You can’t move for falling over trans-related programming on Radio 4 at the moment. This is rather heartwarming after the appalling Women’s Hour program earlier this year that basically gave a notorious TERF an opportunity to spread lies about trans people.
If you are after something light-hearted I can recommend Andrew O’Neill, a cross-dresser who was inspired to become a comedian after seeing Eddie Izzard perform. Mr. O’Neill, as with many cross-dressers, is unfortunately flippant about language, but he is very funny. Have a listen to this. He skewers the whole gender thing rather well.
There’s also a documentary and a play about raising trans children. I haven’t listened to either of these yet, and probably won’t listen to the play because my life has enough family drama as it is without having to listen to someone making it up.
What I found most interesting, however, was a pair of documentaries made with the collaboration of Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic. The first show centers on trans men, and the second on trans women. The contrasts between the two are significant. There’s much more talk about discrimination in the program about trans women. Also the idea that many trans men don’t opt for any genital surgery is glossed over with hardly a comment, whereas in the case of women genital surgery is presented as something essential.
The programs are very gender-normative and binary-focused, which is what I would expect from Charing Cross, but they were still more trans-friendly that I would have predicted. Obviously a lot of the old guard have moved on since I avoided Charing Cross like the plague, but hearing James Barrett saying positive things about trans people was a bit of a jaw dropper.
What came across clearly to me from the programs was that Charing Cross knows it is under threat. The current government is not trans-friendly, and the next one will be even less so. Budgets for GICs all across the country are under pressure, and at the same time GPs are increasingly trying to force all care of trans people back onto the GICs so that they don’t have to shoulder the costs (or interact with people that many of them still believe are selfish perverts who don’t deserve help). Someone at Charing Cross has worked out that in order to survive they are going to have to appeal to public sympathy for trans people, and they are going to have to work with us to do so. You find allies in the strangest of places.
Update: Adjoa Andoh puts her acting skills to magnificent use in the documentary about her trans son. Well worth a listen.
This is a follow-up to my post from Monday about the new UK voter registration system that will force trans people to out themselves is they want to vote.
Various people have taken an interest in this (thanks Talis), and I brought it to the attention of Bristol City Council who promised to take action on it. One of the things that has come up is that legally the government has no right to ask about name changes that happened more than a year ago. So what are they doing? Well the existing website has been fixed, but the government says they are planning to change the law so that they can demand information about name changes more than a year old.
So in addition to all of the VAT nonsense, I also have to write a letter to Nick Clegg. As if I didn’t have anything better to do than respond to constant government attacks on my personal safety and livelihood.
While I have been busy rushing back and fore across the Atlantic, Juliet McKenna and the other women involved in the VATMOSS campaign have been very busy.
On Tuesday there was another Twitter storm, which is where the #EUVAT hashtag comes from. There is a report on that here. The short version is that it was a big success, and that it very much got the attention of people in Brussels.
If this was a normal time of year, we might actually get some action before the new law is implemented. However, it is a time of year when many people won’t be in the office for a couple of weeks. Therefore the chances of anything happening in time are pretty much zero. However, the chances of getting something done early in the New Year are starting to look better. What we need now is to keep up the pressure on Brussels. To find out how to do that, go here.
With a General Election due up in May of next year it seemed likely that the current UK government would follow the example of parts of the USA and try to prevent people who might disapprove of it from voting. They are starting small, on a group of people unlikely to get much sympathy from the media: trans folk.
As this Gay Star News article explains, registering to vote in the UK now involves either sending off a huge amount of paperwork, or using an online form that demands you reveal if you have ever changed your name. This is in direct contravention of the Gender Recognition Act, and is probably a violation of EU Human Rights legislation as well. I think I’m OK, in that I am already registered, so I shouldn’t be asked to go through the process again unless I move home. Other people won’t be so lucky.
I changed my name 20 years ago, and have had passports and a driving license issued in the new name. I even have a birth certificate in my new name. But apparently there is still doubt about my identity that can only be resolved by outing myself to whichever people happen to be responsible for the register of voters. Oh well, at least the form doesn’t ask for my “real name”.
I have been lucky enough to be in Toronto when they had an author event on at the Merril Collection. This was Jill Lepore on tour with her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Naturally I went along. The event was packed, though aside from a few Merril staff there was no one I recognized. Lepore, it turns out, is an excellent speaker, and I’m sure I am going to enjoy reading her book. I should note that she is an historian, not a comics expert, and her main interest is in the life of William Marston, the man who created Wonder Woman. But he did have a very interesting life, and his work has a prominent place in the history of feminism.
Most of what Lepore had to say was about the early 20th Century. Marston died in 1947. However, Lepore did talk a bit about the late 60s and early 70s when Wonder Woman was adopted as an icon by parts the feminist movement of the time. This was of particular interest to me because I had been looking at what was happening in the comic at the time — specifically the horrendously homophobic #185. That issue makes much more sense when you know that Diana was being used by prominent feminists to promote their cause.
