Miracles of Ancient Science

A couple of weeks back I was doing some work in the house. I was kneeling down, and as I went to push myself upright I felt something go in my left knee. That’s not entirely unusual. I’ve had knee problems before. I figured it was a sprain and if I took reasonable care of it then it would heal in time.

Healing did not happen. There wasn’t any pain most of the time, but the knee was badly swollen and despite lots of cold treatement did not improve. I had it heavily strapped up, and was walking with a cane.

After a couple of weeks I messaged my GP because I was worried there might be something seriously wrong. I got a message back saying that they were overwhelmed and, unless it was an emergency, I’d have to wait. There’s an entirely separate rant to be had about what the Tories have done to the NHS, and what Labour will contine to do because lots of their MPs are also being heavily sponsored by American healthcare companies.

However, this is a rugby town. If there is one thing we are not short of, it is physiotherapists. I found one online and gave him a call. Today I had an appointment.

The good news is that the physio doesn’t think that there is anything seriously wrong. My knee just needs a lot of time to heal. Many weeks. But he did suggest that could speed things up with a bit of accupuncture.

Well, I thought, it was worth a try. And it would be a new experience. So I sat there on his treatment couch for half an hour with needles in my knee and ankle. At the end of the treatment I could walk without either knee brace or cane. I still limp, and am going back next week for more treatment, but I am seriously impressed,

So if anyone asks you if accupuncture works, you can tell them that you know someone for whom it most definitely did.

Health Update

Still sick, still testing positive for COVID. Not the best way to spend a birthday, but at least I am able to have a fairly quiet day, which I very much need.

Looking forward, a few things are becoming obvious.

Firstly, attending any mass event such as a convention is going to require accepting a very high likelihood of contracting COVID. People have given up taking precautions, we have very little reliable public data, it is hard to protect yourself if you go.

Having said that, COVID no longer seems deadly. I’ve not had any difficulty breathing. My senses of taste and smell have been unaffected. Judging from the puzzle games I play regularly, I don’t seem to have suffered any congnitive impairment. Obviously things might be different if I had one of any number of high risk conditions, but I’m lucky.

But, and this is a big but, if you are going to risk getting COVID, you have to allow for at least two weeks, possibly three, of recovery time, and that creates scheduling issues.

Clearly my plan to go to LuxCon immediately after Eastercon was a recipe for disaster. I might make it to HistFest at the end of April, but I’m not certain.

May is just the Tolkien lecture, and there’s plenty of time to recover before Eurocon. I was going to see a couple of talks at Hay at the end of the month, but I doubt that I’ll have a new car by then.

Finncon and Pemmi-Con being close together is another potential disaster. I trust the Finns to run a safe con, but I’d be travelling through Heathrow to get there and that’s likely to be an infection hot-spot.

FantasyCon and BristolCon are sufficiently far apart to both be possible. But if I have no car I can’t bring books to sell, and that reduces the attraction of going.

All of which, I guess, will be good for my carbon footprint.

Health Update

Thus far I seem to have been very lucky. Least ways, I am much less ill than Juliet is reporting being. Of course that could all change. This is a new experience for me.

I’m not going to waste tests until the obvious flu-like symptoms go away. In any case, the NHS guidelines are to isolate for 6 days from a first positive test, so I’m isolating. Tesco delivered some groceries today.

There are now over 70 reported cases of COVID from people who were at Eastercon. I suspect that the true number is much higher. In contrast, last year’s Worldcon, which was a much larger event, had 64 cases. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this, which I will get to when I do my con report, but I don’t think I’m the only person seriously reconsidering in-person attendance at future Eastercons. Especially when this one did hybrid so well.

Cyborg R I

I spent most of today in Swansea. I got a bit of shopping done, including picking up a copy of the new Kate Heartfield book, The Valkyrie. But the main reason for going was to pick up a set of hearing aids. I can still hear fairly well most of the time, but if I need to pick out speech from a lot of background noise — for example if I am in a pub or a noisy restaurant — then I’m useless. Conventions are another problem location, especially somewhere like the dealers’ room. So if I want to get through Eastercon without seeming very rude, I need help.

I am utterly amazed at what a difference the hearing aids make. They cost an eye-watering amount of money, but the science involved is phenomenal. This evening I managed to watch the latest episode of Picard without needing headphones, which is a huge improvement. I will be interested to see what sort of differnece they make over the coming weeks when I have a lot of travel happening.

