People over pipelines

[Image: A protester holds up a sign reading “People over pipelines” during a sit-in outside the San Francisco Federal Building.]

Last night I attended a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline, in the wake of Donald Trump reviving construction on those projects. The action was co-sponsored by the Native American-led group Idle No More SF Bay and a number of their allies, including, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Diablo Rising Tide, Rainforest Action Network, Chinese Progressive Association, Do No Harm Coalition, and others.

Stop DAPL[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline hold signs and banners.]

Signs against pipelines[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline hold signs and banners.]

Protesters gathered outside the San Francisco Federal Building just south of Market Street, where many of the same signs and banners that were used at the November Stand with Standing Rock action (organized by the same group) were provided. As with that earlier rally, I focused on taking photos of the crowd rather than the speakers, as some of the people in the November ceremony said they didn’t want to be photographed.

Stand with Standing Rock[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline hold signs and candles.]

NoDAPL NoKXL[Image: A protester against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline holds a candle and a sign reading “The water will rise and so will we!!”]

The rally featured singing and a number of speakers from different groups. They noted that they wanted to de-emphasize Trump, and talk more about the indigenous people and positive actions to take to protect the people and the Earth.

Climate chaos[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline fill the plaza at the San Francisco Federal Building. An image projected onto the building reads “Oil, Coal, Gas = Climate Chaos”.]

Water protector sit-in[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline hold a sit-in in the street.]

Water protector sit-in[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline hold a sit-in in the street.]

After over an hour of speakers, we were directed to sit in the street for several minutes, attempting to fill the entire block outside the Federal Building. While this was suggested as “practice” for future occasions where activists might be arrested, police were cooperative for this action. As I was leaving, a did hear one officer warn a straggler that they must now get out of the street. I didn’t stay around to see if there were any arrests.

Knowing what the water protectors in North Dakota have endured at the hands of the police, I couldn’t help thinking about an article by Ijeoma Oluo in response to Women’s March participants bragging that there were no arrests at their event. Not everyone is in a position to risk arrest and imprisonment, but more disruption will be necessary for positive social change.

Regardless, I’m glad I attended this event, even though it was on short notice. (Though I’m still generally avoiding Facebook, event invitations are one of the few notifications I haven’t opted out of receiving via e-mail.) I had originally planned to attend another pipeline protest scheduled for this Saturday, but decided to go to last night’s instead as it was sponsored by a native-led group. I appreciated that the organizers of Saturday’s protest acknowledged the indigenous leadership of the #NoDAPL movement, and made changes to their event accordingly.

My photos from the protest are available on Flickr. Some are also on Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks. And if you enjoy my photography and have the means, please sponsor or tip me so I can upgrade my camera equipment!

Rising in dissent

[Image: Protesters fill United Nations Plaza at dusk.]

The dreadful occasion has come to pass: Donald Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. What more can I say about this man and the people who voted for him that I haven’t already said? I’ve had to suppress much of my anger, disgust, and fear just to remain functional.

But I cannot simply ignore the impact this transfer of power is likely to have on tens of millions of marginalized people, including myself. So I went beyond my comfort zone this week to attend three crowded San Francisco protests on three consecutive days.

Ghostlight Project SF[Image: A crowd fills the lobby of the Geary Theater in San Francisco, holding the lit screens of their cell phones aloft.]

Thursday’s event, The Ghostlight Project, was more of a solidarity rally than a protest. People gathered at theaters throughout the country to express inclusion, protection, and compassion. The space inside and outside the American Conservatory Theater on Geary Street was completely packed. I was overwhelmed and unable to get good photos, unfortunately, but formal photos were taken and should be available on the event’s web site.

Ziggy at Trump protest[Image: Ziggy looks down from a truck, with anti-Trump posters and an I.A.T.S.E. Local 16 banner.]

On Friday, the day of the inauguration, there were protests all day long throughout the country (and abroad). I chose to attend the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition rally at United Nations Plaza in the evening. Ziggy volunteered to run sound for it (his union, I.A.T.S.E. Local 16, supported the protests), and ended up being drafted into running sound for their morning action as well.

Rainy Trump protest[Image: A protester stands under an umbrella with “Not My President” and “Resist” written on it. ]

The weather was stormy, with intermittent sudden downpours. Some protesters got clever, with messaging written directly on their umbrellas. Having learned my lesson from being drenched at a previous A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, I wore rain pants in addition to my jacket this time. (Holding an umbrella isn’t practical while operating a professional camera!)

Rainy Trump protest[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “My melanin is not a threat.”]

Rainy Trump protest[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Fight white supremacy” and “Fight back against sexism, homophobia, war & racism”.]

