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Adele Anderson is one of the mainstays of the comedy/satire trio Fascinating Aida.

In the previous episode I talked to her about FA's uniqueness as three women writing and singing comic political satire for over 25 years.

It's also quite widely known that Adele is a transsexual woman. Maybe that's not such a big deal nowadays, when people have seen many representations of trans women (real and fictional) in film and TV. In this interview I talk to her about the way it was received 25 years ago, and the TV dramas and films she's been involved with in the years since then.

The songs you hear in this programme can all be heard in full on Adele's Myspace Page.

They are described as Britain’s sassiest, funniest, craziest musical comediennes. Imagine “Sex and the City” with harmonies. The Mail on Sunday said, “See them before you die or your life will have been meaningless”...

Fascinating Aida have been collecting ecstatic hyperbole from reviewers for a quarter of a century and have an immensely loyal fan base. Yet, in Britain at least, musical comedy and satire is still not an area that all that many women have conquered. So what’s the secret of showbiz success and longevity for three women with a wicked sense of humour?

Adele Anderson, who joined the Act a year after it was created in 1984, was very generous with her time for this interview in her hotel room, a couple of hours before going on stage at the Lowry in Salford. In fact we spent so much time that there's enough for two episodes.

This first episode departs from the normal "Just Plain Sense" format to focus on the group itself, their music and Adele's career. In next week's episode Adele talks about press interest in her personal background and some of the TV and film projects she has appeared in.

The songs you hear in this episode come from the albums "A Load of Old Sequins" and "It, Wit, Don't Give a S**t Girls", which can be purchased from FA's website or online from iTunes. Fans of FA may also be interested in this interview with Adele's colleagues, Dillie Keane and Liza Pullman

What springs to mind if you think of Australia? Crocodile Dundee? Neighbours? Straight talking straight men who would't give a Castlemaine XXXX ?

How about serious debate on a third gender category for passports and official documents? Or inheritance rights for same sex adults regardless of whether they're in an amorous relationship or not? Things have evidently changed down under since Skippy and the Flying Doctor roamed the outback.

Katrina Fox is a journalist; Tracie O'Keefe is her therapist partner. Together they emigrated from Britain in 2001 and settled in Sydney where they've set up an organisation called Sex and Gender Education (SAGE). They talk to me in detail about Australian culture and their activist work.

Two weeks from now the United States will witness a historic event that some of us probably doubted we would ever see. When Barack Obama is sworn in as America’s first Black President few would contest the symbolism. But how are Americans seeing it, now that the election night euphoria has died down?

How much expectation is there on the new man? Can it be realised? Black men may take plenty of encouragement, but what about other minorities?

To ask these questions, and to look particularly at the issues for LGB and Trans people, I hooked up with Internet broadcaster Ethan StPierre in Massachusetts. I learned, for instance, how a last gasp move by George Bush, aimed at women's choice on abortion, could go on to have effects for trans people too.

To hear Ethan's own broadcasts visit Trans FM online.

Happy New Year!

The biggest thing for Equality and Diversity in 2009 is probably going to be the new Equality Bill, which was announced in last month’s Queen’s Speech. Debate on that will begin soon in Parliament and then we’ll learn the precise details of what the Government intends.

During December I spoke to several audiences about the 40 year history that brought us to this point – you can hear a version that in an earlier episode. I plan to feature an update when the Bill has been published and there's been a chance to study the fine print.

In the meantime, here is a keynote speech about trans people in social care, which I delivered back in October 2007 for the Commission for Social Care Inspection. The audience included over 300 inspectors, social workers and service providers.

As the festive season is upon us, and 2008 draws to a close, this episode is intended as a parting thought for the year.

Unless they are very lucky, most of the kinds of people we focus upon in Equality, Diversity and Human Rights will have had a close encounter of some kind with discrimination. Ideally that experience would make everyone that extra bit sensitive about respecting the differences of others. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Firsthand experience of hurt doesn’t necessarily make better people.

People from some ethnic backgrounds may express homophobic views. Some lesbian or gay people may express racist views. It can seem at times as though people with evangelical religious beliefs might be intolerant of just about everyone other than themselves. Disputes can extend even within communities who, while distinct, experience similar forms of discrimination.

Nobody ever emerges well from these affairs. People behave badly on all sides. The in-fighting detracts from the business of tackling wider issues. Hostilities alienate friends and allies. They sap energy and lead to disillusioned and bruised people disengaging altogether.

But if these disputes can sometimes feel like war then it's worth remembering that it takes two to make an eventual truce.

Not all truces last, of course. Yet even a brief halt can allow common humanity to be recognised and highlight the pointlessness of the fray. The setting here is the multiply-divided LGBT community, but it could be any.

The piano piece “I’m Home Again”, by Internet Composer Michael Walthius, is available on the Album “Dreaming in Stereo”, which can be purchased online here or here.

Estimates vary about the number of Britons with disabilities of various kinds. Some say it’s 1 in 7; others say 1 in 5. Either way, it’s a significant chunk of the population.

Historically many disabled people have faced enormous barriers in being able to work and access facilities the rest of us take for granted. Yet none of us can be sure we won’t acquire a disability ourselves – through accidents, chronic illness or simply old age. If it doesn’t happen to us, it may affect someone we would end up caring for. So we cannot afford to be smug and thankful it doesn’t affect us.

