History Goes Viral

No, I’m not referring to the ongoing-nonsense about whether people of color existed before they were “discovered” by European colonialists. While I was down in Hove I spotted this tweet from one of the best satirical accounts on Twitter:

Naturally I couldn’t resist offering a few comments. Somewhat to my surprise, some of those tweets I made have over 900 likes. One has over 1000. And it is still going, well over a week later.

Interestingly, despite all of the attention, I haven’t got much in the way of new followers. I’m not overly upset over that. After all, hordes of followers generally means endless harassment. As it is I check new followers for TERFs and block them on sight. But this has been something of a window on what social media popularity is like. I’m rather glad it doesn’t happen often.

Oh, and that tweet has lots of very funny replies. The whole thread is worth reading.

Missing in Blogdom

Yeah, I know it has been very quiet here of late. When I got back from Worldcon I basically had to do a whole month’s worth of day job in two weeks. I really shouldn’t have taken a couple of days off to go to Hove for the cricket, because things have been a bit crazy since then. Of course it was glorious, so I don’t regret it, but it made the past week even more frantic than it needed to be. I took yesterday off, but today it is back at work again and the coming week looks like being equally busy.

Anyway, I’ll have a little bloggery today, and tomorrow I must do the post for last week’s Ujima show. Other stuff may or may not happen. I will at least be on social media a bit.

It is @StonewallUK #ComeOutForLGBT Day


It is campaign time with Stonewall again, and the current message is that, while we might have come along way, there is still a long way to go.

A centerpiece of the campaign is a new survey which reveals that anti-LGB hate crime has increased by 79% since their previous survey in 2013. There’s no comparison figure for anti-trans hate crime because Stonewall wasn’t advocating for trans people in 2013, but the current survey shows that 41% of trans people have experienced hate crime in the past year, compared to only 16% for LGB people.

The report also reveals that 81% of the people who experienced hate crime did not report it to the police. 71% did not report the incident to anyone other than the Stonewall survey. These numbers are not broken down between LGB and T, but one of the submissions to the government’s 2016 Trans Equality Inquiry — from hate crime specialist, Professor Neil Chakraborti — stated that many trans people don’t bother to report hate crime because for them it is a daily occurrence.

It is also worth noting that the report says 25% of trans people who contacted the “emergency services” felt that they had been discriminated by the people they were dealing with. It appears from the report that by “emergency services” Stonewall primarily means calling 111 for medical assistance, but there are equivalent fears about reporting hate crime to the police.

Anyway, one of the things Stonewall asked people to do is get a photo taken with their slogan and an ally. I haven’t had time to do that, so I make something using the slogan and the most recent photo I have of Kevin and I together (at Worldcon in Helsinki which is why we have the massive badges). As I am sure I have said before, without Kevin’s love and support I would probably not have survived transition. Stand up for your friends, people. Even if it is only one life you save, you have still made a difference.

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.

Old

As those of you on Facebook will know by now, today is my birthday. It is also one of those birthdays with a zero on the end, which tends to prompt a bit of self-reflection.

I’m doing this post for two reasons. Firstly I’m not going to be online much today. I’ll be off to Plymouth to do some trans awareness training at the university. So I’m scheduling this post to go up tomorrow to apologize to people for not responding much to any well wishing that might be happening online.

Also at this sort of age you tend to get a bit morbid, so I’m working my angst out on you lot, OK?

Yeah, no. Who cares, right? I’m still fit enough (physically and mentally) to carry on working. I’m still enjoying life. And I have now lived for 10 more years than I expected to when I first decided to undergo gender transition. This is all a bonus.

OK, I might be a little more reluctant to take on new, long-term projects. And I do need to actually have plans in place, just in case my health takes a sudden turn for the worse. Other than that, I plan to carry on having fun.

Barcelona Thanks

I wasn’t very awake yesterday, and managed to write a whole blog post on the Barcelona trip without doing the most important thing: thanking everyone. I shall rectify that now.

First up, thanks to Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Saana Svärd who organized the whole thing. Some of you folks will know a bit about event organizing. The conference was only about 50 people, but it was 3 days of intense programming, two major social events, one catered lunch plus break refreshments on all three days. There was no attendance fee. I’m seriously impressed with the job that Agnès and Saana did.

