Fight Like A Girl – The Audio

I have the Fight Like A Girl audio online now. First up are the three readings, which are by Lou Morgan, Sophie E. Tallis and Danie Ware. They only got five minutes each. If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to buy the book.

In addition there is the discussion panel, which I moderated. The panelists are Joanne Hall, K.T. Davies, Gaie Sebold and Dolly Garland.

You may have noticed that I was particularly brainless that day. The Indian queen whose name I was trying to remember was Rudhramadevi. Gaie Sebold and Gail Simone are two separate people (and both awesome). The frequent references to boxing were because Marc Aplin of Fantasy Faction, who is a boxer, was in the audience.

If you want to see the video of girls doing fighting demos you need to check out yesterday’s post.

My apologies for the occasional bits of background noise on both podcasts.

You can find a review of the book, and full contents list, here.

And finally, here is the awesome cover by Sarah Anne Langton which, we discovered at the launch, glows under black light.

Fight Like A Girl - Roz Clarke & Joanne Hall (eds)

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Some Awards Thoughts

First up, today is the final day of voting for the Locus Awards. It is free to vote, you don’t have to be a subscriber, and you don’t have to choose only from the pre-filled choices. Vote here.

Also this year’s Worldcon has announced the level of participation in the Hugo Award nomination stage. There were over 4,000 ballots received, almost double last year’s record of 2,122 ballots. That’s certainly very interesting, and I look forward to finding out what the finalists are when they are announced on April 26th.

Yesterday there was some discussion on Twitter as to how this huge increase in participation might affect the process. Assuming that the additional voters are not all slavishly voting for the works on someone’s slate, the chances are that more participants means more variation in what people vote for. If we have learned one thing from awards over the years, it is that everyone has a different view of what is “good”.

One potential effect of this is that it may see more works excluded from the final ballot under the “5% Rule”. This states that a work can only become a finalist if it receives at least 5% of the votes cast in its category. If, as I suggested above (and thanks to Aliette de Bodard for pointing out the possibility) more voters means more variety in what gets nominated, then we may see more categories in which fewer than 5 works get 5% of the vote. (This has happened in Short Story on a number of occasions in the past, but is rare in other categories.)

The first thing to note is that the rule is 5% of ballots in that category, not 5% of ballots overall. 5% of 4000 ballots is 200 votes, and that will probably be required in Novel and the Dramatic Presentation categories, but participation in other categories tends to be much lower. In addition, there is a separate rule that says every category must have at least three finalists, regardless of the 5% rule. So no category is going to be wiped out by this.

There is a rule that a category can be dropped through lack of interest, but that would mean that, in the opinion of the Administrators, the number of ballots cast in that category is too low. I can’t remember that happening to an established category in recent years, and with all of this extra participation I can’t see it happening this year. I’m pretty sure that every category will have more participation than last year, so there can’t possibly be any grounds from dropping one.

My guess is, therefore, that we’ll have a few categories with 3 or 4 finalists this year. We’ll be able to draw some pretty graphs showing how more participation means more variation. And that will be useful because a motion to remove the 5% Rule got first passage in Spokane last year. This data will inform the debate on final ratification.

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Fight Like A Girl On Film

The fabulous Roz Clarke has made a movie of the Fight Like A Girl launch event. You can watch it below. It does of course include the notorious pirate, Captain Morgan. I took the hat off for the panel so that everyone could see the other panelists.

I have been working on editing the audio. The full versions of all three readings are ready to be posted. Hopefully I’ll get the panel discussion done soon. I won’t be posting audio of the fighting demonstrations, partly because the presenters were not mic’ed so the audio quality is poor, and partly because what they say makes no sense without the pictures.

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Bath Does Feminism

Alice Denny
Last night saw the first in what will hopefully be a series of Lightning Talks on feminist issues, organized by the Bath Gender Equality Network. For those of you not familiar with the concept, Lightning Talks are conference presentations that are just 5 minutes long. Some people (me included) can carry an hour-long presentation, but a lot of people can’t, and in any case you don’t want to learn by being put in front of an audience for that long. Lightning Talks give the audience an opportunity to sample a lot of different ideas in one evening, and they give the presenters a shot at getting before an audience in a fairly low stakes way.

