Up On the Aqueduct

It is that time of year when the Aqueduct Press blog blossoms with posts from Aquedistas talking about things that they have enjoyed reading, seeing and hearing over the past year. Today it is my turn. Obviously I can’t talk much about fiction because of the Tiptree judging, but I still managed to go on rather a lot. You can read my post here.

Rick Stein Does Mexico

My attempts at catching up on the enormous backlog of science fiction television I’m facing have floundered somewhat because I have found a new cookery series to watch. I’m not a big fan of celebrity chefs, but I do like Rick Stein. There are several reasons for this. His restaurant is in Cornwall. He started his career focusing on fish. And of course the shows are directed by David Pritchard who also discovered the mercurial genius that was Keith Floyd. Stein has nowhere near the personality, nor capacity for alcohol, that Floyd had. However, his shows are refreshingly free of lecturing about diets, healthy eating and so on, majoring instead on simple enthusiasm for good, fresh food well cooked.

The new series, Rick Stein’s Road Trip to Mexico, obviously features Mexican cuisine. However, it started out in San Francisco because there is a tale of Greater Mexico here, before the USA took so much territory away. There is also the story of Mexico’s influence on American cuisine, and of course of the current political fuss over immigration. Safely back in England after filming, Stein can’s resist the occasional dig at the orange-faced monster.

It is the food, however, that is the rightful star of the show. I have long been of the opinion that Mexican cuisine is one of the finest in the world. The combination of chili, lime juice and coriander is irresistible. The slow-cooked meats are utterly delicious. And the burrito is one of the world’s great portable food inventions. All of which is before I get onto the subjects of cooking with chocolate, and the Margarita.

Anyway, I’m hooked. Given that the Winter Solstice holiday is the only time of the year I ever get the time to do some serious cooking, I am looking forward to trying some of Stein’s recipes. I shall sit back on my couch and imagine that I am basking in the warm Mexican sun rather than listening to the rain pour down outside.

Nero’s Trans Wife on TV

Earlier this year I made the case that Sporus, or Sabina as she should be more respectfully called, could easily be viewed as a trans woman rather than as a male-identified eunuch who was a victim of Nero’s eccentricity. The stories we get from Roman historians don’t show an unhappy victim, they show someone fitting comfortably into the role of a high status woman in Roman society and being accepted as such by the people.

Last week’s episode of the Bettany Hughes series, Eight Days that Made Rome, focused on Nero. I watched it with some trepidation. This is Channel 5, after all. If Sabina featured at all I was expecting her to be the butt (literally) of transphobic jokes.

What I saw was very different. Though she was named Sporus (which anyone who knows Latin will recognize as a male name), Sabina was portrayed as very feminine with no mention of her origins. She was simply the woman who shared Nero’s bed in his final days, and who loyally accompanied him on his flight from Rome. She was played by cis woman.

I find this astonishing. Not only did a very populist TV show eschew the opportunity to make smutty jokes, but someone, possibly Hughes herself, might agree with me that Sabina probably identified as a woman. Of course it is also possible that the show made this choice in order to avoid any hint of queerness, but that’s not been a problem for British TV for years. Unless I hear otherwise, I’m citing Hughes as a source the next time I talk about Sabina.

So, thank you Bettany for giving support to one of my pet theories about Roman history. And much kudos to Daniela Marinova for bravely taking on the role.

Unexpected TV

After the radio show yesterday I was having lunch in a cafe with a friend (plotting feminist revolution, as one does) when I got a message from the lovely people at ShoutOut Radio. Apparently the BBC were looking for someone to come onto Points West, the regional news program for the South West, and talk about trans issues.

So I got in touch with them to see what they wanted. As it turned out, they were running a feature on pioneering Bristol trans woman, Rosalind Mitchell. They wanted someone to comment on how things have changed for trans folk since she transitioned back in the 1990s.

