All posts by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

March for Science San Francisco

[Image: March for Science San Francisco attendees hold up a large banner for the event.]

On Saturday, I attended the March for Science San Francisco, one of many March for Science rallies held on Earth Day throughout the world. Unlike some recent political protests I’ve attended, this event appeared to be very well-funded, with a professional sound system for once. Between the multiple speaker arrays, giant video screen, coordinated T-shirts, and laminated passes for the speakers and volunteers, it almost felt more like an industry trade show or rock concert than a rally.

Crowd at Justin Herman Plaza[Image: The crowd at the March for Science rally fills Justin Herman Plaza.]

Crowded plaza[Image: The crowd moves through Justin Herman Plaza for the start of the march.]

The pre-march rally was held at Justin Herman Plaza, which was already filled with people when I arrived half an hour before the 11 a.m. start time. By the end of the rally, the plaza was so packed that it took me 45 minutes to get from the far side of the stage out to Market Street for the actual march.

Kishore Hari and Adam Savage[Image: Rally emcee Kishore Hari shares a moment backstage with Adam Savage.]

Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña[Image: Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña speaks at the rally.]

Baratunde Thurston at March for Science[Image: Baratunde Thurston speaks at the rally.]

Science has no borders[Image: Two children hold a sign reading “Science has no borders”.]

The lineup of speakers was diverse, and support for immigrants was a recurring theme. ASL interpretation was provided, and a pre-recorded talk by a scientist paralyzed with ALS, Eric Valor, was shown . While I appreciated that scientists were in the spotlight, the speaker I was personally most excited to see was Adam Savage from Mythbusters, who billed himself as an inventor, not a scientist. I also enjoyed the talk by comedian and futurist Baratunde Thurston, who was a last-minute addition.

March for Science rally signs[Image: Rally attendees sit and stand on the steps, holding various signs and banners.]

While advertised as non-partisan, many considered this to be another anti-Trump rally, and brought signs accordingly. Speakers did not call out the current administration exclusively, however. Many emphasized the need for funding and for assertions based on evidence rather than opinion, needs which transcend political parties. The rallying cry, as seen on several signs, was “What do we want? Evidence-based science! When do we want it? After peer review!”

I’ll be the first to admit that science is not a strong area of aptitude or interest for me. Science and math were the subjects I had the most difficulty with in middle and high school, though I still took Advanced Placement courses (in order to look good on my college applications) and managed to get passing grades. I’ve done computer programming, but have little formal computer science training, and struggled greatly in this area even when employed as a full-time web developer.

Resist[Image: A rally attendee wears a jacket with the badges of various science and nature organizations, and the word RESIST.]

So my motivation for going to this rally was mostly to continue my documentation of the resistance. Resistance to willful ignorance is part of this effort, and ignorance comes from people of all political persuasions. While science and religion are not necessarily incompatible, science is absolutely not itself a religion, a claim I’ve heard made not only by fundamentalists, but also some very left-wing, “new age” people. (It’s ironic that just the night before the rally I’d attended a sing-along benefit showing of Jesus Christ Superstar, a movie I’ve always greatly enjoyed despite being an atheist.)

Regardless, ethics also plays a large role, especially from my stance as a vegan animal rights activist. I can’t simply ignore vivisection and animal testing, no matter how much these practices might benefit humans. Though I do look for products that are not tested on animals, my reliance on some medications and medical procedures is beyond my reasonable ability to control at this time.

Ethics applies to the hot-button issue of GMOs as well, concerns about which one of the rally speakers dismissed in the same breath as vaccines causing autism. While I agree that the latter has been thoroughly debunked, I am still not convinced GMOs are a great idea. This is not primarily because of concerns about the safety of the humans consuming them, but concerns about capitalism and patenting. I also believe that ending animal agriculture, not engineering more higher-yield or pest-resistant crops, is the ultimate solution to world hunger. But again, I am not a scientist.

Marching with cat[Image: A woman with long braided hair and glasses walks while holding a cat with jaguar-like markings.]

During the short time I was on the march, I encountered someone marching while holding a cat, an unusual sight. We spoke briefly, and she commented that the cat would not exist without science, because domestic cats have been specially bred. This raised another animal rights issue, but I didn’t want to get into that discussion at the time, so I just snapped photos, thanked her and moved on.

Folk singers at March for Science[Image: Musicians sing and play instruments alongside the march route.]

Shortly afterward, I saw some people on the sidewalk playing live music, so I headed over and joined in the singing. By the time we finished the song, the end of the march had caught up to us, and I was peopled-out, so I headed home. Science-related activities continued for the rest of the afternoon at Civic Center.

