Coronavirus – Day #115

Today I have done some cleaning, written an article, and done some day job work. Productive, I think.

Also there has been cricket. Or, rather more typically for an English summer, there has been a lot of waiting around for the rain to stop and the occasional few minutes of actual cricket. Verily, we are back to normal.

Elsewhere the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced a raft of incentive schemes designed to get the economy back on its feet. None of them apply to me.

Forget the Carrot, Resist the Stick

News has been leaked that the government intends to abandon proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Understandably, large numbers of people are up in arms and are demanding that the reforms be implemented. Certainly it is outrageous that the government choose to simply ignore the 70% of consultation respondents who were in favour of reform, and side with the 30% who were against. However, the best way to get reform may not be to campaign for it, but to resist the changes that the government will have to introduce instead; changes which will have implications far beyond the arena of trans rights.

To understand why we need to look at the reasons the GRA reforms were proposed in the first place. They are not something that the trans community was hugely concerned about. While there could have been real steps forward in reform, such as legal recognition for non-binary people, and for people under 18, the government has made it clear that such things would never be seriously considered. The primary beneficiaries of GRA reform would not have been the trans community, but the Home Office.

Legal gender recognition is the end point of a long process that trans people go through once they have sought medical assistance with transition. The government requires that anyone wishing to change their legal gender can show that they can live peacefully and effectively in the gender to which they are transitioning. The GRA requires that each applicant complete a 2-year “Real Life Test”, and obtain approval for their application from two doctors, to show that they are “really trans”.

The medical approval side is something of a formality, once you can get accepted for treatment. The medical profession has long since understood that the best way to find out if someone is “really trans” is to let them transition and see if they like it. If they do, then they must be “really trans”. That is, of course, a form of self-identification.

The government, however, wants an orderly society. They want to know, to steal some talking points from the anti-trans lobby, that trans women will not be peeping under toilet doors in the Ladies, or “waving their willies about” in communal changing rooms. We know that this doesn’t actually happen, because it would be all over the newspapers if it did, but the government wants to be sure before allowing a legal gender change.

However, in order for a trans person to be able to complete this test, it is essential that they be able to live their lives fully in their correct gender for those two years. That means they need to be able to change some paperwork. They might change their name, they’ll almost certainly need a new driving license, they may need a new passport as well. In other words, they need to change all the things that they need for day-to-day living.

Changing your birth certificate and legal gender are not necessary for day-to-day life. They are supposedly the cherry on the cake that you get at the end of the process. But you only need them in certain specific cases: if you want to get married, if you get send to prison, or if you die.

A combination of ever-increasing waiting times at NHS gender clinics, and the expense and humiliation of the GRA process, has meant that most trans people have simply not bothered to seek legal gender recognition. They have almost everything they legally need to live their new lives already. As a result of this, there are thousands of trans people in the UK who have changed all of their other ID, but have not changed their legal gender. And that is where the Home Office comes in.

If you are a Home Office bureaucrat, you want everyone to have their papers in order. What is happening with trans people simply will not do, from a bureaucracy point of view. It horrifies the Home Office that so many citizens have driving licences and passports in one gender, but are legally a different gender. The obvious thing to do was to make changing your legal gender easier and cheaper. After all, many other countries around the world, including Ireland, Portugal and Belgium, have done the same thing, and there have been no unpleasant consequences. This is why the likes of Theresa May and Amber Rudd were so keen on GRA reform.

The current government, however, has been seduced by the complaints of the anti-trans lobby, and by the supposed benefits of making persecution of the trans community a central plank of a “culture war”. They have scrapped GRA reform. That has not solved the problem for the Home Office, so something else must be done instead.

Quite simply, if you are not going to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender, the only other solution is to make life harder for trans people and hope that they all go away.

What Liz Truss appears to have signalled via the leak to the Sunday Times is a new set of draconian curbs on the ability of trans people to live happily without a legal gender change. It will be made harder for them to access spaces appropriate for a person of their gender. So they will have no choice but to apply for a legal gender change or to detransition.

It should go without saying that forcing people to detransition is abominably cruel and is likely to lead to an epidemic of mental health crises within the trans community.

There are other problems with this approach too. How is a trans person to complete their “Real Life Test” if the government itself is making it impossible for them to do so? In effect this would be a ban on anyone beginning transition.

In addition, the anti-trans lobby is unlikely to be satisfied with this approach. They want nothing less than the complete repeal of the GRA, and will not be satisfied until they get it. Their friends in the media will support them in pushing the government to a retrograde step that would see the UK ranked alongside Hungary as one of the most transphobic nations on Earth.