That was an easy one for me except for the timing. I was due in Bath for a Women’s Equality Party meeting at 6:00pm. The show was due to air at 10:30pm, and I’d need to get a train home. Thankfully we were able to pre-record an interview and get me back to Temple Meads for the 10:22pm train. My thanks to everyone at WEP Bath and the BBC who helped make this happen.

Of course I wasn’t otherwise prepared. I’d managed to forget to pack a lipstick and didn’t find out about the mistake until I was at the WEP meeting and it was too late to go and buy one. My hair needed washing and I was wearing very much the wrong thing for hot studio lights. But I got it done.

If you have access to iPlayer you can watch the broadcast here up until 10:45pm today. Sabet Choudhury was great to work with, and I was pretty pleased with my responses. Sadly I still need a lot of practice on controlling my facial expressions while on TV. I frown way too much, mainly because I’m being serious. But every opportunity to practice is good.

The Gifted – First Impressions

Sky is putting a lot of marketing effort behind The Inhumans right now. As everyone who has seen it tells me the series is awful I am not inclined to bother. However, rather more quietly they have also shown (on Fox) three episodes of another new Marvel series, The Gifted. This is set in the X-Verse rather then the main Marvel Universe, and Bryan Singer directed the first episode. The story takes place after anti-mutant laws have been put in place in the USA, and the X-Men and Brotherhood have both vanished from the scene. It follows the adventures of an upstanding white family who discover that their teenagers are mutants and therefore wanted criminals.

From an X-Men point of view, it features Thunderbird, Polaris, Blink and a number of others running a Mutant Underground. This makes me very happy because a) Johnny is not fridged, and b) having Lorna around takes me back to those heady days when there were suddenly two girls in the X-Men rather than just Jean. It was a Big Thing for me as a teenager.

From your point of view the interesting thing is that, like SHIELD, this show is heavily political. It is all about people being declared un-citizens, about them being rounded up by clandestine, quasi-military government organizations, about lynch mobs, and about clueless white people discovering just how hard life is for the less privileged.

The Emma Newman TV Clip

I promised you the clip of Emma Newman and I being interviewed on the Crunch the Week show on Made in Bristol TV. Here it is.

I think Emma did a fabulous job. Also you get a great view of my octopus necklace. Thanks as ever to Steve LeFevre for making us so comfortable.

Of course Emma didn’t win the Clarke, but being a finalist is a huge achievement and there’s no shame in losing to a book that has already won a Pulitzer. I am continuing to keep my fingers crossed for the Hugo.

And while I’m here, my radio interview on BBC Bristol is currently available on Listen Again. You’ll be able to find it here for a few days.

TV Stars

Emma Newman and I, with special guest Hugo, did our TV slot yesterday. We were on the same show as Sue Mountstevens, the local Police Commissioner, and Martin Booth, the editor of Bristol 24/7. I had come hot foot from the Creative Histories conference. My cab had been half an hour late arriving so I was a bit frazzled. Hopefully I managed to get myself smartened up a bit before I went on air. At least I did better than poor Martin. There had been a desk last time he was on the show, so he figured he was safe turning up in shorts. Now there is a sofa.

Emma was great. Very assured for her first time on TV, and had an answer for every question. Pete Newman was watching the show in the Green Room and he seemed very pleased with how it went. We were only on air for 7 minutes, so my apologies if we didn’t get in a mention of everything.

As I said last night, the TV people are normally good about giving us MP4 files of our slots. If I get one I will stick it online for you.

Mad Day

This morning my social media alerts went crazy because I have a new history blog up the the University of Sheffield’s History Matters site.

Hopefully that didn’t interfere too much with my tweeting of Ronald Hutton’s brilliant lecture.

There was lots of other good stuff at Creative Histories today, though I was a little distracted by the need to have a conference call with Stonewall about a new campaign which I’ll be telling you about in August.

I got to present my steampunk paper. It seemed to go down well. Sonja and Joe, who presented in the same session as me, were both brilliant. It was an honor to follow them.

