Coronavirus – Day #98

I appear to have spent much of today watching TV. There was housework as well, and an online meeting, but lots of TV. Or, to be precise, Netflix.

So, yes, I have watched Disclosure. It is rather painful to be reminded of the many awful ways in which trans people have been portrayed in film and TV, but it is also quite powerful to be reminded of what the media has done to us. Because something that has been done can be undone.

After which, I needed a reward, so I binged the rest of season 4 of She-Ra. Tomorrow, season 5.

Wait, no, tomorrow back to work, what am I saying…

She-Ra.

In the outside world, the 7-day rolling average of deaths in the UK ticked upwards again. Its only one day. We’ll be fine. I hope.

Coronavirus – Day #97

Today was the first day I can remember since Lockdown started that I didn’t have urgent things to do. Obviously I have a huge backlog of things I should do, but nothing urgent. I am so very tired.

Fortunately New Zealand is out of Lockdown by now so there is live rugby on TV. Also I read about half of a novel. And I have started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. Yes, I know, I’m very late to that. But it is now on Netflix so I can watch it and I’m doing so.

I haven’t seen anything much about the outside world today, but I assume that the government will have been lying about something.

Coronavirus – Day #96

Today’s big excitement was taking my car in for an MOT. I’m delighted to report that she passed with flying colours yet again. Not bad for a car that cost me precisely £0.

Also today I was phoned out of the blue by my hair salon. They are opening in July and wanted to let regulars book up. Obviously I can survive longer without a haircut, but I’ll be very pleased to get one if it is still safe to do so by then.

Taking of which, the infection and death rates in the UK continue to fall very slowly.

Elsehere our Foreign Secretary has demonstrated conclusively that he has no idea what is going on in the USA at the moment. I mean, it is only a country that we are supposed to be negotiating a major trade agreement with. Fortunately there is good news. He is well up on events in Westeros. Perhaps we’ll be able to tuck into some juicy White Walker steaks alongside our chlorinated chicken and Vegemite. It will make a change from having to eat each other, which is looking increasingly plausible as each day goes by.

Clarke Award Shortlist

The Shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award was announced today. Here they are, with links to my reviews where they exist:

Of the three I have read, I’d pick The Light Brigade as the clear winner. But Clarke juries are notoriously unpredictable. In any case, I have some reading to do.

Raising Money For SARSAS

Due to the ongoing health crisis, lots of charities are reaching out for addiitonal support. One campaign that has just been brought to my attention is for SARSAS, the local rape crisis centre for Bristol and surrounding regions (the acronym is Somerset & Avon, but of course Avon no longer exists as a county).

SARSAS is looking to raise £15,000 through the Aviva Community Fund. As to what the money will be used for, they tell me:

  • There are currently 360 women and girls on their waiting list for support
  • On average they are receiving 90 new referrals each month — that’s 3 referrals every day
  • In some areas the estimated waiting time is nearly four years…

Much of the problem is that government doesn’t care about women’s issues, and local councils are being squeezed for cash so that they can’t help even if they want to. Another major problem is that it is now so hard to obtain a prosecution for rape in this country that the Crown Prosecution Service is starting to decline to progress cases because it would be a waste of money. Sexual predators know that they can get away with their crimes, and that emboldens them.

SARSAS are great folks. I have done training for them on several occasions. As a member of the Women’s Equality Party I am, of course, dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. And as I woman I am only too aware of the need. Please help if you can.

Coronavirus – Day #95

I made my weekly run to Tesco today. I was pleased to see that they are finally selling facemasks, though it is still the case that the vast majority of shoppers are not wearing one. The staff aren’t either, but I’m assuming that they have all been tested and are COVID-19 free which makes it less of an issue.

Talking of the virus, I’ve seen a few people posting in the last few days that they have had serious relapses. One was the TV historian, Dr. Janina Ramirez. I’ve been coughing quite a bit over the past week, which is annoying because I thought I was over that. Maybe it is something to do with the weather. Or perhaps it is just a case that if you get too tired the virus comes roaring back.

In Parliament today the Minister for Men and Inequality, Liz Truss, was required to take questions. Because none of the other political parties are prepared to stand up for trans rights, she got few questions on her plans for equality law reform. Those she did get, she bumbled past saying nothing of substance.