However, all this pales into insignificance beside the danger to equality law posed by the anti-trans lobby. The basis of their argument is that (a small minority of) cisgender women are frightened of trans women (there is no evidence that we are an actual danger), and that because of this the “sex-based rights” of cis women must always trump those of trans women. This strikes at the very heart of equalities legislation, because once it is established in law that the rights of one (probably majority) group are more important than those of another (probably minority) group, there is no stopping the dominoes from falling. Everyone’s rights will be at risk. One obvious end point of this type of argument is that the “sex-based rights” of men be allowed to trump those of women.

The US Supreme Court recently argued that the rights of trans people, and indeed those of LGB people, are all protected by “sex-based rights”. That is because as a society our concept of “sex” is intimately bound up with how we perform gender, including our sexual preferences. Sadly, the UK is not subject to the rulings of the SCOTUS, but the same logic should guide us here. In any case, any attempt to argue that the civil rights of one group of citizens should include the right to oppress another group should be strongly resisted by everyone, not just trans people.

Ultimately this is what will usher in GRA reform. The Home Office still has a problem. If we do everything we can to prevent the government wielding its proposed stick, then the problem of trans people with mis-matched paperwork remains, and the government will have no choice but to go back to the carrot.

Welcome to Virtual Finncon

If international travel were possible this year, I would be in Finland by now. Finncon should have taken place in Tampere this year. Instead it will take place online. The full programme is here.

Several of the programme items are in English, including the Guest of Honour events with Mike Carey, Diane Duane and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay.

Of particular interest (well, to me anyway) is the Mike Carey event which involves Mike and I chatting about The Book of Koli and how we worked together on it. That will be at 16:00 Finnish time on Saturday, which translates to 14:00 UK time.

Links to YouTube will be provided from the programme page on the Finncon website in due course. Anyone is welcome to watch.

Of course you won’t get the full Finncon experience, because virtual sauna is not really possible, but hopefully you’ll get something of the feeling of the event.

Coronavirus – Day #114

I did my weekly shop today. There was no queue to get into Tesco. I don’t know if this was because there were fewer people than usual, or because the store is letting more people in, but it is a change.

What hasn’t changed is mask wearing. There were only two people besides me wearing masks: an elderly couple who looked to be in their 80s.

My car insurance is due for renewal this month. Normally by this time I would have been flooded with quotes. This time I haven’t heard a peep, not even from the company I’m currently with. Score one for Lockdown.

In politics news, Bozo has apparently said that everything is the fault of other people. Nothing is his fault.

Coronavirus – Day #113

Work has happened. Today the main project was a book that I’m really looking foward to being able to talk about. Also invoices! I am exceedingly lucky to still have regular income.

I don’t think that the government has done anything spectacularly stupid today. I am assuming that they are all drunk and hungover after a weekend of grinning photo ops in pubs.

F1’s Hall of Shame

Following a call for solidarity from Lewis Hamilton, 14 drivers took a knee at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday. That means that six didn’t. Who were they?

I’m prepared to give a pass to Daniil Kvyat. He has to survive in Russia. There are all sorts of political pressures on him that other drivers don’t experience.

Another four have something in common. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi drive for an Italian-based team that are Ferrari engine customers. Charles LeClerc drives for Ferrari, and Carlos Sainz will be driving for Ferrari next year. The only exception is the second Ferrari driver, Sebastien Vettel, but they have fired him so he can do what he likes. Haas are also Ferrari engine customers, but the team is American-owned and neither driver is Italian.

So I think there is more going on here than drivers expressing an opinion. It is possible that there’s only one driver who wasn’t under political pressure of some sort not to join the protest.

That would be Max Verstappen, whom I suspect made that choice because he wanted to get under Lewis’s skin. Christian Horner needs to give the boy a good talking to.

Coronavirus – Day #112

Yes, I forgot to post yesterday. I was watching Hamilton, which is a very powerful piece of musical theatre about a deeply problematic subject. Daveed Diggs is superb in it, but then you knew that.

Today there was an actual Grand Prix, with a great finish, and the local boy came in 3rd. Go Lando! Motor racing is a bizarre thing for Somerset to be good at, given that our roads are highly unsuited to racing, but we might just have another World Champion in the making.

Also today we had another fun WiFi SciFi event. Thanks as always to Anne for organising it.

If the media are to be believed, most of the UK population spent the weekend in the pub. Thankfully none of them will be coming home here, and if they truly want to gain their freedom (from this mortal coil) who am I to stop them?

