The LGBTQ and The Donald

[Image: A rainbow flag partially covering the flag of the USA.]

Note/reminder: I am affiliated with no political party and endorse no presidential candidate at this time.

Yesterday I watched the official livestream of the Republican National Convention, while reading the coverage and commentary in The Guardian as I had for the previous three days. I turned the sound down for some of it, turning it back up to hear the cover band.* I have to admit that the music was excellent, despite my disgust at hearing songs by queer and black artists who would likely not be supportive of the Republican platform.**

The display of “cosmetic diversity” continued, with black, Asian, and gay Republicans attempting to show how wonderfully tolerant this party has become. Pastor Mark Burns, a black televangelist, led the crowd in a rousing chant of “All Lives Matter.” Korean-American Dr. Lisa Shin extolled the beauty of legal immigration and the American dream. Peter Thiel, a white cisgender male billionaire, told the audience that he was “proud to be gay“, and of the controversy over trans people using public restrooms, said “Who cares?”

Well, I care quite a bit, especially as I am still often misgendered as female. Ted Cruz, who thinks trans women are perverted men in dresses, also cares quite a bit about this issue, which is likely one of the reasons why he didn’t endorse Trump (who has flip-flopped around the subject). Should I be grateful that the RNC allowed a (wealthy white cis) gay man to openly disagree with their anti-LGBT platform at their convention? This is a crumb, a mere gesture, not true progress.

In his acceptance speech, Donald Trump quite awkwardly referred to the “LGBTQ community”. He did so in reference to the Orlando massacre, calling the 49 victims “wonderful Americans.”  He did not speak the name of a single one of those people, however, reserving that honor for a young woman who had been killed by a “border crosser”. He only promised to protect our “LGBTQ citizens” from “hateful foreign ideology,” using the murder of queer people of color as a prop for his Islamophobia.

Trump appeared to express genuine gratitude to the Republican audience for applauding his lines about the LGBTQ community. But again, these are mere crumbs, not real progress. If those Republicans really cared about our community, they would speak out against the many murders of trans women of color, whether or not those women were killed by “Islamic terrorists”. Of course, if they genuinely wanted to support our community, they wouldn’t be Republicans at all, not that the Democrats are doing much better in securing us equal rights in anything other than marriage. (Should I, a pacifist, really be grateful that openly trans people can now serve in the military?)

I found it interesting that, according to the Guardian, the term “LGBTQ” was the top trending search on Google last night. I’m reminded of what a bubble I live in when I see how many people are not familiar with that acronym. Granted, there are many variations on the term, but for those unaware, that configuration of letters stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning”. The awkward way Trump pronounced it indicated he might not even know what all of those letters mean himself. Or perhaps his speechwriters wanted to avoid alienating his evangelical supporters—whose support, Trump actually admitted, was not entirely deserved—by uttering the word “transgender”.

Regardless, though there are certainly transgender Republicans—Caitlyn Jenner being one of the most prominent—this party most definitely does not represent our interests in any way, shape, or form. Queer folks and cis people of color are only welcomed by the GOP if they practice respectability politics. Those politics were on prominent display throughout the Republican convention. And I fully expect to see more of them at the Democratic convention later this month.

*Guitarist and bandleader G.E. Smith, who I knew well from his days with Hall and Oates and Saturday Night Live, said of the 2012 Republican convention that he was not political and it was just a job to him; this year’s event was likely the same. I personally think this mindset is irresponsible for a prominent (and very likely financially secure) artist to take.

**From what I understand, organizations often license songs in packages from publishing companies for events like this. Whether artists can opt out of these arrangements isn’t clear to me.

Racism and “cosmetic diversity” at the Republican convention

[Image: The Washington Monument at the National Mall, Washington D.C.]

I have not watched the Republican national convention since 1988. This year I decided I needed to watch at least some of it to know how scared I should be about the future of this country. I’m following The Guardian’s coverage rather than watching a livestream, so I’m not tempted to throw a brick through my TV set. This is not fun popcorn-time entertainment for me; the outcome of the election affects my health and safety.

I was nauseated, though not surprised, at the racism displayed by speakers at the convention. Rudy Giuliani’s blatantly false assertion that police save lives without caring whether they are white or black infuriated me. And then they put an Uncle Tom sheriff at the podium to talk about BlueLivesMatter. My friend and fellow black vegan social justice advocate Aph Ko brilliantly dissected this scene in a Facebook post:

Sheriff David Clarke was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention. This is a great example of cosmetic diversity. Black bodies are welcome so long as they recite knowledge from the dominant class. We need to abandon the idea that “representation” is the *only* problem we have in our movements. The reality is, black knowledge isn’t welcome. This is why when we superficially scream about diversity (in terms of skin alone), we need to be careful because it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting a diversity of knowledges and perspectives. When diversity is viewed as a skin-deep thing, Clarke’s presence at the RNC is viewed as “progressive.”