My full set of photos from the rally is available on Flickr. I’ve also uploaded the photos to Wikimedia Commons, alongside those from other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

Tax March San Francisco

[Image: A giant inflatable “Trump Chicken” looms in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Yesterday I returned to San Francisco’s Civic Center for yet another anti-Trump demonstration, the Tax March. Like the Women’s March, the Tax March was held simultaneously in dozens of cities. I helped update the Wikipedia page on the event as well.

The purpose of this event was to protest Trump having not released his tax returns, despite promises during his campaign that he would do so. March organizers and participants didn’t necessarily think that these marches would pressure him into releasing them, but hoped to spotlight the lack of transparency in the Trump administration.

Speakers at the San Francisco event included Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who was mailed a page from Trump’s tax return and revealed it on the Rachel Maddow Show last month. As she did on Arts Advocacy Day, Kim said “I’m not afraid to call Donald Trump an enemy of this state.” Pelosi pointed out that Democrats have raised motions for Trump to release his taxes every week in Congress.

Jane Kim at the Tax March rally[Image: Jane Kim speaks at the rally.]

Nancy Pelosi shaking hands[Image: Nancy Pelosi greets rally attendees. I was nearly trampled by people seeking handshakes and selfies when they caught sight of her.]

David Cay Johnston at Tax March rally[Image: David Cay Johnston speaks at the rally.]

Also featured at the rally were three giant inflatable chickens. I watched the last and largest of them being inflated just before the start of the rally, to cheers from the crowd.

Deflated chicken[Image: A Trump Chicken lies in the street just before being inflated.]

Trump Chicken inflated[Image: The fully inflated Trump Chicken rises before the crowd.]

Thousands of people filled Civic Center for the rally and Market Street for the march, which ended at Justin Herman Plaza.

Tax March crowd at Civic Center[Image: A Tax March attendee at Civic Center holds a “Mein Trumpf” sign.]

Crowd at Tax March San Francisco[Image: The crowd leaves Civic Center and heads toward Market Street.]

Tax March on Market Street[Image: Tax Marchers head down Market Street.]

Tax marcher in pussyhat[Image: A Tax Marcher in a “pussyhat” has words for the President.]

While the march and rally were well-attended, there were sound and accessibility problems. The audio speakers were inadequate for the crowd size and had frequent, squealing feedback, and there was no sign language interpretation. At least two of the featured speakers had difficulty getting on and off of the flatbed truck that served as a stage, with one of them actually falling.

I hesitate to criticize logistics at events like this as I know volunteers are perpetually overworked and underfunded, but sound problems in particular have been a recurring theme at rallies I’ve attended this year. Messages voiced at these events are important and deserve to be heard by as many people as possible. Hopefully more funding can be raised to address these problems in the future.

My full set of photos from the rally and march is available on Flickr. Most of them are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside those of other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

Celebrating LGBT community in San Francisco

[Image: The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco performs in the lobby of the newly renovated SF LGBT Center. Photo by Ziggy.]

Yesterday I sang with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco (pictured at the top of this post) to welcome visitors into the newly renovated San Francisco LGBT Center. Ziggy and I had attended opening week festivities 15 years ago, so it was great to be there together again for this rededication. He took some photos of the ribbon-cutting outside while I waited with chorus members in the lobby. As soon as the doors opened we performed a three-song set, then Ziggy and I went off to explore the space and watch the other performers.

Sister Roma at SF LGBT Center[Image: Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence poses under a rainbow bridge.]

SFGMC at SF LGBT Center[Image: The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performs at the center.]

Honey Mahogany at SF LGBT Center[Image: Honey Mahogany performs at the center.]

Indigenous dancers at SF LGBT Center[Image: Indigenous dancers perform on the roof of the center.]

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. If you use any of the photos, please credit Ziggy Tomcich for the first seven and me, Pax Ahimsa Gethen, for the rest. Thanks!

Trans Day of Visibility 2017: Love and resistance

[Image: Shawn Demmons and Nya emcee Trans Day of Visibility 2017 at SOMArts, San Francisco.]

Yesterday I attended the annual Trans Day of Visibility celebration in San Francisco. I saw many of the same familiar faces from last year’s event, including emcees Shawn Demmons and Nya (pictured at the top of this post). This year’s theme was “Love and resistance”. A short film produced by the SF LGBT Center featured submitted photos of trans folks with their trans and cis loved ones, with voice-overs emphasizing the need to love trans people.

