Life on Transphobia Island

It is fairly well known now that the UK has become one of the most transphobic countries in the world. We aren’t as bad as places like Russia or Hungary yet, but the situation is not good. Most of you will probably think that the bulk of the problem is lack of reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and the constant flow of anti-trans propaganda in the mainstream media. Some of you may be aware that there is now around a 5 year waiting list to get a first appointment at a UK gender clinic, and that in five years time that delay will be much longer. These are the things that hit the headlines, but they are not all that is going on. Behind the scenes, much worse is happening.

I’m writing this post today because today is the first time that I have resorted to ordering medication over the internet. I’m hoping that I won’t have to use it, and there are some helpful people within the NHS who are trying to get me a new hormone prescription. But without the cooperation of a GP local to me they will probably fail.

The GP services in the UK are currently organised through things called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). There are lots of these around the country. While patients have a free choice of GPs within their local CCG, it is difficult to get care from anywhere else. A recent survey by Gender GP has discovered that 83% of CCGs in England do not have any policy in place regarding healthcare for trans people. That doesn’t necessarily mean no treatment. If you have a friendly GP whom you have know for years they will probably still prescribe. But increasingly GP services are run through large, multi-doctor surgeries where you never see the same doctor twice, and without an official trans healthcare policy from their CCG they will probably refuse treatment.

Note that I’m not asking for anything highly specialist here. The gender transition process is still handled by Gender Identity Clinics. But if, like me, you have had your gonads removed, you need an alternative source of hormones to stay healthy. In theory I should be getting a regular prescription of oestrogen. In practice GPs refuse to prescribe, even though they know I will get quite ill without it.

There are parts of the country that are not so bad. There’s that 17% of CCGs that do have a trans policy. Plus, if you happen to live in London, Manchester, Brighton or Liverpool there are specialist GP services you can go to. But for much of England there is a huge problem.

You might think that, in such a situation, someone in private practice would leap in to take advantage, but that doesn’t happen. I’ve tried three private GP services, including BUPA. All three said that they would not accept a trans person as a patient. Anyone who sets up in private practice specifically to help trans people is quickly hounded out of business by the medical authorities.

So healthcare is a problem, but a potentially far worse one is the removal of trans people’s civil rights through changes in police policy. The UK now has elected Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for each local force. In England, inevitably, the majority of these are Conservatives. Recently there has been a coordinated push by these people to redefine the law as it applies to trans women. In a recent post on the right-wing website, Conservative Home, several PCCs stated their opposition to trans rights, and to the LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.

The reason for the complaints against Stonewall is that their training on the Equality Act correctly explains that trans women can only be excluded from “women-only” spaces if there is a good reason for doing so. This is in line with the official guidance regarding the Act produced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Earlier this year an anti-trans lobby group spent a large amount of money to bring a court case demanding a judicial review of the EHRC guidance. The claimed that, under the Act, trans women should always be excluded from women-only spaces. The judge described their argument as “absurd” and “wrong in law”. Nevertheless, the media continues to put forward this anti-trans position as if it is fact, and now several PCCs have done so too.

The most extreme example is Philip Wilkinson, the PCC for Wiltshire, which happens to be where I live. He stated that he does not believe that “biological men” should be allowed into women-only spaces. The term, “biological men” is a favourite of anti-trans campaigners. Its meaning varies quite a bit. Some people say it means people with a Y chromosome, others that it means people who do not have ovaries, and others also want to exclude anyone with above average levels of testosterone in their body. But all of them agree that the term absoutely excludes all trans women.

Currently in the UK the Gender Recognition Act allows trans people to change their legal gender. That should allow them to be treated as an ordinary person of that gender in almost all circumstances. Equally, the Equality Act says that it is illegal to discrimiate against a person on the grounds that they have undergone, are undergoing or plan to undergo gender reassignment. By saying that he will bar trans women from women-only spaces, Mr Wilkinson is saying that he wants the police under his command to ignore the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act, and to act with prejudice against any trans women they encounter.

