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Books

“Book people are good people”

Publishing Scotland creative conversations event

I did my first ever literary event last night at the University of Glasgow as part of Publishing Scotland’s Creative Conversations series.

To say I was terrified would be an understatement. I barely slept in the days before, and during the day itself I managed to break two glasses and prang one of my neighbours’ cars because I was so preoccupied.

I posted about my fear to Twitter and got lots of reassuring replies, including one from Rebecca Lawther: “You got this! Book people are good people.”

She was right on both counts.

I had a blast and really enjoyed the readings from my fellow panelists Chitra Ramaswamy (an old friend from radio and a brilliant writer), Cynthia Rogerson (hilarious), Malachy Tallack (inspiring), Trishna Singh OBE (just gorgeous writing) and Mark Woolhouse OBE (fascinating). Despite being the only person on my panel without an OBE I think I did okay, and I loved chatting with other writers, publishing people and bookworms afterwards.

It’s a real honour to be invited to events like these, and I’m not just saying that because they fed us. I’m still not entirely comfortable – my impostor syndrome was through the roof – but book people are good people and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome and valued, for which I’m very grateful.

Hopefully my next book events won’t involve me damaging anybody’s cars.

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Books LGBTQ+

It’s real

Categories
Books LGBTQ+

BOOM!

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my book, Carrie Kills A Man, which you can pre-order directly from my lovely publisher here. The cover, by the hugely talented Wolf, is just perfect.

You have no idea how hard it’s been to keep this secret.

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Books Media

A quiet place

I haven’t posted for a while, I know, and I’m sorry. Various personal dramas, work projects and family things have left me very short of time to blog here, and I’ve also found that constantly wading into the bad-faith dialogue and constant repetition of bullshit about trans people’s human rights has taken quite a toll. As I’ve written before, you can’t swim in dirty water without some of it getting on your skin.

Maybe it’s just that I’m really busy. We’ve been doing some more music, which I think is brilliant, and I’ve been working on the edits to Carrie Kills A Man with my amazing editor Kirstyn Smith, who’s taken the raw material of the book and turned it into something I’m really proud of; it’ll be out in November and you can pre-order it now. I’m told I’m also in the Bookseller magazine today, although it’s a subscription title for the trade so I don’t know if I’ve made an arse of myself or not.

But I think it’s more than just being busy. I’ve been blogging for a long time – seventeen years here and a few years before that on the likes of Blogger.com – but I don’t know if I want to keep doing it. It feels like the atmosphere around blogs has changed, that instead of publishing to like-minded souls you’re posting to an audience of bad actors seeking to find something they can take out of context to use against you. That leads to self-censorship and second-guessing, both of which are very tiring and suck the joy out of posting for me. I think until I find that joy again, it’s better to keep this a quiet place.

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Books LGBTQ+

Carrie Kills A Man

I’ve been wanting to tell you about this for months, and now I can. My book, Carrie Kills A Man, will be published by 404 Ink next year.

Here’s the link to my publisher’s blog about it.

For us, Carrie’s submission was a joy to land in our inbox. Having published some of her writing in our literary magazine a few years ago, we were already fans of her work, and from the first pages, Carrie Kills A Man was fizzing with life and laughter, dealing with the serious and sometimes not-so-serious sides of trans life, parenthood, and lessons learned along the way. We loved it, we learned a lot, we laughed a lot. We’re so thrilled that Carrie has entrusted us with her memoir.

I love 404 Ink, and have done since their first ever title, Nasty Women. They’ve published some of my very favourite books and introduced me to some of my favourite writers. So I’m really excited that they’re going to publish me.

Carrie Kills A Man is a memoir about lots of things. It’s about growing up different. It’s about trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about what you learn when you give up privilege, power and pockets. And above all else, it’s about joy. I didn’t want to write a misery memoir, or a plea for tolerance. I wanted to write something true and funny and joyful.

Books are a team effort, and I am part of an amazing team that includes Heather and Laura, my publishers, and Kirstyn, my brilliant editor. Independent publishers are the best, not just because they’re great to work with but because you can sleep with a clear conscience.

Carrie Kills A Man will be published in late 2022 and you can pre-order it right here, right now.