And then I rushed off to Filton to be on Made in Bristol TV with Emma Newman to talk about the Clarke and the Hugos. Em was brilliant as always. I took one of my Hugos, which outshone me effortlessly. Hopefully I will have the video for you next week.

Now I need sleep. I have to be off to Bristol first thing tomorrow for more history and a spot of dinosaur hunting.

Em & Cheryl Do TV

Today, and Thursday and Friday, I am at the Creative Histories conference in Bristol. I’m there primarily to talk about steampunk, though I do hope to come back with some photos of animatronic dinosaurs that they have on display. Selfie with my head in a T-Rex’s mouth? I’ll see what I can do.

However, I will be taking a short break on Thursday evening because the amazingly talented Emma Newman and myself will be on Made in Bristol TV that evening. We’ll be on The Crunch some time between 7:00pm and 9:00pm. We will be talking about the Clarke Award, After Atlas, the Hugos, Tea & Jeopardy, and doubtless Doctor Who as well.

Don’t worry if you miss it, or are outside of the catchment area. The Made in Bristol folks are normally very good about letting guests have an MP4 of their segment, and I’ll stick it online once I have it.

Say Goodbye, Parsley

The UK papers are all full of fine obituaries for Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, who died yesterday. Like many people of my age, I loved Paddington as a kid, but I have never been a huge fan because, well, I don’t much like marmalade.

Bond, however, created much more than Paddington. My favorite of his creations is The Herbs, an animated TV series that ran on BBC and featured a group of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic herbs. There were Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog and Sage the Owl. There were Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary, and their rustic gardener, Bayleaf. There was bumbling Constable Knapweed. There were Mr & Mrs Onion and all the little Chives. And there were occasional guest characters such as Belladonna the Witch, and Tarragon.

Who was Tarragon? Well the best thing to do is show you. Here is the story of how Bayleaf spilled his sack of plant food, and how Tarragon (with a little help from Parsley and Sage) came to live in the magic herb garden.

Promoting the Trans Mindline – Me on TV

Time for a good laugh, folks. Here’s me on Made in Bristol TV doing my best to help promote the Trans Mindline set up by the lovely people at Bristol MIND. Just look at some of those facial expressions. Clearly I find thinking very painful. Thankfully I loosened up a lot later on. My thanks to Steve LeFevre for making the experience relatively painless.

I wrote quite a bit about the experience and the issues discussed here. I guess I should also comment on today’s nonsense about gender-neutral school uniforms. Despite what you might have heard on TV, or in social media, having a gender-neutral uniform does not mean forcing all children to abandon gender. It means allowing all children to have the same choice of clothing. That means that girls are not forced to wear skirts if they don’t want to, and boy can choose to wear skirts if that’s what they prefer. This makes space for non-binary people, but also means that binary-identified trans people can wear the clothing they feel most comfortable in without fear of being punished for flouting uniform regulations.

Me on TV – The Post Mortem

Yesterday evening I did the TV thing for Steve LeFevre’s Crunch the Week show on Made in Bristol TV. I had a lot of fun. My colleague, Liz Sorapure, from Bristol MIND, was having her first TV experience so she was rather less relaxed about things, but I thought she did very well. As for me, I have now done the Watch of Shame to see how I actually did.

Had the interview been on radio I would have been very happy. Some trans people will doubtless be unhappy with some of Steve’s questions, but that’s his job. I’m happy to be tested with that sort of stuff in a relatively friendly environment. I’ll talk more about the content later, but this is TV we are talking about so I need to consider what I got wrong.

First up, I need to smile more. I clearly have a habit of frowning when thinking. This is very bad on TV. I look much better when I smile. I need to do more if it. Second, I need to lose weight. I’m not that overweight, but on TV you are almost always interviewed sitting down, and often without the benefit of a desk to hide behind. Sitting down makes you look much fatter than standing up. Not that there is anything wrong with being overweight, but people do judge, and if you want to make a good impression on TV you have to look good. It is hard enough making the case for being trans without having to make the case for weight not mattering as well.