Of course this is illegal, but if there is one thing that the current government in the UK has shown it is that they have no respect for the law, and believe that they can break it with impunity whenever they wish. The same is apparently true of Conservative PCCs. And while a trans woman who is arrested for using a toilet, or trying to buy clothes, might eventually have her day in court and win, that won’t make up for the trauma of the experience.

It is probably no accident that Mr Wilkinson’s statement was quickly followed up by the launch of a campaign by Wiltshire Police to target “sex offenders”. How they are likley to be able to spot potential rapists before they commit any rapes is a bit of a mystery. But it is axiomatic amongst the anti-trans movement that they “can always tell” if someone is trans, and Mr Wilkinson clearly believes that all trans women are, by definition, sex offenders. It is pretty obvious who the Wiltshire police will be on the lookout for.

Sadly the “we can always tell” manta is nonsense. The vast majority of people who get harrassed in public toilets and other women-only spaces on suspicion of being trans are cisgender women. They might have short hair and a fairly masculine style of dress; they might be wearing a wig for some innocent reason; or their might have lost their breasts to cancer. Many trans women are quite safe in comparison, but it doesn’t feel that way when you know that you are being hunted by the police.

So yeah, life here on Transphobia Island is not much fun right now. My advice to young trans people is to get out if you possibly can. It will get worse before it gets better.

Coronavirus – Day #503

Gosh, I went over 500 days and didn’t even notice. The pandemic has become a way of life.

Of course I would have been more likely to notice if I’d be posting about other things more often. Its not that nothing is happening in my life. It is partly that I’m very busy, and partly because most of what is happening in my life is stuff I can’t talk about.

Some of that, however, is Wizard’s Tower stuff. Look out for some exciting announcements soon. Including, of course, the new Green Man book.

Meanwhile we all try to get used to living with the virus. Last Friday I had dinner with friends in Bath. I traveled by train, and I took one of those home tests the day before, just in case. The tests are horrible to do, but much better than infecting your friends.

In theory, life should ramp up more in September. I have a couple of work things in London I should go to, and there’s FantasyCon at the end of the month. Then I look at the virus stats and worry. There was a huge spike in the UK due to the football, and a drop again once the tournament was over. But now cases are rising steadily again. Over 100 people are dying every day. Its only likely to get worse over the winter. Is it wise to go anywhere? I really don’t know.

Coronavirus – Day #466

It is a time for experiment here on Plague Island. For the few weeks we have been running an experiment involving huge crowds at sporting events, and large numbers of people getting very drunk and running around the streets. That is set to continue throughout the summer, though probably with not quite the same level of drunkeness and violence now that the football is over.

As of this time next week, pretty much all COVID restrictions in England will be removed. We are apparently still encouraged to wear masks in high risk locations such as on public transport, but it won’t be mandatory and the government is crowing about it being “Freedom Day” so lots of people will doubtless stop doing it.

In view of this you will doubtless expect that the pandemic is well under control here and all of the danger indicators are at very low levels. You would be exactly wrong.

Today we had almost 34,500 new cases of COVID and are now over 300 cases per 100,000 people. The rate is rising fast. Hospitalisations are now shooting up, with over 550 today. Deaths are still quite low — only 6 today — but everything will ramp up as the restrictions come off. The good news is that last time we had this many infections the death rate was over 600/day. Clearly the vaccines are having a major effect on the lethality of the disease. But government scientists are apparently predicting we could get up to as many as 200 deaths per day in the near future.

Bozo is telling us that this is a risk we must take for the good of the economy. It is very much a case of, “You people must die so that my share prices can remain high.”

Technically I still have in-person conventions planned for September and October, and I’d still love to get to Canada for World Fantasy in November. I have no idea what will happen with any of them, though I suspect that the Canada trip will be the least likely because other countries will not want people from the UK visiting them.

For comparison, the UK had the second highest number of COVID cases of any country in the world today. Only Indonesia had more. I believe that we have more cases per day than the rest of Europe combined. I would love to be heading to Rome this week to enjoy Eurocon and to congratulate my Italian friends on their victory in the football, but that isn’t going to be possible.

Coronavirus – Day #455

Now that the third wave is well underway here we have some interesting data. The daily infection rate is now over 27,000, which is where we were in mid-December last year. However, at that time we were seeing a death rate of over 400 per day. Yesterday’s death count was 22. Equally in mid-December the hospitalisation rate was just short of 2000/day. Currently it is under 300.

