“The New Civil Rights Frontier”

I’ve been thinking very hard about something recently.

Time magazine has been receiving a lot of flak for calling trans the next civil rights frontier of America.  Even I criticised this on my Facebook page.  But while there were numerous other reasons to criticise the article, I believe this is one thing it was dead right on; albeit I think it’s the new worldwide issue, not just America.  There may be legal recognition of 3-5 genders in parts of former Persia and in India and Thailand might have no problem with its ladyboys (hey, literal translation and one that those ladies who speak English from there prefer or don’t mind), but by and large it’s a struggle abroad, too.

Thing is, the criticism is that it makes it seem like the fight is over for women, for races, for homosexuals.  It’s not, no, but the battle there has evolved and has momentum; it ain’t won, but it’s a matter of time, winning is becoming inevitable.  Trans is sort of the new kid, our battles began … when would you like to say?  With the fops and dandies of a bygone era?  With the 20th century?  Somewhere in the 19th?  History is fun that way, depending how you want to interpret a question the answer could actually be since before we came down from the trees.

I was thinking about this because I wondered why so many of the things lately I’ve been seeing, sharing, talking about, etc. have been trans-rights.  I realised because it is the new war for equality.  Trans has had it’s battles, its skirmishes, but that was the underground, viva la resistance!  Now it’s armies at war, now it’s faces like the young Jazz or the beautiful and talented Laverne Cox, now it’s something that is in the news every freaking day in some fashion or another.  Now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine!  Racial equality, women’s rights, gay rights?  These have fought those battles.  Kirk & Uhura kissed on national TV.  Babylon 5 had a woman pope and president to say nothing of the force of nature which was Ivanova!  Will & Grace?

Legally these wars are won.  Note, though, I said legally.  The need for an equal pay act isn’t a question of legal victory, it’s the get legal protection from a social ill.  It’d be a legal victory if there was a law specifying women earn less than men; it’s a form of the Affirmative Action laws which made it law that society give blacks a chance so that they could take advantage of the elimination of the laws that kept them in second class status.  Gay marriage is a legal win, and one that 20 of 50 states have been won in!  Numerous countries have bowed out of that war and homosexuals have their rights — other fronts are still a bloody and brutal battle; some parts of the Middle-East, for example.

To say that transgender isn’t the new fight, isn’t the new war, isn’t the new frontier isn’t to invalidate the fighting for it that has already happened, nor does it say word one to deny that other civil rights battles haven’t and aren’t still in process of being fought.  It just says that the battles are big, public, and people are actually aware of them now.  More importantly the fights are being won!  Before the fights were more to do with small measures of acceptance from this employer, from that family member, from this friend … now bottom surgery is slowly disappearing from the laws governing changing the gender on ID; now little by little gender-identity is being specified as a protected status – and if you think that isn’t important, talk to a homeless transgender person who can’t get even a job at McDonald’s and who has been denied housing, has been turned away from shelters … except maybe you can’t because odds are now the poor woman or man is dead, murdered for being who he or she is and in a few too many cases it was discovered because as ever when a group is marginalised so thoroughly — they turned to prostitution, and unless whoring is legal with nice safe and clean brothels to work in … well … not a happy scene.

I believe wholly that all people regardless race, religion, gender, sex, orientation, etc. are people.  Some people are good, some are bad, some contribute better to society than others — but that’s because of who they are, not what they are.  Catholics can be amazing people or utter twats; I’ve known Asians that were the most fantastic people you’ll ever meet and others who were the most hateful and horrible people; same with gay, trans, men/women/other … truly it matters not because labels don’t make someone bad or good, they just help us communicate things like “she prefers the ladies”, “he has a kind of reddish tint to his skin” and so on; our actions and our words make us good or bad people that’s what makes us “oh, he is such a saint!” or “God, she was Satan in her past life”.