I wish folks would talk more about this subject rather than the apparent plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech by Melania Trump’s speechwriters. I don’t support plagiarism by anyone, but I don’t like the inevitable slut-shaming and accent-mocking that accompanies criticism of her. I’ve read that the woman is fluent in five languages; that’s four more than I am. Regardless, she didn’t write the speech, and she’s not a politician.

My horror at the Republican convention should be in no way taken as support for the Democrats. As I’ve repeated frequently in this blog, I am registered with no political party and endorse no presidential candidates at this time. The only candidates I’m remotely considering voting for are Clifton Roberts and Breeze Harper of the Humane Party, and Jill Stein (VP candidate yet to be announced) of the Green Party.

I understand that Stein is picking up a lot of support from former Bernie Sanders supporters who were actually surprised that he endorsed Hillary Clinton (I was not). I did vote for her in 2012, but left the Green Party subsequently, and am not thrilled with her statement about her part-time “veganism” that includes fish and dairy. I am far from a single-issue voter, but cannot ignore speciesism or the watering-down of veganism.

I’m still convinced that the only way to fix this country is a non-violent revolution. I wish I knew how to help make that happen. I really do.

ETA: I made the mistake of tuning into live coverage of the RNC briefly this afternoon, just before the California delegation came up for the roll call. Four black (as far as I could tell) folks gathered at the mic, the woman from the group gleefully announced my state’s 172 votes for Trump (see video clip from 0:13 to 0:33), and led the delegation in a “We want Trump” chant.  To say it made me sick would be an understatement.

ETA 2, July 20: The black women near the beginning and end of this video clip say they’re voting for Trump because he’s not a politician, they’re sick of “crooked Hillary Clinton” and “political correctness”, and just because they’re black doesn’t mean they have to vote Democratic. (I definitely agree on that last point…)

Queer acoustics at The Lost Church

[Image: Mya Byrne sings while playing acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

Last night I spent an enjoyable evening at The Lost Church in San Francisco’s Mission District, where three singer-songwriters from the LGBTQIA community—Mya Byrne, Eli Conley, and Kathleen Knighton—performed beautiful acoustic music.

I came at the invitation of my friend Eli, from whom I’ve taken voice lessons. Eli is trans but acknowledges his privileges as a white man, and frequently speaks out for black folks and other people of color. I’d previously photographed him performing at a fundraiser to help stop gentrification in the Mission. In the wake of the most recent police murders of black folks, Eli wrote a beautiful song to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter:

After watching the video, I made it a priority to come see his latest concert. All of the performers were excellent, and it was a treat to be in a supportive space filled with queer and trans folks and our allies.

Mya Byrne at The Lost Church[Image: Mya Byrne sings and plays acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

Eli Conley at The Lost Church[Image: Eli Conley sings and plays acoustic guitar, accompanied by a tambourine player, on an indoor stage.]

Kathleen Knighton at The Lost Church[Image: Kathleen Knighton sings while playing acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

My full set of photos from the concert is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

P.S. I now have accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. Though I don’t expect to use either of those services much myself, please tag me if you share my work on those networks. Since my preferred alias, “funcrunch”, was taken, I used my full name, as I have on my Facebook page: paxahimsagethen.

Rally against racist police

[Image: A rally attendee stands in a crowd, fist raised in the air.]

When I read the news about Alton Sterling, yet another black person murdered by the police, I didn’t want to write or talk about it. I was tired of racist comments about “thugs” and “All Lives Matter,” so I just linked to my friend Christopher Sebastian’s Facebook status, explaining that white allies should leave black folks alone to process our pain within our own communities. I logged off of Facebook for awhile, and tried to escape the crushing reality of racism and police brutality.

Then I read that the police murdered another black man, Philando Castile, the very next day. Then I heard about a lone shooter killing five police officers after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. And then I got a message from the San Francisco Food Not Bombs mailing list about a rally against racist police violence here in San Francisco. As nervous as I was about violence breaking out here too—from the police, not the protesters—I decided that I needed to attend.