Obviously I’m not an epidemiologist, so my analysis of this data should probably be taken with a very big pinch of salt. But what I think I am seeing is that the pandemic is once again raging out of control, but amongst a population that is far more resistant to its effects. Vaccines work.

Is that a good thing? I guess that depends. It should mean that more people can feel safe going to work, going to entertainment venues and so on. But it will also mean that there will be less concern about biosecurity, and therefore those at risk will be more likely to get sick when they are less able to fight it off.

Anyway, it doesn’t make much difference to me. I’m old. My lungs are distinctly dodgy. And I’m highly likely to be discriminated against in a healthcare setting. I’m taking no risks.

Coronavirus – Day #439

Well, here we go again. To very few people’s surprise, the current levels of Lockdown restrictions in the UK are being extended, rather than being eased next Monday as was originally planned. Why? Because infection rates are soaring, as they have been for around 3 weeks now. The current restrictions haven’t slowed that, so there is no reason to think that simply extending them will have any effect. Things will have to get substantially worse before the government will admit that there is a problem.

I must admit that I was a little nervous about going to Clevedon on Saturday, but I also knew that it was likely to be my only chance of any sort of break. Also I am fully vaccinated which ought to count for something. But from now on it is back into security mode.

That means definitely no Eurocon for me. Probably no Bristol Pride, which is currently scheduled for July 10th. Further out on the planning horizon I have FantasyCon in September, BristolCon in October, and World Fantasy in November. I’m much less hopeful for all of those now, but at least come August we’ll have a better idea of what this current wave looks like.

In the meantime, if you haven’t booked up for my trans Romans talk on Thursday, there is still time to do so. Remember that you don’t have to listen live, you have a whole week to watch it on replay. Tickets available here.

Coronavirus – Day #426

It has been a while since I did one of these, but I had my second vaccination today and I figured that was worth marking. For the record, I’m fine, other than being very tired, which may be a result of it being warm and muggy today rather than the virus.

Other than that, life on Plague Island is pretty much as usual. Not content with trying to be responsible for more deaths than Winston Churchill, Bozo is also trying to have more wives than Henry VIII. Here in the South West we are currently in a mostly COVID free phase, but elsewhere the new Delta Variant is running amok with the result that national infection rates have been rising for several days now. Those with long memories will remember that Bozo delayed imposing travel restrictions from India for many days because he was planning a visit to that country, and that’s the main reason why we are heading into a new wave of infections.

The big difference this time is that our vaccination rate is pretty good. As of today, almost 75% of the country has had one dose, and almost 50% has had both. It will be interesting to see what difference that makes to the spread of infection.

Anyway, we have sunshine, which is good. Also I still have plenty of work and don’t need to go anywhere. And if I have got through 400+ days of this I’m sure I can do a few hundred more if need be.

Target Achieved #My125Miles

Well that’s a relief. My fundraiser for One25 hit the target today. Thanks so much to all of the lovely people who pledged. Of course I still have to finish the distance. I have 25.77 miles to go, and 7 days in which to do it. If it would just stop bloody raining…

By the way, you can still pledge. There are no stretch goals, but there’s nothing wrong with raising more money than I’d hoped. I’m sure that One25 can find uses for the money.

Half Way #My125Miles

Well, this is proving challenging. Every morning I wake up wondering if I will have got fit enough that my calves won’t ache, and every morning I am disappointed.

That’s not the hard bit, though. It is the bloody rain that is the problem. Cats hate getting their fur wet, but finding time to go for a walk when it isn’t raining is proving challenging. That’s the main reason why I am barely up with the required rate of 4 miles per day. But up with it I am. I’m at 55% of the distance, in 55% of the time. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t get any worse for the rest of May.

The fundraising is going a little better, being at 65% of target, but it is going very much in fits and starts. There’s a lot happening right now, and if you are deciding to spend your money on helping people in India, or Palestine, or Colombia, or any one of many other deserving causes, that’s entirely understandable. But if you can spare a few quid/bucks/whatever for One25 I would be very grateful, and so would the unfortunate women that they exist to help.

