Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Boycott this

    There has been talk of boycotts in the air this week. The Russian government's actions against LGBT people have prompted a call for a boycott of Russian vodka.
    I can't say I drink much vodka, and if I did I don't think I'd shell out for the Russian stuff, it's expensive here in the UK. But if I did then yes, I'd probably order something else.

    There, that'll show them.

    You see, there's the problem with consumer boycotts in a nutshell. They feel good, but do they make any difference? We've stopped buying vodka, there, that'll show Putin and his cronies! While meanwhile the police in Greece are rounding up LGBT people by the trainload, yet I haven't heard so much of a whisper about boycotting feta or Kalamata olives.

    Fortunate that, I like feta and Kalamata olives, it'd be a shame to have to give them up.

    Pretty pointless, huh. Like the boycott of Outspan oranges and Cape pears from South Africa in the 1980s while anything with gold or diamonds in it probably came direct from a South African mine.
    The trouble is, I want to believe. I should stop buying Greek and Russian products just like I stopped buying Israeli products a few years ago following one of their more outrageous military actions in the Occupied Territories. Hell, I should stop buying Chinese products over their human rights record, or American products because of Guantanamo Bay. And don't mention the Chagos Islanders too close to any Buy British campaigns.
    But it's no good really. Even full-on UN sanctions haven't dislodged the governments in Iran and North Korea, so why should a few privileged Westerners with a consumer boycott do anything to unsettle Putin, or Golden Dawn? Russian gas keeps the rest of Europe warm in winter, are German gay people going to freeze for their principles? Didn't think so.

    So there you go. A defeatist post, there's nothing you can do, go home.

    There is one thing a consumer boycott does do very well, it keeps the issue alive. "Oh, that vodka's Russian, I'm not buying that!" - "Oh, why's that?". If people are talking about an issue that is inconvenient for the government in question, it makes it less easy for that government to put a positive spin on it or push it under the carpet. And it's embarrassing to find your government's actions have caused you to be unwelcome on your travels.

    So by all means boycott vodka. Boycott olives or cheese. It's not entirely pointless.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

That informal chat

    All change at work. My boss, a 30 year veteran, is retiring at the end of August. I will miss her insights and experience, she's taught me a lot. 
    So meet the new boss. Almost the same as the old boss, in fact I'm being moved slightly sideways. My new boss isn't such a veteran, in fact she's slightly younger than me. And one other thing, she doesn't yet know about me. Rather unusual, for someone who's cultivated a life of being quietly out to head off anything malicious I've missed this particular person.
    So time for a quiet morning coffee. To her credit, she didn't bat an eyelid. More than she bargained for I think, the prospect that her new report might transition. Interesting times.
    I have on the whole reached a good position with respect to being out as transgender. Anyone who matters knows, and that's fine by me. It reduces my stress and it would make it very difficult for anyone to gossip about me, both of which were my aims in doing it. 
    Not for the first time, I feel rather lucky.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Village poos, more than slight return

    For somewhere that is neither very hot nor very cold, we Brits don't 'arf moan about our weather. A cold snap that's pretty minor if you are Canadian, floods a Bangladeshi would consider a mild inconvenience, now a heatwave a Gulf coast Texan would consider rather cool.
    Yes, we've been baking for a week or more now in the high twenties Celcius. My parents have their portable air conditioner on in the older part of their house with its thick walls, and I spend my days in the cool of an air conditioned office. My wife is not so lucky at her work, and nights are uncomfortable and sticky. I must remember this next February when a wind comes in from the Urals via the North Sea.
    Tensions are running a little high in the village. A year ago I described the latest chapter in our poo saga - an overloaded sewage outfall and poorly maintained septic tanks up the village resulting in a raw sewage problem nobody wants to take ownership of. In that year precious little has happened, and now in the summer heat the problem is making itself rather obvious. A lot of argument later, and accord has been reached. They're all going to fit modern digesters like the rest of us in the village have before the end of summer.
    Unfortunately, a month or more has passed since that accord, and no sign of any work. The owner of the house closest to the smell is incandescent, and one of the neighbours further up the hill has declared that they're not going to do anything because everyone else has been so beastly about it. Or words to that effect. I'm unaware of any legal threats yet, but I'm sure they'll come in time.
    Meanwhile you can almost hear the rumble of approaching Environment Agency JCBs.
    The problem is, we have morphed during my lifetime from a village of simple country folk to one of Successful People who have moved out of London to the peak of their personal housing aspiration. They tend to be people who consider themselves to be rather important, typically directors of mid-sized companies for example.
    We're a settlement in which everyone considers themselves to be the Lord of the Manor, and considers everyone else to be the peasants. Sadly I am not able to bang their heads together with a handy farm implement so all I and the rest of us can do is throw up our hands in despair.
    And the sun keeps beating down.
    I wonder if there are any tomato plants growing along that ditch, they'd be well fertilised! :)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Another day in the park