There was a wide variety of talks in the program, including sexism in anarchist communities, women in movies, and dating while trans. It wasn’t all women either. Daryn Carter of Bristol Pride explained why such events are still needed; my boss, Berkeley Wilde, talked about the work of The Diversity Trust; and there was a presentation on the problem of male suicide. Some of the presenters were obviously nervous, and the tech set-up didn’t allow for presenters to see their slides except by turning round to look at the big screen, which didn’t help. But most of the presentations were pretty good. A couple tried to address issues that were too complex for five minutes, and one or two clearly hadn’t timed their material in advance, but mostly it was a good evening.

The star of the show was undoubtedly Alice Denny, who is a superb poet. I have been lucky enough to see her on several occasions over the years now, and her performances are getting much more assured and sophisticated. She had the Bath audience spellbound and in tears.

While I was there I got to meet some of the women from the Bath branch of the Women’s Equality Party. We are talking. This is promising.

Well done Ceri et all for organizing a great show. Thank you Alice for being wonderful. And thanks also to Sophie for revealing some of her experiences of online dating. I am so using some of those in my talk for the PopSex conference in September.

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Juliet on the Mutability of History

Juliet McKenna has a great post up today about how the “facts” of history change depending on who is interpreting them. She talks in particular about how the existence of same-sex relationships in ancient Greece have been interpreted differently down the years. You can find the post here.

This is a subject very close to my heart, because the way in which trans history is interpreted is also very much culturally subjective. Anything written more than 60 years ago was almost certainly written by someone who didn’t know that trans people existed at all, let alone might have existed in the past. Even today, many historians have still bought into the idea that trans people are a creation of medical science, and that no one was trans before Magnus Hirschfeld and his friends invented the concept.

In contrast, some people who do trans history are all too willing to interpret any evidence of cross-dressing as an example of a trans identity. Some of this is cis people who can’t distinguish between a Halloween costume, a drag queen and a trans woman. And some of it is trans people eagerly looking for anyone and anything that might be like them. If you want to convince professional historians of your case, you have to maintain a fairly skeptical stance.

Much of what I was doing in me paper for this year’s LGBT History Month was looking at the evidence for trans identities in ancient times and deciding how solid it was. Thankfully these days there are cis historians who have heard of people like hijra and two spirits and are willing the make the same arguments that I wanted to make.

By the way, if you are wanting to read that paper, the reason it hasn’t gone online yet is that I have had an offer of publication. I do have a short version just looking at Sumer in peer review for the Notches blog, so that may appear some time soon. Otherwise watch this space.

Posted in Gender, History | 2 Comments

Diversity Trust Spring Newsletter

I have spent the past couple of days doing trans awareness training in Bristol and Plymouth. It’s a very rewarding experience for me, and I’m particularly struck with how many of the people in the classes say they volunteered for them because they know someone who is transitioning and they want to understand the issues better.

However, The Diversity Trust doesn’t only deal with trans issues. We do LGB, obviously, and our spring newsletter, just published, focuses on our disability work with bios of the various trainers we use. If you need that sort of service, or are just interested in what we do, you can find the newsletter here (PDF).

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I Am Cait #2.5

Last night the UK got episode 5 of the second season of I Am Cait. This one focused on the Trans Day of Remembrance and took place in St. Louis because the city was creating a memorial garden to commemorate murdered trans people.

The episode provided an opportunity to let Caitlyn see what sort of lives most trans people have, and in particular trans women of color. It featured Chandi bravely confessing her criminal past, and introduced Caitlyn to the idea of “survival crime” — crimes you commit because you are homeless and have no source of income. Slowly but surely, Caitlyn’s education proceeds.

It is an episode that I’m sure would prove valuable to Fay Wheldon who is launching a new novel based on her amazing new theory that trans women are “really” alpha males who have it all and are jealous of femininity. I wonder how many lobster & Bolly lunches it took her to come up with that ingenious concept.