Secondly, huge thanks to everyone who made me so welcome throughout the week. I was a total outsider with no formal qualifications in history or archaeology, but I was accepted instantly and feel like I have made a bunch of great new friends (most of whom are young enough to be my children). I learned a lot during the week, and hope to be able to do much better history because of it.

The Chalk Playlist

Work this afternoon has been accompanies by the playlist for Paul Cornell’s forthcoming novel, Chalk. It is mostly classical 80s pop — things like Human League, Culture Club, Duran Duran and of course Let’s Dance era Bowie. However, there are a few older songs in it too. I have a couple of tunes I’d like to highlight.

First up, Tracey Ullman’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”. I love just about everything that MacColl wrote. This one was a huge hit.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that I was never a Bay City Rollers fan. The other is that I used to own a pair of pink slippers exactly like the ones that Tracey wears in the video.

Here’s the other one. This isn’t the video used in Paul’s playlist but it is more appropriate. White Horses was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid and I particularly loved this song. As I said to Kevin in email just now, I was such a girl, it is a wonder no one noticed.

There was Follyfoot too, of course. Mind you, what I really wanted was Comet, not a Lipizzaner. And Streaky to go with him.

Making Movies

Hey girls, you know that thing where you have been asked to be interviewed for an educational film, so you get your hair done specially and you spend ages agonizing over what to wear and doing your make-up, and the two guys who are on with you rock up, look at you, and go, “oh, I just threw something on this morning…”

Of course I knew this was the way things were when I signed up for the woman gig. Also I enjoy the whole dressing up thing, so I’m not complaining. But I also know that when the film gets shown people watching it will glaze over the gay guy and the trans guy on it, but will go on endlessly about how unconvincing I look and how everyone can tell I’m “really a man”. Because that too is the way the world is.

Dysphoria. It is real because other people really do judge you.

Congratulations, San José and San Juan

Preliminary site selection results have been announced from Worldcon. These do need to be ratified at today’s Business Meeting, but I’ve never yet seen any issues with that.

Next year’s NASFiC will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I know a few people involved with that and am very happy for them.

And the 2018 Worldcon will be in San José, California. That’s my team. I’m absolutely delighted for them.

Kevin Roche and other members of the convention committee will be at the Business Meeting later today to announce the convention name, Guests of Honor and so on. I’ll do a new post when it is all public.

The vote was apparently 675-594. As usual there were a whole bunch of write-ins and I understand that 651 votes were needed for a first round victory.

Our thanks are of course due to the New Orleans bid for a fine and fun contest. Do visit their city. It has some of the best food and music anywhere in the world. But don’t go in August, the weather is terrible.

Some of are no doubt wondering whether I have any plans to be in San José. I would certainly love to go. However, one thing that has been very clear from my interactions with US immigration is that the State Department (who issue visas) and the TSA (who manage border control) do not recognize each other’s authority. Having a visa is not a guarantee of entry. I have no intention of spending a lot of time, money and emotional energy on getting a visa only to find that I get turned back at the airport.

International Cat Day

The CatnapApparently it is International Cat Day, which means it is time to give this picture another run out. I was, of course, much younger when it was done.

Actually this is my superhero persona. She is known as The Catnap, because of her awesome powers of falling asleep.

Art by Sue Mason, as you should all have known.

Well That Went Well

The nice LGBT police people seemed to enjoy my talk. It was great to catch up with Surat Shaan Knan and see the new pop-up version of the Twilight People exhibition. There were at least two trans people (serving police officers) in the audience.

The conference was in the Guildhall in the City of London. It is a very impressive space. I haven’t had time to process my photos yet, but hopefully I’ll have some for you later.

We also had a lovely party last night. One of the advantages of hanging out with gay people is that they have no qualms about playing Wham. Whatever else you might think about George & Andy, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” is a great dance track. (And no, I can’t hit that high, I don’t have that vocal range.)

Today I took myself off to the British Museum to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. This is material from the Egyptian cities of Thonis (called Heracleion by the Greeks) and Canopus. It is amazing, if you like that sort of thing, which I do. The quality of the artifacts is superb, because they have been preserved under the sea rather than out in the open getting weathered, smashed and stolen.