On the one hand that is good news. She could have said a bunch of awful things. It is also possible that yesterday’s letter-writing campaign had some effect. As of close of business today over 25,000 people had sent letters to Bozo via the Gendered Intelligence gateway that I wrote about yesterday. More people have written directly, or written to their MPs. Apparently some MPs experienced website crashes and overflowing mailboxes today.

I don’t expect that this will have any effect on the government’s plans. Truss did not come up with this idea by herself. Dominic Cummings will be patiently explaining to panicked Cabinet members that the whole point of leaking the plans ahead of time was to allow the public outrage to run its course so that by the time the plans are officially announced people will be tired of the subject and only those directly affected will complain. We will need to prove him wrong.

In the meantime there has been a public statement of support for the trans community from Angela Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Not from Kier Starmer, of course. He is sticking to his policy of not getting involved least JK Rowling stop donating to his party, but at least we have got Labour a little bit rattled.

And yes, as you may have noticed, billionaires are a very bad thing all round, regardess of which political party they support.

Today On Ujima – The Last Show

Today was my last show on Ujima. I have really enjoyed doing it, but right now my life has other priorities. I need to devote as much of my time as possible to fighting the government’s plans to strip civil rights away from trans people. And of course to being ready to leave the country should it become impossible to live here any more. The radio show is great fun, but takes up a huge amount of time.

On the other hand, I think I had a decent last show. I had one interview, with Rebecca Manson Jones of the Women’s Equality Party. She’s their spokesperson on health issues, and we talked mainly about the care industry, which has become vital in this time of a global pandemic, but which is still grossly undervalued.

Something went a bit weird with the scheduling today. The first segment of my show cut out after around 7 minutes. The rest of the first hour was then off schedule. The scheduling system stuck in some music on automatic at the end of the hour, and from then on we ran as normal. I have no idea what happened. But at least we didn’t lose any of the interview.

Anyway, you can listen to the show here.

And if you’d like to join the Women’s Equality Party you can do so here. I note that WE are the only political party in the UK to have a Black person as party leader.

The full playlist for today, including a couple of songs that got lost, was:

  • Trombone Shorty – Dirty Water
  • ChiLites – Power to the People
  • Chic – Rebels We Are
  • Alicia Keys – Superwoman
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – Side by Side
  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Sade – Please Send Me Someone to Love
  • Fontella Bass – Rescue Me
  • Dreadzone – Earth Angel
  • Amanda Lear – I Am What I Am
  • Saara Aalto – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
  • Shawnee – Warrior Heart
  • Tegan & Sara – Faint of Heart
  • Jackie Shane – Any Other Way
  • Janelle Monae – What an Experience
  • Tracy Chapman – Across the Lines
  • Prince – Purple Rain

Coronavirus – Day #94

I did a webinar. I’m told it has been recorded and will be online soon. I will let you know when it is. My thanks to everyone at Benefex, and to Trish Driver, for a fun time.

I’ve also done some politics, which is badly needed right now.

I keep watching the virus data, and the numbers for the UK keep dropping ever so slowly. Given the mess we are in, I take this as very good news. We could easily be in the middle of another big spike right now.

Dear Prime Minister

There is a thing going around social media today to the effect that Downing Street will be making a decision tomorrow as to whether to back Liz Truss’s plans to roll back trans rights. Consequently we are all being urged to write to the PM. Personally I suspect that Bozo has already had his mind made up for him by Cummings, but you never know. Recently we have seen:

1a. A climb down over whether overseas staff in the NHS should be charged a £400 fee for using the service should they get sick.

1b. Except we learned today that the government lied and the fee is still being charged.

2a. Another climb down today over providing school meals to poor kids over the summer holiday, something that Bozo flatly refused to do until get got yelled at in Parliament over it.

2b. And I’m betting that come summer we will find out that this was a lie too.

So it is possible that we might squeeze some weasel words out of Bozo about bowing to public opinion, but come mid July when the proposals are published they will be exactly as outlined in the Sunday Times (if not worse).

Anyway, if you are a UK citizen and feel like writing a letter, Gendered Intelligence have provided a nice little template for you to use.

Here’s what I wrote.


I’m writing to you today as a UK citizen deeply concerned about proposed rollbacks to safeguards for trans dignity and safety in this country. On 14th June, The Sunday Times had as its front page an article on how the much-needed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act were being shelved. In the same article, plans were revealed that would restrict the access of trans people to single-sex spaces, and educe their access to medical treatment.

