Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Links round-up: healthcare, gaming, and more

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

There's less than ONE WEEK to go on our IndieGogo fundraising drive! Please help us bring Fanny Whittington to Edinburgh Festival this year! Will intrepid young lesbian Fanny win the love interest of her dreams? Can she save her pet rat Basil from mortal peril? And - in a London where unemployment is illegal - can she avoid being the world's MOST UNPAID INTERN EVER? Fund our production, and find out for yourself! 

Life at the end: historical reflections on palliative medicine is a fantastic introduction to the (extremely recent) history of end-of-life care. The linked article is a brief overview, but itself links to the detailed study results and discussion, which are freely available online.

Almost a year ago, blogger and novelist and straight-white-guy John Scalzi wrote an article entitled Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. Predictably, the Internet kind of erupted. Last week, Samantha Allen (PhD student, instructor in Women's and Gender Studies, trans woman) described how she extended Scalzi's metaphor as a teaching exercise for a 100-level class in the article All Skulls On: Teaching Intersectionality Through Halo.

Reni Eddo-Lodge writes an excellent follow-up to her critique of Caitlin Moran and the response it received: This is white privilege.

There's been some very difficult talking going on over at Captain Awkward this week. The Captain let her own frustration get the better of her when answering a letter, but subsequently followed up with a lot more compassion, a lot of soul-searching, and a healthy dose of following her own advice when it comes to acknowledging being wrong. staranise, a therapist-in-training, provided perspective on dealing professionally with one's feelings about and towards one's clients; recessional responded with Righteous Wroth Rarely Is, an analysis of the high we get from righteous anger, and how it can seduce us away from compassion and intersectional thinking.

Jason Collins, star NBA player, has come out of the closet - the first time a current athelete in any US major sport has done so. "Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who's gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who's out."

Friday, 26 April 2013

Mx-ing it up

Posted by Ganymede

A version of this post originally appeared in May 2012 at http://deconstruction-site.blogspot.com.

Mx (title, pronounced /məks/, by analogy with "Ms", or /mɪks/, as in "mix"): a handy alternative to those peskily gendered and status-specific titles "Mr", "Mrs", "Ms", "Miss". Variant form: Misc (from "miscellaneous").

I'm due to give blood again soon. So, like a good person, I went to blood.co.uk and tried to book myself an appointment via the webform. Then I remembered what the webform looks like:

Note that mandatory field right there. If you want to cut down on faff (both for you and for the blood service) when you give blood, you have to - have to - be comfortable being addressed by one of Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss or Dr.

I think I'll just drop in and hope they've got a bed free. And so, I expect, will any Professors, Reverends, Sisters or Imams who turn up.

This might sound petty or facetious. After all, not many people feel distressed to the point of self-exclusion by being forced to identify themselves as either Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss (not even the ones who would prefer to be acknowledged as Dr). But I, as it happens, am one of them. We're a minority, but there's quite a lot of us. We even have our own national campaign.

Here's a fun fact: in the UK, your title has no basis in law. If you're male-assigned, you're not legally obliged to call yourself "Mr [Surname]"; similarly, female-assigned people can adopt the title "Mrs" even if they're not married, or use "Miss" or "Ms" even if they are. Therefore, all these thousands of organisations who have mandatory title fields on their webforms are gaining essentially zero information by it. I strongly suspect that it's only requested (or rather, demanded) so that they can painlessly auto-fill the greeting "Dear [Title] [Surname] on their automated email replies. (This can lead to hilarity when an organisation tries to be inclusive but doesn't quite think about it hard enough, and sends out messages beginning "Dear Other [Surname]"...)

Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms (etc.) are known as "courtesy titles"; that is, by saying "Dear Mrs Exampleface" instead of "Oi, Vera", correspondents (even automated ones) are supposed to be being courteous. But for many trans* people, it ends up being the other way round: we have to do the organisations the courtesy of selecting one of their woefully inadequate options. And while this is a minor annoyance on a webform, when individual correspondents know someone's trans*, the "courtesy" title can become a vicious, disgusting weapon for making their prejudices clear.