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Books Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Two brilliant books

Here are two books you should buy.

The Transgender Issue, by Shon Faye

This is a book I’d very much like to have written, because it’s a clear-eyed, well researched and well argued response to the evidence-free scaremongering and barely laundered antisemitism of cisgender authors who claim to know more about trans people than trans people do. It details the links between UK anti-trans feminism and the US Christian Right, the appalling history of trans rights in the UK, the reasons why the UK’s particularly white anti-trans feminism is viewed with horror by other countries’ more evolved and inclusive feminism groups, and much more. If you’d like to know the truth about trans people in the UK, you should buy this book. And if you happen to know a newspaper editor or radio producer, you should buy it for them.

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers, by Sady Doyle

This is sad and shocking, fierce and funny and utterly exhilarating. Doyle uses everything from Ancient Greek philosophy to ironic slasher movies to analyse the stories our culture tells about women, and the narratives women are expected to conform to. It’s the kind of book that makes you gasp with horror on one page and giggle on the next, and I had to restrain myself from sending endless quotes from it to my friends. Here’s a bit from the intro:

Women have always been monsters.

Female monstrosity is threaded throughout every myth you’ve heard, and some you haven’t: carnivorous mermaids, Furies tearing men apart with razor-sharp claws, leanan sídhe enchanting mortal men and draining the souls from their bodies. They are lethally beautiful or unbearably ugly, sickly sweet and treacherous or filled with animal rage, but they always speak to the qualities men find most threatening in women: beauty, intelligence, anger, ambition.

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Books LGBTQ+

“You can get married, but can you walk down the street holding hands?”

This interview with Shon Faye is a must-read.

You can’t be fired or denied a  service for being trans, you can legally change your gender, we have technically free healthcare… [but] because these rights exist, it gives people license to assume that everything’s fine when, actually, it’s far from fine. It doesn’t matter if gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act if we’ve completely decimated legal aid and there’s no way a trans person can take an employer to tribunal, for example.

This is why the “but what rights don’t trans people have?” question so beloved of anti-trans people is disingenuous: they’re fully aware that rights that aren’t enforced are rights denied. So for example while it’s illegal to discriminate against trans people in employment, one in three UK employers say they wouldn’t hire someone if they knew that person was trans. And as Faye says, even if you’re pretty certain you have been discriminated against, you probably can’t afford legal action against the employer.

Categories
Books LGBTQ+

The reality for trans kids

It’s ironic that The Guardian, a newspaper that – alongside its Sunday sibling, The Observer – has helped normalise transphobia in the UK, has published one of the best pieces I’ve read on the effects of transphobia in the UK. It’s an extract from Shon Faye’s forthcoming book, The Trans Issue, and I can think of many journalists who should read it and feel deeply ashamed and regretful. They won’t, but they should.

What’s striking about Faye’s book is that in stark contrast to the recent rash of books claiming to be definitive guides to “the trans issue”, Faye went out and talked to people: trans people, parents of trans people, specialists of all kinds. Existing books haven’t done that, preferring instead to rely on anti-trans obsessives: one recent book, Helen Joyce’s Trans, cites ludicrous pricks Graham Linehan and Stuart “Wings” Campbell as legitimate sources (in a very small list of citations) and appears to have swallowed Jennifer Bilek’s antisemitic conspiracy theories wholesale.

The reason anti-trans writers don’t talk to trans kids, parents of trans kids and specialists is because they would encounter uncomfortable truths: a great deal of what they write about trans people is bullshit.

A good example of that is the claim that children are being “transed” because their parents are homophobic and would rather have a trans child than a gay one. It’s a pretty good indicator that the person telling you this hasn’t talked to any parents of trans children, let alone children themselves: they’re sitting in front of a laptop with their friends, telling each other scary stories about the sinister transes.

Faye:

Parents who decide to support a child in their wish to transition and live socially in a different gender are still usually regarded as controversial by much of the population. This can range from schoolgate whispers and pointed questions at best, to outright accusations of child abuse or Munchausen syndrome by proxy at worst. Some parents even fear losing their children because of misguided intervention by authorities.