The other thing I need to do well on TV is facial surgery. Lots of it. But I’m not going to be wasting any money on that at my age.

Now back to the content. One of the things that Steve brought up was a news story about Northamptonshire Police adopting unisex baseball caps rather than gendered headgear for their officers. Their press release spun this as being to attract trans people as officers. I call bullshit. I think they just said that to get a bit of publicity. There are plenty of good reasons for have simple, gender-neutral uniforms, including fairness to female staff and cost reduction. As my pal Bailey from Gloucestershire Police pointed out on Twitter this morning, regulations governing how female officers may style their hair are a real problem for trans-feminine officers. Far more so, I suspect, that the sort of hats they wear.

The most interesting thing about the story was unfortunately ruined by the headline ticker at the bottom of the screen. Steve had carefully positioned a copy of the Daily Malice so that an overhead camera could see the story, but the ticker obscured the associated cartoon. That’s a shame because it showed a policeman with a large trans symbol on top of his helmet. That’s the combination alchemical symbol thing. If you don’t know what I mean, that proves my point. When Berkeley and I do training we recommend use of the symbol to signal inclusivity to trans people, but warn that most cis people won’t recognize it. The Malice‘s cartoonist has clearly made a study of trans culture, and doesn’t consider that symbol to be obscure.

The other thing worth commenting on is the confusion Steve got into regarding sex and gender. That’s not his fault. The two terms are not well defined, and Cordelia Fine spends some time on the resulting muddiness of discourse in Testosterone Rex. I tried to clear it up with reference to a distinction between biology and social construction, but that’s complicated by a number of factors that I didn’t have time to explain.

First up, despite what lots of people seem to think is a “scientific fact”, there are more than two sexes. That’s because there are several different biological factors that go into gendering the human body. They all have to line up to produce someone who is 100% male or 100% female. Often they don’t. Between 1% and 2% of the human population has a recognized intersex condition. That’s about the same frequency as red hair.

As far as I know, I didn’t have an intersex condition at birth. Nevertheless, I do exhibit classic transsexual symptoms. That is, I know I’m female, but my body was apparently 100% male at birth. Now it is, of course, a complex mixture of male and female features. The fact that trans people like me can’t be “cured”, that they are apparently “born this way”, hints at a biological origin, but one (or more likely several) that has thus far eluded medical science.

Whether there is a biological cause is largely irrelevant. What’s important from a medical standpoint is that trans people tend to be very unhappy pre-transition, and much happier afterward.

How we express our identities after transition is, however, culturally contextual. That is, how you choose to express yourself as a woman (or any other gender) will be influenced by the social attitudes towards femininity that you experienced growing up. Evidence from vastly different cultures suggests that social conditioning doesn’t affect whether you will be trans, but it does affect how you express your gender.

And, because so much of gender is socially constructed, people are free to express their gender in new and inventive ways. They can also invent new names for genders, and sometimes those new names will overlap and be generation-specific (think “cross-dresser” and “gender fluid” for example, which have a lot in common).

Alongside this you have a drive toward gender equity. For women to be truly equal to men they mustn’t be forced into gendered behaviors that restrict their ability to function in society and compete on an even footing with men. Equally a reduction in forms of gendered presentation and expression will reduce the ideas that men and women are somehow fundamentally different and unequal. There’s nothing in (sensible) feminism that says women can’t express themselves in a feminine manner. It just says that it should not be obligatory, and does not define what it means to be a woman.

Because of all this complexity, there are many different ways to be trans.

  • You could be a classic binary-identified medical transitioner like me
  • You could be a non-binary person who wants some medical treatment, but not the whole package
  • You could be a non-binary person who only wants to transition socially
  • You could be a binary-identified person who only wants to transition socially
  • You could be an intersex person who was forcibly transitioned in childhood and wants to get back to a gender you are comfortable with
  • And doubtless many other things that I haven’t thought of

Hopefully this explains how we can have 70+ different categories of gender and have a move towards gender neutrality at the same time.