When your predecessor first proposed reforming the Gender Recognition Act we were told by the media that this would grant trans people worrying new rights that would put women in danger. The trans community patiently explained that the issues raised were covered by the Equality Act and not the GRA, so the supposed new rights were actually existing rights that had been in operation for 10 years without causing any problems.

Your government has now decided to scrap the reforms, despite an overwhelming majorty of people who expressed an opinion supporting them. But in addition to that you are apparently intending to remove rights from trans people on the grounds that they are a danger to women. How can that be, given that we were told that these dangerous new rights would only be granted if the GRA was reformed? And if these rights do exist, why are they being taken away given that they have been in place for 10 years without causing any problems?

As an active member of the Women’s Equality Party I am very much concerned with women’s safety. I know that between 2 and 3 women are killed every week by men that they know. I know that rape convictions are so hard to obtain in this country that the Crown Prosecution Service is now reluctant to bring cases. These are real and urgent issues facing the women of Britain. And yet your Women & Equalities Minister is instead wasting her time taking away rights from people who, as far as I can see, have done no one any harm. This is surely an inefficient use of government resources.

Please do something to protect women that will actual have a positive effect on our lives, and stop wasting time and effort on this ridiculous persecution of a tiny minority of the population.

Coronavirus – Day #93

Today has mostly been spent putting together this week’s radio show. I have a great interview with Rebecca Manson Jones, the Health Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party, that I’m eager to share with you. We talked about the care industry, how it is now more vital than ever to the economy, and how government still doesn’t value it, or the people who work in it.

In the news the anti-trans lobby is busily reconfiguring its arguments to explain how rights, that only last week they were still insisting trans people didn’t have, are now an urgent and present danger that must be removed.

But there is good news. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS to its friends) has ruled that discrimination in employment against LGBT+ people is against the law. That in itself is remarkable. Everyone I know was expecting us to lose that fight. But the way in which the judgement was framed is truly astonishing.

It has long been an argument of the anti-trans lobby that the existence of trans people infringes on the sex-based rights of cisgender women. That is, they claim that there are only two sexes: male and female, and that allowing people to cross from one to the other, or exist outside them, is a direct danger to cisgender women and an infringement of their civil rights.

The SCOTUS judgement, in contrast, accepts that sex/gender is a social construct, and that people may express sex/gender in a variety of ways. (It doesn’t actual use the word “gender”, probably because the more conservative judges would have had a heart attack if forced to utter it, but the word is clearly meant by what they say.) The judgement argues that discrimination against LGBT+ folks happens because we fail to perform sex/gender in narrowly defined ways, but that Title VII, the US law which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, must protect all forms of sex/gender, not just cis straight male and cis straight female.

And this judgement was carried 6-3, despite the *Unpresident stacking the court with his personal appointees.

I am gobsmacked and delighted. Now I am going to bed, and hoping that I don’t wake up and find it was all a dream.

Please Help Mindline Trans+

The last week has been particularly awful for trans people in the UK. I know a lot of people are very frightened and upset. Fortunately the lovely folks at Mindline Trans+, the helpline for trans and non-binary people run by the mental health charity, Mind, is looking to expand. They have a fundraiser going through the Aviva Community Fund and are hoping to hit £10,000 in donations by July 15th. The money will be used to expand their service from 2 nights a week to 3.

I should declare an interest here. The service started in Bristol and I did the initial training for staff from Bristol and Taunton. Also I see that the fundraiser is using a TV interview that Liz Sorapure of Mind and I did for Made in Bristol TV when the service first started up. But I very much believe that this is one of the best projects I have been involved in. And it is never more needed than it is now. Please help.

Coronavirus – Day #92

Well, as you’ll see from the post below, today wasn’t great. On the other hand, it has been great to have it out in the open at last. We in the trans community have known for a long time that the true objective of the anti-trans movement was to take away our civil rights. Now they have been given what they wanted — the GRA reforms have been scrapped — and yet the government is already saying that they are planning a massive curtailment of trans rights. Even though there is no evidence that the rights that we have enjoyed for the past 10 years have caused any problems.