I found more information about the rally on Facebook. Though this event had been shared over 7000 times, none of my Facebook friends had invited me to it; I seem to get lots of invites to animal rights protests and concerts though. Hmm… In any case, my partner Ziggy was out of town, and the couple of friends I mentioned the rally to were also out of town or unavailable. But one friend did ask me to text her after I got home so she would know I was OK, which I appreciated.

The event was co-sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, Justice 4 Alex Nieto Coalition, Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, San Francisco Black Leadership Forum, San Francisco Black Lives Matter, and West County Toxics Coalition. I didn’t get the names of all of the speakers, but they included Frank Lara (the MC), Edwin Carmona-Cruz (ANSWER Coalition), Lawrence Shine (Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition), AeJay Mitchell, Edwin Lindo (one of the Frisco Five hunger strikers), Ashley Love (Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter), and members of BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA (progressive Filipinx organizations). If anyone has names of others in my photos, please post them in a comment or send me an e-mail.

As I walked to the gathering place at Justin Herman Plaza, I passed by a group of police officers having some food in the nearby Jackson Square Historic District. I tensed up, but kept moving. I didn’t see an obvious police presence once I arrived at the plaza, but saw in news reports later that they were strategically positioned on rooftops. And once we started the march, they flanked us on either side, and barricaded the entrance of City Hall. Their presence did not make me, a black person, feel any safer.

Black Lives Matters signs[Image: People kneel on the ground creating signs reading “White Silence = Violence” and “#BlackLivesMatter”.]

Crowd at Justin Herman Plaza[Image: A crowd of people fills Justin Herman Plaza for a rally.]

I arrived a half an hour before the scheduled 6 p.m. start, as people were just beginning to gather. I took some photos, then parked myself directly in front of the microphone on the stage. By the time the program was underway, the entire plaza was filled with people, including many reporters and news cameras.

Rally against racist police[Image: Black trans activist Ashley Love speaks into a microphone, while other black speakers stand on stage and applaud. Standing next to Ashley are actor AeJay Mitchell, and Lawrence Shine of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition.]

Marching to City Hall[Image: Marchers carry signs reading “Stop Killing Us” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.”]

As with the other rallies I’ve attended over the last year, I was pleased with the support of and representation from queer and trans black folks. I saw one of the speakers, Lawrence Shine of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, during the march, and thanked him personally.

Speaker at rally against racist police[Image: A bearded man wearing a red, green, and black hat and scarf speaks into a microphone.]

One of the unscheduled speakers was a man who, as I later learned from seeing his photo in a news report, was the person I’d heard addressing the crowd from a megaphone while Lawrence Shine was speaking on stage. He was invited to come to the stage himself, and initially declined, but later accepted. He called out all the mostly non-black folks who were in attendance just to say “I was here,” and said, “This is not the work.” He disagreed with speakers who called for peace, saying that we needed to go into the police stations and destroy their computers (for starters). He spoke at length about anti-black racism and the need to dismantle the police system, and I had the feeling he would have spoken all night if the MC hadn’t (gently) taken the mic away from him, as others were waiting to speak.

I listened carefully to what this man said, and agreed with a lot of it. He had a brother in jail for protesting and had been unjustly imprisoned himself, so I won’t blame or shame him or any other black person for wishing violence upon his oppressors. Though during his speech, I was more concerned about retribution from the police or their operatives for what he was saying.

Regardless, I am still a pacifist. I did not choose the name Pax Ahimsa*—which became my legal name two years ago tomorrow—lightly. Adopting a name that literally translates to “peace” and “do no harm” was my commitment to always remaining non-violent, no matter what. I have a lot more thoughts on that subject, which I’ll share at another time.

Filipin@ speakers at rally[Image: A Filipina speaks into a microphone while others behind her hold signs expressing Filipinx solidarity with blacks.]

As the speaker noted, there were indeed a lot of non-black faces at the rally; San Francisco is only 3% black at this time. I have mixed feelings about the role of non-black allies at Black Lives Matter events. I feel it’s apparent that Latinx folks are subject to much of the same police violence as blacks. People of Asian descent, on the other hand, while still affected by racism, are not targeted as much by the police, at least here in the SF Bay Area. I do appreciate allies such as the members of the Filipinx groups who took the stage to express solidarity with black folks fighting against police violence. I’m not so sure about white folks raising their fists in a black power salute, or saying “we” when things don’t affect them personally though.

ETA: The Washington Post has been collecting data on police shootings. Their reports include a breakdown by race, but only white, black, Hispanic, and “other.” When reviewing this data, it’s important to take into account the percentage of each racial group in the U.S. population.