Of course Caitlyn is Wheldon’s idea of the typical trans woman. For all of the work that the show does to try to dispel that myth, it isn’t watched by many cis people so it won’t disabuse the likes of Wheldon of her strange ideas.

On of the things that Wheldon told The Guardian is that she finds it significant that Caitlyn is still, “still speaking with a man’s voice”. Clearly she has no idea how difficult it is to get your voice sounding feminine after having gone through male puberty. You can’t just chose to sound all girly and have it happen by magic. Nevertheless, this does raise an issue that has puzzled me.

Back when I transitioned, the important things you had to work on were voice and body language. If you got those right, we were told, people could pick up the subliminal cues and you could get away with being tall, heavily-built and square-jawed. Now I totally accept that trans women shouldn’t have to do all of this stuff if they don’t want to, but back then it was very much an issue of personal safety, and for many of us it still is.

Anyway, another element of last night’s show was the introduction of Scott, the recovering alcoholic ex-boyfriend of Kourtney Kardashian and the father of three of Caitlyn’s grandchildren. Mostly this showed Caitlyn at her most patriarchal, but Scott, perhaps because he’s family, also picked up on things that hadn’t changed. Given the amount of money that Caitlyn has obviously spent on her body and looks, it seems odd to me that she apparently hasn’t done anything about voice or body language. It is her choice, obviously, but I’d like to know why.

The show also featured the ongoing saga of Candis’s unsuccessful love life, with yet another guy unprepared to date a beautiful woman simply because she’s trans. It also briefly introduced us to Van, a friend of Zachary’s who lives in St. Louis. Van is now happily married to a cis guy, but she explained that she has been through transition twice. The first time that she tried she found it impossible to get work and had to go back to living as a man for a while. And this is the point where Caitlyn confessed to having started transition back in the 1980s but backed out. She didn’t say why, and that I am not going to ask, but that is totally going in my trans awareness class. Transition is difficult and scary, and no one should be thought less of, or thought wrong, for changing their mind, regardless of whether they try again later.

Posted in Gender, TV | 3 Comments

Summer Has Arrived

The baseball season is already underway. The San Francisco Giants opened their season in the snows of Milwaukee last week, where they did OK. Now they are safely back home at Emperor Norton Field and have registered two spectacular come-back wins against the Hated Dodgers. It is a bit early to be confident, but we do only win the World Series in even-numbered years.

Meanwhile the opening match of this year’s IPL is underway. No Rajasthan Royals again — they’ll be back from suspension next year, hopefully with some wiser owners — so I’m kind of relaxed about who wins. Disastrous start for Mumbai though. I suspect that the pundits are right and Bangalore will win, so I shall cheer for someone else.

Now all I need is some decent weather, but of course it is raining here. Why is that? Because the English cricket season starts tomorrow.

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Sarah Hilary Book Launch

Sarah Hilary book covers
I love seeing my writer friends doing well, and few local writers have done as well as Sarah Hilary. Her sales have been so good that her publisher has repackaged her first two books to match the new one and issued all three in hardcover. Don’t they look lovely?

Of course I wouldn’t miss one of Sarah’s book launches anyway, because they always feature fabulous food from her friend Lydia Downey. Lydia doesn’t just do Chinese food (as per that link). For last night’s launch she provided salted caramel chocolate brownies. Yum!

Anyway, thanks to Toppings for a great event. And Sarah, I am looking forward to being scared stupid by Tastes Like Fear, and to having you on my radio show sometime soon.

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This Week on Ujima: Cavan Scott, Suffragettes & Art

My first guest on this week’s Women’s Outlook was Cavan Scott. Cav is a very busy boy. We first talked about his Star Wars tie-in novels, one of which was chosen for World Book Day and went on to become the best selling book in the UK for a while. We talked about his forthcoming Sherlock Holmes novel, The Patchwork Devil. We talked about his comics and radio play work on Doctor Who. And of course we talked about The Beano, for which he writes Mini the Minx and several other strips.