The exhibition traces the history of Egypt’s incorporation into the Mediterranean world from the first use of Greek soldiers by the pharaohs through the conquest by Alexander to incorporation into the Roman Empire. The religious history over this period is fascinating, with Egyptian gods first being mapped onto Greek religion and then incorporated into the religious use of the Empire. I’ll have more to say about this in a separate post.

And finally I paid a brief visit to Forbidden Planet and came away with a pile of books. Chief among this was Seanan McGuire’s novella, Every Heart a Doorway, which is utterly delightful and thoroughly recommended.

Talking to the Police

Sorry about another apparent clickbait headline, but that’s exactly what I will be doing.

This morning I RT’d the tweet below. Yes, there is such a thing as a police LGBT conference. The 2016 event is taking place in London tomorrow. I’m going to be one of the guest speakers. I’ll be telling them all about trans people in antiquity. Should be fun.

Good Hair Day

Good Hair
Yesterday, after swimming in the lake, I was sat chatting with Raffaella Baccolini when Saija Kyllönen kindly noticed that my wet hair needed brushing out and started doing the job for me. Then she asked me if I would like it braided. It has been an ambition of mine since I was about 5 years old to have hair long enough to put in a big plait that reached down my back. At the rate it grows these days it will never get there, but it is now long enough to work with. Once of the other Finnish ladies who is an expert hair braider did the job for me. I’m afraid I can’t remember her name (I had drunk quite a bit of whisky by then). However, I have photographic evidence (thanks Saija!).

So yeah, one childhood ambition achieved. Yesterday was a good day.

Except for the mosquitoes.

Update: Saija tells me that the genius who did my plait is Ritva Mäkinen.

Brave New World

Apes
Image edit by Jeremiah Tolbert

Mixing my SF metaphors here, but boy is this one right royal clusterfuck.

Not that I am surprised. I called it for Leave when the referendum was announced because I know that Rupert Murdoch rarely loses an election in this country. I’ve been hoping that people would come to their senses, but given the way the campaigns were conducted there was never much chance of that.

Personally I should be OK for a while. The trans awareness training that I do will dry up as people realize that they don’t have to care any more. However, the majority of my income comes from the USA and therefore I’m getting a substantial pay rise.

I also have some cash from when my mum died, and if the property market collapses, which it may well do, I may be able to afford a home of my own. But that’s longer term, what little pension money I have is disappearing rapidly, and my personal situation could become very precarious before too long. I don’t see much point in planning for a future that I may not have.

However, I am trying not to worry too much, because there are lots of other people I’m worried about.

I’m worried about all of the people who will lose their jobs as foreign investors pull out, the value of the pound plummets and trade barriers start going up against whatever remains of the UK.

I’m worried for the people in Northern Ireland who face a return to sectarian violence because of economic collapse and disagreement over union with the south.

I’m worried for all of the EU nationals living here who face losing their jobs, their college courses, and perhaps even their families because marriage to a citizen no longer confers the right of residency here.

I’m worried for the LGBT+ people who are less well off than me and who face the repeal of equalities legislation.

And most of all I am worried for people of color living in the UK (many of whom were born here), because the economic situation is only going to get worse, and the angry people who voted Leave will be looking to someone to blame. You can be sure that Murdoch will be busy deflecting their attention towards people least able to defend themselves.

The Europe Thing

Well, tomorrow (Thursday) we all get to vote. Then what?

Today The Guardian ran an article by a German music teacher who has made their home here for 18 years (look, singular they pronoun because the gender of the author isn’t specified). They worry if they will have to go back to Germany if the UK leaves the EU, and they worry that they might not want to stay anyway, because the atmosphere here has become so poisonous towards “foreigners”.

I’m afraid that my initial reaction to that article was to think that I have never felt welcome here. Sure I am a UK citizen, but every week something like this turns up in the newspapers reminding me that people like me are not popular with a large part of the UK public. I have plenty of friends here, but I am always worried that one day I’ll find a mob wanting to drive me out of my home, or that something like what happened with US immigration will happen to me here. In theory I have rights; in practice, who knows?