On TV Tonight

This week is Mental Heath Awareness Week in the UK. Because of this the nice folks at Bristol MIND have been asked to be on local TV to talk about their new trans+ helpline. The TV people wanted an actual trans person to talk to, and as I had done all of the training for the helpline volunteers I got asked.

I will be on the Crunch the Week show with Steve LeFevre from 7:00pm tonight, along with Liz Sorapure of Bristol MIND. We are apparently the first item on. Made in Bristol TV is available on cable throughout the South West so you don’t have to be living in Bristol to watch, though you do need something like Sky.

My 2.5 Minutes of Fame

Yesterday afternoon I was contacted by the local ITV news to see if I could come on their show today and talk about trans stuff. I was on my way out to see a client, but I muttered something about my schedule and they said they’d get back to me. When I got home, around 11:00pm, I found an email asking me to be at their Bristol studios for 11:45 today. As that happened to be on my way to today’s client, whom I had to see at 12:30, it all worked perfectly.

Well, perfectly except that I then spent 2 hours doing research so was zombified this morning and running purely on caffeine. Fortunately they only wanted 2.5 minutes of interview, and they were very nice. I think I did OK on content. I know I did really badly on body language, but so it goes.

Anyway, I was on to talk about this lad. We barely scratched the surface of what I could have said about the issue, but at least things are getting into the media and not being treated as a joke.

This evening I had just got back as far as Bath when my phone went. The BBC local news wanted someone to talk trans stuff. Had the call be half an hour earlier I might have been able to do it (except that they would not have wanted me as I’d been on the opposition station that day). I understand that Steffi Barnett from Shout Out did the show. I hope they treated her as well as ITV treated me.

Auntie Doesn’t Know Best

Back when I was a kid, the BBC was known affectionately as “Auntie”. It had this rather Mary Poppins air of a benevolent older relative who was wise and caring but also gave you lots of presents. Unfortunately everyone gets old, and “Auntie” is now more like that elderly relative who has grown grumpy after too many years reading the Daily Mail. “Auntie” has married a beer-swilling, racist lout called Nigel, and all she seems to do these days is rant about the state of the world and the behavior of kids today.

A prime example of this was last night’s documentary about trans kids. It was, as Susie Green of Mermaids said on the Breakfast show today (the coverage begins at around 2:45), rather like running a documentary with some old guy complaining that doctors don’t recommend leeches and blood-letting as a treatment any more. Kenneth Zucker, the man who was portrayed as a heroic campaigner against political interference in medicine, has been thoroughly discredited by his peers, but the BBC is still billing him as a leading expert in the field.

Also on that Breakfast show is a Canadian trans woman who had been a patient at Zucker’s clinic. She explained that one of the “treatments” that Zucker recommended to “cure” trans girls was for parents to always watch the child while she went to the toilet to make sure that she always stood up to pee. The only real mystery with Zucker is how it took so long for the Canadian government to shut him down.

I spent yesterday afternoon working with a group of staff from Bristol Mental Health (including one psychiatrist who is an actual a gender specialist) looking at ways to educate their staff in trans issues. They were all mental health professions. They understand that you can’t “cure” someone of being trans, or gay for that matter, by making them ashamed of who they are. But some of the staff we need to train, not to mention the staff at the two local charities I will be doing training for this month, may have seen that BBC program. That means we’ll need to put a lot of effort into dispelling the nonsense they will have been fed. I’m going to get some practice in by starting on you lot.

Let’s start with a few facts.

  1. Trans kids are not normally put through any surgery until they are 18
  2. Trans kids are not normally given any hormone treatment until they are 16
  3. “Puberty blocker” drugs are not given to trans kids until they start puberty
  4. Once a patient comes off puberty blockers, puberty will continue as normal, they do not “change the sex” of the patient
  5. Puberty blockers were invented to treat kids with early onset of puberty, and no one questions their use or safety in such cases

Nevertheless we continue to see the media claim that very young children are given actual medical treatment. The BBC did this in a Newsnight show on Wednesday. I’ll come back to why this happens later.