I’m told that the team has raised a total of £2,243, which is great news. I have been stuck on £226 for a while. I’m hoping to get to £350, so that’s only £124 more. If 25 of you could give just £5 each I’d be there. Here’s the link to donate.

One25 Walk Update #My125Miles

As Twitter followers will know, I am well into my charity walk for One25 now. With 10 days gone that’s more or less a third of the month, and I am bang on target as far as miles walked goes. The money is looking good, but that’s in no small part thanks to a very generous donation from Kevin. I don’t expect other people to give anywhere near that much, so hitting that target won’t be as easy as it looks right now.

I’m not hugely confident about the distance either. I like to be ahead of the rate. Unfortunately Saturday was very wet here, and on Sunday I was unaccountably woozy for most of the day. The forecast for this week is not good, so I may find it hard to get keep up. We shall see. But I need to have walked those 125 miles by the end of the month. A commitment is a commitment.

If you’d like to give me a bit more icentive by sponsoring me, you can do so here.

Coronavirus – Day #398

Slowly but surely, infection and death rates continue to fall, at least they do in this country. Are we getting back to normal? How would we tell?

Well, one of the potential signs is people feeling confident enough to hold coventions. Not here, just now, I hasten to add, but this year’s Eurocon, to be held in Fiuggi, Italy, has announced that they have permssion to go ahead. Their dates are July 15-18.

Data point: infection rates in Italy are currently four times what they are in the UK. That’s not huge. The USA and France are much higher, and India is off the scale, but it is still an interesting level of confidence from their government.

Currently us Brits are forbidden from going on foreign holidays (unless we are very rich or related to a Cabinet minister). We are due an announcement on the 17th about possible loosening of those restrictions. Whether Italy will be on the list of permitted destinations is another matter.

Am I going? I don’t have a clue. It would be lovely, but I haven’t had my second vaccination yet and I would not put it past our disaster of a government to suddenly stop second injections for anyone they deem expendable so that can save a bit of money. Ordinarily wild horses couldn’t stop me from taking a trip to Rome, but these days going anywhere still seems potentially unwise. FantasyCon in Birmingham in September seems like a more realstic goal.

Walkies Time

Regular readers will remember that in May I do something mad to help raise funds for One25. They are a wonderful charity from Bristol who understand that to get women out of the sex trade there is no point in punishing them, or their clients. What you need to do is a) make sure that the women are safe and healthy until they can get out; and b) help them find alternative sources of income so that they no longer need to sell themselves.

This year I will once again be attempting to walk 125 miles during the month of May. That’s an average of 4 miles a day. When I did this two years ago it didn’t seem too hard, because I was regularly going into Bristol for meetings and walking at least 4 miles a day in the process. But for the past year I have been cooped up at home getting steadily less fit and when I started testing myself early in April I found I was struggling to make 2 miles. I’m a bit fitter now, but I’m going to need all the incentive I can get to meet the target. You can help by pledging money here.

And if you can’t afford to donate anything yourself, please at least signal boost the campaign. You know it is going to be a firehose on Twitter, right?

Hugo Follow-Up

No, not an analysis of the ballot. Patience, dear reader. Just a few things I didn’t know yesterday.

First up I posted on Twitter this morning that there are 9 trans people on the ballot in 8 different categories. I speculated that there might be more, and I’ve since found another one so we are up to 10 in 8. I’m not going to name them, because frankly these days it isn’t safe being openly trans. But you may know some of them, and hopefully one or two will actually win.

Second, I have done a book list of the finalists (including the initial volume in Series finalists) on Bookshop.org. I wasn’t able to include all of them, because they aren’t all available, but if you are, in the UK, are interested in buying, and would like to help both independent bookstores and Wizard’s Tower, you can find the list here.

And finally, there is a useful list of where to find various of the finalists online over on File 770. The link to CoNZealand Fringe is to our YouTube Channel rather than our website. Apparently Mike is having a sulk and refusing to link to our actual site because one of our people has blocked him on Twitter. This is making me feel quite nostalgic for the days when I was allegedly the most hated person in fandom.