IMG_20130713_185529_728    Last Saturday my friend Rebecca and I went up to Manchester to launch the Dawn Skinner Fund at the Sparkle transgender celebration.
    We had a successful though tiring day, receiving many generous donations and meeting a healthy cross-section of the community. Some very good contacts were made, and our message was well received.
    Some feedback was rather unexpected. More than one person expressed a desire for end-of-life care centres specifically for transgender people, for example. Surprisingly these views were not restricted to any particular section of our community. Our line was simple, our aim is to make all end-of-life care as transgender-friendly as it can be which we feel would be a far better solution than end-of-life transgender ghettos.
    Other feedback was solid gold, we were pleased to meet more than one end-of-life care professional among our community, with whom we had some very interesting conversations.
    Sparkle is a topic that seems to raise divisions in the UK transgender community. It's attended by all sections of our diverse community so it is somewhere at which our more flamboyant and extreme subcultures are visible alongside a large number of unremarkable trans people. As a result it's not uncommon to find full-time transwomen who won't have anything to do with it because of a guilt by association with flamboyant part-timers. I understand this, but I think it's a shame as to not care too much about such things is to be truly at ease with your identity. The DQs, LGs, maids, fetishists, furries, nuns and the downright badly dressed may be on different paths from me but that is no concern of mine. Sparkle is our biggest nationally organised event so it made absolute sense for us to launch our fund there.
    It was a little different to see the event as an exhibitor. Certainly welcome to sit in the shade on a breathless hot day. With a background of doing exhibitions in the tech industry it was always my ambition to do an exhibition stand with minimum hassle and easy transport, on Saturday I achieved that aim. The whole thing packed onto one sack truck, reducing the effort enormously.
    So that's it. We're under way, now we have to get out there and do some work.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Announcing the Dawn Skinner Fund

    It may not have escaped the attention of some readers that my time has been taken elsewhere of late. After a lot of work behind the scenes it's time to reveal the project I have been involved in.

    The trustees are delighted to announce the launch of a new charitable fund "The Dawn Skinner Fund"

    The Dawn Skinner Fund is focused around the needs of transgender people who find themselves in an end of life care setting. Its inspiration came from a conversation my fellow trustee Rebecca & I had whilst we were visiting our friend Dawn last October as she lay dying of cancer in our local hospice. The care she received was on the whole outstanding, however there were a few occasions when staff didn't treat her with the dignity she deserved. In particular there was some casual (and from some staff members, persistent) misgendering.
    Rebecca & I felt that there was a need for a charity to focus on the specific needs of transgender people in an end of life care setting. This started a further series of conversations which led to the creation of The Dawn Skinner Fund.
    We are currently a membership organisation with charitable aim because the complexities of setting up a full blown charity on no budget are challenging. As a small organisation we will first seek charitable status from the Inland Revenue, followed by full registered charity status when our turnover passes the threshold set by the Charities Commission.
    We are also pleased to announce the national launch of The Dawn Skinner Fund at Sparkle 2013. We will have a stall in the park during the celebrations and we would love to see you and to chat with you about The Dawn Skinner Fund. We are also hoping that some of you will also join us as members.
    We need your help to be able to achieve some our aims, such as being able to prepare materials that we would need to facilitate professional learning for healthcare staff who may encounter transgender people during the course of their work. The Dawn Skinner Fund is not expecting to provide standard "diversity training" but to work with these specialised professionals to help them consider the needs of transgender people with a life limiting condition.
    We think this work is extremely important, after all one of life's few certainties for all of us is its end.

We look forward to meeting some of you in the park.

More information about The Dawn Skinner Fund can be found at, or via Twitter: @DawnFund.