The contrast between the strict security and hygiene in place at the Grand Prix, and the “let’s all grab a pint or ten together” attitude of the UK government could not be more stark. Our country would be better off being run by a bunch of petrolheads.

Coronavirus – Day #110

Formula 1 is back! Today has just been practice, and of course there are no fans at the Red Bull Ring circuit, but there are actual cars being driven by actual human beings on track. You may not have missed this, but I have.

Interestingly the sport is going out of its way to be socially responsible. Everyone actually attending races gets tested regularly. Most people are wearing masks. And the Mercedes team has adopted an all-black livery for the year in support of Black Lives Matter. This is not what one might expect from a macho, big-money sport.

There’s an England v West Indies test match due to start on Wednesday.

And Hamilton is now available on Disney+.

So basically I’m very happy staying at home and watching TV, which is just as well because pubs are opening in the UK tomorrow for the first time in months.

Coronavirus – Day #109

Wizard’s Tower accounts done, including another royalty payout for Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion.

Quite a bit of reading done, some of which is paid work.

And now I am going to make a loaf of bread.

Interestingly there is no update of COVID-19 data from the government today. Normally the daily figures are posted around 4:00pm. It is now almost 9:00pm and there’s nothing. That suggests that the news is bad.

Feminism & Fantasy

In September Maria Turtschaninoff and I were supposed to be guests at Imagining Alternatives, an academic conference in Augsburg, Germany. The event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but the organisers have been busy putting stuff online. Last week Maria and I recorded an interview with Dr. Sabrina Mittermeier. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, but if there’s one thing I said that I want to highlight it is this: if you like the books of Ursula K Le Guin then you should check out Maria’s work as well, because I think you will like it. See here for some reviews.

Coronavirus – Day #108

The first of the month is usually an admin day for me. I get to spend it doing backups, accounting and so on. I haven’t done the Wizard’s Tower accounts yet because it is Canada Day across the Atlantic and consequently no one is at work at Kobo to run their June accounts reports.

I have put in a request to run a party at Worldcon. I wonder what that might be for?

I have also booked up for Virtual World Fantasy. After all, I can. (It is in Utah this year so I would not have been able to attend physically.)

The big news in the outside world today is of a major piece of dishonesty by the UK government. Their reporting of COVID-19 cases has been divided into two groups, the so-called “pillar 1” and “pillar 2”. Pillar 1 consists of the results of tests performed by government agencies. Pillar 2 consists of the results of tests performed by private contractors. A week or so ago there were very few pillar 2 tests. Now there are a lot, but they are not included in the official government statistics.

The official statistics say that new cases of COVID-19 have been steady at around 1000 per day for a while, and have been dropping slowly. But when you include the pillar 2 tests you see that infections are rising rapidly and the current rate is around 5000 per day.

This is not yet being relfected in the death tallies, but we know that the virus takes a while to incubate and people don’t die immediately. It seems like a spike in deaths is just around the corner.

Interestingly the rise in new cases seems to be quite localised. As you may have heard, Leicester has been very hard hit. So have a few locations in Wales. Mostly this seems to be a result of people being rushed back to work and employers not putting proper precautions in place. I’ve seen reports that at least one employer in Leicester ordered staff into work even though they were sick.

The government will doubtless blame it all on Black Lives Matter protests, even though the locations of the outbreaks are not strongly correlated with major demonstrations.

Right now there doesn’t seem to be any serious rise in cases in the South West, but I will keep my eye on the situation.

Coronavirus – Day #107

The big thing that I have done today is create a list of trans and non-binary writers, editors, etc. in the SF/F/H community. Why I have not done this before I do not know. But it is done now.

There will be people that I have forgotten. There will also be people that I have never heard of. There may also be people whom I have put on the list who don’t want to be on it. If you are in one of these groups, please get it touch. I’m also open to suggestions from non-trans folks as to who to put on it, but if you suggest someone please be sure that they are open abuout being trans first. And check to see if they are already on the list before suggesting them.

I also did my weeky Tesco trip. It was very quiet. There were no shortages. I only saw one other person wearing a mask.

June Salon Futura

The June edition of Salon Futura is now online. Here’s what you can find in it.

Book reviews

  • Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • FINNA by Nino Cipri
  • Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

TV Reviews

  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Seasons 4 & 5
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths

I have also done a diversity audit of the book reviews. The results aren’t great, but they are not terrible and I can see where there is room for improvement.

Coronavirus – Day #106

What have I done today? Hmmm…

I did a bunch of trans stuff on social media.