Hugo Finalist (Again)


Somewhat to my surprise, I find my name on the Hugo Award ballot again this year. I am one of the team that is a finalist in Best Related Work for the ConZealand Fringe programme of events.

I’d like to thank and congratulate the rest of the team: Claire, Adri, C, Alasdair, Marguerite and Cassie. I note that Claire, Adri, Alasdair and Marguerite are all on the ballot in other categories as well, so they are very much worth checking out. Also Iori Kusano, who was on the panel that I curated and chaired for CZ Fringe, is on the Related Work ballot for her work running a similar Fringe programme for FIYAHCON. Having all of this virtual convention work on the ballot makes me very happy.

I should also thank Kelly Buehler, co-chair of CoNZealand, for her support of our work. It would have been great to integrate more closely with the main convention, but as with so many things to do with CoNZealand, time was against us.

Finally I should thank Mike Glyer, because there’s nothing quite like being denounced on File 770 to bring you to the attention of fandom at large.

Update: Duh! I should also thank everyone who nominated us. You can tell that it is 10 years since I’ve had to do this, can’t you. One the plus side, no one has yet come into my social media to complain about how I am the Wrong Sort of Fan, possibly because this is not a fan category.

The rest of the ballot for Related Work is very strong. I don’t expect us to win. There are lots of other interesting things on the ballot that I’d like to talk about, but that will have to wait for the next Salon Futura. Here’s the full list of finalists for Related Work.

And yes, I did notice that DisCon 3 has decided not to use the official Hugo Award logo. Thumbing their noses at WSFS seems to have become a habit for them. And they did manage to mis-spell Beowulf, though it is correct on the press release.

Coronavirus – Day #376

Today there has been great celebration in England, because non-essential shops, restaurants and pubs have re-opened, sort of. Pubs and restaurants can only serve people sitting outside, and it snowed in many parts of the country today, but at least they are open. My hairdresser sent me a text this morning saying that they could take bookings again. I phoned after lunch and the earliest appointment they had was in early May.

So has Bozo “saved summer”? Well maybe. There were over 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 registered today. Thirteen people died from it in the last 24 hours. That is by no means zero COVID. The government is banking on the fact that a sigificant proportion of the population has now had at least a first vaccine jab. The assumption is that this will slow the rate of infection, and reduce the serverity of cases for people who do catch the virus. If that doesn’t work, we could be back in full Lockdown fairly quickly.

Thankfully I don’t need to go out much. Once a week to Tesco is still mostly all that I need. It does, however, make me more confident about just popping out for a walk. I’ve signed up to do the sponsored walk for One25 again in May, which means that for a month I will have to average 4 miles a day. Right now I am so unfit from a year of hardly leaving home that I’m struggling to manage two, so it is just as well that I have a few weeks to get in training.

Coronavirus – Day #370

Oh look, a year has gone by. Are we still deep in the shit? Why yes, so we are.

The good news is that all of the major COVID in the UK are still falling. Trowbridge is officially “suppressed”, but this does no mean zero COVID. There could be at least 10 cases in town.

More worryingly, the UK is still registering over 2000 new cases a day, and the media is talking about how the virus has been beaten and everything is going “back to normal”. Bozo is talking breezily about people being able to go on summer holidays abroad. We don’t really know how the vaccine will change things, but some sort of third wave seems inevitable.

Of course the likelihood of anyone from the UK being able to travel internationally in the near future is not very high. Bozo will doubtless blame this on the EU. The people who voted for Brexit still don’t understand that “taking back control” of our borders does not mean taking control of everyone else’s borders as well, and the freedom of movement whose ending they cheered so loudly included their freedom of movement as well.

Vaccinated (Part 1)

Today I had my first COVID-19 shot. There wasn’t anything on offer locally, and I elected to drive to Bath Racecourse as that is mostly a simple driving route that I’m used to. It was a good place for a vaccination centre as there was plenty of room to set up the facility, and for people to park.

Before getting the jab you get a brief quiz on your medical history. The only things likely to rule you out is if you have had any other vaccinations recently, if you’ve had COVID recently, or if you are seriously allergic to some medications.

The jab itself was quick and painless.

I had the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, so I will need to go back for a second dose. That’s not until June.