For Bristol people, Cav’s book launch for The Patchwork Devil is on April 30th at Forbidden Planet. It is a lunchtime event.

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

Next up on the show was our expert on suffragettes, Lucienne Boyce. She was in to tell us all about a local screening of Make More Noise, a compilation of silent film coverage of actual suffragettes from the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Finally I welcomed Ruth Kapadia from the local office of The Arts Council. We talked about the sort of work that The Arts Council does, and how people can apply for grants.

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

Of course I also talked quite a bit about the cricket. West Indies are currently world champions for the Twenty20 format at under 19 level, in the women’s game, and in the men’s game. The entire Caribbean is celebrating, and we celebrated with them. All of the music was related to the cricket in some way. Here’s the playlist:

  • We are the Champions – Queen
  • Dreadlock Holiday – Boney M
  • Champion – DJ Bravo
  • Da Cricket Loba Gatama – Latif Nangarhari
  • Cloth – Bullets
  • Come Rise with Me – Machal Montano & Claudette Peters
  • Gavaskar – Andy Narell & Lord Relator
  • David Rudder – Rally Round the West Indies
Posted in Art, Books, Comics, Cricket, Feminism, History, Music | Leave a comment

Fantastically Horny Reminder

Over Easter I posted about a crowdfunding campaign for a set of anthologies, including Fantastically Horny, the book that will contain my story, “Camelot Girls Gone Wild”. Yes, it is that book of erotic fantasy tales. Mea Culpa. But people at BristolCon appeared to enjoy the story.

Anyway, Easter is not a good time to publicize that sort of thing, so I am giving it another shot. The campaign page is over here. You don’t have to get my book. You can get the one about retired heroes instead as it looks really interesting. All support gratefully received. Struggling author with blogging habit to feed and all that.

Posted in Personal, Science Fiction, Writing | Leave a comment

The 2015 VIDA Count

VIDA’s survey of gender bias in literary reviewing was published last week. You can find piles of infographics and some analysis here.

The basic message is “more of the same”. A few magazines — notably Harper’s and The New Republic — have made significant improvements. Granta continues to score well. But magazines such as the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books continue to be bastions of the Patriarchy.

This year for the first time VIDA choose to look at a range of other identities that intersect with that of woman. They surveyed ethnicity, sexuality, ability and gender identity (although the report in The Guardian carefully omitted any mention of gender identity because we wouldn’t want to think that VIDA was no-platforming anyone, would we?). Inevitably the numbers were fairly depressing, but beyond that there’s not much we can say until we have new data next year to make comparisons. My congratulations to Poetry and Tin House, both of which managed more than 0.5% of bylines by trans women.

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Tiptree Winners

The winners of this year’s James Tiptree, Jr. Award (“An award encouraging the exploration & expansion of gender”) have been announced. They are as follows:

  • Eugene Fischer, “The New Mother” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, April/May 2015)
  • Pat Schmatz, Lizard Radio (Candlewick, 2015)

Both are totally new to me and sound very interesting. I shall be checking them out.

Descriptions of the winners and honor list works, plus the long list, can be found at the Tiptree Award website. My congratulations to Ian Sales for making the honor list with his novel, All That Outer Space Allows. I am delighted, if a little surprised, to see Radiance on the honor list. It is a fabulous book but perhaps not my first choice for the Tiptree. And I am absolutely flabbergasted to see no mention whatsoever of Luna: New Moon. Still, juried awards are notoriously unpredictable.

Controversially, I shall not be setting up a “Sad Kittens” organisation to protest that the Tiptree is worse than Hitler for no platforming a book I happen to like. Nor will I be screaming FREEZE PEACH!!! all over social media.

The 2016 jury is already hard at work. If you want to recommend a work for their attention you can do so here. I’m pleased to see that someone has just recommended Fight Like A Girl. Good luck, fighty friends!

Posted in Awards, Feminism | 7 Comments

I Am Cait #2.4

Episode 4 of the new season of the Caitlyn Jenner show aired in the UK over the weekend. As a few people have expressed an interest in my thoughts on these shows I’ll continue to have them.