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.

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.

Bristol on Trans Health

A group of trans folks from Bristol have painted the above mural on a billboard in the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. (If you don’t know where that is, you should go and read Tim Maughan’s Infinite Detail.) The basic message is that if you live in the South West and ask to be refered to an NHS gender clinic you will have to wait for five years before your first appointment. This has a drastic effect on trans people’s lives, and on their mental health.

If you’d like to read the whole thing, there is a high res image available here.

I put it on my Twitter feed this morning, and as of the time of writing this it is closing in on 1000 likes. I think the young trans folks of Bristol have done a splendid thing here.

Coronavirus – Day #121

Masks. Some have them, some don’t. They have been mandatory in shops in Scotland for some time. Over the weekend Michael ‘Wormtongue’ Gove said on TV that he didn’t think that masks were necessary. So obviously yesterday the government he is one of the leaders of decided to make them mandatory. That’s how government works here.

Oh, and it won’t be mandatory until the 24th, so there is plenty of time for a u-turn yet.

The assembled snowflakes of the right wing media are all having fits of the vapours and whining about how they won’t be able to breathe and will look ugly and their right to bodily autonomy has been compromised. This is, of course, nonsense. What they mean by this is that fewer poor, non-white, disabled, aged and queer people will die if we wear masks, and what point is a pandemic if it doesn’t kill off undesirables?

I made my weekly trip to Tesco today. There was a slight uptick in the number of mask wearers, but we were still a tiny minority. Also they have stopped queuing for entry and the one-way system. They had yeast, for the first time since the pandemic started.

According to the informed leaks from Westminister, today was to be the day that Liz Truss announced her rollback of trans rights. It had been planned for International Non-Binary People’s Day for maximum trolling effect. It did not happen. The announcement is now scheduled for probably next week and no later than the morning of the 22nd. Someone, it seems, got cold feet.

So what has been happening. I mean, apart from a supermajority of the GRA consultantion respondents supporting reform, and an opinion poll last week confirming this, and the Welsh and Scottish governments backing reform, and the massive letter-writing campaign that crashed the Downing Street servers, and LGBT+ MPs from all parties getting together the complain to Bozo. Maybe it was because the LibDems introduced two bills addressing non-binary rights issues today (one on passports, the other on school uniforms). And maybe it was because Bozo got a letter from a group of media companies, including Disney, the Financial Times, Warner Media, Discovery and, of course, Diva Media Group (who publish the UK’s leading lesbian magazine) urging him to support trans rights.

You are all doing incredibly well. Thank you! Please keep up the pressure.

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

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 #83

I’m sure I accomplished some things today, but almost none of them were things I had planned to do. There was unexpected Diversity Trust email, unexpected death of a friend, and two good TV documentaries that I had expected to be an hour long and were both two hours. Oh well, I have at least finished the Wizard’s Tower accounts for the month. Now I need to get to bed so that I’m awake to record an interview and to do the thing with Dan tomorrow.

The biggest news in the outside world is that the NHS has updated its guidelines on the provision of cross-sex hormones to trans adolescents. Current regulations say that these can be prescribed at age sixteen, generally after a long period of assessment by the youth gender clinic. The new guidelines are almost laughably unscientific.

They talk about how this treatment might have irreversible effects such as breast growth (in trans girls) or the voice breaking (in trans boys). You don’t say? That’s kind of like saying that cataract surgery can have the irreversible effect of better eyesight.

They note that such treatment might lead to infertility but should not be used as a form of contraception. Really? Who on earth would use it for that? I know that oestrogen is an active ingredient in the birth control pill, but would anyone seriously think of using testosterone?

And finally they talk darkly about the lack of knowledge of the long term effects of such treatment. Well hello! 26 years and counting. And I’m not the only one. There are plenty of us about, many of whom have been on hormones for far longer. But of course no amount of actual evidence will stop these people from scaremongering.

There are two things that we can take from this. The first is that the outcome of the the judicial review into the operation of youth gender clinic has already be decided at a political level. The clinic will be found to be operating unsafely, and it will be shut down, regardless of how much evidence to the contrary is presented, and how many young lives it has improved.