TGI Justice Project at TDoV SF[Image: Representatives from the TGI Justice Project speak on stage.]

Gwen Park at TDoV SF[Image: Gwen Park speaks on stage, canine companion in tow.]

Awards were given out to several organizations and individuals, including the TGI Justice Project, Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic Transgender Clinic, Fresh! White, Aria Sa’id of St James Infirmary, and Gwen Park, who brought a sweet canine companion to the stage. (Gwen was not the only one to do so; Holy Old Man Bull, who gave the invocation, also brought a dog along.) Gwen, a talented videographer, streamed behind-the-scenes footage of this event to Facebook Live; I can be seen speaking briefly about 20 seconds into this video.

Riya and Momma's Boyz at TDoV SF[Image: Riya performs with Momma’s Boyz.]

Entertainment included performances by Riya and Ares with Momma’s Boyz, StormMiguel Florez, and 10-year-old diva-in-training Emmie (who also performed at the Trans March in 2015 and 2016).

Gigi Gorgeous at TDoV SF[Image: Gigi Gorgeous answers questions on stage with singer Emmie and emcee Nya.]

This year’s special guest was Gigi Gorgeous, a Canadian actress, model, and YouTube personality. She answered some questions that had been submitted in advance.

I was glad to attend this event, which as always showcased the cultural and ethnic diversity of San Francisco, and centered trans people of color. I was feeling a bit depressed shortly after arrival, however. I had just walked two miles in warm weather, carrying heavy camera equipment in my backpack, and was sweating in my dress shirt. Though I didn’t bother wearing a jacket and tie this year, semi-formal attire was suggested (but not required). Regardless, I would have rather worn something cooler, like a strappy tank top. But with my visible breasts, that kind of attire would virtually guarantee I’d be misread as female.

Chatting with some folks outside while waiting for the doors to open, I lamented that even at a trans-focused event in San Francisco, I still could not truly be myself. I emphasized that I didn’t want to wear a strappy tank to bring out my femme side; I’m agender, and I don’t have a femme side. I simply wanted to be more physically comfortable, without the emotional dissonance that comes with being misgendered.

On the other hand, one positive aspect of dressing “like a man” is that I could walk for 40 minutes in dress shoes quite comfortably, and had roomy pockets so I didn’t need to carry a purse or fanny pack. Also, considering that my walk took me through the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood, and past a homeless encampment under the freeway, I acknowledge that even as a trans person of color, I personally enjoy many privileges.

In any case, once I got inside the venue I felt better. I connected with several people, talking about my work on Wikipedia to improve representation of marginalized groups. To that end, I created a category for the Trans Day of Visibility on Wikimedia Commons.

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

Arts Advocacy in San Francisco

[Image: Idris Ackamoor of Cultural Odyssey speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall for Arts Advocacy Day.]

Yesterday I returned to San Francisco City Hall for yet another rally, this one to support funding for the arts. San Francisco Arts Advocacy Day was organized by Arts for a Better Bay Area, “a coalition of arts practitioners invested in quality of life, creative expression, cultural equity, and vibrant neighborhoods”. During the 2016 election season, this group worked to secure funding for the arts using hotel tax revenue under Proposition S, which won over 63% of the vote but did not pass (as a two-thirds majority was required).

ABADÁ-Capoiera at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: ABADÁ-Capoiera gives a demonstration in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

ABADÁ-Capoiera at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: ABADÁ-Capoiera gives a demonstration in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Márcia Treidler at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Márcia Treidler speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

The event began with a demonstration by ABADÁ-Capoeira. I was very impressed with their athleticism. The leader of the group, Mestra Márcia Cigarra (Márcia Treidler), spoke afterward about what immigrants like herself bring to the arts.

Jane Kim at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

The arts have always been politicized, but this is especially so under the Trump administration, and I appreciated that the speakers at the rally brought a multicultural perspective to the situation. San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim spoke out especially strongly against Trump, calling him an enemy.

