She is actually in favor of gays and lesbians getting married, but she’s against allowing them to adopt. She also avoided voting on allowing LGBT issues to be discussed in schools, and on both the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act. Details here.

One thing that I didn’t get a chance to address was the idiot who phoned in to say that if being trans wasn’t an illness then why is it treated on the NHS. Well firstly many trans people don’t want or need any medical treatment. And for those that do, that treatment is to help them transition, not to stop them being trans. The treatment is very successful with the vast majority of trans people being happier as a result. Saying that trans is an illness because trans people get NHS treatment is rather like saying that if having lungs wasn’t an illness why does the NHS treat pneumonia.

The broadcast will be available through the BBC’s Listen Again service once the show has finished. I’m on just before the end of the first hour.

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June Fringe Podcasts

The good news on Fringe is that we are now very efficient. The June event was last Monday, and here we are with the podcast. Huge thanks to Tom Parker for being so quick with the editing.

The less good news is that the sound for June could be better. That’s partly because it was very hot (for the UK) and it was necessary to keep the air conditioning on. It’s also because we had a mishap with my microphone which mean that we had to record the evening on phones. A word of warning to anyone who has a Zoom mic: the on/off switch is very fragile and if you drop the mic you may end up with an expensive but useless piece of kit.

Anyway, our first reader for June was the multi-talented Kate Coe of Writing & Coe, and many other things. Kate read extracts from two very different stories: one set in a fantasy world with floating islands; and one an urban fantasy.

Our headline guest for June was Peter Newman. The third and final volume of his Vargant series, The Seven, has just been published. Pete read a short story set in that world which features my favorite character from the series, the goat.

Finally we did the Q&A. I asked Pete about goats and babies. I asked Kate about Salisbury and how islands float. We discussed tea, jeopardy and gaming; not to mention the important question of which animals actually care about the current state of human politics. Tom asked us for book recommendations.

The month Fringe will feature Virginia Bergin & Justin Newland, and a brand new microphone.

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Women’s World Cup – Matches Underway

July sees the Women’s Cricket World Cup being staged in England. It is being contested by the 8 top test countries, and played at a variety of venues around the country. Australia are, as usual, the favorites, but England as the home side should do well too.

Matches began yesterday in Derby with the hosts taking on India. Things did not go as planned. England won the toss and hoped to take advantage of their superior pace bowling by putting India in to bat. The Indians powered to an opening stand of 144 and ended on 281/3. Smriti Mandhana (80), Punam Raut (86) and captain Mithali Raj (71) all contributed. England got off to a terrible start losing their first three wickets for 67, but a strong stand between captain Heather Knight (46) and Frances Wilson (81) steadied the ship. Sadly it was not enough, and three run-outs during the latter part of the innings show that panic had started to set in. India won by 35 runs.

Meanwhile in Bristol Sri Lanka took on New Zealand. The Kiwis won the toss and, like England, put their opponents in to bat. They restricted Sri Lanka to 188/9 in their 50 overs, and then proceeded to knock off the required runs with ease. Suzie Bates (106*) and Amy Satterthwaite (78*) provided the bulk of the runs in a 9-wicket victory.

Today Pakistan took the field against South Africa in Leicester. This provided the closest match of the tournament thus far. South Africa won the toss and once again chose to field. Pakistan managed 206, thanks mainly to 79 from Nahida Khan. It should have been a fairly easy chase, and SA were looking good on 143/2. However, a sudden collapse reduced them to 177/7. There were some nervous moments at the end with SA needing 14 off the last two overs. However, their star bowler, Shabnim Ismail, having had a frustrating day with the ball, took charge in the 19th over clubbing 14 off the last 4 balls to finish the game.

Australia play their first game against West Indies at Taunton tomorrow. Sadly I have to be on my way to Plymouth for work, but I’ll be cheering the WIndies on.

England play Pakistan in Leicester on Tuesday and will be hoping to get their campaign back on track.The next game in Bristol is Australia v Sri Lanka on Thursday, and the first one I’ll be able to get to is Australia v New Zealand in Bristol next Sunday.

All of the matches are being shown live, though often on Sky which many people don’t have access to. Hopefully some of you will be able to watch or get to games. If not follow @CricketHer on Twitter for reports.