One person who knows the barriers very well is Lorraine Gradwell, who recently received an MBE for her extensive work in the field. Lorraine is Chief Executive of Breakthrough UK Ltd, a Manchester-based social enterprise, led and controlled by disabled people, and which specialises in helping people access work.

Fishing for Birds

I'm hoping to get one more interview online for Just Plain Sense before the holiday season is upon us. In the meantime regular listeners with a Podcast 'habit' to feed may like to know about a separate new channel which I've now opened for my poetry ...

Fishing for Birds features personal readings of the many poems I penned during the 1970's and 1990's. Almost thirty of these have been recorded already and, to kick things off, I've already released the first six of those. The rest will be released at the rate of one or two each day over the holidays.

The title poem in the collection is based on the experience of meeting a disabled man one day when I was walking across Boston Common, in Massachusetts. The experience of learning how Richard Troise overcame his physical limitations to fly kites had a lasting effect on my own thinking about dealing with apparent barriers. That's why I think it has a valid place here, as a taster.

Happy listening!

At least 11% of Britain’s population falls into the category of Black or Minority Ethnic (BME). Yet that umbrella term conceals a huge diversity in itself. Although it’s tempting to think in terms of some of the most obvious groups, such as people who’ve originated from Africa, the West Indies or Asia, or those from the middle east, it’s easy to forget all the other backgrounds that people have. Irish people are considered an ethnic group, for instance. So are white Europeans from the enlarged European Community.

In this Episode Rushi Munshi, a Regional Director for the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO), describes how his organisation works with the vast number of voluntary sector organisations representing this varied segment of Britain's society.

The Queen's Speech in late autumn marks the beginning of each new Parliamentary term. It's a time when the Government reveals its' legislative plans for the coming year. This year's event is on December 3rd. However, these days, the speech seldom contains any big surprises, as so much about the agenda is extensively trailed beforehand.

One item expected in this new term will be the new Single Equality Bill -- the most radical attempt to overhaul Britain's equality law framework in forty years. To mark that watershed this episode looks back on that forty year history, discusses some of the issues about equality legislation, how the Government has developed the new Bill, and what it is expected to contain.

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The three statutory equality duties in Britain - covering Race, Disability and Gender - all demand consultation or involvement with expert community stakeholders if problem identification and action planning is ever to be more than a token affair. The problem lies with how to organise that kind of engagement effectively.

Consider North West England. The region has over 30,000 voluntary sector organisations. Yet the number with sufficient capacity and skills to take part in strategic consultation work hardly exceed single figures. With well over 120 separate public authorities all needing to organise the same kind of consultation, there's the potential for meltdown unless a practical approach is adopted.

Sefton is a diverse coastal borough which stretches from Liverpool in the south and almost up to Blackpool. Along its coast lies Southport, a distinguished old-style holiday resort which is reinventing itself for a new generation. I was invited there recently to give a speech as part of the borough's annual diversity week. And whilst I was there I had the chance to speak with the people behind the borough's 'joined-up' partnership approach to collective consultation and strategy-making...

She has been likened to Marmite: you either love what she writes or hate it.

Outspoken Guardian columnist and radical lesbian feminist Julie Bindel is widely praised by some for the campaigning she has done on the issues of violence against women, and on the way that our legal system responds to women who defend themselves. She is treasured by others for the particular way she reveals her lesbian and feminist influences as a broadsheet columnist.

Yet, on the day when I had long arranged to meet for lunch and talk about these things, Julie was also embroiled in a controversy that had arisen over what she had written and said in the past about transsexual people. This issue was suddenly brought to the boil because she had been nominated for an award as “Journalist of the Year” by the leading British Lesbian and Gay charity Stonewall.

We discussed all these things and hopefully opened doors to dialogue with her detractors over a meal -- though I hasten to add that Marmite wasn't on the menu.

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Falling birthrates, increased life-expectancy and the approaching retirement of the so-called "baby boom" generation mean that the population balance is altering.

In 1998 just 32.4% of Britons were aged over fifty. By 2021 that proportion is expected to have burgeoned to over 40%. What effects will that have on the economy, public health strategy, the planning of housing and infrastructure?

I asked the public for their views and interviewed experts from a group called 50-50 Vision, who have the task of proposing strategies to anticipate and cope with the change.

Britain's voluntary and community organisations (sometimes referred to as the "third sector") are far more numerous and integral to the operation of society than people often imagine.

The sector involves hundreds of thousands of people and has an essential role in delivering many services that the public and private sectors are unable to provide.

Richard Caulfield is the Chief Executive of Voluntary Sector North West - a key strategic player in seeing that voluntary sector organisations are supported and recognised in a region of 6.8 million people.

We met recently in Manchester and Richard explained about the background of his organisation, the roles that voluntary organisations perform and the challenges and opportunities for the entire sector.

Back in April this year I interviewed the mother of an intensely gender dysphoric child. She told how her child (now living as a girl) had become increasingly desperate and suicidal as the prospect of a masculine puberty grew larger. Specialists in the UK weren't prepared to medicate in order to delay the irreversible effects her child's body would undergo and, in desperation, she took her child across the Atlantic to Boston instead.

The Royal Society of Medicine convened a conference to debate this issue in October. However, the country's leading specialist Professor Richard Green, was concerned that the speakers selected for that conference were mostly based in the "conservative" camp. In response he organised a pre-emptive conference of his own at Imperial College in London, where specialists successfully practicing puberty delay therapy around the world could present their outcome data and experiences.

I went along to Richard Green's conference at his invitation and recorded interviews with many of the speakers for this detailed feature.

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