Shut down the zoos

[Image: A free-living howler monkey in Costa Rica swings from a tree branch.]

I wasn’t planning to write about Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child got into his enclosure, as others in the animal rights community can speak and have already spoken more eloquently on the subject. But when I turned on the news just now and saw the zoo director defending the shooting, I felt I had to make a short statement.

Zoos are prisons where non-human animals who humans find attractive or interesting are put on display for visitors to gawk at while eating the bodies and secretions of other animals. Breeding programs to save endangered animals wouldn’t be needed if humans would stop encroaching upon their territory in the first place. Wild (and domestic) animals who need homes belong in sanctuaries, not prisons, where they can be cared for without catering to the whims of the public.

If you’re vegan, please don’t go to zoos. If you’re not vegan, please learn about veganism. Our fellow animals deserve better than this.

Trans education: Telling our own stories

[Image: Screenshot of the Transgender Today section of the New York Times, featuring images of and quotes from many people, with the headline Transgender Lives: Your Stories]

Last week I participated on two panels of trans and non-binary people, educating graduate therapy students in the San Francisco Bay Area. These presentations were arranged and conducted by Sam Davis, a queer and trans psychotherapist. We were compensated for our time, and it was an empowering experience.

I hope to do more of this sort of work, as I become more comfortable speaking about these issues in public. Especially following my presentations at the Intersectional Justice Conference and the Bay Area WikiSalon, I’ve become increasingly aware of the importance of trans people telling our own stories, rather than letting the mainstream media shape our narratives.

While my public speaking experiences thus far have been positive, I realize that not all audiences will be receptive or respectful. A recent article by Kai Cheng Thom and Ivan Coyote illustrates some of the challenges faced by trans educators that cisgender people might be ignorant about. Safe travel is a particular concern of mine, due to the TSA screening process that penalizes “traveling while trans“, and the trans-antagonistic bathroom bills being proposed in many states.

Trans and non-binary people have always existed, and we are here to stay. Making more people aware of that fact through face-to-face meetings is a necessary component of trans liberation.

Transforming California

[Image: Trans activists Pau Lagarde, Kris Hayashi, and Elliott Fukui at the Bay Area launch of Transform California in San Francisco. Kris Hayashi is holding a sign reading “Nuestras Voces, Nuestro Futuro” (Our Voices, Our Future).]

Yesterday I attended the San Francisco launch of Transform California, a campaign founded by the Transgender Law Center and Equality California to fight discrimination against trans and gender-nonconforming people in California. Speakers included Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, SFUSD Board of Education President Matt Haney, and longtime trans advocate Felicia Flames, who was present at the Compton’s Cafeteria riot.

Rexy Amaral at Transform California rally[Image: Trans advocate Rexy Amaral speaks at a podium in front of the high school from which she recently graduated.]

Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola at Transform California rally[Image: Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola speaks into a microphone. A sign on the podium reads “Our Voices, Our Future.”]

Transform California rally attendees[Image: Attendees at the Transform California rally stand and sit on the steps, holding signs. One seated holds a sign reading “Disabled trans folks gotta piss too!!!”]

Transform California rally[Image: Reporters, camera operators, and onlookers watch the rally from the sidewalk.]

The rally was racially diverse, with a strong representation from the Latinx community, which befitted the Mission District location. Local news stations covered the event.

Felicia Flames at Transform California rally[Image: Trans advocate Felicia Flames stands in front of a pledge she just signed to make California safer for trans people.]

At the conclusion of the event, everyone was invited to sign a pledge (also available on the Transform California web site) to oppose discrimination of trans and gender non-conforming people in California.

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

Flushing America down the toilet

[Image: A restroom sign showing the stick figure of a person wearing a skirt and the word MEN underneath.]

Eleven states are now suing the federal government over trans people using restrooms. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin join North Carolina in asserting their right to discriminate against trans people performing basic bodily functions.

That’s over 20% of our state governments, spending taxpayer money on the right to police peeing and pooping.

Even Donald Trump, despite his flip-flopping on numerous issues, must realize that this makes no business sense. Unlike Ted Cruz, who openly condemned trans people as perverted abominations of God and nature, Trump won’t even admit what he personally believes on the issue, just repeating the party line: “Leave it up to the states.”

