Back to the day job

I don’t usually post links to my work because I do an awful lot of it, but it’s been a while since I’ve had the thrill of seeing my name on the cover of a book.

Business Writing for Technical People is part of a series I’ve written for the British Computer Society, and I believe the ebook is now available for BCS members. Other editions will come out in September.

The book is aimed at technical experts who want to communicate more effectively, and like all my work it contains some really bad jokes. However, it also contains some good advice on getting your message across in the most effective way.

I don’t get to see endorsements before publication, so it’s a nice surprise to see quotes like this on the Amazon page:

Carrie takes the fear factor out of writing. Her clear tips and guides will make your writing instantly more readable. Practice what Carrie preaches and start to get complements on the style, persuasiveness and impact of your written work. Don’t write another word until you have read this book from cover to cover. — Prof. Brian Sutton, Professor of Learning Performance at Middlesex University and author

I love the cover designs too.

I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years now, and I still get a rush seeing my name on a cover or spine. And when that name is “Carrie”… let’s just say I got a little bit emotional when I saw the cover proofs.

Street hassle

On Thursday, I was verbally abused in the street for being trans.

I wonder, what kind of person do you imagine doing that, and where? Are you thinking lower working class, poorly educated, teenage, rolling down Sauchiehall Street after a night of promotional jaegerbombs? Or maybe a shaven-headed neanderthal, drunk, in a pub I should have the sense to avoid?

Nope. Middle-aged man, a packed Buchanan Street, 5.30pm on a sunny weekday evening.  I was standing to the side waiting to meet a friend for dinner.

The man took a moment from his busy schedule to look me up and down and then snarl “my fucking god” at me before continuing on his way home from work.

What did you do today, darling?

We like to think hate is the preserve of people who are worse than us. They’re not as sophisticated as us, or as well educated, or as clever. But that isn’t true. Hate can wear a suit, have multiple degrees and subscribe to current affairs magazines. I feel more welcome at a rock festival full of taps-aff neds than I would at a dinner party for readers of The Spectator.

I don’t worry about shaven-headed drunks. You can see them coming.

Space invaders

The writer Annie Breslaw posted this on Twitter the other day.

My sister is doing an experiment: Whenever men walk towards her, she doesn’t move out of the way first. So far she has collided with 28 men.

I came across it via the very excellent musician Laura Kidd, AKA She Makes War, who I’m a fan of. She added:

I’ve been doing this lately too – I just had enough of being barged out of the way all the time. No full on collisions so far but they really don’t want to move!!!

One of the responses was from someone else I’m a fan of, gender-blending comedian Andrew O’Neill:

@shemakeswar When I cross-dress men stop moving out of my way. Fact.

I’ve experienced the same thing. I’m still six foot one, I’m still on the heavy side, and minor reconfiguration aside I take up exactly the same amount of space as I always did. But since I’ve started being me, men no longer try to avoid bumping into me. It happens in the street, it happens in shops, it happens in bars. As a feminine-presenting person the onus is on me to get out of the Big Important Man’s way.

Something similar happens on public transport. When a man is already sitting on a bus seat or subway bench and taking up not just his own space but most of the adjacent space too, he won’t move for me if I’m presenting female: I’ll spend the journey with my arse halfway off the seat, or with somebody’s elbow in my stomach. And in the air, armrests are no longer available to me.

#notallmen, of course. But far too many of them.

The most extraordinary stand-up set I’ve ever seen

I watched Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette tonight after reading lots of rave reviews. it’s even better than the reviews say, although it’s not remotely easy to watch: while it’s very funny it’s also very powerful and very upsetting in places.

It feels odd to recommend a stand-up show by saying I was in floods of tears for most of it, but it’s true. It’s an extraordinary piece of work, a masterpiece of stand-up.

Hat crimes

I went to see one of my favourite bands, Eels, the other night. They were great as ever, and E and his band were rocking their usual blue-collar chic. So was much of the crowd, so it was hardly a surprise to see a few red trucker caps / baseball caps.

Except it was, because red trucker caps have become tainted.

When I see a red hat now I don’t think of the Linux company or of baseball teams; I think of Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) merchandise. Red hats are the badge of the racist, the bigot, the “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” crowd. I’m not quite with rapper Pusha T, who equates MAGA caps with the KKK’s white hoods, but they’re certainly worn by some truly awful people.

I don’t think any of the hats at the gig were MAGA ones, or localised variants. But I was quite surprised by the visceral reaction I had to the sight of them.

There’s a certain irony here given the lazy stereotyping by Trump and his supporters: to wear a red hat of any kind now is to have strangers immediately jump to conclusions about you, and to judge you harshly.

Brace yourself for the backlash

The UK government publishes its new LGBT strategy today. Part of the strategy includes publishing the findings of a survey that show – surprise! – life is often really shit for LGBT people.

The plans include improved hate crime protection, a ban on dangerous quackery such as conversion therapy (aka “pray the gay away” cures for being gay or trans), reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make things less bureaucratic and other positive things.

Much of the strategy only applies to England, as a lot of LGBT-related issues are covered by devolved legislation. But the anti-LGBT backlash we’ll see online and in the media will affect the entire UK and beyond.