So I suppose the answer to why I’ve shared so much related to trans is simply that besides the latest news on the latest fight won, the war for gay equality and the fight for women’s equality and the fight for racial equality … no, they’re not over, but they’re not news!  We all know that battle is still being fought and what the issues are.  The odd reminder now and then keeps the fight alive, the celebrating of the next milestone victory let’s us know yet another checkbox on the to-do list has been filled.  Thing is I’m an author of teen fiction.  I’m not an Advocate, this blog isn’t for promoting anything but myself and my work — and to fill in the time in-between that purpose I ramble and subject you all to the inner-workings of my psyche — it’s on Human Rights Campaign‘s website, or on George Takei‘s Facebook page, or Lizzie the Lezzie’s blog/Facebook that one can find a constant barrage of “this fight is being fought” “there’s a pride parade over here!” “oh bloody hell!  can you believe someone actually said this to me today?!”.  If you want live, up-to-the minute coverage of women’s rights, gay rights, racial rights, and even trans rights this is not the place to find that, those other places are.  I’ll just share the news that catches my attention and right now the important part of that word, ‘new’, is the inroads that trans rights have suddenly found itself making.  I am, for the time being, celebrating that.  I think it’s beautiful and wonderful.

Hurray for the little guys!

First off there’s the background, located on John Scalzi’s blog referring to a bit of drama between a woman who wrote a space opera story and a miniature’s game company detailed here.

Well, the news progresses toward better with a later entry that the EFF was getting involved.

And according to this (and a quick search of the kindle store confirmed it) the title is back up!

It’s very relieving to see that.

It’s kind of sick, and a sign of something deeply wrong with the world that Games Workshop would feel inclined to try to bully an author out of her book over a term they do not own the trademark to (they do own it for games in the US, but her book is not a game.  Even if she were selling a Warhammer40k rip off book — which she isn’t — that would be a copyright issue, not a trademark issue barring her using the Warhammer40k logo and other such things).  The closest thing to a violation she could be guilty of is IF, and as far as I understand it she does not, she were to sell a print copy of the book in the UK.

Trademark is not like copyright.  It’s not international.  People just think it is.  There’s a reason anyone can sell champaign in the US, but only vineyards in Champaign can do so in the EU.  Cheddar?  Same.  The whole thing over the iPhone in Brazil (or was it Columbia?  Some fairly large S. American country, anyhow)?  It’s all because a trademark is held in the country it was granted in and nowhere else (or in the case of the EU by the trade organisation granting it).

Trademark also only applies to that which it was granted for.  If the South American iPhone had been a children’s toy with no electronic components there may not have been a trademark suit (or there might have but it could easily have been thrown out, or have been ruled in Apple’s favour).  If I trademark a pizza and call it the Lazy Susan, the makers of the Lazy Susan couldn’t say anything — their trademark is on an inanimate object, mine would be on a food product.

Sadly, this doesn’t stop companies.  McDonald’s restaurants  so harassed the clan MacDonald that they actually changed their name to Clan Donald to shut them up!   McDonald’s couldn’t do much, they held a trademark on foods and a restaurant chain, though that did cause problems for various clan members trying to start businesses who’d simply like to use their own bloody name, to the point that the clan has this.  Or a famous golf course in Florida, whose name escapes me and far too many exist to narrow it down, but it’s named for the city it’s in/near — so too were several small mom & pop businesses.  The golf course sued, and won to make them change the name!

No, the little guys don’t always win in these situations, no matter how utterly wrong, or perfectly idiotic the claim.  Sometimes, like with the MacDonalds, they win the legal argument, but then here comes another and another and another until they get too sick of it to argue any more.

Still, we should always fight — and from what I can see the SF community did just that and in spades.  It gets things done, certainly.  I hope that the reinstatement of Ms Hogarth’s book means that her fight with Games Workshop is over.  If it’s not I hope to see the SF community continuing to help her stand up to them.  Maybe by this example other such nonsense will be given pause by companies not willing to face the hellish PR battle that is making arses of themselves in these days of the internet, or by setting up the proper legal precedent that such things will fail, and so forth.

If you’re curious about her books, they can be found here.  She’s also on Smashwords, iBookstore, and Amazon, but I’ve a low opinion of the former, no idea how to do a link to author for iBooks (only link to ISBN), and the latter are the same people who took the book down in the first place (oh!  In case you missed that part reading the other posts and articles out there:  Games Workshop only had the Kindle edition of the book’s sales dropped — the print on Amazon was left be, as well as the eBook in all other distribution channels!).