Trans: It Isn’t Simple

Apologies for another lecture, but I’ve been doing training today so my brain is in that mode.

This particular post was sparked by something I saw online today. Someone, I’m pretty sure a cis person, was stating authoritatively that gender identity is fixed by the age of three. I think they were trying to be helpful, trying to say that trans people can’t be “cured”, but it is more complicated than that.

Personally I can’t date knowing that I was trans further back than starting school. I didn’t have much to go on. There were no girls my age near where I lived. We’d only just got a TV. I’d been pretty much on my own. Even so, all that I knew when I started school was that there was something wrong.

I have a friend who didn’t realize that he was trans until he started puberty. I have another who didn’t realize that she was trans until she was middle-aged. Both have since undergone significant medical treatment. They are no less trans than I am. I also know people who have elected not to have medical treatment, but have transitioned socially. They too are trans.

The idea that there are simple and definitive diagnostic tests for being trans was one of the things that held me back from transitioning for around 20 years. I read a lot, and I wasn’t certain that I’d be accepted as a patient, or indeed that transition was right for me. Nowadays we’d say that I was Questioning, but kids these days get to experiment, without having to make irreversible decisions about their lives, which is good.

Insistence on a simple, diagnostic test also plays into the TERF myth that anyone who starts a transition process, and either decides to stop at being non-binary, or back out to their assigned gender, was somehow “misdiagnosed” and has been forced into transition by pro-trans fanatics. Many people need to experiment, and the purpose of treatment should be to find what works for the patient, not to force everyone to follow a particular path. (And certainly not to force people into roles that reinforce the gender binary, unless those roles are what they are comfortable in.)

I know that “it’s complicated” isn’t an easy thing to explain. People tend to prefer easy answers. But sometimes it is an important thing to explain.

Posted in Gender | 3 Comments

Farah on Heinlein

For some time now Farah Mendlesohn has been working on a book about the work of Robert A. Heinlein. We have chatted about it occasionally, and I have been itching to read it. However, Heinlein produced a lot of work, and the resulting book was so long that Farah hasn’t been able to find an academic publisher willing to take it. Consequently she has decided to go through the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound. Farah needs to raise enough money to get Unbound to publish the book. Any excess raised is being shared between The Foundation for America’s Blood Centres and Con or Bust. You can support the project here.

Posted in Academic, Books, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Picacio Sales for Disaster Relief

Hugo-winning artist, John Picacio, is making some of his work available in a sale to benefit disaster relief for those affected by the earthquake in Oaxaca, Mexico on September 7th, and victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. There are five original works of art available for sale. A portion of the sale price of each one will go to the disaster relief effort of the purchaser’s choice. For details of the items available, see John’s blog.

Posted in Art, Current Affairs | Comments Off on Picacio Sales for Disaster Relief

OutStories AGM and Queer Classical Erotica

The OutStories Bristol AGM will take place on Saturday, October 7th at Bristol University. Some of you may remember that last year we had a fabulous talk from Dr. Jana Funke about Radclyffe Hall, which is still available in audio here. This year’s talk promises to be equally good.

Edward Warren is best known for giving his name to the Warren Cup, a Roman goblet which is decorated with explicit scenes of men having sex with each other. Warren was a passionate collector of Classical antiquities that provide evidence of same-sex relationships in past times. Dr. Jen Grove of will talk about Warren’s work, the objects he collected, and their use in advocating for LGBT rights both in his time and now.

Full details of the event, which is free to attend, are available here.

Posted in Gender, History | Comments Off on OutStories AGM and Queer Classical Erotica

Forthcoming Appearances

Here are a few places where you will be able to find me in the coming weeks.

First up we have BristolCon Fringe on Monday, featuring the legendary Anna Smith-Spark, owner of the deadliest shoes in the writing business, and Chloe Headdon, one of the best readers from the last open mic event. As usual I will be hosting, and interrogating the readers afterward. I may ask Anna what her shoes eat.

If you happen to be in London, on September 30th I will be at this conference on being trans, intersex and gender non-confirming in academia. I’ll be talking about trying to do trans history when many historians believe that people like you didn’t exist before the 20th Century.

October sees the annual Bristol Festival of Literature and we will once again be doing the ranty feminist author panel. I may talk a bit about Space Marine Midwives. And Dreadnought, always Dreadnought.