I don’t envy equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, who’s trying to improve things and reform the Gender Recognition Act in a climate where just 13% of Conservative voters think the GRA should be reformed (coincidentally, the vast majority of anti-trans misinformation and outright falsehoods about GRA reform is printed in newspapers and periodicals read primarily by Conservative voters; The Guardian and New Statesman do their best to compete, but their circulations are tiny by comparison):

The current process doesn’t work for people. It’s overly bureaucratic and it’s highly medicalized with people making decisions about you who have never met you.

There’s also huge inconsistencies throughout the process – you have one identification document in one sex and another in another.

It doesn’t work, it needs to be radically improved, and that’s why we’re going to consult on that. Really the outcome we’re looking for is that people are supported through that process… it is a challenging enough thing to go through without the state and its bureaucracy adding to people’s stresses.

We will get the best results from this consultation if it is done in that environment with people being sensible, people looking at the facts and not making things up, and ensuring people are respected.

There hasn’t been much in the way of facts or respect so far.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think the next couple of months are going to see some really shameful reporting of LGBT issues and more demonisation of trans people in supposedly respectable publications, as well as online. Some of it will have the dread hand of religious evangelism behind it; some will be from people building personal media brands by stepping on vulnerable people; all of it will be damaging.

Knowing that the perpetrators are on the wrong side of history doesn’t make the present any easier to live through.

If you would like to better understand the truth about being LGBT in the UK, the Government has published its full survey online. It’s available here in PDF format.

TIE a rainbow ribbon ’round school bigotry

I liked this photo: it shows members of the Scots parliament wearing rainbow-coloured ties to mark their support for the TIE campaign.

The TIE Campaign only three years old but is doing great things in Scottish schools. It aims to reduce bullying and ignorance by encouraging LGBT-inclusive education in schools, and it works.

The Sunday Herald:

MORE than three quarters of Scots pupils who’ve attended LGBT inclusive assemblies in schools stopped using homophobic language as a direct result, new research has revealed.

Nearly all pupils, 96 per cent, said the events in schools had made them more aware of the impact of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and attitudes on others, while 92 per cent said they’d since reflected on their own use of language.

Furthermore, of those pupils who said they previously held negative views towards the LGBT community, 86 per cent said their attitudes had changed positively after attending the assemblies.

If that was all the TIE Campaign had achieved in three years it’d be impressive enough: reducing bullying is an incredible thing. But there are more benefits to inclusive education. It’s encouraged kids to seek better information about safe sex and relationships, and by questioning gender norms it’s helping non-LGBT kids too. As guidance teacher Chloe Divers from Motherwell told the Herald:

One of my colleagues, a computing teacher, has found she has more female students signing up when traditionally it was more male. She thinks because we’ve tackled this as a whole that we’ve challenged stereotypes and broken down gender norms. So we’re finding it’s breaking through into choices now as well.

Also in the Herald, Angela Haggerty writes:

…schools are still only emerging from the shadow of Section 28. The law, repealed in 2000, prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues with children in schools.

We can’t reverse the mistakes of the past, but we can ensure we don’t repeat them today.

Some venues are bigger than others

Morrissey has cancelled his UK and Ireland tour citing “logistical problems”. Various well-informed sources say those problems are of the “persuading people to buy tickets” variety.  In one Scots venue with a capacity of 2,900, I’m told, he barely sold 400 tickets after weeks on sale.

In the last six years, Morrissey has cancelled 134 shows. Between that, poor record sales and increasingly divisive on-stage banter, it’s a miracle he managed to persuade anyone to buy tickets at all.

Words and weapons

Another day, another mass killing in America by a man who – surprise! – has a history of troubling behaviour towards women.

The target, the Capital Gazette newspaper, had previously reported the shooter’s online harassment of a woman; he tried and failed to sue them. So three years later, he picked up a gun instead.

The shooter, Jarrod Ramos, appears to be a Trump supporter.

President Trump has previously said of journalists: “I would never kill them, but I do hate them.” This week, he once again referred to mainstream news journalists as “the enemy of the people”, a claim he’s been making for two years now. Also this week, alt-right darling and thoroughly reprehensible troll Milo Yiannopoulous said he couldn’t wait for “vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”

You don’t need to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

Civility only goes so far

This is from the New York Times in 1934.

There are quite a few of these things being shared on social media at the moment, including old articles urging black people to be civil to people who want to keep them segregated, and more recent articles urging LGBT people to be nice to howling bigots.

The sharing is in response to a non-story about Trump henchwoman Sarah Sanders, spokesperson for a vicious, intolerant, authoritarian regime, being politely refused service in a restaurant: some of the staff are LGBT and didn’t want to serve an apologist for the ban on trans people in the military.

Naturally, the right-wing press have engaged in a bad-faith argument about the supposed intolerance of the left – people who, the last time I checked, weren’t caging children and attempting to return the world to the glory days of the 1930s. That’s all okay. Politely saying “you’re not welcome here”, on the other hand…

This is based on Karl Popper’s writing from 1945.

Trump fans are protesting outside the restaurant. This image is from ABC News.

The signs being held by the people demanding civility say “Homos are full of demons” and “Unless they repent, let God burn them”.