Rainy Trump protest[Image: Speakers stand under an umbrella. One holds a sign in Spanish, calling for an end to the fascist Trump/Pence regime.]

As with that previous rally, I appreciated that the speakers and attendees (judging from the signage) emphasized that capitalism and white supremacy were the real problems to be overcome; this wasn’t just a pity party for Democrats or Hillary Clinton supporters. I was disappointed that there were not more black folks on the stage, however.

At the end of the rally, the emcee announced that they would be marching to the Castro and the Mission, but I headed on home. I wanted to save my energy for the Women’s March on Saturday.

Women's March SF[Image: The crowd at the Women’s March fills the San Francisco Civic Center.]

When I arrived at the Women’s March half an hour before the 3 p.m. rally start time, the area in front of and to the sides of the stage at UN Plaza was already packed. I tried to take refuge under a tree to the side of the stage, but people kept climbing it for a better view, and I narrowly avoided being kicked in the head several times.

I eventually gave up on watching the speakers, and moved behind the stage to try to get some breathing room. In the over 13 years I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve never seen such crowds; not at Pride, not at a Giants victory parade. I read later that an estimated 100,000 people attended; over two million attended “sister marches” worldwide. Though I was stressing out from the crowds,  the energy was amazing.

Women's March SF[Image: Women’s March attendees hold a banner reading “Love Trumps Hate”.]

Women's March SF[Image: A Women’s March attendee holds a sign reading “Girls just wanna have fun…damental rights.”]

SF City Hall in pink[Image: San Francisco City Hall, lit in pink for the Women’s March.]

Ziggy, who ran a half-marathon that morning but still had plenty of energy, joined me a bit later. We took refuge for awhile at the nearby Opera House, where he works, and I took a few photos from the parapet. He convinced me to come back out for the march itself, as it was such an important and historic occasion. We made our way down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza in a steady rain, thronged by thousands of people chanting and cheering.

Women's March SF[Image: Women’s March attendees stand under umbrellas holding candles. One holds a sign reading “Truth is now a defiant act!”]

So what is next for the resistance? Marches and rallies are important to show solidarity, but I can’t help remembering what one speaker at a rally against police violence said: “This is not the work.” More radical action will be needed to actually dismantle white supremacy. I cannot support violence, but I don’t know what alternatives to suggest. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for practical solutions.

My photos from this week’s events—The Ghostlight Project, The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition rally, and the Women’s March—are available on Flickr. Some are available on Wikimedia Commons as well. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks.

MLK Day march and interfaith ceremony

[Image: A large group of people, many carrying signs, marches down a San Francisco street.]

This Monday I attended a march and interfaith ceremony to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As the web site where I originally found out about the activities had incomplete information, I missed the start of the march at the Caltrain Depot, but met up with the group a few blocks later as they approached the Lefty O’Doul Bridge.

MLK Day march[Image: Marchers hold signs and wear T-shirts showing the face of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the words “AIDS is a civil rights issue.”]

MLK Day march[Image: MLK Day marchers cross the Lefty O’Doul bridge.]

MLK Day march[Image: MLK Day marchers enter Yerba Buena Gardens.]

The march ended at Yerba Buena Gardens, where the San Francisco Interfaith Council hosted a ceremony. One of the speakers was Mayor Ed Lee, who has been booed at a number of San Francisco events owing (partly) to the gentrification and racist police violence in this city. In contrast, this time he was received with applause when he called out “I am you! You are me!” to the crowd, and made a stand against Donald Trump.

Though I appreciated the latter, as San Francisco officials have made it clear that we will be a sanctuary city, I didn’t particularly care for the “I am you” statement. Mayor Lee is a person of color, but he is not black. As an act of allyship to black people on a holiday recognizing one of our own, “I am for you” might have been a more appropriate (if still debatable, in his case) statement. I also don’t think he should have marched at the very front of the parade.

The regrettable (but predictable) whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr. as a peaceful* unifier of all races, while downplaying his radical activism, was emphasized in the ReclaimMLK actions I attended last year. You can even see the whitewashed message in this year’s MLK Google Doodle, which shows a group of stylized people of different colors holding hands, rather than an image of King himself. (At least the doodle was created by a black artist, Keith Mallett.)

Between the “unity” message and the religious nature of the ceremony at Yerba Buena, I was regretting not attending this year’s ReclaimMLK march in Oakland instead. (Only black and brown people were invited to be in the front of last year’s march.)

MLK interfaith ceremony[Image: A speaker at a podium on an outdoor stage holds a sign reading “Make Love Known”.]

Crowd at Yerba Buena[Image: A crowd of people at Yerba Buena Gardens watches the ceremony.]

MLK interfaith ceremony[Image: A singer on an outdoor stage lifts their arm to the sky.]