As I had driven to the centre, I was asked to sit and rest for 15 minutes after the jab just in case I had an adverse reaction. I felt fine after that and was able to drive home. I’m still feeling OK 6 hours in, though people who have had the same vaccine tell me that the side effects kick in after about 8 hours. We shall see.

Coronavirus – Day #337

Wow, it is a long time since I did one of these. Of course I was crazy busy during February, but to a large extent nothing much has changed. We are still in Lockdown and will be until April. Infection rates have been falling steadily for a couple of months, but are still scarily high. And locally they are not going down. Having had rates well below the national average over the winter, we are now well above the national average. If nothing else that shows that the Track & Trace system is not worth a dime, let alone the £22bn that the government spaffed away on it.

Meanwhile Bozo has ordered schools to re-open, and I’m already seeing claims that the infection rate is surging amongst young children.

We had a budget, apparently. It seems like no one is happy about it. And yet the supposed opposition party is doing such a bad job that the Tories now have a much bigger lead in the polls than they did when they won an 80 seat majority back in late 2019. It is almost as if refusing to challenge the government on any of its policies isn’t a vote winner. Who would have thought it?

In much less good news today I learned that the Loyalist Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland have denounced the Good Friday Agreement. That is, they are blaming the Catholics, and the South, for Bozo’s complete disaster of a Brexit agreement which saw a border created in the Irish Sea, something he had promised would never happen. It seems entirely in keeping with modern Britain that someone else is getting blamed for a government screw-up. But the outcome is likely to be renewed sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which will please no one except a few die-hard survivors of The Troubles, and the Tory right wing who have always hated the fact that peace was declared.

Ah well, at least I still have work, which is getting me to talk to people, even if it is seriously interfering with my book-reading habit.

Coronavirus – Day #306

Greetings once more from Plague Island. I am pleased to report that Lockdown is definitely having an effect now. All of the major indicators are dropping. The national case rate is only 273/100k, and locally we are down to 137. Parts of Bath are being marked clear.

Of course this is normally the point at which Bozo announces that, thanks to his super-manly chromosomes (XYYY or something, I guess), he has personally defeated the virus and we must all go back to school, work, restaurants, pubs and so on. He’s never learned from any of his failures in life before, so I don’t suppose he will have learned from the “Saving Christmas” disaster.

Coronavirus – Day #301

Here in Plague Island we have passed the milestone of 100,000 deaths. Bozo says that he is terribly sorry, but he’s done everything he can so it can’t be his fault. His loyal newspapers are saying that it is entirely our own fault that we are dying because we are too fat.

In other news, a new anti-trans organisation has been founded here. It’s stated objectives are to obtain the repeal of the Gender Recognition Act and to “eliminate transgenderism”. They have immediately received enthusiastic support from all of the usual suspects. I’m looking forward to seeing film of one of their rallies. I will be very disappointed if they don’t all chant, “ELIMINATE! ELIMINATE!!!” in silly voices. At least that will give them a good excuse to be on the BBC.

Coronavirus – Day #295

Dearest readers, a terrible tragedy has occurred. Late yesterday, President Biden signed a number of executive orders. One of those was an anti-discrimination order that gave LGBT+ people in the US some protections. They are similar to, though not as wide-ranging as, those we have here under the Equality Act.

This morning it was revealed that this action by the incoming President had erased every single woman in America. (Well, the cisgender ones, I assume.) Just like that. Over 150 million people vanished, Thanos-like, from the face of the Earth. I know that it sounds unlikley, but just about every female member of the chattering classes here in the UK is repeating the same story, so it must be true, mustn’t it?

Anyway, our Thoughts and Prayers are with the American people. I understand that President Biden is planning a number of sweeping immigration reforms, which will be necessary if there is to be any hope of there being little Americans in the future. I can only hope that the effects of this executive order don’t linger, and that newly arrived women are not vanished as well.

In other news, Downing Street has denied reports that the Prime Minister wishes to rename our country Little Trumplandia in the East. Apparently there is already an existing town name of Trumpton that he feels would be appropriate for the country as a whole, and doesn’t include the word “little” which may cause offence in certain quarters.