The gender-neutral title "Mx" (or "Misc") won't solve all of these problems. But the more widespread and well-known it becomes, the more it can help English-speaking society to become more inclusive. Simply including it on a webform will help gender-variant people, or cis people who are uncomfortable with being asked for unnecessary personal information, to feel more accepted. Meanwhile, those people who are blithely ignorant of gender issues are more likely to learn about them, and become more sensitive towards them, if they regularly encounter this strange new option on the drop-down menu and it piques their curiosity.

And, importantly, "Mx" doesn't have to be - shouldn't be - a title reserved only for non-binary-gendered people. It would actually be an incredibly useful resource at times when you're corresponding with a stranger and you're not sure whether ey's Mr or Ms. We've all had someone take a punt and address us as "Miss" when we're actually "Ms", or as "Mrs" when we're actually "Dr", and we smile, correct em and move on. If everyone who was unsure defaulted to "Mx" on first contact, it would work exactly the same way, but with a lower embarrassment/faff factor.

What's more, the receptionist at the medical institution who loudly calls out "Mr [Patient]?", when ey knows full well that the patient is, or might be, a trans woman, would no longer be able to innocently declare that ey "wasn't sure" or that the patient's first name "sounded like a man's name". Because in that case, ey bloody well could have, and should have, defaulted to Mx. Out of courtesy. And everyone in the waiting room, and at the institution, and who responds to formal complaints against receptionists, would know that.

But this will only happen if the gender-neutral, status-neutral, assumption-neutral title "Mx", or its variant "Misc", or both, becomes more widespread. And as a linguistics graduate, I can assure you that the way to make a new word widespread is to use it. Numerous organisations including the HMRC, the DWP and the UK Deed Poll Service have already started accepting it. The more examples we can give of it being used in official documents, like bank statements or council tax bills (I treasure mine proudly), the more leverage we have when trying to convince other organisations to include it in their databases.

I'm slowly beginning the long and irritating process of trying to get my title changed in all my records to Mx (and complaining when I can't). It's the teaspoon effect - it's a tiny action, and it's a drop in the ocean of the status quo, but every drop has ripples. If you're a binary-identified ally reading this, what are your teaspoon options? Well, since you're not legally obliged to use a title which reflects your gender, or your marital status, or anything else, you could always consider doing the same as me.

Think about it. Think hard, and fully explore the vague, irrational discomfort you feel when you imagine calling yourself Mx [Surname], and getting letters addressed to it, and and having it called out in doctors' wating rooms. Now reconsider whether I'm really being so petty.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

There's less than TWO WEEKS to go on our IndieGogo fundraising drive! Please help us bring Fanny Whittington to Edinburgh Festival this year! Will intrepid young lesbian Fanny win the love interest of her dreams? Can she save her pet rat Basil from mortal peril? And - in a London where unemployment is illegal - can she avoid being the world's MOST UNPAID INTERN EVER? Fund our production, and find out for yourself!

The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue Of Nice Versus Good is an excellent look at, well, what it says on the tin: unpicking the differences between niceness and goodness, and how we can be unpleasant about people without upholding systemic oppression.

Sarah on repression, boarding school, and coming to terms with her identity:
 I buried everything that was truly me, deep down, and paved over the top with prejudice to make it stay there. Day-to-day I wore someone else’s face, someone who smiled and laughed at all the right times, someone who was happy.

On Kawaii and Appropriation is a taking-no-shit callout of appropriation of Japanese pop culture.

Quite a few of us have been following the online impact of Rachel Rostad's searingly critical poem "To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang" since it went viral recently. Reni Eddo-Lodge at The F-Word discusses how Rostad's response to criticism shows what call-out culture looks like when it's done right.