Once we left the plaza and began the march down Market Street, I felt grim and sad. Some others around me were smiling and laughing with their friends, but I was alone and depressed, thinking about how many times I’d marched down this street lately, for Orlando and the Trans March. While the latter was ostensibly a happier occasion, as an unofficial part of Pride weekend, most of the rallies and marches I’ve attended have been to protest discrimination and violence against people like me, not to be in a crowd and have a good time. As I’ve written frequently, I’m not just an introvert, but practically a hermit lately. I don’t go to protests because I want to, but because I feel obligated to—within the limits of my physical and mental capacities—and I feel a lot of my black and trans siblings are in the same boat.

Market Street sit-in[Image: A crowd of people sit on Market Street. One standing holds signs reading “Say It Loud, I’m Black & Proud!” and “White Supremacy Is Terrorism!”]

Reading names during sit-in[Image: Rally co-organizer Frank Lara reads from a list of names into a megaphone, while others watch and film.]

After walking several blocks, the march came to a halt, and people started sitting down, right in the middle of the street. I moved to the sidewalk to take photos, and located event co-organizer Frank Lara, reading the names of people killed by the police into a megaphone. After dozens of names were read, we resumed the march to City Hall.

Marching to City Hall in the fog[Image: A large group of marchers approaches San Francisco City Hall on a foggy evening.]

Filiming rally at City Hall[Image: A rally attendee films the gathering at San Francisco City Hall.]

I only stayed for the beginning of the rally at City Hall. I was too far back to hear the speakers clearly, and was feeling crowded, tired, cold, and nervous about possible violence as it was getting dark. From news reports, it appears some people stayed at the rally until at least 10 p.m., with police officers continuing to barricade the entrance; there were no incidents or arrests. More protests are planned in the Bay Area and around the country this weekend.

My full set of photos from the rally and march is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

*I am aware that some may consider me taking the name Ahimsa (a term of Sanskrit etymology) to be cultural appropriation. I am willing to have a conversation about that concern with people who come from predominantly Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain cultures, but not with others, and not today.

Speciesism and security theater

[Image: A Muscovy duck stands on a path next to a lake.]

Content note: Description of violence against animals.

Yesterday, I needed to get out of the apartment. The management was turning off water in the building for repairs, as they’ve done an uncomfortable number of times lately. I can deal with no hot water, but with no running water at all, and noise from construction on the vacant units, I figured I should stop being a hermit and get outside for a few hours, as difficult as it is for me to be around people nowadays.

I ended up going to Golden Gate Park, wanting to visit Stow Lake to look at the birds. I’d run around that lake several times when I was in marathon training three years ago, but I was usually too tired and in too much pain by that point in the run (especially on the return leg) to appreciate the views. I wanted to go there now with no agenda, no time limit, and no heavy camera (the snapshot at the top of this post was taken with my cell phone).

As I set out, it was a typical “summer” morning in San Francisco: weather in the mid-50s and overcast. Though this weather is ideal for running, it wasn’t so good for casual strolling, especially as I was feeling very depressed.

Once I arrived at the lake, I enjoyed watching various geese, ducks, and other birds. Some approached me, then wandered off, probably because I didn’t offer any food. But I won’t pretend to know their thoughts; I’m not an expert in animal behavior, and I’m sometimes uncomfortable seeing animal advocates ascribing emotions to our fellow animals to “humanize” them. The only things I know for sure is that they want to live, don’t want to be imprisoned, don’t want their bodies manipulated, and don’t want their children taken away from them. For me, that—lack of consent—is reason enough to leave them alone, regardless of their feelings or intelligence.

I watched one duck, the one pictured at the top, for awhile, as he (I believe he was a male) preened his feathers. I felt very sad, thinking about the billions of birds we kill for their eggs and flesh every year. I remembered a scene in Cowspiracy where a backyard farmer selected a duck from his flock of prisoners to kill, and chopped their head off with an axe. I’ve watched that film three times, and every time I’ve closed my eyes just before the axe came down. I cannot bring myself to watch that scene. I think that the people who need to watch that scene are the ones who have no problem eating the flesh or eggs of “humanely-raised” animals, not me.

After leaving the lake, I wandered the park and came upon the de Young Museum. I knew that being the first Tuesday of the month, the museums were all offering free admission, but I didn’t particularly want to see the exhibits; I was just hoping to find a restroom. As I approached the building, before I got within twenty feet of one of the side doors, a security guard came out and demanded that I open my backpack. As these were the first words anyone had spoken directly to me in over two days (as I’m a hermit, and Ziggy has been out of town), I just stood there in mild shock.