I answered a lot of emails, mainly Diversty Trust work. It is good to see that ramping up again.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to do online training effectively. My thanks to a bunch of academic friends on Twitter for sharing the learning that is being sent their way.

I finished writing a thing for next year’s LGBTHM, which involved reading a PhD thesis about “sex changes” in 1930s Britain.

I gave a talk on trans history to a trans youth group.

And I finished the June issue of Salon Futura.

There were a few more things as well, but that will do, I think.

Meanwhile in the so-called real world, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, suggested on Radio 4 that cis women need to be protected from the likes of me. Apparently he has also challenged Bozo to 50 press-ups at the next Prime Minister’s Question Time. I think I can join every other woman in Britain in echoing Nicola Sturgeon’s, “Oh for goodness sake…”. There is not enough facepalm in the world. Who let men be in charge of anything?

Coronavirus – Day #105

The most significant event of today is that I have discovered that Duolingo has finally added a Finnish pack to their list of languages. I am so there. I doubt that I will ever be able to speak Finnish well because I will have trouble pronouncing the various vowel sounds correctly, but at least I should be able to learn to read it, and to understand something of what people are saying.

I have a huge collection of back issues of Thätivaeltaja to practice my reading on.

One of the Sunday papers apparently featured a picture of Bozo doing press-ups to prove how fit he is. He was wearing a suit (minus jacket) and tie. And of course it was a still picture so there’s no proof he actually did any. Goodness only knows how patriotic British people manage to avoid dying of embarassment. Queen Victoria is doubtless spinning in her grave. How on Earth is anyone supposed to write satire about this nonsense?

Locus Award Winners

Once again things have happened in America while I was asleep. You can find the full lists of finalists and winners here. I want to talk briefly about the winners.

Charlie Jane won two and Yoon Ha Lee one. That’s three of 17 awards going to people who are out as trans, one of them to a Korean-American. Seanan has always been a great ally and has written some great trans characters. Marlon is an ally too and has a strong interest in the history of gender diversity, not to mention being Jamaican and gay. Gideon the Ninth and This Is How You Lose the Time War are both books about lesbian couples. Not bad for starters. Who else have we got?

Ellen and John are both good friends. Ellen is Jewish, while John is Mexican-American and well known for his work promoting Latinx authors and artists. Ted is Asian-American. Nisi is African-American and gets that extra award for Writing the Other which is a project all about improving minority representation. Tempest gets a share in that one.

I don’t know much about the winners in the non-fiction and art catagories. Tor won both the corporate categories and is, of course, a corporation, not a person. But it is a corporation that has been very supportive of diversity.

And these are popular vote awards.

Don’t let anyone tell you that science fiction is a genre that is only by and for straight cis white men.

Coronavirus – Day #104

Today has mostly been spent working on the new issue of Salon Futura. It will probably go up on Monday.

In the outside world I woke up to the news that a particularly nasty transphobe has been permanently banned from Twitter. People have been calling for this for months, if not years. What he finally did wrong was go after the Women’s Institute, who had made a trans-supportive tweet.

Twitter bans tend to happen in two ways. Firstly they may be the result of mass reporting. That’s the way that people from minority groups tend to get banned. It doesn’t matter what was actually tweeted, if enough people complain at once a ban is automatic. The other mechanism is when someone important complains. The WI have a lot of members, and they are very respectable so Twitter listens to them.

Anyway, Twitter bans for right-wing trolls are bit like deaths in superhero comics. I’m sure he’ll be back in a few months, once he’s found the right person to whisper in Jack Dorsey’s ear.

Coronavirus – Day #103

Today I have mostly been working on stuff for next year’s LGBT History Month. You’ll learn more about that in due course. Also I had a 3:00pm Zoom meeting, which meant no siesta. I am very tired so I will keep this short.

Today the weekly rolling average of deaths in the UK ticked upwards again. Only slightly, but that’s two days on the trot.

Coronavirus – Day #102

It has been rather warm in the UK over the past few days, and having no air conditioning I have resorted to siesta. I’ve been working in the morning and evening, and sleeping in the afternoon. It seems to work.

The inevitable result of the combination of good weather and people being furloughed is that huge numbers of people are heading to the beaches. That seems unlikely to help with virus containment, but Bozo lost all moral authority on that subject when he refused to sack Cummings. And in any case he doesn’t care. As usual he will assume that if people die that will prove that they were unfit to live.

The 7-day rolling average of UK deaths ticked up again today. And we are back over 1000 new cases per day.