RaMona Webb at SF Arts Advoacy Day[Image: RaMona Webb of the Queer Cultural Center speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Jason Bayani at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Jason Bayani of the Kearny Street Workshop speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Jonathan Moscone at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Jonathan Moscone of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Other speakers included Dr. Anne Huang of World Arts West (who served as the emcee),   RaMona “Mona” Webb of the Queer Cultural Center, Sarah Pritchard of SOMArtsJason Bayani of the Kearny Street Workshop, Ruth Nott of the San Francisco Opera, Leah Greenberg of the Contemporary Jewish Museum,  Idris Ackamoor of Cultural Odyssey (pictured at the top of this post), San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Sandra Lee Fewer, and Jonathan Moscone of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Crowd at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Arts supporters fill the space in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

There was a good-sized crowd for the event, no doubt helped by the warm, sunny weather. Unfortunately the sound system was not hooked up until halfway through, so many attendees probably could not hear the first few speakers. The small speaker that was eventually turned on appeared to be same one used at the Day Without a Woman rally earlier this month;  hopefully groups like this can get funding for better sound support in the future. A public comment session at the Board of Supervisors meeting followed the rally, but I did not stick around for that.

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

Stardew Valley: Fun and food for thought

[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley farm in fall of year 4, featuring a giant pumpkin.]

I mentioned in a recent post that I had been thoroughly engrossed in the game Stardew Valley. After five weeks and five virtual years in the valley, I put my current save file on hold, as I felt 201 hours of gameplay was a bit too much escapism. In some respects though, this experience has helped me reconnect with other real-life human beings, as forming relationships—both platonic and romantic—is a core feature of the game.

Stardew Valley greenhouse[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s greenhouse in Stardew Valley, year 5, featuring starfruit and ancient fruit.]

Farming crops is the feature that drew me to Stardew Valley, however. I had previously enjoyed playing Farmville, for reasons I explained in my post about my most popular Flickr photos, and I’ve done lots of gardening in The Sims as well. I’ve tried my hand at real-life gardening, but after three years of volunteer work I concluded that I have neither aptitude for nor enjoyment of this hobby, sadly.

Stardew Valley cellar[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s wine cellar.]

In this game, after struggling through learning the mechanics (which were quite different from other games I played), I turned to amassing a virtual fortune by making wine and jelly from the two highest-grossing crops, starfruit and ancient fruit. Having a shed full of kegs and a cellar full of casks is pretty amusing for a teetotaler like myself, but unlike animal products, I have no moral objection to alcohol.

Stardew Valley chicken coop[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley coop, with Quackers, Snackers, Bella, Midnight, and Galla.]

Raising animals is a featured part of Stardew Valley. Like most activities in this open-ended game, raising animals is optional, but one most players indulge in to acquire animal products such as eggs and milk, for cooking and for achieving collection goals. The sole developer, Eric Barone (also known by his handle “ConcernedApe”), is a vegetarian, and decided not to allow slaughtering of farmed animals in the game, offering this explanation in an interview with Vulture:

Beta testers had asked Barone to include a feature that enabled users to butcher their animals and harvest the meat, and he listened to them at first, but in the end he couldn’t bring himself to include the mechanic. “I didn’t want to have that sort of violence. You give the animals names, pet them, and a little heart goes above their head and stuff, and then you butcher them?” he said. “It just felt wrong. It didn’t jibe with the feeling I was going for with the game, so I cut that, and I don’t regret it.”

Stardew Valley newborn pig[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s barn in Stardew Valley, featuring information about newborn pig Sorpresa. (So-named because she was a surprise birth; I thought I had disabled pregnancy on her parents.)]

As a vegan playing a version of myself in this save file, I did not prepare or consume any dishes containing animal products. Even though it’s just a game, since becoming an activist (for human as well as animal rights), my pacifism has influenced my virtual activities. I did decide to share my farm with some animals as if i were running a sanctuary. In a real vegan animal sanctuary, however, the chickens’ eggs would be fed back to them, and the goats and cows would not produce milk unless they were pregnant.

More importantly, on real farms, even free-range and backyard operations, the overwhelming majority of male chicks are killed shortly after hatching, and the overwhelming majority of egg- and milk-producing animals are killed once they are “spent”. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has more detailed information on the “Humane Myth” which leads many (if not most) US-Americans to believe that idyllic settings like Stardew Valley, where farmed animals can live out their natural lifespans in comfort and happiness, could actually exist. I’m not blaming Barone for reinforcing these myths, I just want more people to be aware of them.

Although farmed animals are not slaughtered in the valley, fishing is another key feature of the game. To me, fishing is merely aquatic hunting; fishes are sentient like land animals, and octopuses, one of the sea animals that can be caught, are particularly intelligent. I avoided fishing completely in the game until I realized that I might not be able to finish one of the key goals (repairing and re-opening the Community Center) without it. I ended up turning all of the fish that I didn’t need for that purpose into fertilizer, which is in line with how most crops, even those consumed by vegans, are grown. (Veganic farming is a viable option, but not widely practiced at this time.)