This episode saw the girls in Iowa. There was a brief visit to a very small town where they met up with the local trans activist. Yes, there was only one; a very brave lady who took a decision to stay in that small town after transition to be visible and a role-model for local kids. That evening the girls did some sort of event at a local casino, and met up with some local trans youths. The kid they interviewed for the show was overjoyed. Which just goes to show that even reality TV can do some good now and then.

Moving on the Des Moines, the girls caught up with the Democrat campaign circus. Hillary and Bill managed to say all the right things, which melted even Caitlyn’s icy Republican heart. At one point Caitlyn noted that she has to pay $430,000 a year towards Obamacare and isn’t eligible for the benefits. I can see her point — no one likes paying taxes — but at the same time I was thinking about what I could do with that money.

I note in passing that according to the TotalJobs survey released last week around 55% of UK trans people earn less than $27,500 a year (£20,000), and the median salary for the UK is in the region of $39,000 a year (£27,500).

The main reason the girls were in Des Moines was to visit Gracelands University, where Caitlyn went to college and started on her athletics career. Gracelands is part-funded by the Mormons, and has a lot of devoutly religious students. The girls were somewhat nervous of the planned Q&A session with the students, but they seemed to handle it very well. Chandi’s sincere Christian belief, and Kate’s tale of losing her daughter to Scientology, won the audience over.

An unexpected complication arose because one of the girls knew some students at Gracelands. Ella is new on the show this year. She’s the daughter of a friend of Caitlyn’s, and barely out of high school. Like many women who transition young, she is seriously good-looking. It so happened that a good friend of hers from high school, and a boy she had had a crush on there, were both students at Gracelands. She tried to set up a meeting. The friend turned up, the crush did not.

That did not surprise me in the slightest. It is a rare cis guy who is prepared to spend any time in the company of a trans woman if that company might be construed as implying any sexual interest. Currently the trial is taking place in New York of James Dixon, who is accused of beating 21-year-old Islan Nettles to death in 2013. Dixon has confessed to the crime, but is only being charged with manslaughter and is apparently pleading not guilty. In his taped confession he told police:

that he had succumbed to “a blind fury” after his friends started teasing him for flirting with a transgender woman.

I expect him to get off, because there will be cis men on the jury who would feel exactly the same.

Update: It appears that Dixon’s lawyers got cold feet and persuaded him to change his plea to guilty of manslaughter. I understand he’ll be sentenced to 12 years, and if the US prison system is anything like ours he’ll serve no more than 6. The fact that he has been convicted of manslaughter rather than murder does, of course, make it clear that the lives of trans women are valued less then those of anyone else.

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Champions!

West Indies Women - World Champions (photo from ESPN CricInfo.com)
Photo credit: ESPNCricInfo.com
So yeah, I spent most of yesterday watching sport. It was glorious. I am so happy for all of my Caribbean friends right now. And I’m especially proud of the West Indies Women. They don’t quite have to play cricket backwards in high heels, but they get so much less support than their male counterparts, and so much less than the women’s teams from richer nations such as England and Australia. I may have more to say about this on the radio on Wednesday.

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Fighting Like A Girl

Today I took myself off to Bristol (by road because the train line between Bath and Bristol is closed for engineering works). I was taking part in the launch event for Fight Like a Girl, the latest anthology from by good friends Jo Hall and Roz Clarke. It was held in The Hatchet, one of Bristol’s older eating establishments (it dates from 1606), which was entirely appropriate for a bunch of fantasy writers.

The entertainment for the day included readings from Lou Morgan, Sophie Tallis and Danie Ware. There was also a discussion panel, chaired by me and featuring Dolly Garland, Gaie Sebold, KT Davies and Jo Hall. And there was the thing everyone had come to see: martial arts demonstrations from Juliet McKenna and Fran Terminiello.