I soon recovered and complied. He looked in my (mostly-empty) backpack, then said that I would have to hold it in my hand, not on my back. I decided I didn’t really want to go in the building at that point, so I just wandered around the sculpture garden, holding the backpack in my hand as instructed. I felt shaken, though relieved he had at least addressed me as “Sir” instead of “Ma’am.” I didn’t think he was racially profiling, as I saw him asking the same of white visitors, and he was a black man himself. I just wondered whether this policy was actually making a real difference to the safety of park visitors, or if it was another example of security theater.

I worry that we are going to devolve into more and more of a police state, without any true reduction in violence. I believe that our culture of killing that allows us to breed and slaughter billions of our fellow animals every year extends to how we treat our fellow human beings. This is not to say that vegans are necessarily less violent than non-vegans; I’ve seen terribly oppressive behavior from vegans since becoming active in animal rights, which I’ve documented on numerous occasions. But just as our US-American “Independence Day” really only celebrates the liberation of a select few, I believe we cannot have true peace and liberation as long as we continue to dominate every other species on the planet.

I don’t have all the answers to how to eradicate violence. It will never be possible to do so completely; we cannot exist without destroying life. But we can certainly do a better job at co-existing with others than we are doing right now. Veganism is one part of how we can evolve into a truly peaceful species.

One year blogiversary

[Image: Partial headshot of Pax with the words: Pax Ahimsa Gethen | queer * black * trans * vegan * atheist | blogger * photographer | gender & animal liberation | pronouns: they * them * their]

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of this blog. Though I later imported and backdated a couple of entries from my old blog, my first official post was on July 2, 2015. Since then, I’ve posted 187 entries, and my blog has had over 19,000 visitors and over 30,000 views.

Wordpress blog post stats[Image: A screenshot with the title “All-time posts, views, and visitors” and the text “Posts: 187; Views: 30,066; Visitors: 19,104; Best views ever: 1,859, June 3, 2016.”]

Google Analytics for funcrunch.org[Image: A screenshot with the title “Google Analytics Dashboard” and a list of page titles and numbers.]

As with my Flickr photos, my most popular entries do not necessarily correspond with what I consider to be my best work. My most popular entry to date was about the expanded gender customization options in The Sims video game. This got a large number of hits solely because I shared it with popular vlogger Kat Blaque on her Facebook page, and she shared it with her readers. I need to write a follow-up entry now that I’ve played with the updated game more, as in my initial excitement I failed to realize that the game does still enforce the gender binary in significantly problematic ways.

My second most popular post, on Prince’s vegan diet (or lack thereof), was posted the day after his death, and continues to get a steady trickle of hits and occasional comments. I’ve added updates to that post as I’ve learned new information, which I’ve also helped incorporate into Prince’s Wikipedia page. But really, part of my point in the post was that we shouldn’t focus on vegan celebrities so much, so I’d rather people read my other posts about speciesism and animal rights.

My third and fourth most popular entries were on the important theme of oppression, especially anti-black racism, in the vegan movement: “White vegans need to check their privileges” and “Dear marginalized vegans: You are enough.” Both received a larger number of comments than usual for my entries, including several negative for the former, all of which I published (I generally publish all comments that are not obvious spam or trolling). I got a fair amount of praise and thanks for the latter, which Sarah K. Woodcock of The Advocacy of Veganism Society also invited me to read aloud for her podcast.

For more of what I consider to be my most important blog posts, see my “Best of 2015” round-ups of animal rights and gender-related posts. Too soon to do a round-up for 2016, but I think “Dear marginalized vegans” will make the list.

If my words or pictures have educated, entertained, or moved you in any way, please consider supporting me with a Patreon sponsorship or one-time tip. Free photography isn’t free to produce, and writing takes time and effort as well. So if you like my work and have the means, any amount you can give would be appreciated. Thank you to my sponsors, past and present, whether you’ve contributed one dollar or over a hundred.

Embracing our legacy at the Trans March

[Image: The musical group Caveta Envinada and a sign language interpreter perform on stage at the San Francisco Trans March, June 2016.]

On Friday, I attended the San Francisco Trans March for the third consecutive year. I’ve come to prefer this volunteer-run, safe and sober event to other activities on Pride Weekend, which here in SF have become opportunities for corporate pinkwashing and for straight tourists to drink copious amounts of alcohol while gawking at us.