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WEP Trans Policy

Yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle about a particularly nasty trans-hating blog post. I’m not going to dignify it with additional traffic, but here are some choice examples:

They rapidly take on the prettiness of femininity – the shoes, the makeup, the clothes, and the hair – yet leave aside other traits commonly associated with the gender: empathy, compassion, nurturance, receptivity. Those aspects of the gentler sex are discarded because they don’t fit in with the behaviour of men

There is more embedded in gender than a change of outfit.

A frightened child in a rape crisis centre isn’t going to look at a transwoman and see trans-inclusive ideology. She’s going to see a man in a dress

They attempt to both devalue and claim for themselves all that is female

None of this is particularly new or unusual. What got social media excited is that the author claimed to be a member of the Women’s Equality Party. Inevitably people were asking whether this post represented official WEP policy. No, it doesn’t. The official party policy is on page 5 of the recent manifesto, which includes this:

WE also recognise that the binary words “woman” and “man” do not reflect the gender experience of everyone, and support the right of all to define their sex or gender or to reject gendered divisions as they choose.

And here is a tweet confirming that policy.

As WE have, to date, only had one party conference, WE haven’t had a chance to have a public debate on trans issues as yet. There is an awful lot of areas that WE need to over. But I am hoping that a trans motion will be put before conference sooner rather than later. In the meantime I’m grateful to the party management for continuing to stand behind people of all genders.

Equality is better for everyone

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism, Gender | Leave a comment

Locus Award Winners

This year’s Locus Award winners were announced yesterday. As they are fan-voted, they are an interesting indicator as to how the Hugos might go, and of course are a major honor in their own right. The full list of winners is here. I’d like to highlight a few things.

The non-fiction award went to Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution. I imagine there will be a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth in Puppydom over that.

Ken Liu won for Collection with The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, and the VanderMeer’s The Big Book of Science Fiction (which contains a number of translated stories — 30 if I have counted correctly) won Anthology.

All three short fiction awards went to women: Amal El-Mohtar, Alyssa Wong and Seanan McGuire. I am particularly delighted to see Every Heart a Doorway win.

There are five novel categories. Two were won by trans authors (Charlie Jane Anders and Yoon Ha Lee), one by translation (original by Cixin Liu), and one by a Welshman (Al Reynolds). And I don’t think that Joe Hill is exactly the sort of white, American male that the Puppies would want to win.

Special congratulations are due to Charlie Jane Anders and Yoon Ha Lee. Caitlín R. Kiernan has won a Locus Award before with a short story, but as far as I can see no openly trans person has won for a novel before. (Tiptree also won a couple of short fiction awards, but of course that’s complicated.) And if you haven’t read Ninefox Gambit yet, why not?

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New Book, Contains Me


This is a new book from Luna Press’s Academia Lunare imprint which will be out on August 9th. It is titled Gender Identity and Sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction and covers a wide range of topics within that. My essay, fairly obviously, is about trans representation in SF&F. Juliet McKenna has written about the problems women face as authors, all the way from getting an agent to getting your book stocked and reviewed once it is published. There’s a whole bunch of other essays too that I don’t know much about. You can pre-order a copy here.

Luna will be doing a number of promotional posts about the book over the next few days, each one focusing on a different author. I’m due up on Sunday. I’ll tweet links to them as and when they appear.

Non-UK readers, you’ll be able to get copies at Worldcon.

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Janet Mock Interview

One of my favorite trans writers, Janet Mock, has a new book out. Surpassing Certainty picks up where Redefining Realness left off and takes her story from transition through to the point where she felt safe and confident enough to come out publicly as trans. Because she has a book to promote, she’s doing a lot of media work, and in particular there is an interview I have just listened to that I really liked. It is on a podcast called Politically Re-Active. To get to it you’ll need to navigate to Season 2, Episode 1, as there are not direct links.

Janet covers a lot of ground in the interview, but I was particularly struck by her description of how growing up trans in Hawaii was very different from doing so in the mainland USA because Hawaii has a thriving native trans culture that European missionaries failed to wipe out. Her thoughts on the Women’s March on Washington, and on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comments about trans people, are also very illuminating.

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Catch-Up

As people on social media may have noticed, I have been traveling a lot of late. To add to that, I had no wifi in my hotel room in Germany, so I was online a lot less than usual for a convention. Consequently catch-up is required. I owe you folks a post on the Eurocon, and I still owe you one about the British Museum’s LGBT History Trail. I’ll be at home for a few days, so hopefully I can get those done. In the meantime you’ll get some quick posts just so you don’t forget me entirely.

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