I won’t be at BristolCon this year as I will be in Bologna for an academic conference. I’m also doing one in Melbourne early in November, though only by Skype. If you are interested in either, let me know.

And on November 4th, if all goes according to plan, I will be at LaDIYfest in Bristol. Watch this space for details on what I might end up doing there.

Posted in Academic, Feminism, History, Readings, Science Fiction | Comments Off on Forthcoming Appearances

Translation News from Italy

I have a press release from Apex announcing that they will be doing an English language edition of Francesco Verso’s novel, Nexhuman. The book has won a heap of awards in Italian, and was published in English a while back by an Australian small press. Much as I love my Aussie pals, having the book picked up by Apex is likely to get the book far more attention.

Anyone who spends any time at European conventions will know Francesco. He’s infectiously enthusiastic, and has done some great work bringing Chinese SF to Italy. I really hope this does well for him. He kindly gave me a copy of the book in Dortmund, but I have been drowning in Tiptree reading since them. However, Rachel Cordasco has a rave review over at Strange Horizons.

The translator of the book (whom Apex appear to have forgotten to mention) is Sally McCorry.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction, Translations | Comments Off on Translation News from Italy

Grandville: The Badger Is Back!

At last, the final volume of Bryan Talbot’s magnificent graphic novel series, Grandville, is almost with us. Release of Grandville: Force Majeure is scheduled for November. And there is a trailer. Well I know what I am getting myself for Saturnalia.

Posted in Art, Comics | Comments Off on Grandville: The Badger Is Back!

Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

With profuse apologies for the day, here are the Listen Again links for last week’s show.

We started off with my friend Lucienne Boyce talking about her latest historical novel, Butcher’s Block. This is a new Dan Foster mystery novel, Dan being a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. We got onto the subject of bodysnatchers, and thence onto the horrors of 18th century medicine. Inevitably, when Lucienne and I get together, we start talking about suffragettes as well. Not in the 18th century, of course, but next year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some British women the vote.

Next up was my report on the Kia Super League Finals Day, including interviews with Raf Nicholson of The Cricketer, and Stafanie Taylor, hero of the hour and captain of the West Indies women’s team.

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

The second hour began with a pre-recorded, trans-Atlantic interview with Nancy 3 Hoffman, owner and curator of the world’s only umbrella cover museum. Nancy is packing the museum into suitcases and bringing on it’s holidays to Bristol for a couple of weeks.

Finally I welcomed Amirah and Cat from the Bristol People’s Assembly into the studio. They told me all about the big anti-austerity demonstration that was to take place in Bristol at the weekend. I see from the news reports that it drew some pretty big crowds. It is also the first time I can recall the mayor of a city calling a demonstration against his own policies. Marvin says he has no choice but to make cuts because of reductions in the money he gets from central government, and he wanted people in Westminster to know how angry the people of Bristol are about it all.

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

The playlist for the show was:

  • Thin Lizzy – Fight or Fall
  • Sade – Is it a Crime
  • Eurythmics – Sisters are Doing It for Themselves
  • Queen – We Are the Champions
  • DJ Bravo – Champion
  • Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
  • UB40 – One in Ten
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
Posted in Books, Cricket, Current Affairs, History, Music, Radio, Weird | Comments Off on Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

Dragon Hunting in Bath


As I mentioned earlier, I took yesterday off. Donna Hanson was in Bath as part of her GUFF Trip (that’s the fan fund for taking fans from Australia and New Zealand to Worldcon). I offered to pop into town and show her around. She’s seen a lot of Bath before, but there was something going on that I wanted to see, and I figured it was right up her street as well.

The Victoria Art Gallery is running an exhibition called Here Be Dragons. It features dragon art by a number of well known illustrators of children’s books, including Chris Riddell, John Howe, Axel Scheffler and Cressida Cowell. The illustration above is a bad photo (by me) of a LEGO mosaic based on an original piece by Cressida Cowell.

The exhibition also has a companion app that allows kids (of all ages) to hunt dragon eggs around town. The “eggs” as posters with pictures of the eggs on them. The app has a compass that will point to a selected egg, and tells you how far away it is. When you have found the poster in question you use the phone’s camera to prove that you have found it. I was especially interested in this because it uses some of the same technology as I’m hoping to use for app ideas I have.

The exhibition is open until October 8th. It isn’t huge, but it is fun, especially for kids.

Posted in Art, Software | Comments Off on Dragon Hunting in Bath

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.