We must be the laughing stock of every civilized country on Earth right now.

Eating SOS-free (with bonus recipe)

[Image: A dish of sautéed carrots, chard, and potatoes with lemon-tahini sauce.]

(Content note: Weight and health issues.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been eating a diet free of sugar, oil, salt, and caffeine. I’m doing this to try to improve my health and energy levels, simplify cooking and meal planning, and lose some of the body fat I’ve gained by sitting around the house eating low-nutrient food and not exercising. This has nothing to do with veganism per se; vegans eat all kinds of diets and have all kinds of bodies. My desire to reduce body fat is solely a personal choice, not only for my health but also to relieve dysphoria.

I first learned about SOS (sugar/oil/salt) free diets by reading The Pleasure Trap, and found many good recipes on Cathy Fisher’s Straight Up Food web site. I ate SOS-free for about a month back in September 2014, and an even more restricted diet last October, when I was eating solely fruits and vegetables (no grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds). Both times, my taste buds adjusted within a week or so, but due to social pressures and other factors I went back to eating the way I had before. I don’t know how long I’ll stick to it this time, but the more fruits and vegetables and the less sugar and oil I consume, the better.

My main dishes haven’t changed much; I’m still eating lots of oatmeal (especially steel-cut since Ziggy bought a rice cooker with a porridge setting), potatoes, yams, and whole-wheat pasta. Being SOS-free means many packaged goods are out, which is a good thing, as I’m striving to use less packaging anyway (which is why we make our own soy and nut milks). Staying strictly SOS-free while eating out is virtually impossible, but I don’t go out much, and was relying too much on Ziggy bringing home take-out food when I was too tired or depressed to cook. Now I’ll just eat some fruit or a baked yam if I don’t have the energy to make anything more creative.

Here’s an SOS-free recipe I adapted from two other oil-free vegan recipes: Potatoes, veggies, and tahini sauce from Jeff Novick’s “My Simple Recipes” Facebook album,  and lemon-tahini dressing from Bryant Terry‘s Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook.

Sautéed Potatoes and Greens with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

1 large carrot, chopped

1 large baked potato, chopped

1 bunch kale or chard, stems and ribs removed* and leaves shredded

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Combine tahini, water, lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic in blender to make sauce.**
  2. Line a large non-stick saucepan with a thin layer of water, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add carrots, cover pan and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Add potatoes (and chard stems if using), recover and simmer for another five minutes, or until carrots are fork-tender.
  5. Add greens, recover and simmer just until greens are wilted (3-4 minutes).
  6. Stir in sauce (save some for later!) and serve.

* If using rainbow chard, chop and include stems for more texture and color.

** For a simpler version of the sauce, combine equal amounts of tahini, lemon juice, and water (leaving out the vinegar and garlic).

DSE 50th Anniversary 5K

[Image: Pax runs while smiling and making a “V” sign with their fingers. Other runners and the Golden Gate Bridge are in the background. Photo by Ziggy.]

(Content note: Medical  issues.)

This morning, Ziggy and I ran a 5K to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our running club, Dolphin South End Runners. I’d been racing with this club since 2009, so I was really looking forward to the race. Unfortunately, a recent injury almost prevented me from participating.

Due to ongoing depression and recurring illness, I had not run in nearly two months before this week. A slow three mile run on Tuesday left my muscles sore the next day. So when I did my biweekly injection of testosterone, the combination of the sore thigh muscle and being tense led to a normally almost-painless procedure causing lingering pain that made walking difficult.

I did not see any obvious swelling or discoloration, so hoped it wasn’t an infection (which I always worry about, even though I take care to disinfect and wear gloves when doing my shots). Ziggy, who had recently recovered from an injury himself, figured it was probably a grade two quad strain. I rested and applied ice packs, and when I went to pick up our race bibs at Sports Basement on Saturday, I bought a pair of compression tights.

I figured since I managed to walk several miles to and from the pickup location without collapsing in agony (though I was constantly aware of the pain) that I would at least be able to walk the race, if the pain didn’t get any worse. But I really wanted to run, as I have in every race I’ve ever done, no matter how slowly I needed to jog. So I decided to do 5 minute/1 minute run/walk intervals, which I’d been using for  longer runs.