Moving on to more theoretical stuff, I want to make it very clear that gender performance and gender identity are not the same thing. There is a huge difference between a young child, assigned female at birth, playing football, and that same child saying they are a boy. Any reputable gender specialist or trans activist will tell you this. Sadly the media keeps pushing the nonsense about toys and a preference for pink. One of the reasons that Zucker is no longer respected in the profession is that he uses things like what toys you play with and whether you like pink or blue as diagnostic of your being trans.

Interestingly, anti-trans activists such as Sarah Ditum and Helen Lewis regularly accuse gender clinics and trans activists of using things like your toy preferences as a diagnostic indicator. It doesn’t matter how often we say we don’t, they still insist that we do. And yet the one man in the field who does make this fundamental error is the man whom they hold up as the real expert.

The inevitable result of confusion between gender performance and gender identity is that kids who are not trans, know they are not trans, and say they are not trans, get diagnosed as trans, or at least get referred to gender clinics. The generous interpretation of Zucker’s work was that he didn’t understand the distinction and kept making the same mistake. The less generous interpretation is that he knew damn well what he was doing, and knew that he could make a lot of money off worried parents by diagnosing kids as trans, sure in the knowledge that he could later claim to have “cured” them.

Another thing to bear in mind is that gender identity isn’t simple. Some kids who end up in gender clinics will have very clear and strong ideas about who they are. Others will be unsure and need someone to talk to. Many of them will decide, having had time to think about things and talk to psychiatrists, that they don’t need full binary gender transition. They may want nothing at all, or they may want something partial, such as social transition. Others will, of course, insist on getting every bit of treatment they can as soon as they can, but by no means all of the kids who go to gender clinics end up having medical treatment because the point of their going to the clinic is to find out what is right for each individual child.

Back now to this oft-repeated claim of actual medical intervention for very young children. It doesn’t happen, so why do people want you to think that it does?

Well, as I explained, a large proportion of the kids who get referred to gender clinics don’t end up going through full transition, or indeed any transition. Some are misdiagnosed by people like Zucker. Others simply decide that it isn’t right for them. There are claims that the number who don’t go on to opt for full medical transition are as many as 80% of all referrals. That’s not a huge problem as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to see better diagnosis so that kids who do not need referrals are not getting them, but I do want to see kids who are unsure given the chance to talk things over and maybe end up as non-binary adults. The idea that every person who is taken on by a gender clinic must have full medical treatment is ridiculously out-dated.

The media, of course, love quoting that 80% statistic. And they do so alongside the claims of medical treatment for the very young because they want you to believe that those 80% of kids who “grow out of it” have already been subjected to irreversible medical treatment before they get the chance to decide that’s not for them.

There you see the structure of the lie: kids are sent to gender clinics because of what toys they play with, kids are subjected irreversible medical treatment at a very young age, those kids then regret what has been done to them. None of this is true.

Why should anyone concoct such a bizarre fable? Let’s forget about the 80% of kids who don’t need medical transition for the moment and focus on the 20% who do. What about them? They currently have a chance of long and happy lives in the gender that feels natural to them. The point of all of this hoo ha — the lies, the concern trolling and the moral panic — is to shut down gender clinics for kids and prevent that 20% of patients from getting the treatment they badly need.

So that’s my take-away. Don’t worry about the 80% (or whatever % it actually is once people like Zucker are stopped from practicing), those kids don’t have anything bad done to them. Worry about the 20% whose access to treatment is under threat.

By the way, if you want to know what effect this sort of scare-mongering has on actual trans kids and their families, read this.

And of you want to complain to the BBC about the program, this tells you how to do it.

Up On the Aqueduct

My annual Year in Review post as gone up on the Aqueduct Press blog as part of their Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening series. So if you want a condensed version of what I have been up to, entertainment-wise, you can find it here.