The second is that it won’t stop with kids. The idea that giving trans people hormones is “unsafe” clearly doesn’t only apply to teenagers. GPs now have a carte blanche to refuse to supply them to adults as well. It won’t be long before the adult gender clinics are threatened with closure as well.

Coronavirus – Day #70

Hmm, yes, I was going to write about stuff. But I got distracted by an online convention. Which I think is a good thing. I love how people are suddenly willing to try all sorts of solutions to not being able to meet in person.

My main news from today is that I have noticed that after 10 weeks in Lockdown I am starting to get distinctly larger. As I don’t want to have to buy a new wardrobe, I have decided that I ought to start taking my government-mandated daily exercise. Besides, tomorrow the Women’s Equality Party is staging a socially-distanced protest march in support of carers and care workers. I need to go out and walk for that, so I got some practice in today. Somewhat to my suprise, my legs remembered how to walk.

I think that’s enough excitement for one day without looking at the news.

Coronavirus – Day #62

Today started well. The weather was fine, the pollen count was low, and there were no urgent emails from clients. So I decided to go in search of hormones.

The car was a bit reluctant to start today, so I took a very circuitous route into town to get some charge into the battery. That’s probably contrary to one of the ever-changing Lockdown regulations, so if any of the “Gender Critical” mob are reading this, there’s your smoking gun. You can report me to the Authorities and have me taken away for re-education.

Boots was very quiet and the staff were very helpful. However, as all I had was an email copy of the prescription, they couldn’t fulfill it immediately. They need to phone my doctor and confirm that they are the only people I have approached. When they get that confirmation, they can order the hormones. But in order to find out if they have had confirmation I need to be able to get through to them on the phone, which is easier said than done. If I can’t get through after a few days I will have to go back and see them.

For some unexplained reason there was a massive queue at Tesco when I got there. It took forever to get in. They still didn’t have any flour, but I got a few things I needed for the Canada and France food list. There were a few more people wearing masks this time, including me, but we were still very much in the minority.

When I got back home there was a cement mixer blocking the road. I now have one neighbour and two people immediately across the road all having building work done. Being a builder is clearly a key occupation.

Today on Ujima – One25, Greek Robots & Mental Health

My first guests on today’s show were Amy & Lu from One25. Amy explained why the women that One25 helps cannot simply stop doing sex work during the pandemic. Most of them don’t even have homes, let alone any other source of income. Lu then chimined in with details of this year’s fundraiser. I’m delighted to see that I’m now up to 78% of my initial target. What I’d love to see is us hitting 100% by launch time on Friday, and then I can set a new target for the 6 days of the campaign.

Next up was my new academic pal, Maria Gerolemou from the University of Exeter. Like me, Maria as a passion for ancient automata. Those of you who have heard my “Prehistory of Robotics” talk will have a good idea of what to expect. The rest of you, prepare to be astonished.

Finally I welcomed back Subitha from CASS to talk about two new mental health campaigns. You can find out more about the #SleepSoundBristol and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek projects at the CASS website. And do please write in to tell them about someone who has been kind to you.

This week’s show also includes tributes to two tiny giants of the music business who sadly left us in the past week. They were Millie Small, who hit #2 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 with “My Boy Lollipop”, and Little Richard without whom the likes of Prince and Elton John would have been very different musicians.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small
  • Street Life – Roxy Music
  • Money Don’t Matter – Prince
  • Sun Goddess – Ramsey Lewis & Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Chrome Shoppe – Janelle Monáe
  • Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monáe
  • Dream within a Dream – Dreadzone
  • Everyone’s a VIP to Someone – The Go! Team
  • Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
  • Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
  • Keep a Knockin’ – Little Richard
  • Lucille – Little Richard
  • Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
  • The Girl Can’t Help It – Little Richard
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon – Little Richard
  • House of the Ancestors – Afro Celt Sound System

You can hear the entire show via the Ujima Listen Again service. It will be up there for a few weeks.

Coronavirus – Day #59

Another radio show has gone off to Ujima and should be with you at Noon on Wednesday. Enjoy!

I’ve also done some hours on the day job and more work on the One25 fundraiser, which I am pleased to see is now at 34% so we are one third of the way to the target. Keep it going, folks!

I got a paper acceptance for an online academic conference on queer history, which is also good.