I walked about three miles to the race start, arriving in plenty of time. Unlike most DSE races, all runners were pre-registered, so I didn’t need to worry about being misgendered at the registration table for once. The day started out overcast, but the sun soon came out, and I felt reasonably good during the race. The pain was still present, but subsided to more of a dull ache.

The interval strategy worked, and I managed to finish over a minute per mile faster than I expected, given my injury.  I even managed to do my usual finishing sprint. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised at my time, as since I started on testosterone, most of my race finishes have been faster than expected for the level of training. Regardless, I’m glad that I was able to participate, even though I’ll likely be quite sore again tomorrow.

Ziggy finished with a very good time, and it was great that he was there for companionship and support.  Looking forward to more DSE races in the future!

Ziggy and Pax at Crissy Field
[Image: Ziggy and Pax pose with their race medals. Photo by Ziggy.]

100 Black Vegans who Rock!

[Image: Banner with images of black folks and the words: Black Vegans Rock is now live! Check us out at Image by EastRand Studios.]

The Black Vegans Rock web site, launched in January, has reached a milestone: 100 black vegans featured! Thanks to site founder Aph Ko for her tireless work and commitment to veganism, anti-speciesism,  anti-racism, and feminism.

If you are or know of a black vegan who would like to be featured, please send in your story and photo. Read and share the stories of black vegans from all over the world, and help dispel the myth that veganism is a “white thing.”

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

[Image: San Francisco City Hall, lit in the pink and blue colors of the transgender pride flag.]

Today is the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Originally created in 2004 as International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), transphobia and biphobia were added to the acronym in 2009 and 2015, respectively. It is good to see an organization acknowledge the oft-forgotten B and T in the LGBT acronym.

I’d been using the words cissexism, trans-antagonism, and heterosexism in preference to transphobia and homophobia in recent years, because discrimination is not always based on fear, and also because of concern about ableism against people who have phobias. But I’ve been using transphobia more recently, because the bathroom legislation dominating the news is specifically rooted in fear-mongering. I’ve written numerous times about the ridiculousness of the bathroom laws already, but it bears repeating.

Allies can help by calling out any instances of bigoted or antagonistic comments that you hear from friends or acquaintances, either in person or on social media. There are a lot of false news stories and rumors about trans people spreading around, so make sure to check Snopes to verify anything questionable.

Thanks to Google for alerting me to this event by adding a link to this video from their home page, showing people fighting for justice and equality all over the world.

Cissexism and community standards

(Disclaimer/reminder: I am registered with no political party and endorse no presidential candidates at this time. Please do not shill for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton here, thanks.)

I’ve been listening to the words of Donald Trump a lot more carefully since he’s become the presumptive Republican nominee. Like it or not, he may well become our next president, and I will have to live with that somehow. As much as I fantasize about moving to another country—for a variety of reasons, not just the threat of a Trump administration—realistically, I know that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. So I want to prepare myself.

I’ve also been watching CBSN a lot, not because I prefer that network, but because they have free 24/7 live streaming that I can watch on my TV via Roku. (We don’t have an antenna, cable, or satellite.) So I’ve noticed that Trump has hired some women to be spokepeople for him, no doubt in response to the (very legitimate) charges of sexism against him.

In this interview, spokesperson Katrina Pierson explained Trump’s response to the bathroom battles, saying that the decision should be left to the states. That much didn’t surprise me. What disturbed me was her explanation that “the federal government’s hands should be tied” because “this is a republic, not a democracy.” (Also disturbing, but not surprising, was her assumption that we were too small a constituency to matter, because in some places, “there may not even be a transgender in that area.”)

It’s been a long time since I studied history in high school and college, but I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that civil rights were an issue of national concern. Pierson seems to think civil rights aren’t at issue here because Title IX does not define what gender is. I could write (and have written) many essays on the subject of gender, but that would be missing the point. The point is that these restroom restrictions are being enacted by bigoted, transphobic people whose concerns about the safety of (cisgender) women and children in public facilities have no basis in reality.