As I did last year, I decided to concentrate my photography solely on the stage performances before the actual march. I visited the information booth upon arrival at Dolores Park to ask for a list of speakers and performers. They responded by offering me a press pass! I said I was an independent blogger, not really a member of the press, but accepted. (They mostly wanted to make sure journalists didn’t take photos of any attendees without their consent; this reminder was printed on the reverse of the press pass itself.)

Pax with press pass[Image: Pax shows off their Trans March press pass. Photo by Ziggy.]

The MCs from the event were familiar to me, as I had photographed two of them before at the Transgender Day of Visibility: Shawn Demmons of the Transgender Law Center, and Nya of the reality show Transcendent. Karlyn “Fairy Butch” Lotney rounded out the trio.

Trans March MCs[Image: Shawn Demmons, Nya, and Karlyn Lotney MC the Trans March.]

The program included a number of musicians,including two young trans girls: Emmie, who also sang last year, and Alicia N.G., who also read a poem she wrote. I teared up while she sang “Where Is Love?” from Oliver, mostly because I was sad that such a young child has to deal with so much hate against people like her, as she expressed in her poetry.

Alicia N.G. at the Trans March[Image: Alicia N.G. sings at the Trans March.]

Other musical performers included Agatha Varshenka, only the lonely, Nick Lawrence, Cajeta Envinada (pictured at the top of this post), Akira Jackson, and AH MER AH SU, aka Star Amerasu (who I had also photographed at Black Queer Voices Rising).

only the lonely at Trans March[Image: A singer/guitarist from only the lonely performs at the Trans March.]

Nick Lawrence at the Trans March[Image: Nick Lawrence sings at the Trans March, accompanied by guitar and harmonica players.]

AH MER AH SU at the Trans March[Image: AH MER AH SU sings at the Trans March.]

Speakers included Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya, who I had also photographed at the Trans Day of Visibility, and Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project. Johnson made headlines by pulling out of today’s Pride Parade as a protest against the increased police presence, which is threatening to black and brown folks. She was accompanied on stage by members of El/La Para TransLatinas, who I’d also photographed at the Transform California launch event and the LGBTQ/Latinx memorial for Orlando.

Janetta Johnson at Trans March[Image: Janetta Johnson speaks at the Trans March, accompanied by members of El/La Para TransLatinas.]

Theresa Sparks at the Trans March[Image: Theresa Sparks speaks at the Trans March.]

As happened at the vigil for Orlando in the Castro, controversy erupted when elected officials attempted to speak. Theresa Sparks, Mayor Ed Lee’s newly-appointed advisor on transgender initiatives, spoke (uninterrupted) and then introduced state senator Mark Leno. But attendees spotted Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener on the side of the stage, and began booing loudly. Leno soon realized that the crowd didn’t want any of them there, and made a reasonably classy exit, saying “Though this has not been a warm welcome or one of respect, I will continue to fight for transgender rights, equality, and the respect that you’re not giving us today.” The politicians then exited to a chant of “House keys, not handcuffs,” referring to gentrification and police harassment of homeless and other marginalized folks in San Francisco.

From my reading of the various news articles* and comments on the event, the ire was directed almost entirely at Lee and Wiener, not Leno. However, though Leno is gay (as is Wiener) and has indeed fought for trans rights, he, like Wiener, is a cisgender white man, and cis white gay men are much more well-represented than others in the LGBT community, especially here in San Francisco. Rubbing elbows with disliked local politicians was not looked upon kindly by this crowd.

As an aside, the amount of vitriol I’ve seen expressed at Mayor Lee and Supervisor Wiener makes me wonder how they got elected in the first place, similar to how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could have become the presumptive nominees of their respective parties if they are so greatly disliked. Money-influenced corruption is part of why though I do still vote, I do not support the Democratic Party at either the local or national level.

As explained in the Trans March press release, this year’s theme, “Embracing Our Legacy: We Are Still Here,” honors our black and brown ancestors in the movement. The march ended at Turk and Taylor in the Tenderloin district, at the site of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot. There, a new street sign was unveiled, renaming the 100 block of Taylor Street to Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Way. (I was too tired to take any more photos at that point, unfortunately.)

I was glad to attend this event, and especially happy that Ziggy was able to take a long dinner break to join me for part of it. I also met up with several other trans and non-binary folks for the march and dinner afterward. There were some problems—the sound quality was terrible, and my official Trans March tank top didn’t arrive in time—but overall, it was a positive experience.

My full set of photos from the Trans March is available on Flickr. I also uploaded a number of photos to Wikimedia Commons, to support the annual Wiki Loves Pride campaign to improve LGBT coverage on Wikipedia. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

* News coverage included KRON, KTVU, Mission Local, and SFist.