Nothing changes, of course. That issue of Wonder Woman was a key part of the talk on LGBT superheroes that I was giving last year. Another key element was the character of Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s trans woman friend. Gail Simone deftly had Babs and Alysia sharing a house together before revealing that Alysia was trans, and then showed clearly that this was not an issue in any way. Gail has since left, and only a few issues later the new (all male) creative team has made a point of establishing that Barbara is horrified by trans people. I am so unsurprised.
Update: I see that Cameron Stewart has posted an apology about that Batgirl issue, which is progress. Also my apologies to Babs Tarr whose name didn’t come up when I looked up the creative team online. Thanks to @ariadnesisland for the tip-off.
While I’m busy with my day job in Canada, Juliet McKenna and her colleagues are beating their heads against the brick wall that is Whitehall. Juliet’s latest post is here, and in it she explains how HRMC found a solution for her problems. It involved sacking her existing publisher, who was clearly incompetent, and instead signing up with one of those outfits that will charge you £500 to make an ebook (which they probably do by automated conversion). I guess if you are making that amount of money off the gullible then you can afford all of the administrative nightmare that is VATMOSS.
The trouble, as Juliet makes clear, is that the people she is dealing with don’t have a clue. Not do they seem to think it is at all important.
If Wizard’s Tower were my means of making a living then I’d be a lot more sanguine about the whole thing, though if my net income from it was around £12k/yr (which is approximately what I earn from the day job) then the addition of at least £1k/year in dealing with VATMOSS would not be very welcome.
Our beloved government, however, thinks that a small business is one with 200 employees and an annual turnover of £30m. Single-person businesses, of which there are around 4.6 million in the UK, are barely on their radar. Many of those single businesses will have difficulty surviving VATMOSS.
However, the businesses that will really suffer and the countless (literally, as we have no idea how many there are, because no one has bothered to count them) businesses like Wizard’s Tower that don’t make enough money to support even one person full time. The annual turnover of Wizard’s Tower in my last annual accounts was around £5k, and the business made a loss that year because it bore most of the costs of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion while enjoying little of the revenue from it. Add £1k of admin costs to that and you are in serious trouble.
The nice gentlemen in Whitehall don’t seem to think that this is a serious business. If you can’t even provide the livelihood for one employee, what right do you have to call yourself a business? Who cares if you go to the wall? From my point of view it would not matter than much, because I have such slim profit margins (thanks, Amazon, for competing with me). Other digital businesses might bring in their owners a few thousand a year. What does that pay for? It might mean the difference between being able to afford a holiday or not; it might mean nice Christmas presents for the grandchildren that you couldn’t afford on a state pension; it might mean not having to go on benefits because your job at Tesco doesn’t pay enough to cover the rent and feed the kids. Naturally all of this seems like something out of a Dickens novel to someone on a fat civil service salary. They don’t believe that it happens.
And then there’s the other thing. Most of the people involved in this campaign are women. Most of the people we are dealing with are not. We know that their understanding of ecommerce is woefully lacking. We haven’t even tried explaining the crowdfunding issue to them, because it would be like telling them we were cloning dodos for all they would believe such a thing were possible. But from their point of view it is a clear case of the little ladies not understanding technology, and if only they would stop nattering for a while and listen while someone mansplained the Internet to them, why then their problems would all go away.
Head. Desk. Repeat.
I am here. I won’t be online much, partly because I am busy, and partly because the roaming charges are horrendous. I have put my phone in airplane mode so that the apps on it can’t rack up massive bills without me doing anything.
There is snow. Lots of it. It started late last night and continued through most of today. Right now it is quite pretty. Tomorrow it will be EVIL. I hope they grit better than London.
I have dropped off a few copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion at Bakka Phoenix books, so if you are in Toronto and would like a copy please do drop by before they sell out. I have come away with a bunch of new books by other people, including The Three Body Problem, which I am very much looking forward to.
This evening I am off to the Merril Collection to see Jill Lepore talk about her book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
I may get a cab.
I should be in the air by now, but according to the good folks at Tor something I wrote will be going live on the Tor UK and Tor.com blogs around now. When I arrive in Toronto I am expected a welcoming party of gray caps with spore guns and fungal bombs trying to kill me.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, I’ll be flying to Toronto. It is a business trip, and very much a flying visit. I’ll be in meetings much of Thursday-Saturday, and I’m flying back Sunday night. I will have a bit of free time, but not much. Part of that time needs to be spent visiting Bakka Phoenix Books, where amongst other things I will be dropping off some copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion.
However, I won’t be entirely absent from the Internet while I am traveling, because if all goes according to plan I will have an article up on the Tor UK and Tor.com websites. Apologies in advance that I won’t have much time to respond to any comments.
Today’s tweet stream wasn’t all rage-inducing. There were some very nice things too. Top of the list was this blog post by Ursula K. Le Guin in which she praises her Finnish publisher for getting the appearance of characters right on a book cover. Of course we all know that the Finns are wonderful, but it is lovely to have Ms. Le Guin on board too.
Do you need any more reasons to vote for Helsinki in 2017?