I note also that this is very selective protection of women. In 2017 and 2018 147 women in the UK were killed by violent men. We don’t have the final count for 2019 yet, but the total is at least 115. We also know that violence against women has increased substanially during Lockdown. Conviction for rape is now so difficult in this county that many people are saying it is no longer a crime. The government is doing nothing to tackle this massive problem, and yet it is putting significant effort into “protecting” women from people like me. Hopefully most people can see how crazy this is.

Anyway, there will have to be major changes in my life in the near future. I will need to devote much more time to protecting my community, and indeed focusing on my own safety. I am very aware of the possibility that I may have to leave the UK in order to avoid being forced to detransition.

Watch this space.

The Government War on Trans People Begins

Today’s papers have the news that the UK government is ready to move forward on reform of trans rights. The government has leaked to the Sunday Times that it will not be implementing the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), and will instead be introducing proposals to protect the British people from dangerous trans folks.

By far the most remarkable part of this is the revelation that 70% of respondents to the government survey on GRA reform were in favour of the proposals put forward by those notorious radicals, Theresa May and Amber Rudd. However, the proposals are still being rejected because the government believes that the Wrong Sort of People responded to the consultation.

If only they had been so sensible about the 52% of people who voted for Brexit, eh?

Also, given that trans people make up around 1% of the population, I find it hard to understand how we could have swamped responses to a public consultation, especially because almost every national media outlet, including the Guardian and the BBC, were encouraging people to reject the reform proposals.

But we are where we are. The government is determined to move forward as it sees fit, and it has made clear that even a supermajority of public opinion will not be allowed to stand in its way. So what does it all mean? Like most things pertaining to trans people, the announcement in the Sunday Times is full of coded language that can seem harmless but may hide all sorts of nastiness.

I should note, by the way, that I have no reason to believe that the Sunday Times has got this wrong. One of their reporters who led their campaign against trans people until recently was rewarded, after the General Election, with a post as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister.

One way in which we can try to decode what the announcement means is to look at what is already being done. Some time ago the government announced a legal inquiry into the operation of the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London, which provides the vast majority of health care for trans youth in the UK. The Tavi is well known to be deeply conservative in its practices. When asked to recommend international best practices for trans youth I normally point people to the official guidelines in the USA and Australia. However, a week and a half ago NHS England issued new guidelines for the treatment of trans youth that characterised the services that the Tavi provides as experimental and dangerous. This gives the inquiry no choice but to find that the Tavi is operating improperly, and to either order them to change their practices or close them down.

Those new guidelines also cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of treatment for trans adults.

One of the proposals listed by the Sunday Times is as follows:

There will be a crackdown on “quack” doctors to ensure that only reputable medics can give approvals.

This is obviously a direct attack on Dr. Helen Webberley and her Gender GP service, but the UK has a long and inglorious history of attacking anyone who sets up in private practice to help trans people. All of these people have been reputable medics with appropriate qualifications, but they have all been attacked (with the connivance of senior NHS doctors). Every single private gender expert that I have seen has been forced out of business. As I understand it, Dr. Webberley has moved her operations overseas.

The reason that private operations such as these exist is that waiting times for a first appointment at UK Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) were around 3 years as of before the pandemic. All services are currently on hold. Once services start up again that will have increased signifcantly. That’s 3 years before you see anyone at all, and probably at least another 6 months before a second appointment and approval for you to start treatment.

One of the ways in which trans people have navigated this problem is to initiate transition themselves. They transition socially. They may obtain medication from someone like Dr. Webberley. And until recently NHS guidelines suggested to GPs that they could provide a “bridging prescription” to tide people over until they could get officially taken on by a GIC. That guidance was withdrawn fairly recently. (Sometime last year, as I recall.) So one of the questions I am asking is, what if “quack doctors” include GPs who have provided treatment to trans patients who are not yet with a gender clinic? Will they soon be banned from doing so, under pain of being struck off?

It is rather ironic that a government that is hell-bent on privatising as much of the NHS as possible is also trying to prevent any private practice in the case of trans health.

The Sunday Times also talks about new national guidelines on access to toilets. They talk about how the general public does “not support transgender women with male anatomy accessing female-only facilities”. This is deeply disingenous of them. The current treatment protocols for trans people require that you show you can live full time in your correct gender for a period of time. The GRA states 2 years, though most GICs currently require less than that. This so-called “real life test” includes navigating public life. If trans women are not able to use public toilets, changing rooms and so on, they will fail the test and not be allowed surgery or a legal gender change.