Better still, you should just go to the blog and read all of the entries. Other contributors include Nisi Shawl, Andrea Hairston and Lisa Tuttle. More will be added in the coming days.

The Emmys, Part Three

There are International Emmys. Who knew? Not me. It is starting to seem like every time I look at social media a new set of Emmys is being announced. I don’t mind, because the results keep getting better.

Why? Well to understand my excitement we need to travel back in time to June 1998. I am in Wellington, New Zealand for a convention. I’m there partly to promote the (as it was then) San Francisco in 2002 Worldcon bid, partly to see my old friend Neil Gaiman, and partly to meet the other Guest of Honor at the event, a chap called George R.R. Martin whose new novel, A Game of Thrones, I had got quite excited about. (Foolishly, at the end of my review of the book, I had written, “Get on with it, George, there are a large number of people out here who are on tenterhooks”.)

Anyway, there I am in an Indian restaurant in Wellington with George & Parris, Neil, and a lovely Australian couple called Medge & Bean. Also with us is a friend from Melbourne, Sean McMullen, whose writing I had been championing, and his daughter. Of the young lady I wrote:

Catherine is very sweet, but boy can she be hard work at times. For a nine-year-old, she is exceptionally bright, and she holds her own in fandom with ridiculous ease. The trouble is, we just don’t have her energy. How Sean copes I do not know.

Fast forward now to August 1999. I was doing an Australian special edition of Emerald City in honor of the Melbourne Worldcon. I wasn’t the only editor thinking that way, because one of the things I reviewed was an all-Australian edition of Interzone. Sean had a story in it, and so did Catherine. She might just have turned 11 by then, and she went on to charm the whole Bay Area crew that came to Melbourne where our Worldcon bid was being voted on. (It was a three-year cycle back then.) I commented:

If Sean’s daughter isn’t famous by the end of the next decade I’ll eat my keyboard.

Ten years later Catherine was at Melbourne University studying for a joint degree in Film Studies and Law. She’d won something called the Melbourne National Scholarship which is a university study grant (all tuition fees paid) for student of outstanding academic achievement. I wasn’t surprised. I did not eat a keyboard.

Since graduating Catherine has racked up a host of credits on TV shows in a variety of roles, including Production Secretary on the SyFy mini-series of Childhood’s End. And now, drum roll please…

The 2016 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award Winner is C.S. McMullen for her script, “Living Metal”.

Sir Peter Ustinov Award

The Emmys website says:

Each year, The Foundation administers the Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award. The competition is designed to motivate non-American novice writers under the age of 30, and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting. Entrants are asked to create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script.

The award winner receives $2,500, a trip to New York City, and an invitation to the International Emmy® Awards Gala in November.

I am well impressed. Congratulations on the award, Catherine. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Typically studios queue up to produce the Ustinov-winning script, so I’m sure we’ll see “Living Metal” on our screens in the near future.

More Emmys

Laverne Cox at the Emmys

No, Laverne didn’t win one. She was presenting one. How cool is that?

Also she had by far the best dress of the night, and the second best red carpet photo (of which more later).

So, I did not get to Trans*Code today, and I am not at Fringe. I am still sick. But one of the very upsides of being woken regularly through the night by sinus pain is that you get to check on the Emmy results as they come in. This weekend was the high profile stuff: actors, directors and the like.

Game of Thrones won loads of gongs again, and George got to go on stage even though his name wasn’t on any of the trophies, which made me happy. Well done, mate. You’ve done us all proud.

Transparent won two awards: Jill Soloway for Director of a Comedy Series and Jeffrey Tambor for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In her speech Soloway said, “We need to stop violence against trans women and topple the patriarchy.” In his speech Tambor said, “please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a transgender character on television.”

Of course it hasn’t escaped people’s notice that it is all very well for a couple of cis people make such comments when being heaped with awards. It is the second year that Tambor has won for the same role. Nevertheless, I think last night was pretty important. Here are a few things to note.

