Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Your point of view is always invalid

   Back home after a weekend being seditious. My experiences as a transgender person in employment have led me to over the last few years spend a while of my time doing my best to advance the awareness of workplace rights for transgender people under the auspices of my trade union. So it was off to a seaside resort on a chilly November day for a weekend annual conference. Taking stock of the previous year, learning new things, and looking forward to the next.
    Interestingly it was not just LGBT people present. People involved through other minorities, as well as a good number of workplace reps keen to understand more about workplace rights for people like us. And also a group of retired trade unionists. Useful people to know, this last group, for with their lengthy experience there is little they do not know about the intricacies of a harmonious workplace.
    As you might expect from such a gathering, there was a significant array of political activists. My interest in trade union membership is as a means to advance workplace rights for people like me, I'm a member of no party. Others however come to it through left-wing politics.
    We've seen what feels like a decade of political news in the last couple of years, and particularly with respect to the recent American election it seems as though we've lost the ability to find our common ground. I was pleased to see a spirit of  broader political consensus and engagement from a section of my trade union friends, but it saddened me that among another section there was only room for their narrow brand. The damage wrought by this kind of blinkered view is only too obvious every time we turn on our TV sets, and to see it on the increase here doesn't bode well.
    The retired members didn't have much time for it I was pleased to see. I watched three of them take down a hardcore socialist - all questions about Karl Marx and calling people "Comrade" - with a loud discussion of the praiseworthy works of Tony Blair - centre-left former Labour Prime Minister, reviled by those on the far left. When our zealous comrade had stalked off in a huff it was very amusing indeed to see three old guys who are probably as true to their political principles now as they were in the 1960s break down in helpless laughter. As I said to them, I need to watch and learn.
    I will engage with anyone who will listen on the subject of trans rights in the workplace. Whoever they are, and whatever their politics. Good people can be found in nearly all parts of the political spectrum, just as can arseholes.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Pay to play again

    It's evidently a way to become alarmingly sought-after, to write a blog as a transgender person. People always seem to want my views on things with a transgender slant. Back in February of this year I wrote about the usual approach of someone wanting me to talk about a book, but sometimes it's a newspaper article or a film, and now it's someone seeking my views on a medical product. Wow, I never knew being transgender could make you so popular!
    Of course, there's a catch. These people all want my views on their stuff for free, which would be fine if they were coming from a non-profit-making industry, but of course they aren't. They're seeking free publicity and valuable search engine rankings for the products of industries that involve huge amounts of money, and quite naturally they want to keep all that money for themselves.
    I wrote in February about how the PR side of the publishing industry works, how there is a cosy relationship between the industry and a set of journalists, each of whom scratch each other's backs with a bit of wine lubricating the process. It's the same in other industries, almost anything you see in the papers or on TV will have got there as a result of some behind-the-scenes PR work if it's a straightforward feature on a commercial product. It's understood, and all parties have their own revenue streams that ensure the wheels keep turning.
    Evidently the problem is that among all those journalists with whom the cosy relationships are formed there are no transgender people. Often this is because the few that have transitioned tend to have been forced out by dodgy media companies.
    So faced with this problem of a transgender storyline to push but nobody within the community to take it from them, they go hunting for some trans people of their own. And because they think trans people don't know how all this works, they think they can get away with all that hard work for free if they only butter them up a little. Hence a regular set of emails I and no doubt others like me receive from hopeful PR people looking for a freebie.
    I explained in February the level of work that goes into writing a review. It's an in-depth task that takes a significant amount of time, you can't just bang them out. You need to understand the subject and possess authority on it, then you must spin a tale that draws the reader in. Much of my days are spent doing just this in another place, so you might say I have some authority on this subject. There is a reason that journalists draw a salary cheque, and it ain't because we look pretty sitting at a typewriter.
    So I'll repeat what I said earlier in the year:  I ain't doing that kind of work for free, and neither should you. If the person who asked you to write earns money from it, then you should be paid.
    If they keep pestering you when you don't respond, ask them what they'll do for free for you. Damn, I should have thought of that with the latest one who prompted this post!