And finally I have done an important piece of self-care. I have got a new prescription for hormones. I have a little while before I run out, but given the difficulty I had getting hold of them last time I’m taking no chances. Of course this means that I have to go to a pharmacy. Tesco do have one, but unless the woman pharmacist is on duty (and she seems to only do Mondays) I’ll probably get told that there’s nothing available. That means that I have to go to town tomorrow, for the first time in 60 days. I wonder if it will still be there?

I also wonder what the rules are. As someone sagely noted on Twitter this afternoon, the UK has gone from “masks are a waste of time” to “masks are compulsory” without the intervening step of “here are some masks you can buy”. I have scarves. It will be interesting to see what people’s attitudes are out there. Or, for that matter, whether any pharmacies are open.

Today on Ujima – Contraception and Books

Today’s show began with an hour-long chat with Dr. Donna Drucker who has recently written a great little book on the history of contraception. Our conversation goes all the way from herbal rememdies to cybersex.

The other half of the show was devoted to books. First up we had Stark Holborn with Triggernometry. And then part of my Lyda Morehouse interview from Salon Futura, which is mainly about Unjust Cause.

The playlist for this week’s show was:

  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Ike & Tina Turner – Sexy Ida
  • Parliament – I’ve Been Watching You
  • James Brown – Sex Machine
  • Janelle Monae – March of the Wolfmasters
  • Janelle Monae – Violet Stars Happy Hunting!!!
  • Janelle Monae – Let’s Get Screwed
  • Big Audio Dynamite – Medicine Show
  • Amazing Rhythm Aces – King of the Cowboys
  • Santana – Full Moon
  • Prince – Little Red Corvette

For the next few weeks you can catch the whole show via the Ujima Listen Again service.

Coronavirus – Day #53

Another productive day! One radio interview recorded (for next week) and a few hours of Day Job done.

Also the fundraiser is now past 20% of my goal, which is very pleasing. I’m starting to think of all sorts of things I could be doing. Several of them involve food prep of various sorts. It is very annoying not being able to buy flour, and having other things on a long lead time. However, I did order a few products today, including some very famous Australian food. I suspect that some of you can guess what that is.

Our government proudly announced today that the death toll from C-19 is now over 30,000, and we have the highest number of deaths of any country in Europe. Winning! Friday is VE Day, which the Daily Malice has re-named Victory Over Europe Day, presumably in honour of this momentous achievement. The Financial Times, which continues to be the only useful opposition newspaper in the country, puts the death toll at well over 50,000.

I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about too many Zoom meetings, and this morning a friend posted a link to this National Geographic article on “Zoom Fatigue”. Although the headline gives the impression that’s all it talks about, the article goes on to note that Zoom is much less tiring than face-to-face meetings for people on the autism spectrum. I certainly wouldn’t class myself as autistic, but equally I don’t recognise any of the causes or symptoms of fatigue that the article describes. I guess I must be a lucky, in-the-middle sort of person.

Coronavirus – Day #45

I forgot to do a post yesterday, didn’t I. Not that I had a huge amount to report. I was busy.

Today has been much of the same. I have recorded an interview, made a Museum From Home video, and done some Day Job work.

Video editing is hell. So is being in a video. I am so not television material.

Today’s big news, other than Bozo claiming that over 40,000 people dead was a great success on his part, is that doctors in the US have had an idea as to how to help male patients survive the virus. They are going to try dosing them with oestrogen.

This isn’t quite as mad as it sounds. We’ve known for some time that mortality is higher among men than women. This has led to the anti-trans brigade on social media crowing that C-19 is a Y Chromosome Plague that will somehow wipe out all trans women because we are “really men”.

Now there are reasons why having XX chromosomes is good for your health. Having two Xs is a backup strategy. If a gene on one chromosome has an unhelpful mutation, the chances are that you’ve got a correct version on the other. This makes XX people somewhat more disease resistant than XY people. But equally oestrogen is good at helping your immune system and doctors in China have speculated that it might help protect against C-19. It is also possible that it is testosterone weaking the immune system that is the issue. This paper suggests that might be the case (thanks to Julia Serano for the link).

So there’s a whole bunch of different biological reasons why XY people might be more susceptible to C-19 than XX people, and that’s without starting on gender-based issues such as men being more likely to be heavy smokers, work in high-stress occupations, spend more time on crowded communter trains, and so on. But this is a crisis, and we should try everything. Maybe the estrogen trials will work.