Combat is another feature of the game, which is difficult to avoid if one is to make any progress in the mines, a rich source of gems and ores for crafting and upgrading equipment. I justified fighting with the rationalization that the enemies in the mines are hostile imaginary monsters, unlike the fishes who are just peacefully going about their lives when they are yanked out of the water. If and when I start a new game, I will likely choose the farm map that comes with a small mining area, so I can start that activity immediately without so much killing.

Getting back to human relationships: This game is surprisingly deep in that regard. Dialogue with the villagers explores themes including alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide. I remember one moment in the game where I was elated that I acquired a needed item for the community center and was rushing to deposit it, when I suddenly got a cutscene with a character who was had passed out drunk and was seriously contemplating jumping off the edge of a cliff. This was a good wake-up call and reminder that the developer intended players to focus on issues beyond earning money and completing game milestones.

Stardew Valley - Elliott[Image: A screenshot of dialogue from Elliott, Pax’s spouse in Stardew Valley.]

Stardew Valley is home to a dozen eligible bachelor/ettes, all of whom are open to same-sex as well as opposite-sex relationships (there are no non-binary characters, unsurprisingly). Elliott, a long-haired artistic type, was my natural choice for marriage, as he reminded me of my real-life spouse Ziggy (though Ziggy doesn’t use so much flowery language). They even both play the piano, though sadly Elliott did not bring his along when he moved into my farmhouse. Romance and marriage, like most other game activities, are not required for advancement, and neither is having children, which I didn’t see a point to as they don’t grow beyond the toddler stage. (Same-sex couples can adopt.)

Stardew Valley farm in winter[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley farm on the final day of winter, year 5.]

Overall, I’m very happy with the Stardew Valley experience. It’s an incredibly detailed world, and particularly impressive considering one man, Eric Barone, created all of the art, music, dialogue, and every other aspect of the game. The animal farming and fishing aspects raise important ethical questions, but I would still not hesitate to recommend this game to others, including vegans. While I am now, slowly, attempting to spend more time outside of my apartment, socializing with others (I just rejoined the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco after a three-year absence), I’m sure I will return to Stardew Valley for further adventures.

ETA: You can now see more detailed information on my farm here.

Day Without a Woman

[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for A Day Without a Woman.]

Yesterday I attended a rally at San Francisco City Hall for A Day Without a Woman, an event created by Women’s March organizers to coincide with International Women’s Day. The peaceful gathering included an hour of speakers, starting with an invocation from Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman), who reminded us that we were standing on Ohlone land.

Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) [Image: Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Several of the speakers were from the currently majority-female San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including board president London Breed and board members Katy Tang, Hillary Ronen, and Sandra Lee Fewer.

London Breed at Day Without a Woman[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Katy Tang at Day Without a Woman[Image: Katy Tang, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

While it was great to see representation from women of color in high positions, this event has been criticized for focusing on the mostly-white women who are privileged enough to take the day off. In that respect, it was good that one of the speakers was Maria Trujilo, a Latina janitor from SEIU United Service Workers West. Unfortunately, I could only see her translator when Maria was at the podium, as the sound monitor was lifted up there in an (unsuccessful) attempt to boost the volume, blocking many of the subsequent speakers from view. I did manage to catch a photo of Maria and the next speaker, Maya Malika from Refuse Fascism, off to the side.

Maria Trujilo and Maya Malika at Day Without a Woman[Image: Maria Trujilo of SEIU United Service Workers West raises her fist. Next to her is Maya Malika of Refuse Fascism.]

Other than the sound problems and lack of ASL translation, the event was successful, with a turnout of over a thousand people. The beautiful sunny weather (in contrast to the pouring rain on the weekend of the Women’s March) no doubt helped, though I’m sure many women who would have liked to attend were unable to leave work, childcare, or other duties.

Women in red at Day Without a Woman[Image: A woman and young girl, both dressed in red, sit on the steps of City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Crowd at Day Without a Woman[Image: The crowd at Day Without a Woman fills the sidewalk and street next to San Francisco City Hall.]

Day Without a Woman attendees[Image: Day Without a Woman attendees hold a sign reading “Not a paid protester – If I were would I make 78 cents for every $1 too?”]

I’ve posted my full set of photos of the event to Flickr. I’ve also posted some of the photos to Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Quietly overwhelmed

I’ve been pretty quiet online this month for a number of reasons.