I didn’t feel comfortable living in a country where one’s marital status could be invalidated by crossing state lines. The Supreme Court ultimately handled that in Loving v Virginia in 1967 for interracial couples, and in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 for same-sex couples. Perhaps the right of trans people to use facilities in accordance with our gender identities will go to the Supreme Court as well. But however that court fight turns out, I am still bothered living in a country where so many people seem to think “community standards” should trump (no pun intended) basic human rights.

Here’s a sample of what community standards look like: A public comment session at a Board of Education meeting in North Georgia where attendees used their Christian faith as an excuse to hurl vile insults at trans people. “Gays and transgenders are genetically wired to have sex with children,” said one parent. “We need to stand on God’s truth in this perverse situation,” said a pastor. “I drive a Ford pickup. If I take the bumper off of it and I take the hood off of it and I put a Chevrolet bumper and Chevrolet hood on it, is it a Chevrolet? No it is not,” said another attendee. Fortunately, some others (cis and trans) in attendance stood up for trans people, but the transphobic remarks were cheered.

This is not just about Georgia, or North Carolina, or Texas, or any of the other states that are loudly and publicly trying to deny the rights of trans people to live in dignity. But the idea that a trans person’s—or any person’s—civil rights should be dependent on something as arbitrary as the soil they are standing upon runs counter to everything I believe in. I am ashamed to live in a country where people use religion and politics to enforce bigotry. (Note: Do not write “Not All Christians” in response to this post.)

With visibility comes violence, and the entire country is waking up to the fact that trans and non-binary people exist. We have always existed, and many cis people have had interactions with trans people without even knowing it. Cis-passing trans people have been quietly using public restrooms in accordance with their identities all along, and most will continue doing so, regardless of the local laws. But now we are all in increased danger, as self-appointed police spy on us and spread hateful lies on the Internet.

As I mentioned in my previous post, allies can help by sharing the words of trans and non-binary people who are affected by these issues. The Transgender Law Center is a good place to start, as they are an organization created by and for trans people, and are up to date with the latest legal developments in this country. The TransAdvocate is another trans-run organization, and a good alternative to mainstream media. Please help make this a country where everyone is treated with dignity, fairness, and equality, regardless of gender identity.

On bathroom battles and allyship

Since my previous post on the potty wars, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has officially weighed in on the transphobic North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as House Bill 2. She announced a federal civil rights lawsuit to declare the restroom restrictions are “impermissibly discriminatory,” and specifically addressed the transgender community, saying “we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”

In further news, today the federal Justice and Education departments are sending out a letter to all public school districts, declaring that trans students must be allowed to use facilities in accordance with their gender identities. The letter states, “As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

These are definitely positive developments. I particularly appreciated Loretta Lynch speaking directly to trans people, and acknowledging that we are moving “haltingly” toward inclusiveness for all people. Her speech was needed and on point.

Here’s the thing though: I have seen a disproportionate amount of praise for allies like Lynch—and I do consider her speech a true act of allyship—compared to the trans people who are actually impacted by this legislation. I even saw one headline refer to her speech as the trans movement’s “Rosa Parks” moment.

Sorry, no. A “Rosa Parks” moment would be a trans woman who does not “pass” as cisgender defiantly using a women’s restroom in North Carolina, against the direct orders of a security guard or police officer. Loretta Lynch is extremely unlikely to be “gender-checked” in a women’s restroom, in any state. As a North Carolina native herself, she may be very upset over her state’s legislation, but she is not personally facing violence from its enforcement.

Allies shouldn’t be held up as heroes, or expect undue praise for their efforts. Ally is a verb. Cis people should perform acts of allyship with trans people simply because that’s the right thing to do. Trans people—and trans women in particular, as they are the primary targets of transphobic legislation—are the ones whose voices need to be heard most in this ridiculous battle over our private parts.

A news clip I saw on CBS about the North Carolina bill was typical in its exclusion of trans voices. Dominated by cis people on both sides of the debate, one trans woman got a 10-second sound bite, where she was introduced as being “born a man.” (Fortunately, the accompanying text story mostly corrected this to say “trans-woman.”) Mainstream news coverage, like the rest of society, is cissexist, and it will take much more public exposure to trans people from all walks of life to make serious progress on gender equality.

Help defeat cissexist and transphobic legislation by elevating trans voices. We all just need to pee.