What rights I do have are mostly a result of rulings of the European courts. The UK and Irish governments both held out for as long as they could against allowing trans people legal gender recognition. The Leave people rail constantly against how the EU has “control” over British law, and how they want to be able to set their own laws free of European interference. What will that mean for me, and people like me, if Leave wins?

It is impossible to say for sure, but one of the leaders of the Leave campaign is Michael Gove, who happens to be the current boss of the Ministry of Justice. On his watch two trans women in prison have committed suicide and another, quite recently, was saved from a suicide attempt by prison staff. All three had been sent to male-only prisons. You will, I hope, forgive me for not having a lot of confidence in the future of my civil rights should Mr. Gove and his friends get to run the country.

Most people, of course, do not have my specific concerns. They are worried about the economy, about their standard of living. So much misinformation has been spread during the campaign that it is impossible to have a sensible discussion about the UK’s prospects as an independent country. Besides, economic forecasting is my job, I know how dodgy it can be. But one thing does seem clear to me: the Leave campaign is all about walls and ditches. It is an attitude of “I’m all right, Jack, and I will fight to protect what is mine.”

I can understand that people are worried, and want to hang on to what they have. I can also see that people have been very deliberately frightened by scare stories in the media. Personally, however, I have never been a fan of isolationism. I have, after all, lived in Australia and the USA as well as the UK. I have also spent a reasonable amount of time in others countries such as Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark and France. I have briefly visited South Africa, India and Mexico, and I’ll be adding Spain to the list later this year. I have met lovely people wherever I have traveled.

The upshot of all this is that I have always believed that people of different countries, different cultures and different ethnic backgrounds can and should get along. Whatever problems we face on this small, watery rock adrift in the vastness of space, we are far better off facing them together than letting everything go to Hell and fighting over the scraps that remain.

The EU is far from perfect. Goddess knows I have uttered enough sweary words about their VAT laws over the past couple of years. But I also know that the VAT problem could have been much less serious had British officials been prepared to support and fight for micro businesses instead of taking every excuse to spread anti-EU sentiment.

We can, and should, do better than this. I’m not quite old enough to have lived through WWII, but my parents did, and a grew up with a strong impression of how awful that was. I did grow up under the shadow of Mutually Assured Destruction, and never did a political philosophy have a more appropriate acronym. I remember the sense of relief that everyone felt when the Berlin Wall came down, and I can’t quite believe how we have let all that hope and good will go to waste.

My choice tomorrow is pretty clear. I can vote to stay in a political institution that has promised to protect my civil rights, or I can vote for people who are threatening to take them away. That, as they say, is a no-brainer. That aside, it seems to me that the choice tomorrow is between sticking together in the hope that we can build a better world, or building a bunker in which we hope to hide from a world that is too terrifying to be part of. Again, I know which choice I would make.

When all else has been loosed on the world, Pandora, there is always hope. She will stay with you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And On A Happier Note

The annual conference of the National LGBT Police Network will be taking place at the Guildhall in London on July 15th. I got the schedule through last night, so I guess it is now official that I am one of the guest speakers. The theme of the conference this year is religion. My friend, Surat Shaan Knan will be speaking too. My talk will be all about trans people and religion through the ages.

One of the things that is much better now than in 1978 when that Tom Robinson song was first released is that there are now LGBT+ groups in police forces around the country, and they are actively working for a more understanding and integrated society.

New Book, Contains Me

WisconChron
So apparently I am now a Social Justice Warrior. Or at least a reduxed one.

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that this is the cover of volume #10 of the WisCon Chronicles, an annual anthology of writings arising from the WisCon convention. This year’s editor, Margaret McBride, kindly asked me to contribute an essay on trans issues as part of the Social Justice theme of the book. That essay is titled, “What Should Diversity Look Like For Trans People?”. It is basically telling people to stop writing transition stories and to stop writing just about binary-identified trans women who transition in middle age. This isn’t new, but it is nice to have it in an actual book.

Other contributors include Takayuki Tatsumi, Nisi Shawl, Johanna Sinisalo, Kathryn Allan, Ian Hagemann, Sandra J. Lindow and Ajani Brown. The book also includes the texts of Alaya Dawn Johnson and Kin Stanley Robinson’s Guest of Honor speeches form last year’s WisCon, as well as the keynote speech Julie Phillips delivered at the Tiptree Symposium in December 2015. I am particularly honored to be in the same book as Johanna, and I am sure the rest of the contributions will be great too.