I still haven’t adjusted to the fact that over 60 million of my fellow US-Americans elected Donald Trump to be our president. I cannot look at that man’s face on my computer or television screen without feeling dismay and sinking despair. Attending and photographing protest after protest has not really done anything to help address these feelings.

I am also having personal difficulties regarding gender transition and other issues. Most of these issues are not really new from what I’ve blogged about in the past. Though there have been a number of trans-related developments in the news that I could write about, these tend to depress me further as they are mostly negative. (ETA: OK, “mostly negative” is probably an overstatement, but the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of guidance that provided protections for trans students looms largest in my mind.)

Regardless, I don’t feel much like blogging when I don’t get much feedback on my posts. But if I turn comments back on or resume posting on Facebook, I will subject myself to harassment and micro-aggressions that I’m not equipped to handle right now. I’m not talking about genuine criticism, but racist and trans-antagonistic attacks.

I have still been active on Wikipedia at least, contributing several articles to this month’s Black Women Online Editathon. I’ve also submitted a proposal for the annual Wikimania conference, taking place in Montreal this August. I’ve switched my DuoLingo language preference to French to try to pick up a bit of that language before visiting the Francophone province of Quebec.

But mostly, I’ve been overwhelmed and trying to escape the world with television and video games. After finishing watching every episode of The Jeffersons, I began watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show after that actress died last month. And after growing bored and frustrated with the bugs in the latest version of The Sims, I started playing a new game, Stardew Valley, which I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in for the last two weeks. I might blog about it from an animal rights perspective at some point.

So I am still alive, but not well. Although I’ve turned off comments, I am still reachable by e-mail if anyone would like to send a friendly note.

No Ban, No Wall

[Image: A group of immigration rally attendees hold signs reading “Refugees Are Welcome Here!” and “No Ban No Wall”.]

On Saturday I attended a protest of the executive order limiting U.S. immigration for the purported reason of “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. While it was no surprise to many that Trump would attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to ban Muslims, protests occurred throughout the country, especially at airports, after he signed the order. I missed the large protests at SFO the previous weekend, but then found out about this rally at Civic Center, which was reported on before, during, and after in local news media.

Rally organizers on stage[Image: Organizers Dex Torricke-Barton, Camilia Razavi, Arya Aliabadi, and Kayla Razavi begin the rally.]

The event was organized by a handful of individuals rather than a formal group, and they did a reasonably good job, securing a stage, sound system, and multiple volunteers acting as security. They emphasized that this was to be a peaceful rally, as many were nervous following the violent outbreak that forced the cancellation of a Milo Yiannopoulos speech at UC Berkeley last week (which made national headlines). But that was a completely different situation, where black bloc protesters came in to disrupt an unrepentant bigot who had already been banned in venues, including Twitter, worldwide. San Francisco representatives have been outspoken in support of immigration, so there would be little cause for that kind of a demonstration at City Hall.

Respect Immigrants or Expect Resistance[Image: A rally attendee holds a sign reading “Respect Immigrants or Expect Resistance”.]

Speakers included immigrants and children of immigrants. Many spoke about their love for this country and our (supposed) values. I wasn’t too enthused by this, preferring the more radical tone of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition rallies I’ve attended. One of the speakers, new San Francisco supervisor Ahsha Safaí, suggested that we not continue the protests of Uber, but instead encourage companies like them to contribute matching funds, and only delete their apps if they don’t comply. I wasn’t thrilled with Uber even before Trump’s inauguration, personally; this is the sort of capitalist apologism that wouldn’t likely occur at an A.N.S.W.E.R. rally.

Resist[Image: A rally attendee holds a sign reading “Resist”.]

There was some criticism on the event’s Facebook page that too many speakers were from the tech industry and government, and that no ASL interpretation was provided, which were valid concerns. Regardless, I appreciated that the event was organized by and centered people of color and people of Muslim heritage. A number of people in the crowd carried the flag of Yemen, one of the seven countries affected by the immigration ban.

Yemeni flag[Image: A child holding the flag of Yemen sits on an adult’s shoulders at the rally.]

Protest signs and flags[Image: Rally attendees hold protest signs and the flag of Yemen.]

The rally continued for a full three hours (as scheduled), but I left halfway through, as I needed to rest and relax before running a half-marathon the following morning. Protests are certain to continue, despite a federal judge putting a temporary stop to the travel ban. I said the day after the election that this would not be a peaceful transition of power, and I meant it; I expect massive unrest in the coming weeks, months, and years, for as long as the Trump administration remains in power.

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Some photos are also available (alongside those of other contributors) on Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

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 350.org, 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!