Zoe Stavri gives a quick run-down on what's really happening with the cancellation of transphobic conference RadFem13, in the face of accusations that it was shut down by MRAs. It's also worth reading Natacha Kennedy's more detailed piece, "TERFs, MRAs, and Lies About Trans People".

On Monday 29th, the DIY academic conference 'Spotlight on: Genderqueer' will take place: remote participation is available through the livestream and on the Twitter hashtag #gqconf. There will also be an evening event 'Fork The Binary' featuring genderqueer artists, run by The Cutlery Drawer and Rolling Head Promotions!

Finally: Miriam Dobson has made an absolutely ADORABLE infographic that explains intersectionality.

Friday, 19 April 2013

... and why I'm furious about welfare

kaberettPosted by kaberett

Today I'm going to tell you a story.

It's not about me, for once: yes, I receive Disability Living Allowance, and yes, I receive Housing Benefit. Filling out the DLA form was one of the most misery-inducing and demoralising experiences of my life: even with 15,000 words of supporting notes, written in a desperate attempt to give them all the information they could possibly need, it took over six months and an appeal for the Department for Work and Pensions, as represented by ATOS, to realise I'm disabled.

[A grinning person wearing a red top hat sits in a wheelchair, holding up a sign that reads "The government says I'm not disabled." This photo was taken during the Lashings run at OxFringe 2012.]

Today the story is about my grandfather.

My grandfather is in his mid-90s. Until two and a half years ago, he cared for my grandmother; since then, he's been living alone in a house with no full-time neighbours, half a mile and change down a grass-and-dirt road. He qualified as an engineer in the 30s - having studied in the evenings around his day job on a Lord's estates. He served in the Second World War, and picks and chooses the stories he tells us very carefully. After the war, he worked as a civil engineer for local councils right up until retirement.

For the first time in his life, he's applying for benefits: specifically, Attendance Allowance. The form's identical to that for DLA. The way we're working this is: he went through it first, then sent it home with my aunt for her and my mother to look over.

To be clear: both my aunt and my mum hold PhDs in the humanities, specifically in languages. They both work for one of the top ten universities in the world. They're about as privileged as it's possible to be in terms of sheer force of highly-educated middle-class ladies: they were the first in their family to go to university, and my grandfather supported them in that - enthusiastically.

So: they went through his form. They annotated it with places it needed expanding. They typed up their notes in fair; and last week, I went home to look over both my grandfather's form and the notes they'd made on it.

For nearly every single question, I added more notes: you should say this; you need to quantify that; is the other true? - because if so, he should be saying it. For some questions, they'd collectively ticked the box figuratively marked "does not apply" - and I took one look and said "actually, yes, it does."

For the first time in his life, my grandfather is asking the government for financial support. He doesn't ask for help: this is painful enough for him in and of itself.

The form heaps shame and indignity on top of that.

For the DWP, asking isn't enough: you have to beg, and they don't even have the decency to tell you this explicitly.

It's not enough to say "well, I sometimes have a bit of difficulty with getting to the loo, but I suppose I cope?" No: you have to go into gruelling, agonising detail: about how long it takes you to get to the loo. About how much difficulty you have balancing. About how many times a day you soil yourself, and exactly how much clean-up and laundry takes out of you - or how much time you spend wearing dirty clothes because you simply can't face it. About how you can't go to the toilet in the night, so you use a potty or commode - and how hard it is for you to empty it in the morning, because if you're carrying a chamberpot you can't use both hands for walking sticks.

Make no mistake: filling out these forms is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and humiliating. They force you to give excruciating detail on all of the worst parts of your life; there is no space for reminding yourself that you have coping strategies, that it's not always this bad, or they'll decide you're fine all the time.

But they don't tell you this. They don't tell you that to be in with even half a chance of getting appropriate support, you have to focus on worst-case scenarios. My grandfather couldn't tell that from the form and guidance notes; my mother and aunt couldn't tell, either. The only reason I know is that I've done this before: that I asked friends for help, that I knew people who knew to recommend the excellent Benefits and Work, that I've been here and done this and squeezed blood from this stone once before.