Animal liberation begins at home

[Image: Side-by-side close-ups of the faces of a chicken and a dog. Underneath is the phrase “People, not property.”]

Content note: Violent anti-Chinese racism.

Every year during the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, Guangxi, China, the same predictable racist and speciesist comments flourish on social media. This year is no exception:

Chinese so barbaric[Image: Screenshot of a comment reading “What makes the Chinese so barbaric. Why can’t they eat chicken and rice. They are miserable bastards that should rot in hell. I would love to see those people tortured and killed and then feed their flesh to all those starving dogs.”]

Barbaric dog meat trade[Image: Screenshot of a comment reading “This Yulin barbaric dog meat trade is beyond a nigthmare, horrific. I hope all those responsible die.”]

Scumbag goblins[Image: Screenshot of a comment reading “I loathe those scumbags, they’re not even “people” but forevermore goblins.”]

Chinese eating themselves[Image: Screenshot of a comment reading “The Chinese should start eating themself……..many problems solved!!”]

I’ll keep my responses brief.

Non-vegans who are criticizing this festival: What Western farmers do to chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals is absolutely no different from what some Chinese people do to dogs. Even on so-called “humane” and free-range farms, our fellow animals are separated from their families, subjected to painful procedures, suffer from numerous ailments as a result of being bred for rapid growth, and are slaughtered at a young age. This includes laying hens and dairy cows, so lacto-ovo vegetarians are not exempt from participation in this violent system. The Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has literature exposing the truth about animal agriculture in the USA.

Western vegans who are criticizing this festival: Stick to your own backyard. There are many vegans and animal rights activists in China who can protest dog slaughter without colonialist intervention. Call out racism and speciesism if you see comments like the ones in the above screenshots. Emphasize that all of our fellow animals—not just cute, cuddly, or “intelligent” individuals—are people, not property.

Animal liberation begins—and belongs—at home. Please go vegan, and do your part to help end speciesism, racism, and xenophobia.

LGBTQ vegans on the Orlando massacre

[Image: Activists in the Castro, San Francisco, hold three rainbow flags aloft. One includes the stars of the United States flag, and another includes the words “We Have One Pulse.”]

Last week I was contacted by Richard Bowie of VegNews magazine for my thoughts, as a queer vegan, on the Orlando massacre. Today, the magazine published the responses from myself and several other LGBTQ vegans, including my friend and fellow Black Vegans Rock advisory board member Christopher Sebastian, and my friend Saryta Rodriguez who I interviewed earlier this year.

I was aware my remarks would be edited, and I am glad they included what I said about erasure of the Latinx community, which I also posted about this weekend. I said a lot more though, so I’m including my full responses below (the questions themselves are paraphrased). I’ve added links to relevant blog posts and articles. Thanks to Richard Bowie and VegNews for reaching out to queer vegans, and particularly to queer vegans of color, on this issue.

On my initial reaction to the news

My initial reaction was muted, because, sadly, I’d become so accustomed to reports of gun violence that I was somewhat jaded and numb. It took a few hours of reading and absorbing what had happened for the horror to really sink in. I’ve had feelings of anger, fear, and hopelessness; feelings I experience daily as a queer black trans person who suffers from depression, but now even more magnified. These feelings have been tempered only by the privilege of living in a very LGBTQ-friendly community; thousands of San Franciscans came out to hold space at Harvey Milk Plaza in a vigil for the dead.

On drawing a connection between the queer community and ethical veganism

As a person who identifies as agender, I have seen and been personally affected by the false binaries humans have erected of gay and straight, male and female, masculine and feminine. Anyone who strays outside of the charmed circle of cisgender heteronormativity loses the privilege of being treated as a full human being. Gay or trans “panic” is still a legal defense for murder in 49 out of 50 U.S. states.

The human/animal divide is another false binary. We needlessly exploit and kill billions of our fellow animals every year for no reason other than that they are members of different species. We cite arbitrary traits like intelligence or the ability to speak a recognizable language as justification for deciding who is a person and who is food. But just as straight-passing and cis-passing queer people who practice “respectability politics” enjoy greater privileges, animals who remind us more of ourselves – apes, dogs, elephants – are afforded greater protections and recognition as individuals in society.

Regardless of intelligence or abilities, every animal, human or otherwise, wants to live. Until animals are treated as people instead of property, we will never have a fair and just society for all.