You can buy the book here. Payment for this was a flat fee, so there is no need to worry that you are enabling any of my addictions by encouraging lots of people to buy the book.

The Age of Apocalypse is 10-Year-Old Cheryl

Scott & Jean
So, I have seen the new X-Men film, and I absolutely loved it. This does not mean that you will. Bear with me a moment, please. I will try to make this as spoiler free as possible.

As anyone who has seen the previous films in this Bryan Singer series will know, each one is being set 10 years apart, and much of the X-Men chronology has been thrown up in the air. The primary constants of the series are Charles, Hank, Eric and Raven. This film is set in the 1980s and introduces Jean and Scott, along with Kurt, Warren and Ororo, all as teenage additions to the team. Of course the original series had a much more traditional X-Men team in it, but that series went downhill rapidly as even Singer acknowledges in this film. This film was a chance for redemption, and Singer has grasped it with both hands.

The jumbled chronology has set up some odd effects. Having been seen on television facing down Magneto in Days of Future Past, Mystique has become a hero to young mutants all over the world such as Ororo Munroe growing up in Cairo, and Kurt Wagner in Berlin. This is probably the last thing that Raven wants. Eric is trying his best to hide away from everything and lead a normal life. Meanwhile Charles and Hank have the school up running again, and are recruiting new students, the most powerful of whom is this girl with red hair.

Sophie Turner does an OK job as Jean. It isn’t her fault that when I look at her I only see Sansa Stark. She doesn’t look any more like Jean than Famke Janssen did, and neither of them has captured Jean’s personality. However, the story is there; all Singer & co have to do is tell it, and that they do very well.

I totally accept that if you haven’t grown up on X-Men and don’t have a huge emotional investment in the characters the way I have then you may get a bit bored by the long and somewhat silly plot involving some guy called Apocalypse. That wasn’t what kept me watching, often in tears, and at one point in serious danger of sobbing out loud, which I have never done in a cinema before. That was one of the defining mythologies of my childhood being played out right there on the big screen.

There were dodgy things, of course. There was rather a lot of fridging, which I do wish screenwriters would learn to do without. Scott and Alex being brothers doesn’t make much sense if Scott is a teenager now and Alex was one back in the ’60s. We can’t have Wanda because she’s in the Avengers universe, and Quicksilver’s name is Pietro, not Peter.

There is one thing, of course, that I am very sad about. But then nothing is perfect.

On the other hand, there was good stuff. I loved the scene where Scott, Jean and Jubilee take Kurt to see Return of the Jedi (and no one bats an eye at the teenager with blue skin because those kids are obviously science fiction fans). There are probably more brown-skinned Egyptians in the introduction than in the whole of Gods of Egypt. Alexandra Shipp is delightful as the young Ororo, as is Lana Condor as a very young Jubilee. As you have probably heard, Weapon-X makes a brief and bloody appearance. The Quicksilver time freeze sequences are as much fun as ever, if even more improbable.

There’s an awful lot of new X-Men material in production. Fox appears to be determined to turn the X-Men into as massive a franchise for themselves as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Disney. Eventually this has to be bad, because Claremont happens and we all know that things will go to shit in the end. But maybe there will be a few more movies before that happens. Also, of course, Singer hinted at the end of Days of Future Past that the universe in which the first three films existed (and Patrick Stewart is the Professor) had changed, and that possibly the events of Last Stand would not happen. If he’s prepared to do that, maybe he can make changes here too. After all, Emma is already dead in Singer’s universe. Who knows what might happen?

This Is What It Sounds Like…

Prince - Brian Bolland
… When Gods die.

The original art is by Brian Bolland. The animated gif was made by Scott M. McDaniel and is part of this fascinating analysis of the image.

My May 4th show on Ujima will be a Prince tribute show. Obviously there will be guests, but all of the music will be performed or written by Prince. And yes, that is an excuse for me to play The Bangles, but also Chaka Khan.

Rock on, purple people. At least we know there’ll be great music to dance to in the afterlife when we get there.