This is not fair. This is not equitable. This is no way for a just society to treat people who've dedicated their lives to it, whether legibly and traditionally or outside the mainstream; it's no way to treat people who haven't been able to dedicate their lives to it.

The Welfare Reform Bill isn't making life easier for the most vulnerable. It's not protecting them. If anything, it's making the entire situation worse.

There is no excuse.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Lashings are coming back to London! We are performing at the Pirate Castle in Camden, on April 27th, from 6:30-9pm - here's the Facebook event. We’ll be showcasing new Lashers, new material, and - most exciting of all - a sneak preview scene from Fanny Whittington! Our IndieGogo campaign to fund Fanny Whittington’s Edinburgh Fringe run now has 19 days left - why not donate and claim some fabulous gifts in return?

Monica Roberts at The Transadvocate discusses the introduction of DC Comics’ first ‘reality-based’ transgender character.

Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos is a new webzine featuring poetic works from the disabled community and their allies, aiming to create a space for the discussing the politics of disability in the UK .

Check out Autostraddle’s Queer Girl City Guide to London - Lashfriend Ruth Pearce is in the pictures, and Lashings and The Cutlery Drawer made it into the comments! Valentina and Orlando are all a-flutter with joy...

[TW: transphobia] Trans man Chris Wilson has been convicted of obtaining sex ‘by fraud’ due to non-disclosure of his trans status; trans academic Stephen Whittle offers a detailed analysis of this case and the legal context.

Kendra James at Racialicious looks at the racial politics of access to Ivy League colleges, and the misguided blaming of ‘affirmative action’.

We’ve spotted yet another exciting Kickstarter - this one’s called “Anything That Loves”, and is a comic anthology with stories that focus on bi, queer, pan, and otherwise non-monosexual/monoromantic orientations!

Lashings’ own kaberett has written a beautiful and fascinating post about perfume and scent, and how this interacts with reclaiming their body in the context of genderqueer identity, disability, and chronic pain. [Orlando, as kaberett’s Official Lashings Twin, has also recently got into scent, and would like to add a +1 to this post.]

For all the women I have loved who were dragged through the mud is an analysis of fandom’s tendency to deify male characters and demonise women; a deconstruction of common reasons; and a list of ways to not contribute to the problem.

Gay Star News reports on “You Are Loved”, a new web project attempting to provide a positive resource for trans* people - counterbalancing the hateful messages which often appear in mainstream media.

There's been a bit of an Internet storm this week over Helen Lewis, yet another journalist who was suprised when the Internet engaged critically. Here's one detailed response on intersectionality, social justice movements, and why they matter: but thinking about what words mean is hard!

In much the same spirit as Not Your Mom’s Trans 101, have An Open Letter To Women In Tech [content note: harrassment, rape, patriarchy]: not perfect ("Let's commit to speak up every. fucking. time"? No, thank you: I value my physical safety), but nonetheless challenging in good ways.

And, of course... what have you been reading?

Friday, 12 April 2013

I love the welfare state

kaberettPosted by kaberett

[Content notes: medical gatekeeping, current government policy, graphic medical details, cancer]

... I think the NHS is great
Forget about your worries and your strife:
We’ve got our - healthcare guaranteed
They will not charge us any fees
The welfare state’ll care for us for life!

And, do you know, I really do love the NHS. I really do love the welfare state. I love receiving DLA; I love my bus pass; I love my wheelchair. (Yes, my wheelchair? Is the NHS' fault.) I love all of the various ways in which the welfare state makes it easier to Exist While Me in our society; I am endlessly grateful that I can leave the house, that I have support to Get Stuff Done, and so on. I have wept grateful tears over being able to call NHS Direct and be told whether or not to go to hospital. I love being able to attend my GP once every couple of weeks in order to catch up on all the things that have gone wrong, tweak my doses, and so on. I love that my prescription medications - I'm on somewhere around 10 a day, ignoring my as-and-whens - only cost me one hundred pounds a year.