Posted in History, Internet, Personal | Comments Off on History Goes Viral

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.

Posted in Personal, Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on Missing in Blogdom

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.

Posted in Gender, Personal | Comments Off on It is @StonewallUK #ComeOutForLGBT Day

And in Other LGBT+ History News

It seems to be the day for me being quoted talking about LGBT+ History. Here I am on the LGBT History Month website.

Posted in Gender, History | Comments Off on And in Other LGBT+ History News

Introducing Talking LGBT+ Bristol #LGBT247


The lovely people at Bristol 24/7 have embarked upon a project, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to share the hidden history of LGBT+ life in Bristol through film, print and social media. Naturally this is of great interest to us at OutStories Bristol. I’m sure that I and my colleagues will be contributing in various ways. If you happen to have a story to tell, you can contribute too, of course. And the rest of you will get to enjoy the fruits of the project.

You can learn more about the project, and find out how to get involved, at the Bristol 24/7 website.

While you are there, you may also want to check out this article about Bristol’s LGBTQ Refugees group. I went to talk to them last night. They are a lovely bunch.

Posted in Gender, History | Comments Off on Introducing Talking LGBT+ Bristol #LGBT247

August Fringe – G.V. Anderson & Lucy Hounsom

For the August Fringe meeting we were delighted to welcome G.V. (Gemma) Anderson whose first professional sale, “Das Steingeschöpf”, is a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. Naturally we are all very proud of her. Because she had an early train to catch I did some quick Q&A after her reading, focusing on her sudden success and the crowdfunding campaign to get her to San Antonio for the World Fantasy Convention.

Our headline guest for August was Lucy Housom whose second novel in her Worldmaker series, Heartland, was published that week. The series will conclude with Firestorm next year and we have already booked Lucy to come back and read from it.

Much of the Q&A involved covers and marketing. Lucy’s books have recently been re-launched with dramatically different covers. Because she works for a well known major bookstore chain, Lucy has a special insight into how books are marketed. Lucy also discussed her podcast, Breaking the Glass Slipper, which is nicely feminist but seems to need more cake. There was also some mention of gin theft.

As we still had some time before Gemma had to leave for her train, we were able to do a joint Q&A with both readers. We continued to address issues of covers and marketing, including why Gemma writes under her initials but Lucy does not. We also talked about use of foreign and invented languages.

We seem to have got the audio working much better now that the microphone feeds directly into the recorder. However, this does mean that when people shout questions from the audience the recording will not capture them.

Posted in Feminism, Readings, Science Fiction | Comments Off on August Fringe – G.V. Anderson & Lucy Hounsom

Thrilling End to County Championship

The women’s county cricket season came to an end yesterday with a nail-biting finish. Going into the final round of games, Yorkshire headed the league with a narrow advantage over Warwickshire, with Lancashire trailing in third. Warwickshire and Lancashire were due to play each other, while Yorkshire had an easier game against 4th-placed Nottinghamshire.

As Raf Nicholson reports, Lancashire pulled off a spectacular 5-wicket away victory, thanks largely to some brilliant bowling from Sophie Ecclestone.

Meanwhile Yorkshire were having a bad day, scoring only 178. Fortunately for them they didn’t need to win. They had a substantial points lead over Lancashire. If the worst came to the worst, taking 5 Notts wickets would gain enough bonus points to tie with Lancashire and take the title on a tie break as they had won the head-to-head. Nottinghamshire, however, were having none of this, and roared to a six-wicket victory. So Lancashire ended up champions by just one point.

Down in Division 2, there was a top-of-the-table clash between Hampshire and Somerset. Hampshire managed to win that one, which I think means that they took the division title, but both teams will be promoted to Division 1 for next season. That’s good news for both Western Storm and Southern Vipers who naturally want their feeder teams playing at the highest level possible.

Posted in Cricket | Comments Off on Thrilling End to County Championship

Hugo Award Rules Changes

One of the good things about Worldcons these days is that I don’t have to spend much of my time in the Business Meeting reporting on what goes on there. Alex Acks does that for me. What’s more, they wrote a very useful article explaining all of the Hugo Award rules changes passed this year. You can read it here.

Posted in Awards, Conventions | Comments Off on Hugo Award Rules Changes

Some Baseball History

American friends generally roll their eyes when I tell them that cricket is a much simpler game than baseball. Then I ask them to explain the Infield Fly Rule and their eyes glaze over. That, however, has a rational explanation. It is much harder to explain the Dropped Third Strike Rule. But, thanks to this article, I now know why it exists.