The Sunday Times report also talks about a crackdown on the provision of gender neutral toilets. This does not protect cisgender people in any way. When asked to give advice on toilet provision I always note that gender neutral facilities should either be an addition for those who need them, or that they should be entirely separate cubicles such as you find on trains and aircraft. Gender-specific toilets can still exist alongside them. That way anyone who is unconfortable accessing a “male” or “female” toilet will have somewhere safe to go. That will include non-binary people, and butch lesbians, as well as pre-surgery trans women. It looks like this option will be banned.

Then there are the waiting lists. There are currently thousands of trans women in the UK who have transitioned successfully but have either yet to be accepted by a GIC, or are still waiting for a date for surgery. All of these women will be left in limbo by such regulations. Even going to work will be difficult for many of them. Thank goodness for Lockdown, because currently no one is surprised that we are afraid to leave home.

What about people like me? I successfully completed all of the required tests years ago when treatment protocols were much more stringent. I’ve had genital surgery and I am legally recognised as female. Will I be safe under these new proposals? Possibly not.

To start with, in the 20+ years since surgery I have had continual problems with GPs who have been unwilling to provide me with the hormones I need to stay healthy. There has been an ongoing spat between the GICs and the Royal College of GPs, with the latter pushing for a position that all health care for trans people should be conducted by GICs because it is “too complicated” for ordinary GPs. The GICs, being massively overloaded, have pushed back against this. They discharge people into GP care as soon as they have had all of the surgery they want.

Remember that I suggested that GPs might be banned from providing hormones to trans people before they access a GIC? What happens if they are banned from providing hormones after surgery as well? The government will say that there is no problem because people like me will be able to go to a GIC for prescriptions. But there will be at least a 4-year waiting list, and having thousands of people like me apply to be taken on will only make matters worse.

None of this will even require any legislation. All that is required is for the NHS to change official guidelines and threaten GPs with being struck off if they disobey. As we have seen with the changed guidelines for trans youth, they are already willing to do this.

Another point raise by the Sunday Times is as follows:

Safeguards will be put in place to protect “safe spaces” for women, reaffirming provisions in the Equality Act.

What does this mean?

UK readers will remember that the Tories have long been opponents of equalities legislation. David Cameron’s government spent a long time trying to find a way to repeal the Human Rights Act. The fact that they were unable to do so while still part of the EU was a significant driving force behind Brexit. The government does not want to do anything to equalities legislation except dismantle it.

A key feature of anti-trans arguments (for example Rowling’s recent screed) is that trans rights somehow take away rights from cis women. They want equalities legislation changed so that “sex-based rights” always trump the rights of trans people. This sort of thing appeals to the government because it can be endlessly extended. If they get this done, then they can argue that the rights of religious people trump the rights of LGBT+ people, that the rights of Christians trump those of non-Christians, that the rights of white people trump the rights of non-white people, and that the rights of men trump those of women.

The government knows that it is impractical to pass a law banning trans women from “women-only” spaces. It doesn’t want to be seen to be responsible for putting police guards on toilets and changing rooms. What they will do instead is to amend the guidance for the Equality Act to note that any person or organisation that allows a trans woman (whether she is legally female or not) access to a “woman-only” space is committing an act of discrimination against cis women. They will then sit back and wait for the rash of law suits that will force organisations to rescind their trans-inclusive policies.

In the USA a couple of days ago the *Unpresident changed legal guidance so that it is no longer an offence to refuse medical treatment to trans people. What I think the UK government is proposing is far worse. They will make it a crime for an orgnisation to be trans inclusive, even if it wants to be.

Finally there is the point about outlawing gay conversion therapy. This is generally being seen as a sop to the LGB community, and an effort to further divide them from their trans allies. “Don’t make a fuss over the trans thing,” the government is saying, “and we will give you this other thing you have always wanted.” But it could be much more than that, because the anti-trans movement has long claimed that gender reassignment is, de facto, gay conversion therapy.

Back when I transitioned, it was absolutely essential that I claimed to be sexually attracted to men, otherwise I would be deemed not feminine enough to be allowed to transition. Thankfully that wasn’t a problem for me, but others had to lie to get through. Suppose, however, that claiming to be sexually attracted to men was also taken as proof that I was “really gay”, because I was “really a man”. Anti-trans LG people firmly believe this is the case, and that “their people” are being stolen by gender clinics.

