Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Please help my friend Rebecca

    My friend Rebecca is nearing the end of her diploma course, and she needs your help. As part of her research project she is researching the perception of some of the language and terminology you'll find in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). That's the document most of the world's medical profession look to for guidance on our diagnosis and treatment, so it's quite an important and interesting area of study.
    To gather the data for her research she's created an online survey, and she would be very grateful if as many of you could complete it as possible.

    You can find it here, at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LPMK35P.

    I'm sure she would also be grateful to any of you who could spread the survey to the widest possible audience, so if any of you are social media users please consider sharing it with your followers.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Unwilling smallholder

    A Sunday evening after the first few days of full summer heat, I'm sitting on the sofa with a half-consumed pint of cider, enjoying the cool air. That slightly sticky hot day feeling, and the accumulated aches of a couple of days keeping the farm ticking over.
    The British countryside is about at its best in early summer. The vegetation is all brand new and there's not yet too much of it. The whole place echoes to the sound of hungry forage harvesters and their attendant trailers collecting the silage harvest, but that is as much transitory as it is part of the agricultural year.
    We were out this morning to check the cattle and to pick up a pile of fencing stakes and hurdles from  the field they have recently vacated. 'Hurdles' might bring to mind rustic woven withies, but these hurdles are large galvanised steel sectional pens, for which we needed the trailer behind our little 4-wheel-drive truck.
    It is a lot of fun, barreling down a minor road on a hot summer day in a vehicle with no weather protection beyond a roll-over bar. I have been bathing in SPF50 sun cream so my recently-lasered face escaped burning, but I was in the interesting position of having my hair blown all to hell by the wind. And filled up with blossom petals.
    It's been a weekend of machinery. The wonderfully named Billy Goat rough grass cutter, my parents' lawnmower and our little Italian cultivator with its incredibly reliable Japanese diesel engine. The latter would not have been my choice on Saturday, I had to do the job in three stages due to the heat. Still, all's now set for this year's vegetables.
    My parents are both worried that all this will get beyond them. It worries me too, that place is the only real home I've known. My wife and I have had various sometimes-unconventional abodes, but they've always been temporary. My parents place has always been a constant.
    My wife suggested to me again that I should consider transitioning, as she can see the effect of all this stress. I can see her point, but I'm still not ready to consider it. Life can be annoying sometimes.
    I dug a couple of rows of potato ridges. Those will take the earlies, one of next weekend's jobs will be to dig another two or three for the main crop. If this sounds a bit late, it's because our soil is very heavy and damp. Annoying to cultivate, but handy in a drought.
    I'm attached to this smallholding lark. I could do it, I know. But it's not for the faint-hearted, and I would be well-advised not to pursue an impossible dream.

Friday, 25 May 2012

I oppress you, you oppress me, the oppressed get forgotten

    In a previous post I poked fun at the habit that radical feminists have of claiming oppression at the slightest affront. In that they are an easy target, it is difficult to have a conversation for very long at all with someone of that persuasion without the 'o' word cropping up unless perhaps your position is one of slavish capitulation.
    I feel however that I may have been slightly unfair in singling out the radfems in this matter. I realised this when I read some of the arguments between radfems and trans people over the RadFem 2012 conference in London; the word was being thrown around by all sides. Radfems, cis people and trans people all busily being oppressed by each other.
    All this does leave a distinct impression that the word is being cheapened. There is plenty of real oppression in the world, of peoples, of women, of trans people and of a myriad other groups. A clash of views between people fortunate enough to live in a rich country with laws in place to protect them from discrimination is not real oppression.
    It should not be necessary to provide examples but it seems that real oppression has been lost sight of in the melée. Women for instance are being oppressed when they are trafficked across borders for sex work against their will. They are being oppressed in some other countries where they are prevented from going to school, from accessing healthcare or from earning a living. Trans people are being oppressed when they are excluded from society, forced into sex work or harassed by authorities. Entire peoples are oppressed when they are persecuted by the regimes in the countries in which they find themselves living.
    Against that backdrop, crying oppression because you're in an acrimonious argument which you sense you might be losing starts to seem rather unpleasant. It cheapens the word in the same way that using "rape" to indicate minor hurt of feelings does, and doing it should attract the same levels of opprobrium.
    As before when I have examined aspects of language on this blog I have queried the collocates of the word, those words that most often appear alongside it. No need to remove stop words or alternative meanings here, this word is rather spectacularly unambiguous in the way it is used in the language. "Exploitation", "injustice", "discrimination", "violence", "tyranny".
    Do I need to go on? These words are pretty unambiguous and they are not the words of  a mere online disagreement, however objectionable you may find the views of those involved.
    I shouldn't have to make these points, but the following rules of thumb seem not to be self-evident enough.