Regardless, the ceremony had bright spots. One strong singer led us in multiple verses (in between other speakers) of “We Shall Overcome”, with the lyrics changed from “someday” to “today”. Two mothers spoke of losing their sons to violence. One little girl gave a speech with such a powerful voice that she got a standing ovation.

MLK interfaith ceremony[Image: Reverend Amos C. Brown speaks on an outdoor stage.]

As I wandered away from the stage, fatigued and tired of jockeying for position with another photographer, I heard another powerful voice speaking. I came back to hear Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown, a student of Dr. King. I later recalled Brown as a friend to the LGBT+ community; I photographed him at another interfaith ceremony in June 2013, on the day Californians achieved same-sex marriage equality.

MLK interfaith ceremony[Image: Reverend Amos C. Brown speaks on an outdoor stage.]

Rev. Brown spoke about a black woman who “had the nerve” to tell him that Donald Trump was a good person who should be respected, in part because he played basketball with some black kids in Harlem. He said that woman needed to “come and sit at his feet” and learn a thing or two. (Aside from the sexism of a woman sitting at a man’s feet, I agreed with the sentiment.)

MLK interfaith ceremony[Image: A group of people stand and sing together on an outdoor stage.]

MLK quote[Image: The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. engraved into a wall: “No. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.’]

After the ceremony, festivities continued with music and other events, but I didn’t have the energy to stick around. Before leaving, I did wander over to read some of the words under the beautiful Martin Luther King Memorial waterfall, a key feature of the Gardens.

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

* I am a pacifist, but pacifism should not be confused with passivity. I support radical actions.

Busy week ahead

I know I haven’t been posting much, so just a note that I haven’t disappeared. I’ve been doing a lot of Wikipedia editing, including starting a dozen new articles in the last two weeks. I have also planned to take photos at five San Francisco events this coming week. Three are related to the upcoming inauguration that I’ve been trying not to think too much about.

Versions of all of these events will be held in cities nationwide (worldwide in some cases). If you’re in the Bay Area and interested in attending, only the WikiSalon requires advance (free) registration.

As I’ll have a lot of photos to edit, it might take me awhile to get all of the related blog entries posted. I’ll post links to the photo sets on my Funcrunch Photo site as soon as they’re online.


[Image: Side-by-side self-portraits of Pax, on 32 days vs 36 months on testosterone.]

Today marks three years to the day since I started on testosterone therapy. The comparison photo above uses my Day 32 photo because I had a very different pose and expression on Day 1. You can see a few more photos taken of me today on Flickr.

I wish I could say that I’m pleased overall with the visible changes, but I’m not particularly. I know that every body reacts to the hormone differently, but I expected that I would see more dramatic changes by now, and would not be misgendered very often. At least my voice has pretty much settled in the baritone range.

Regardless, I’m not regretting the decision to go on testosterone, because living in an estrogen-dominated body was even worse. When lab results showed that my hormone levels were way too high, I was afraid that reducing my dosage would cause my menstrual periods to resume. Fortunately, they have not, but I’m still investigating and considering other options, as I’m not happy with needing Ziggy’s help to do my biweekly injections.

Ultimately, I have to remind myself that being agender, I’m going to be misgendered by strangers (and unsympathetic acquaintances) no matter what I look like. I was thinking of this when I created a Wikipedia article about Tyler Ford yesterday.  Tyler, who I’ve written about before, is also agender, also of mixed black/white Jewish parentage, and also uses “singular they” pronouns. Unlike me, they chose to stop hormones, and prefer a more femme presentation. They’re also 20 years younger than I am, and seem to relate to people much better than I do. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from being justifiably angry when they are misgendered, which they are on a regular basis.

I can accept being referred to as a man, since male is my subconscious sex, and I chose to transition to male for legal and medical purposes. But I still simply cannot be a man, and being misgendered as a woman—whether accidentally or deliberately—causes me significant distress. Maybe one day most people will truly accept non-binary genders as being just as legitimate as binary ones, but that day seems so distant as to be a hopeless fantasy. On top of my depression and anxiety over violence against marginalized people and our fellow animals, these feelings continue to distance me from others.

There is some progress in legal recognition for non-binary people; a non-binary intersex person, who I wrote about previously, has now received an accurate birth certificate. But this still doesn’t help much out on the street, where people make immediate judgments about the gender of strangers based on superficial cues. And bullies and bigots empowered by the incoming presidential administration are only going to ramp up the mockery and harassment of anyone who doesn’t conform.

So I begin 2017 without much optimism, but with the knowledge and determination that my identity is legitimate, no matter what anyone else says. That might not be much to hang onto, but it’s all I’ve got.