Juliet, of course, did Aikido. Using Fran as a partner, she demonstrated a variety of ways of dealing with an armed attacker, most of which were shockingly swift and looked like with a bit more force they could easily result in a broken wrist, elbow or knee. Just for good measure, Juliet also demonstrated how you can get an opponent armed with a knife to cut his own throat without having to get your fingerprints on the weapon.

Fran, together with colleague Lizzie, demonstrated a variety of sword fighting techniques from the Renaissance period onward. They made a good team. Fran has a dancer’s body and is great with a rapier. Lizzie is taller and more muscular, and looks really good with a landsknecht greatsword.

Assuming all of the tech worked, I have audio of everything. The audio of the fight demos probably won’t work as the participants were not miked up and sound alone won’t make much sense, but hopefully I have the readings and panel for you. Roz was taking video on her phone. Hopefully that will come out.

It was an excellent day, very well attended, including by a bunch of local writers such as Gareth Powell, Liz Williams and Jonathan Howard. We do really good book launches in Bristol.

Posted in Books | 1 Comment

SNP Commits to Non-Binary Recognition

This is not an April Fool. The Scottish National Party has promised new gender recognition laws in Scotland, which will include recognition for a third gender, if they are returned to power in the forthcoming elections in May.

This is, of course, Scottish law that we are talking about. They won’t be able to issue new UK passports, though if Scotland were to leave the Union at some future date an X on passports is certainly a possibility. However, the SNP is also the third largest party in Westminster with 54 of the 640 seats. I believe that the Liberal Democrats, who have 8 seats, are also in favor of non-binary recognition, which would mean almost 10% of Parliament supporting the cause. Clearly some of the Conservative and Labour MPs who sat on the Transgender Equality Inquiry support it too. Having the Scottish government officially recognize non-binary genders would be send a very powerful signal to Westminster.

The press in Scotland seems a bit confused. The Scotsman hails this as a “gay rights package”. Most people seems to be quoting the fabulous James Morton of Scottish Trans. Of course they are also quoting the Wee Frees. The Moderator, Rev David Robertson, has apparently accused the SNP of “working on the unproven and somewhat bizarre notion that children get to choose their own gender and sexuality.” What, you mean instead of having such things imposed upon them by adults? How bizarre!

The English press appears to have largely missed the boat (the story broke late last night). The Telegraph is on the ball and leads with the possibility that the new Scottish law will allow trans people to change their birth certificates (and therefore their legal gender) without medical approval. I’m not certain whether the Scottish Parliament can do that, but if they can it would be a major shot across Westminster’s bows because it would apply to anyone born in Scotland, regardless of where they live. (The USA has a similar issue in that all states, even North Carolina, have to accept birth certificates changed by other states.)

Anyway, I look forward to the anguished article in the New Statesman explaining how this is “child abuse” and expressing full support for the Wee Frees.

If you are a UK citizen and would like to remind Westminster of the important of non-binary gender recognition, the current petition can be found here.

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New Dimension 6

Keith Stevenson has emailed me to let me know that the latest issue of the Australian speculative fiction magazine, Dimension 6, is now online. It is available in ePub and Mobi formats, and you can download it for free from Keith’s website. The new issue contains stories from Emillie Colyer, Jeff Suwak and Dustin Adams.

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Healthwatch Devon Tackles Trans Equality

Last month I was down in Exeter doing some training for Healthwatch Devon. It was a great session, and the people there seems to know a lot about the subject. That’s because they had been spending a lot of time looking into trans equality issues in the NHS. The results of that work have now been published. You can read their report here.

I’m very encouraged by this. It is one thing for the government to make noises about the NHS failing trans people. It is quite another for the NHS’s own customer engagement service to come to the same conclusion, and start trying to do something about it. Hopefully this will be the start of a continuing effort to improve access to healthcare for trans people all over the country.

Update:

Here is the official Healthwatch Devon statement on the report.

And here is some BBC coverage of the launch of the report.

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The BBC Joins In

Here’s the awesome Kate Adair doing her thing for BBC’s The Social. As far as I know, this is the first time that the BBC has marked TDOV, and they’ve got a trans person to make and front the film for them. Progress!

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