When they're ill in the US, their budget's blown,
Bankrupt by doctor's bills, not like at home
GPs and hospitals for free

For every slightest malady.
When you've fallen into the rocks and plants,
Or your kid's put ants into your pants,
Or maybe - tried a few...
The NHS is always there to care for you.

For nearly a year in there, I thought I was going to be moving to South California for grad school. Specifically, I thought I was going to be moving to LA - a country where one of my standard medications isn't FDA-approved, and a city that makes my lungs hate me for a good three months after I move somewhere with better air quality.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Links round-up!

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

First off - behind the scenes at Lashings, preparations for our panto Fanny Whittington are ramping up! You’ll be hearing a lot more about this soon, but in the meantime, please consider contributing to our Edinburgh fundraiser! (In return, you can get zines, badges, posters, CDs, DVDs, and for anybody who was particularly coveting kaberett’s Alt.Sex.Ed hat, we’re also offering wondrous handmade items...)

Recently there’s been a petition going round to ask that Iain Duncan Smith attempt to live on £53 a week (in the context of benefit cuts). If you’ve signed that one (or even if you haven’t), consider signing this one too: it calls for a cumulative impact assessment of the welfare reforms facing the UK.

... and in happier UK politics news, Bedroom Tax is now facing legal challenge, as is Personal Independence Payments (the proposed replacement for Disabled Living Allowance).

Zoe Stavri, a cis feminist on endemic transphobia within feminism: ‘When silencing isn’t silencing and sisterhood isn’t sisterhood’.

Queer feminist activist Lola Olson has written a book that blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and is selling copies to raise money for their surgery. (If they manage to get their surgery funded through other means, all proceeds will be donated to Gendered Intelligence.)

CN Lester is hosting an excellent Q&A series, with questions from cis people answered by a panel of diverse trans folk - start at this link and read on!

The death of Margaret Thatcher - who, in a Lashings context, has made villainous appearances in Cinderella, Alt.Sex.Ed, and a number of our cabaret shows - has had mixed responses, to say the least. Here are a few of them:

Glenn Greenwald on Thatcher’s legacy, and the problems of exhorting people to ‘speak no ill of the dead’
Melissa McEwan on the endemic misogyny in depictions of Thatcher (and on why she won’t be celebrating her death)
Emma Pooka offers ‘a feminist guide to celebrating Thatcher’s demise’

Friday, 5 April 2013

Star Trek & Representation

 Posted by Astra

I don't remember when I saw my first Star Trek episode. I've loved it as long as I can remember thanks to being raised by parents who loved it first. I watched reruns of previous seasons of the different shows every day after school, and whichever season was currently airing had my whole family on the edge of our seats every week. Somewhere in an old family album there's a picture of me, aged 10, dressed up as Jadzia Dax, spots and all. One time I was the star letter in Star Trek Monthly and it was one of the proudest achievements of my young life.

I'm a pretty big Star Trek fan, is what I'm saying. And you know what, I loved the 2009 reboot film. It was huge amount of fun, it had a great cast, and seeing the Enterprise soar across the big screen was a huge hit of fannish glee. Similarly, I can't wait for this summer's offering of Star Trek: Into Darkness. I look forward to the characters, old and new (though never mind Cumberbatch, it's Noel Clarke's casting that had me fangirling), and the chances of me seeing it multiple times in the cinema are pretty high.

And yet. They're fun films, and have reinvigorated enthusiasm for the universe in a way that's really gratifying, but in a lot of ways the tone feels like Star Trek Lite - naturally I write this without having seen Into Darkness, but given the way it's being marketed as an action film, I'm not expecting a vast departure from the first film with the exception of the added Darker Tone TM that seems requisite for sequels these days.

Star Trek isn't just phasers and transporters and warp drives and starships. That's what Star Trek needs. What Star Trek is, is a vision. Unembarrassed, unbridled hope for the future, a dream of a perfect world, in which all people are equal.

