Self Identification

I recently read these three tweets by Helen Lewis, and it helped clarify for me the difference between those against self-ID and the rest of us.

The second tweet is the key one here, because it assumes that those in favour of self-ID believe the act of saying a thing causes it to be true, rather than the thing being true in and of itself and then expressed by speech.

This is why the false equivalency argument is brought out. Piers Morgan can say “I identify as a penguin” as much as he likes, but this doesn’t make it true. He doesn’t identify as a penguin. He can say it, but it isn’t a true fact about his beliefs, or about the state of the world.

Those against self-ID (Terfs and others) believe that there is a measurement of gender which can be tested and pointed to as an objective state of fact about the world (usually genitalia). And so saying “my pronouns are [what-have-you]” can never be true unless they match the objective fact about that person’s gender.

But their basic premise is wrong. Intersex people make up between 1-2% of the world’s population. That’s about the same as redheads. Here is an excellent explainer thread by Delaney King about being intersex.

Gender isn’t a simple binary. Never has been.

If you believe in the absoluteness of gender, then the concept of pronouns assigned by any way other than this absolute must be a lie. An untruth. An evasion. A belief that one can magically change what-one-is by the power of language.

And if that’s true, why can’t you simply turn into a penguin by saying you are one?

But telling people your pronouns isn’t that. It’s still a statement of the truth, just one that can’t be objectively tested. If someone steps up onto a stage and says “My favourite TV series is Doctor Who” then for some people, this is a true statement. For others it’s not. This is not a fact that can be objectively measured. But it can still be true.

If Jeremy Corbyn had said “my pronouns are she/her” on that stage, Labour would not have its first female leader, because that statement isn’t a true fact about the state of the world. Specifically: Jeremy Corbyn’s pronouns are not she/her. They are he/him.

But if the Terfs are wrong and gender isn’t an absolute, then people can have different pronouns to those they have been assigned, either at birth or later in life. And those pronouns can change over time.

So if someone whose pronouns truly were she/her became leader of the Labour Party – whether trans, cis, or intersex – then at that point Labour would have its first female leader.

At some point, I expect that we’ll also have our first Prime Minister who’s a Doctor Who fan. And the way I’ll know that to be true is this:

They’ll tell me. And I’ll believe them.

Win a copy of Outside In!

So I was on Croydon Radio last Saturday, chatting away to the hosts of the From Croydon to Gallifrey podcast Janet and Steve about Outside In and Spaceships of Science Fiction.

It was my very first radio interview. I got to plug my books and even choose some records for them to play.

Seriously, I felt like a real writer and everything.

You can listen to the podcast online here, should you have missed it on its original airing. You slacker.

Probably the biggest thing I learned was just how much a person ums and ahs when they’re talking. As soon as I realised what I was doing I tried to cut down on it. But god-damn, it’s much more difficult than you think it is.

If you listen to the podcast, there’s also a competition to win a copy of Outside In. This could be particularly helpful in the UK because it’s not on sale in bookshops here – so if you want to get a copy this is  one of the best ways. Certainly one of the cheapest. 🙂

They also made me sign it, which is probably going to knock about 20% off the price when you flog it on eBay later.

Sorry about that.

It’s not a given…

So, there’s this TV show, right? About a character called Doctor Who.

You can tell it’s about a character called “Doctor Who” because the show is called “Doctor Who” and in the credits for the first eighteen years or so, the character is called “Doctor Who”. (Or sometimes Dr. Who. But I think we can safely put that in the same conceptual space.)

Some people think he’s called The Doctor, and calling him Doctor Who is incorrect.

These people are wrong.


There’s this character called Robin Hood.

He’s had many stories told about him, over hundreds of years.

And yet, somehow, relatively few people manage to get their knickers in a twist that his given name is Robin of Loxley. (Or, occasionally, Robert, Earl of Huntingdon.)

And no-one feels obliged to point out that his last name is not “Hood” and that therefore calling him that is somehow wrong, or silly, or incorrect.

So. Doctor Who it is then.

Because it’s his name.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

I blame Paul Cornell.

On a panel at Eastercon this year, he said that he was about to commence once more the task that every true Doctor Who fan should complete at least once in their lifetime.

(A secular hajj, if you will.)

And that’s to watch every broadcast episode of Doctor Who.
In order.
From the start.

Mad fools that they are, Messrs. Arnopp, Turner, and Harrison (who appears to have no bloggish presence on the Internet, alas) have agreed to join me in my quest. Outside of the three of us, I know that Una is also making the pilgrimage (and is at least three seasons ahead of us already to boot).

Sadly, the tapes to many of the earliest adventures were recorded over in the seventies. After all, who’s going to want to watch an old black-and-white show when we have Colour TV now, the thinking went? And tapes were expensive…

Not put off by this, we intend to listen to the audio tapes of the missing episodes instead, in order to have the full Doctor Who experience.

Because that, by God, is the type of people we are.

If you want to race us, join in, or just watch the occasional story or two, we’d love the company.

The plan is to watch a story a week. If a story lasts for more than four episodes, we’re going to round up (so you can take a fortnight to watch a six-parter, frexample).

At that rate, we should be done in less than three years.

The mission begins on the 1st January 2009.

Spoilers for Utopia

That’s last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who.

I know everyone else has done this already.

But I feel I have to as well.

Spoilers below. Turn away now if you haven’t seen the episode.

Really, I mean it.

Last chance to turn back.

Here we go:

It’s only the motherfucking MASTER! AAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Thank you.

Dear America: We’re really sorry.

By my reckoning, the worst of the psychic shockwave should hit at about eleven Eastern Standard. Eight Pacific.

How were we to know that the dreams of a million terrified children would rupture the fabric of spacetime, allowing creatures from the dawn of the universe access to the world?

Steven Moffat and the rest of the Doctor Who production team have, of course, been executed. But I fear it’s already too late. For all of us.

Don’t watch episode ten of the new series of Doctor Who.

And whatever you do: don’t blink.