I have to admit that Transparent isn’t for me. I’m not good with TV comedy of any kind. But other trans folk have had good things to say about the show. One of Soloway’s parents identifies as trans, and the show has recruited a whole slew of trans people to work on it behind the scenes. Zackary Drucker has an associate producer credit on the show, which should be very good for her career.

Also here’s what a couple of people in the business had to say.

Both Boylan and Richards have seen Hollywood from the inside. They understand how the politics works, and the importance of having people like Soloway and Tambor stand up for them. Sure it is privilege at work, but change isn’t going to happen any other way.

I’m particularly pleased for Jen Richards. When she took a stand against the new Matt Bomer film (yet again a cis man playing a trans woman, and with far less justification than is the case with Transparent) it was clear from her tweets that she felt she might have just killed her career. Hollywood doesn’t like people who rock the boat. Thankfully That Moment has come. A few days later she went on to land a recurring role in Nashville. I like to think it was that event that gave Soloway and Tambor the confidence to speak out as they did.

So where now? Eden Lane had a very good point:

Looking over the press coverage, it is interesting to note which outlet’s reported Soloway’s comment about the patriarchy but left out her comment about violence against trans women, or which note Tambor’s win but leave out his support of trans actors.

We saw another major step forward last night, but it is only a step on the road. There’s a long way to go yet.

Oh, and I promised you another photo. You have probably all seen this by now, but it is great so I’m doing it anyway. Her name is Jessie Graff and she’s a stunt woman. Some of her recent work includes doing stunts as Supergirl, and as Bobbi Morse on Agents of SHIELD.


Her Story at the Emmys

The Emmy Awards ceremony took place in Hollywood over the weekend. They did two nights, because there are so many awards these days. Some good stuff went down. Game of Thrones won big, of course. Jessica Jones won for its theme music. Ru Paul won Best Reality TV Presenter. But I want to focus on the Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category, for which Her Story was a finalist.

Lots of trans people have been nominated for, and even won, Emmys in the past, most notably Angela Morley. However, I’m pretty sure this is the first time that a show written by and starring trans people, telling the stories of trans people, has been up for the award. They didn’t win, but it is a landmark achievement all the same. All of the other finalists were on major TV channels. Her Story went out on YouTube.

Of course there was a red carpet and, while cisnormative beauty standards are by no means a requirement for trans women, I am that sort of girl who loves a good ballgown. I’ve done a few award ceremonies myself in the past, and I have to say that Angelica Ross and Jen Richards put me totally to shame. Rock on, girls, you are so inspiring.

May Fringe Podcasts – Martyn Waites & Paul Cornell

It is that time of the month again. If you are in Bristol this evening do come along to the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street for 7:30pm to hear Scott Lewis and Jo Lindsay Walton. In the meantime, here are the recordings from the May event featuring Martyn Waites and Paul Cornell.

The event was a crime fiction special in honour of Crimefest, our local crime fiction convention which was due up the following weekend. Martyn does have SF credentials, of which more later, but his fiction is straight crime. In addition to his own books he writes as Tania Carver, and it is one of her books that he reads from here.

Paul, of course, read from Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, the latest in his Shadow Police novels.

And then of course we had the Q&A, which was epic. I, of course, wanted to know the story about how Martyn came to write as Tania. As you will hear, the position of women writers in crime fiction is very different from that in SF&F. Martyn gave me an idea for a panel at BristolCon.

Along the way Martyn also revealed his various SF&F credentials, including publishing a Doctor Who fanzine and featuring in a Robin Hood TV series. We also talked about a book called Great Lost Albums in which Martyn and friends invent famous albums that never were. I was particularly taken by the idea of a Kraftwerk Christmas album.

Paul talked more about the Shadow Police series. Naturally there is discussion of Holmes, and Paul’s recent episode of Elementary. There is also mention of his comic series, This Damned Band. There is, inevitably, some discussion of science fiction television series, which leads to some well-deserved praise for The Expanse.