In the world of Star Trek, the Earth of the future is a place with no wars, no poverty, no inequality, and no hardship. There's no concept of currency -- resources are essentially infinite, and people work to better themselves and their society. Gene Roddenberry's utopian vision frequently lacks a certain critical engagement, and it has its problems, but the wholehearted earnestness that drives that vision has a real charm to it.

And a key part of the vision of Star Trek, right from the start, has been equality and respect for all people regardless of race or gender  -- or species, for Star Trek is a show fond of tackling equality issues via metaphorical alien races, bless its heart.

[the cast of the original series of Star Trek] 
 The casting of the original run of the show in 1966 comes with kinds of stories. There are a lot of famous anecdotes surrounding Nichelle Nichols' role as Lieutenant Uhura, communications officer and breakout role for an African-American woman on US TV at the time. The stories range from Martin Luther King himself urging Nichols to stay on despite her concerns due to the impact her role was having on US popular culture, to Whoopi Goldberg seeing Uhura on TV and being overwhelmed by the site of a black woman who "ain't no maid" (Goldberg would herself later appear on Star Trek: The Next Generation as the mysterious Guinan, wearer of the greatest hats in the galaxy), to Shatner and Nichols' efforts to keep a scene where they kissed in an episode despite network protests -- they succeeded, and it became the first interracial kiss on US TV.

In addition to Nichols, there were George Takei and Walter Koenig as Sulu and Chekov, Japanese-American and Russian characters piloting the Enterprise side by side in the 1960s, during the Cold War and with Japanese internment camps on US soil still in living memory -- Takei himself having been sent to one such camp with his family during WW2.

Many episodes dealt with issues of racism and sexism, frequently in ways that were heavy-handed or missed the point altogether. There are a lot of things about the original run of the show that sit uncomfortably with a modern audience. But it cared about diversity and representation, and it really did try, and it really did make a difference.

When Star Trek came back with twenty years later, The Next Generation followed by Deep Space Nine and Voyager, that philosophy remained. (I admit that I haven't watched enough of Enterprise to be able to comment -- sorry, ENT fans!) There were absolutely problems -- none of the main casts ever achieved gender parity, Jewish actors were cast to play an alien species that embodied anti-Semitic stereotypes, disability was frequently portrayed as a 'flaw to be fixed', and much else besides.

And still the overall feeling that I'm left with is a show that cared and a show that tried.

 [the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation]

  There was Geordi La Forge, the black, blind Chief Engineer from TNG, and Tasha Yar and Deanna Troi and Beverley Crusher creating a trio that showed there was no wrong way to be a woman. Worf, who started out as the gruff Klingon Security Officer and grew over time to gain complex multi-season stories over both TNG and DS9, eventually appearing in more episodes than any other Star Trek character. 

[the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine]

  On DS9, there was Jadzia Dax, the Science Officer whose understanding of gender and sexuality was decidedly queer and decidedly wonderful. Ben Sisko became the first (and still only) non-white lead of a Star Trek show. DS9 is particularly notable for having not a single white North American character amongst its main ensemble cast. There was Julian Bashir, played by Sudanese-British actor Alexander Siddig, as the gung-ho wet behind the ears adventurer who spent a lot of his spare time roleplaying as James Bond and other dashing, traditionally white heroes, and Kira Nerys, world-weary freedom fighter who wanted nothing better than to tell her well-meaning Federation colonial interferers where to shove it. There’s also the acclaimed episode ‘Far Beyond The Stars’, a metafictional story set in the 1950s, about a struggling black writer dreaming of being able to publish a sci-fi story with someone like himself as a hero.