    If you encounter someone with views that differ from your own, you are not being oppressed.

    You are not being oppressed if the way someone else lives their life offends you.

    Get over it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


    It has been interesting to watch the antics of a group of radical feminists over the last few days. They've organised a radfem conference in London, and in the way of such events they've issued a big list of who is and who isn't allowed to join their little party. Unsurprisingly, trans-people of all descriptions aren't welcome at all. As if most of us were planning to go! I never quite got their reasoning, but somehow we oppress them.
    Everything seems to oppress radfems, and nobody is more oppressed than they are. I wonder what a radfem would say if they were confronted with a real victim of oppression, perhaps a Syrian protester or someone. I guess they wouldn't recognise them as truly oppressed unless they were female. And then only if they were married, 'cos to associate with men is the only way to be oppressed.
    The antics in question have been prompted by a storm of criticism from both trans people and cis feminists. The latter is encouraging, my problem with feminism has always been that mainstream feminists are too reticent to call out the outrageous in their movement. The radfems have spent the past week modifying their description of who they'll let in, first born female, then women born women, now reproductively female. And they'll let in the male-born, but only boys under eleven. If it wasn't so tragic, it'd be funny.
    Other people have covered the ideology behind it all far better than me, all I can do is look at the hatred involved. I understand hatred and bigotry, there are groups my origins in a small English village could predispose me to hate. Travellers for instance, the criminal element in the travelling community has engendered a visceral hatred against their community as a whole among sections of the settled rural population. With good reason, the appearance of the wrong sort of traveller encampment in your area can be nothing short of disaster for a small rural business.
    But I learned something very important one year in my late teens when a traveller encampment set up in my village. I met some travellers face-to-face for the first time and discovered that they were local people just like me, and desperately aware of the public image of travellers as a whole. I still see their encampment from time to time on my travels over three counties.
     My point is that to discover whether you really hate something you have to get to know it. As a teenager I might have hated travellers for their popular association with crime, now I simply hate criminals, whether they or their victims live in houses or caravans.
     By an amusing coincidence, on the same day as the RadFem 2012 conference in London the Sparkle transgender pride celebration is being held in Manchester. I will be in Manchester mostly for the shopping opportunity but I'll spend some of the day in Sackville Park marvelling at the diversity of our community and enjoying the all-welcome inclusive nature of the event.
    I doubt this will have any effect, but I'd like to urge any radfems who have a real issue with trans people to come to Manchester instead and go to Sparkle. Meet some trans people for once, find out something about us. You can still hate us if you want, but at least you'd know something about us.
    Now that would be what I'd call radical!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Annus horibilis