Some people on social media have been worrying that if the trials do work then there will be an even worse shortage of estrogen than there is now. That’s certainly likely, though it is easy to make and the recent shortage in the UK was caused mainly by government stupidity rather than a real shortage.

Of course if oestrogen does turn out to be an effective treatment then the anti-trans brigade will start yelling for all trans women to be arrested because we are using valuable medicine that is needed by their menfolk. And despite having spent years complaining that hormone treatment for trans women is untested and dangerous, they will want immediate deployment of it to save people from C-19. Consistency has never been their strongpoint.

In better news the UK has now had a whole week of the number of deaths being lower than they were on the same day in the previous week. That’s a good measure of progress because it eliminates daily patterns in the data. It isn’t over yet by any means, but it looks like we are getting there. Now we have to resist the temptation to all rush back to “normal” before it is safe to do so.

Today on Ujima – Dealing with the Virus

A day late, but this week’s show finally got on the air. This is one of the problems with not being able to go into the studios: tech-fail happens. Huge thanks to Miranda, our station manager, for sorting it all out.

I spent the first hour of today’s show talking to my good friend Paulette North. Paulette was the person who recuited me to Ujima, and Women’s Outlook was her show before it was mine. We talked about a whole range of subjects, including how she is coping with Lockdown, how Gloucester Road in Bristol is a great little community, and how the government is coping with the crisis. Paulette has never been one to hide her political opinions, so this one is well worth a listen.

Next up I spoke to Daryn Carter of Bristol Pride. He’s had a fairly nasty case of C-19 and is now in recovery. He talked to me about what it was like to go through the illness, and how recovery is a very lengthy process.

Finally I spoke to Aled Osborne from Brigstowe about how people who are living with HIV face additional problems in these unprecedented times, and how you can help Bristowe to help them. As I’ve said before, I think that the lessons learned by the queer community in surviving the AIDS epidemic will be of great value to the world as we begin to recover from C-19.

Because the show was broadcast on the wrong day, it won’t appear in the usual category on the Listen Again service, but you can find it under today’s 12:00-14:00 slot, which is here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Eddy Grant – Baby Come Back
  • Dina Carroll – Don’t be a stranger
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips – Help Me Make it Through the Night
  • Aretha Franklin – Chain of Fools
  • Sade – Hang on to your love
  • Gloria Gaynor – I will survive
  • Whitney Houston – My Love is Your Love
  • Dreadzone – Life, Love & Unity

Coronavirus – Day #39

Probably the most annoying thing about Lockdown is that, while I am coping well with the psychological side of things, every so often I have a day when my body says “enough”. Today was another one of those days. I woke up with a low-grade headache that has never quite gone away. So although I did get some work done, I didn’t do nearly as much as I’d hoped.

Oh well, thankfully there’s little screamingly urgent left needing doing.

I have a radio show tomorrow. One of the interviews is with my friend Daryn Carter who has had a pretty nasty case of C-19. It it he talks a bit about the rollercoaster recovery process. Relapses are common. I certainly feel a bit like that today.

But relapses affect countries too. The news media were apparently crowing this morning that the UK had turned a corner and beaten the virus, because we’d had two consecutive days when the death toll fell. It doesn’t work like that. Today we are back over 800 again. I was speaking yesterday with a friend who works at a hospital, and they were looking at May for peak load.

Meanwhile people are getting exciting over the Office of National Statistics data on deaths. The ONS has information on the total number of people who die each day, which they can compare with averages going back many years. We are significantly above average. The actual numbers of people dying are much higher than annual average plus offical government virus death toll. This has led to people claiming that the C-19 death toll is 41% higher than the government says, and to government supporters yelling “fake news”.

The first thing to note is that the numbers are not fake. All of those people have died. The official government death toll, currently at 17,337, refers only to people who died in hospital and who tested positive for C-19. That means that thousands more unexpected deaths have occured that cannot be directly linked to the virus.

Those people will have died for a variety of reasons. They may have had C-19 but were not tested. They may have died of other things because they had been weakened by a case of C-19. They may have died from something entirely different that might not have been fatal if the heath service hadn’t been massively overloaded at the time. 16 women apparently died in domestic violence incidents, which is more than twice as many as would be expected in that time period.

So you don’t have to have had a case of C-19 for your death to be linked to it in some way.