It is much, much harder to be the parent of a trans child than the parent of a gay or lesbian child now. Here’s what happened when one child’s parents wrote a letter to other parents at their child’s nursery.

The initial positive responses to their letter gave way to hostility, as they found themselves confronted by parents who said they were doing the wrong thing. “The responses that hurt were where people thought that their child could be confused and/or that our child was contagious. So people stopped their kid hanging out with ours, or quit some of the groups that she was part of.” Kate recalled how people pulled their children out of the swimming lessons and gym club that Alex attended: “We had people ask to be put in a different class, saying, ‘My child can’t be around a trans child or a confused child.’”

Another claim is that coming out as trans gives kids at school special status, an excuse for bad behaviour, special privileges.

research reveals that the reality for trans pupils in British schools is starkly different: 33% of trans pupils are not able to be known by their preferred name at school; 58% are not allowed to use the toilets in which they feel comfortable. Horrifyingly, almost one in 10 trans young people have received a death threat while at school. Rather than being indulged or given special treatment, the stark truth is that many trans children are receiving little institutional support and, in some cases, are explicitly discouraged from being fully themselves at school.

The moral panic surrounding trans children and their families not only obscures the bullying and exclusion trans kids already face, but actively encourages it.

It’s a pity that the people who should read and reflect on this won’t.

Categories
Books LGBTQ+

The Appendix is out

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Appendix, by Liam Konemann: it’s one of 404 Ink’s “Inklings”, pocket-friendly books by interesting voices. Konemann’s book is beautifully written, fascinating, joyful and sad. It left me reeling.

Here’s the blurb:

In 2019, Liam Konemann began collating what he called ‘The Appendix’, a simple record of ongoing transphobia in the UK that he came across in day-to-day life: from the flippant comments of peers to calculated articles and reviews in newspapers. When the list began to take its toll on his mental health, he changed tack by asking different questions: how is beauty in transmasculinity found? And how is it maintained in a transphobic world?

I read the book in a single sitting. It’s the kind of book you want to tell everybody about and quote endlessly. Konemann’s life and mine are very different, but there’s so much in this book that resonated with me, so many lines that hit me right in the gut. Highly recommended.

Categories
Books Bullshit LGBTQ+

Irredeemable bullshit

Dianna Anderson reviews Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. The book is at the centre of yet another trumped-up free speech row because US retailer Target chose not to stock it and Amazon chose not to take adverts for it. Some trans people are unhappy that it’s number one in the Amazon transgender studies chart, because while it’s many things it certainly isn’t a study. It’s part of a moral panic.

Anderson:

Irreversible Damage is the Michelle Remembers of 2020. It is clearly designed to speak to parents of teenagers who have come out as trans, particularly to parents of children assigned female at birth. These teenagers, Shrier argues, are coping with their ongoing pain of being assigned female, of going through puberty, by deciding it would be easier to escape womanhood altogether and become a man. In true moral panic fashion, Shrier blames iPhones for isolation that causes teens to doubt themselves, Youtube stars for making transition seem like The Answer to everything, the Medical Establishment for making it far too easy for kids to access gender affirming treatments, and school districts for teaching “gender ideology” to kindergartners. This book has it ALL.

The one thing it does not have, however, is the voices of the young teens in question.

This is a “study” of teenagers that doesn’t study any teenagers, a book about trans people that doesn’t believe trans people are real.

Like the completely invented pseudoscience of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” it’s based on interviews with parents; the book has very little understanding of or insight about the actual teenagers it talks about because Shrier didn’t talk to most of them. According to this review it also grossly misrepresents the treatment available to teenagers, telling readers that twelve-year-olds are being given surgeries. They aren’t. And at core it pushes a very stereotypical view of women: “Far from giving us explorations of what womanhood can be, Shrier narrows it back down to the biological function of breastfeeding and having babies, excluding women who choose not to engage in such activities from the banner of true womanhood.”

As Anderson points out, the book fails to support its central premise: that teenagers are being rushed by various sinister forces into making decisions they will regret.

Shrier’s panic is simply an invented, elaborate narrative, unsupported by the actual facts, that trans identity is somehow contagious – just as gay people were discriminated against in the 1970s because apparently we were going to teach it to your children.