If the government listens to the anti-trans lobby, and they have shown every sign of doing so enthusiastically, then they could quite easily define gender transition as “gay conversion therapy” as an excuse to ban it.

Now of course none of this has happened yet. It is possible that the government is not in fact as devious and cruel as I think it is. But I’m not going to bet on that. We need to be prepared for the possibility that such changes will be introduced, and that they will be disguised by weasel words to make them seem harmless. The misinformation campaign over GRA reform has shown just how dishonest the opposition can be when it comes to trans rights.

The question is, will anyone care? Obviously vastly more people who do care are on our side than are not. The results of the consultation proved that. But the vast majority of the UK population did not respond. Nevertheless, they should care about what is being done to trans people right now, because we are the canary in the coal mine. Also we are running out of time.

Last week the government confirmed that they would not be seeking an extension to the Brexit negotiations because of the pandemic, and that they will be continuing their intransigent negotiating stance. This means that a very hard Brexit currently looks inevitable, and as a consequence the UK will suffer a massive economic disaster in January. We need to stop this. We need causes to rally around. The Black Lives Matter campaign appears to be one of them. I am hoping that the sheer cruelty of the government’s treatment of trans people might be another one.

The other interesting political wild card is Scotland. The Scottish government has published a Bill implementing the proposed GRA changes, and has promised to progress it once the pandemic is over. I have long wondered why Nicola Sturgeon has insisted on this, given that one of her main allies, Joanna Cherry, is violently transphobic. My assumption is that for the SNP independence always comes first, and that Ms. Cherry is privately prepared to accept a temporary increase in trans rights in Scotland if that provokes a massive row with Westminister.

We surely live in interesting times.

As usual with such things, comments are closed on this. You know how to find me if you need to talk.

Coronavirus – Day #91

Dear Goddess, that was a long day. I spent 6.5 hours on Zoom in a virtual academic conference during the day, and a further 2.5 hours on Zoom in Virtual Åcon in the evening. I am all Zoomed out.

It was a lot of fun, though. My thanks to both sets of organisers.

I gather from Twitter that today has been a day of nation-wide activity by the All Lives Matter movement (who don’t actually care about your life unless you are white, cis and straight). They claim to have been responding to planned attacks on war memorials by “BLM thugs”, but no such attacks appear to have taken place, and the BLM people are entirely bemused as to where the idea came from. These brave defenders of Britain’s legacy in WW2 have been keen to demonstrate their admiration for Winston Churchill by, er, giving Nazi salutes.

From what I’ve seen on Twitter, these protesters are all of a certain type. They are all white, they all appear to drink copious quantities of lager while on duty, and their bodies indicate that this has been a life-long habit. I have only seen one woman amongst them, and she was wearing an anti-trans t-shirt.

I am fully expecting tomorrow’s papers to be full of stories of how these brave warriors fought off violent mobs of dark-skinned “antifa” rioters, with no help from the traitorous police.

I should note, by the way, that one of the people I was talking to today is Polish. He tells me that in Poland government ministers are openly declaring that LGBT+ people are “not human”. I guess that makes a change from “tank-topped bumboys”.

Coronavirus – Day #90

Today has been pretty horrible for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that I think we have passed a tipping point of sorts in that public opinion in the UK has swung so far against trans people that many people who used to be allies will no longer be prepared to stand up for us because it is too politically risky to do so.

On the other hand, I get to spend tomorrow at an academic conference on queer history, which should be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere, people continue to die in large numbers. However, I’ve seen some interesting research that suggests that wearing face masks is more effective than social distancing at preventing the spread of COVID-19. If that’s true it would be very helpful in getting the world back to normal again.

Free Webinar on LGBT+ in the Workplace

On Tuesday next week (12:30 UK time) I will be a guest on a webinar run by Benefex, a company that helps employers make better use of their employees by treating them better. Given the current atmosphere in the UK, I have no doubt that it will be highly contentious. It might even get me on the front page of The Times again. We shall see.

Anyway, if you are interested, you can sign up for free.

This Week on Ujima – C-19, Genetics and #BLM

As I mentioned yesterday, my Ujima show for this week got postponed until yesterday morning thanks to technical issues. It is now available on the Listen Again service, and you can find it here. That page might not say it is Women’s Outlook, but that’s because it is an automated system.