Two interesting things follow from this. Firstly it contains some fascinating history of baseball, including references to a German book dating from 1796 and referring to a sport known as “Englische Base-ball”. So much for baseball being an American invention, I think.

I’m pretty sure I remember the “must run on a third miss” rule from when I played rounders in school, if only because I never managed to hit a ball so that rule was always being applied to me.

Secondly the article provides a great example of how the rules of a sport evolve with time, and in reaction to tactics developed by players. There are silly people around, many of them in the UK, who think that the rules of sports were set in stone late in the 19th Century and should never be changed. However, there are few things more constant in the world than change, and sport is not immune.

Oh, and the article mentions the Dodgers losing a game, which is always likely to put me in a good mood.

Posted in Baseball | Comments Off on Some Baseball History

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

This year’s Strange Horizons Fund Drive has launched. If you want to help them continue to publish great material over the coming year, here’s where you pony up the cash. There are some very interesting stretch goals. I’m particularly hoping that they get to do the special issue of Arabic SFF. And, of course, simply keeping them in business allows them to continue to produce great content like this.

Posted in Science Fiction | Comments Off on Strange Horizons Fund Drive

More Historical Erasure

This morning, while I was on my way to Bristol to do the radio show, my Twitter feed lit up with discussion of trans history. Yesterday The Guardian ran a piece about Albert Cashier, a Union solider from the American Civil War who was assigned female at birth but fought as a man and continued to live as one after the war. It was intended as a challenge to the Unpresident’s ban on trans people in the military. Inevitably it drew comment from well known anti-trans campaigners:

There are several things that can be said about this, starting with the fact that this is hardly deep history that we are talking about here. Cashier died in 1915. The first modern trans surgery I know of in the USA took place in 1917 when Alan Hart had the first of a number of operations. He went on to have further surgery and took testosterone as soon as it became available to him. Hart identified as trans in a way easily recognizable today, and his life overlapped with that of Cashier for many years. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Cashier might have had similar feelings.

Also, while Cashier was assigned female at birth, we have no details regarding his anatomy. As late as the 1930s people with intersex conditions were regularly having their gender re-assigned in adulthood due to errors made at birth. In it not impossible that Cashier had some sort of physical condition that might have inspired him to change gender role.

Some of the complaints about the article say that it is an attempt to “erase women’s history”. That seems a vast over-statement. Hundreds of women fought in the American Civil War. The vast majority of them went back to living as women if they survived the war and can be celebrated as women. Cashier is unusual (though not unique) in continuing to live as a man. Why noting that maybe 1% of the assigned-female people who fought might be trans counts as an erasure of women’s history is a mystery to me. Why is it that every single possible example of a trans man from history has to be reclaimed as a woman for women’s history to exist?

I have seen some people saying that they find it hard to believe that Cashier identified as a man. This, I suspect, is because they are cis people and can’t imagine why anyone would identify as trans. The way Cashier lived was incredibly dangerous for him. As Jonah Coman noted on Twitter today, cis people would never put themselves in that much danger. You have to really need to transition full time socially in order to survive doing it.

Then there is the political aspect. As far as the Unpresident is concerned, Cashier’s gender status is irrelevant. Cashier fought in the Union army, and trans men fight in the US Army today. Whether you regard them as men, or as “really women” doesn’t affect the fact that they fight well and bravely, and are a credit to their units. It doesn’t matter what gender you believe someone to be to defend their right to serve.

Why, then, is Lewis so perturbed about the Cashier article? The answer, of course, is politics. The idea that a trans man might have existed in the 19th Century is anathema to anti-trans campaigners because it is a matter of political faith for them that trans identities are not real, and that they did not exist until (male) doctors “invented” them in the 20th Century. Just like the Alt-Right goons who can’t accept the existence of black people in Roman Britain, Lewis and her pals can’t accept the existence of trans people in 19th Century America. In both cases this refusal stems from political opinions rooted in bigotry.

(It is, of course, no accident that among the most vocal supporters of the Unpresident’s ban on trans people in the military were anti-trans “feminists”.)

History (as Kit Heyam noted today) is always political. You can’t interpret the past without your own feelings and prejudices influencing that interpretation. Seeking to erase specific groups of people from history is about as political as it gets.

Posted in Gender, History | 3 Comments