On the media diminishing or ignoring the queer context of the tragedy

It’s grossly irresponsible, though not at all surprising, of the mainstream news outlets to erase queer and Latinx people and focus solely or primarily on terrorism (which also breeds Islamophobia). This shooting took place in a gay nightclub on Latin night. Latina and black trans women were featured performers that evening. The vast majority of the victims were Latinx. This was not a mere coincidence.

As a queer person of color, I am tired of our communities being erased and tokenized. The hashtag “#WeAreOrlando” is wrong. We are not all Orlando, and cishet white people should be amplifying the voices of the queer and Latinx people whose communities were specifically targeted by this attack.

Anything else to add?

Going through a gender transition has made me even more sensitive to speciesism and the vast scope of unnecessary, avoidable harm we inflict upon others. We live in a culture of sanctioned, accepted violence, in the streets, in our homes, and on our plates. To achieve true peace we need to stop treating our fellow beings as inferior or disposable, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or even species. We should recognize and celebrate our differences, not erase them or use them as excuses for violence.

Addendum, June 22: Saryta Rodriguez has now also posted her full responses to the interview questions.

Love and solidarity

[Image: A group of marchers carry flags and signs. Several wear T-shirts reading “Love Has No Borders”.]

Yesterday I returned to the Castro for a march to the Mission in solidarity with the LGBTQ Latinx community, who were the primary victims of the Orlando massacre. After last Sunday’s vigil, many complained that the event was marred by the inclusion of politicians and initial exclusion of Latinx speakers. This community-driven effort was a response to that.

Soon after I arrived at Harvey Milk Plaza, a number of shirtless white men arrived and began dancing, twirling flags, and blowing soap bubbles for an unrelated fundraiser. Though these activities were hardly out of place during Pride Month (or really, at any other time in the Castro), I began to wonder whether I was in the right place. Since becoming more woke about white supremacy, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable in white-dominated spaces, whether online or off. I know I’m not alone in this discomfort, especially with the continued erasure of queer people of color in mainstream coverage of the shooting.

Unite Here! Love has no borders[Image: Two people smile and pose for a photo, holding signs reading “Unite Here!” and “Love Has No Borders.”]

End oppression it is killing us[Image: A marcher holds a sign reading “End Homophobia Transphobia Sexism Racism It is Killing Us!”]

Writing the names[Image: People kneel on the sidewalk, writing the names of the Orlando victims on signs. Others hold signs and rainbow flags in the background.]

I was relieved when some brown and black folks showed up carrying signs. Then LGBTQ rights activist and event co-organizer Cleve Jones called into a megaphone for volunteers to help write the names of all 49 murder victims on large sheets of paper. These signs would be carried during our march to Galería de la Raza for the Latinx-led memorial, Pulso del Amor Continúa (The Pulse of Love Continues).

March in the Castro[Image: Marchers carrying signs and flags head down Castro Street, past the Castro Theatre.]

Remembering the victims[Image: A marcher holds a sign bearing the name and age of a victim: “Simon Adrian Carillo Fernández 31 years old.” Other marchers hold signs reading “Love Has No Borders.”]

Pulso del Amor Continúa[Image: A person with mirrored sunglasses stands in a crowd, holding a sign reading “Pulso del Amor Continúa.”]

Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval[Image: Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval speak on stage at Galería de la Raza.]

We marched two miles to Galería de la Raza, where an outdoor stage was set up. The program began with a blessing by Estela Garcia and a drumming performance by Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits. Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval served as MCs. Speakers included representatives from AGUILAS, the Chicana/Latina Foundation, El/La Para TransLatinas, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, Community United Against Violence, and Somos Familia, as well as perfomances by Yosimar Reyes, Maria Medina, and Per Sia. ASL interpretation and Spanish-to-English translation were provided.

Yosimar Reyes[Image: Yosimar Reyes performs spoken word.]

Stage altar[Image: An altar on the edge of a stage contains a number of items atop a colorful blanket. A sign reads “TU ERES MI OTRO YO.” In the background are the feet of Ani Rivera, wearing purple high-heeled shoes and white polka-dot stockings.]

Maria Medina[Image: Maria Medina plays a drum while singing into a microphone.]

Per Sia[Image: Per Sia performs a drag act on stage.]

Per Sia and Estela[Image: Per Sia dances with Estela Garcia in front of the stage.]

Reading the names[Image: Seven people on a stage take turns reading the names of the victims.]

At the conclusion of the program, the names of all 49 victims were read, followed by a release of butterflies. A DJ provided music for people to dance to after the formal event.

My full set of photos from the march and memorial is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

filed by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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