I only had one interview this week. It is with Professor Julian Gough who used to be at Bristol University and is at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge (MRC). He’s involved in a project to look at possible genetic links to COVID-19 susceptibility. This is obviously of interest at Ujima because of the much higher death rates in people from non-white ethnic backgrounds.

There’s a potentially contentious issue here because of the focus of people like Cummings on eugenics, but that’s medical nonsense. All human DNA is very similar. The difference between individual humans is around 0.1%, and we are only 1.2% different from chimps. So the racist nonsense that somehow white people are completely different and massively superior to all other humans is just that, nonsense. However, as Professor Gough explains, some genes are linked to specific diseases (breast cancer, for example), and sometimes those genes are more prevalent in some ethnic groups than others. Furthermore, if there is a C-19 gene, it might not be ethnically linked, but instead be widespread throughout the population, because we already know that systemic racism is a major cause of health inequalities.

A key part of Professor Gough’s work is that he needs data, and you can help. Or at least you can if you have had your DNA sequenced. It doesn’t matter whether you know whether you have had C-19 or not, or even if you’ve had no symptoms. And it doesn’t matter where in the world you live, because the pandemic is global. So if you have DNA data, Professor Gough would love to hear from you. You can join the project here.

By the way, I did ask about data security. UK universities are very strict about such things. Your data is far more at risk from the private companies that do the seqencing than from the MRC.

The rest of the show was taken up with me pontificating about statues taking dip in Bristol harbour, and playing lots of civil rights songs by Black artists. Here’s the playlist:

  • Tracy Chapman – Taking about a Revolution
  • Tom Robinson Band – Long Hot Summer
  • David Byrne – Hell You Talmbout
  • Bob Marley – Slave Driver
  • Black Roots – Bristol Rock
  • Amaal Nuux – Last Ones Down
  • The Specials – Racist Friend
  • Eddy Grant – Boys in the Street
  • Beyoncé – Freedom
  • Jimmy Cliff – Peace Officer
  • Prince – Baltimore
  • Alicia Keys – We Gotta Pray
  • Stevie Wonder – Living for the City
  • James Brown – Black and I’m Proud
  • Otis Redding – Change is Gonna Come
  • Janelle Monáe – Hell You Talmbout

Silence is the Enemy, and Sound is the Weapon.

Coronavirus – Day #89

Bleargh. Aside from a half hour break to cook dinner, I have been in Zoom meetings from 13:00 to 19:30 solid. That’s a lot of staring at people’s faces.

The radio show did run in the 10:00-12:00 slot today. I’ll do a proper post about it tomorrow.

If anything exciting happened in the outside world, aside from various transphobes venting bile, I was too busy to notice.

I can haz sleep nao?

Wizard’s Tower and BLM

Lots of organisations have been posting statements about how they intend to be better at supporting people of colour, and in particular Black people, in the future. Many of those, I suspect, will prove to be PR exercises, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I haven’t yet said anything about Wizard’s Tower, so here we go.

None of the novels we publish are by people of colour. Nor, to my knowledge, are there any stories by people of colour in any of the anthologies that we publish. There are people of colour in the non-fiction parts of Adventure Rocketship, for which we have the ebook rights. I’m very pleased about that because the book is about the intersection between science fiction and music.

I would very much like to publish more work by people of colour, but when someone, anyone, comes to me and inquires about getting published my first reaction is always to ask them if they are sure, and can they not get a better deal with someone else. There are plenty of very talented people of colour out there, and they should be getting published by mainstream publishers, not having to resort to a tiny outfit like mine.

I will note that I have one anthology of translated fiction in publication, and have another two hopefully forthcoming this year. That’s something else that is a hard sell with bigger publishers, but I’m always happy to look at.

I try to do the LGBT+ stuff too. Lyda, of course, is a lesbian. Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II has three stories by trans people in it. If you have books that bigger publishers won’t touch because of queer content, do come to me. Ditto any other marginalised theme.

It is embarassing not to have any writers of colour on our books. All I can say is that it is not by design. Given the way that publishing works, a whole bunch of the writers of colour who are being taken on by the big companies right now will get dropped after a couple of books. If that happens to you, do come to me for future projects, because rescuing mid-list writers who have been dumped is what Wizard’s Tower was set up to do. If you are not published yet, keep an eye on any anthology projects we might announce, but have ambition. You can crack professional markets. Go for it!