    It is now twenty years since the Queen had the year she famously described as an annus horibilis. Through the year the marriages of her children broke up, and a fire destroyed a substantial portion of Windsor Castle.
    I have her words in mind at the moment, for this year seems to be shaping up as one I'd rather forget. The girl's getting no less noisy, my wife's not finding things easy at all, and to cap it all my dad's not at all well.
    There are positive things to focus on, after all I'm in secure employment that I'm really enthused about. That really means something after a career as a dotcom survivor and in an era of economic turmoil. But wellbeing depends on personal as well as economic security, and I feel as though mine's taking a knock.
    I think I may have a lot on my hands over the next few weeks. Not least taking on the temporary running of a herd of cattle. Minor publishing industry cog becomes unwilling farmer. Sadly the current generation of cows don't know me very well, the sods will no doubt play up. I'll have to bribe them with extra hay.
    So if my muse stays absent for a while and I haven't got much to say, it'll be because I have a lot going on.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

These flowers are gay

08052012246    I am gay, it seems. Not a coming-out speech, in fact gay is something I'm completely satisfied I am not. But I'm told I'm gay, because a bunch of teenagers on bikes screamed homophobic abuse at me last night.
    My Big Gay Crime? Being a big scruffy bloke photographing a flower in the park. Yes, that's right, photographing flowers makes you gay.
    Harm done: nil. A little shaken at the time, but even homophobic teenagers can tell that someone like me could self-defend the living crap out of them.
    Would I have attracted their attention had I been presenting as female? Of course I would, had they identified me as transgender. But then again from a distance they probably wouldn't have seen anything but a woman crouching over a clump of flowers with a camera so I'd have not attracted their attention in the first place. Women are allowed to photograph flowers in homophobe-world.
    Today I will report the incident to the police. There is no chance they'll be caught, though they might be on CCTV that would be expecting too much. But hate speech is a crime in the UK and crimes are tackled on the basis of statistics here, so by reporting it I will at least ensure that the crime is taken more seriously .
     The picture shows the gay flowers in question. Not framed well and I'm not happy with the light. Being interrupted by yobs plays havoc with your photography. But I'm rather proud of it nevertheless, for what it represents.
    I will photograph flowers wherever and whenever I damn well want to.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


    No, it ain't the result of some new magic bustline treatment. Dysfunction & Depression, the happy couple.

    Have you ever seen a magician spinning plates? Loads of them to tend to, eventually plates start falling? That's me at the moment. Can't really elaborate on everything here, but I have much preying on me. Family, responsibilities, my wife's career choices, random worries, and my ongoing GIC counseling which I sometimes feel is doing a fine job of pulling the rug from under my feet.
    All this, and the muse has departed me. Several things I wanted to write about have delivered a paragraph or two and petered out. Perhaps that's as well, they'd probably have come across as rather sour. I'm not at my best, writing while depressed.
    So if I seem a little quiet, either here or elsewhere, that's why. These things are usually temporary, but they're very annoying while they last.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

No pleasing some people

28042012173     It's May! And we're all full of the joys of spring! The left-wing people take to the streets, the Anglicans stand on top of church towers and sing at the dawn, and I anxiously scan the orchard for evidence of blossom.
    Blossom. It's the cider-maker's unhealthy obsession in Spring. How much of it is there, is there enough water, enough light for it, and are the dreaded frosts kept at bay.
    Fortunately this year has seen the wettest April in decades, so frost hasn't been a problem and  though we're ironically short of water due to almost no winter rainfall, the blossom hasn't had it too dry. It's been a little later than last year too, probably because of the cold winter.
    Seems odd, a wet drought. The usual grousing in the suburbs about hosepipe bans. But it's very real, even now after all that rain if you dig down a few inches the ground is dried out. The water is being sucked up by the plants, it's draining straight off the surface before it can soak in, and it's simply being evaporated by warm weather. Even a wet April can be warm enough for that it seems!
    So the chances are it's going to be a dry summer. Which provides a fresh set of worries for a cider-makers, will the apples shrivel up and fall off the trees, or perhaps will they have a low juice yield?
    I should spend less time worrying, shouldn't I.
    One notable anniversary passed last week, it's a year since the Rusty Old Wreck passed its MOT after a lengthy period off the road. This year's MOT now passed, it's fit for another year's driving. Shame the weather's so damp, the roads are all muddy.
    There's no pleasing some people is there...