 [the cast of Star Trek: Voyager]

  On Voyager, it was women who drove the show, passing the Bechdel test on a regular basis. The dauntless Captain Janeway surrounded herself with strong women like the adventurous and compassionate Kes, the fiercely logical Seven of Nine, and the cynical and brilliant engineer B’Elanna Torres, not to mention their archnemesis the Borg Queen -- the major conflicts and plots of the show usually originated from the conflicts and cooperation between those characters, who demonstrated the many different ways that there were of being a woman in space. Torres’ plots also tackled issues of biracial -- by which I mean bispecies, because it's Star Trek -- identity. Here, Tom Paris is the only white male human character, the other white male actors of the lead ensemble playing an alien and a hologram respectively.

By virtue of the nature of long-running ensemble shows, each character got rich and rewarding storylines over time. And that matters. The women of Star Trek were hugely influential to my growing up, because I constantly watched them achieve anything they set their minds to, often without any reference to their gender. And the central message of the show was brought to bear over and over again, perhaps best summarised by Roddenberry himself in a lecture he gave in 1973:

“The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. We tried to say that the worst possible thing that can happen to all of us is for the future to somehow press us into a common mold, where we begin to act and talk and look and think alike. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there. And I think that this is what people responded to.”

With all of that in mind, a reboot of the original series seems to rather miss the point. For all that the 2009 film was fun, and this year's outing looks set to be just as entertaining, it is missing that key component. It's great watching personal favourite actors of mine like Zoe Saldana and John Cho take on the iconic roles of Uhura and Sulu, and with Uhura in particular it is gratifying to see her role in these films become so central, an issue discussed wonderfully by rawles in her essay examining the simple yet crucial truth that Nyota Uhura is not a white girl.

And yet. And yet. This Enterprise crew no longer has the same impact it did back in the 60s -- and that's a good thing! But by looking to the past, Abrams has failed to embrace Star Trek's key vision of pushing boundaries and expanding our understanding of ourselves and of others. There's nothing wrong with a nostalgia trip but I want more from my Trek than a loving homage.

I want a vision of the future that looks forward again, that tackles our foremost modern day prejudices. I want more racial diversity, more gender diversity, more nuanced representations of disability, more queer visibility, maybe even trans or genderqueer characters who are, gasp, human and not othered aliens. I want a Star Trek that challenges the mainstream, one that overshoots and falls flat sometimes and then picks itself up, dusts itself off and tries again, fails better.

I want a Star Trek that reaches out to those of us who don't see ourselves elsewhere in pop culture, who are erased from the mainstream narrative of what heroes should be. I want a Star Trek that tells us that all of us have a place in the future, just as we are.

There's really nothing all that bold about going where we've all gone before. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Links round-up (02/04/2013)

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, in spite of their name, have done something amazing: launched a line of lip gloss from which all proceeds go towards gender affirmation/confirmation surgery for one of their employees. The employee in question, January Hunt, has been involved every step of the way - and OCC are covering manufacture and distribution costs.

You Are Loved is a project, currently in the fund-raising stage, aiming to provide mental health support specifically to trans* people. (Content note: issues faced by trans* people, including media hounding.)

Vocal manifestations of internal multiplicity is an apparently non-pathologising case study on plurality ("multiple personalities"), a state that's frequently stigmatised by the medical profession.The upshot? Independent analysis by multiple 'experts' distinguished - with far greater accuracy than can be explained by chance - between "Mary's voices", as distinct people.

More from the sociology department (content note: rape culture): When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men - and how the stereotype flipped.

LashFriend and awesome musician Ruth Pearce is organising a conference entitled Spotlight on: Genderqueer, to take place in Warwick in late April. They're putting significant effort into making the conference as accessible as possible - not just creating videos and podcasts for posterity, but attempting to get videolinking set up such that audience members who can't make it to the physical conference are still able to participate in terms of asking questions! Rock on, say we.

Feminism's Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In? A feminist and intersectional critique of the book that's been the buzz (do you see what we did there) of the blogosphere for much of the past week.

And something sweet to finish on: the My Genderation project has put up videos taken during TRANSPOSE, interviewing members of the community on their relationship with gender - from the highly personal to the extremely academic. We're all very excited about this project!