All posts by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Celebrating our sisters: Trans women of color on Wikipedia

[Image: Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project speaks at the 2016 San Francisco Trans March, accompanied by members of El/La Para TransLatinas.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Celebrating our sisters: Trans women of color on Wikipedia“, highlights three new biographies of notable women I’ve created for the Women in Red initiative: Leyna Bloom, Elle Hearns, and Victoria Cruz.

Reminder to readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Please follow me there if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

Victim and survivor: Stalked by a trans-antagonistic sociopath

[Image: Pax  at the 2015 San Francisco Trans March in Dolores Park, wearing a purple Trans March hoodie and looking over their shoulder. Photo by Chris van Breen.]

My first members-only post on Medium,  “Victim and survivor: Stalked by a trans-antagonistic sociopath“, describes targeted online harassment I endured for several months last year. Content note: Trans-antagonism, graphic sexual references, and discussions of suicide and child abuse.

Reminder to readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Non-members get three free members-only stories a month, and my Patreon subscribers get access to exclusive drafts. Please follow me on Medium if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war

[Image: Protesters, led by Sunsara Taylor of Refuse Fascism, kneel with raised signs and fists.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war“, has photos and thoughts on freedom of speech and Berkeley Free Speech Week. My full set of photos from Sunday’s protest in Berkeley is on Flickr; some are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside photos from other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks.

Reminder to readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Please follow me there if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

This week in woke Wikipedia

[Image: Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Whose Knowledge co-founder Anasuya Sengupta present on a panel at Wikimania, August 11, 2017.]

Today’s post on Medium, “This week in woke Wikipedia“, is about improving representation of marginalized people on Wikipedia. Highlighted are new biographies of notable women I’ve created for the Women in Red initiative: Raquel Willis, Shay Neary, and Annie Segarra.

Attention readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Please follow me there if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

No human being is illegal

[Image: Protesters at a DACA rally hold signs and banners in support of the “dreamers”.]

On Tuesday evening my partner Ziggy and I joined hundreds of demonstrators outside the San Francisco Federal Building in protest of the rescission of DACA, President Obama’s executive order that protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Rescinding this order was one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, so the development was not exactly a surprise. But it was cowardly of Trump to send Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to make the actual announcement, while Trump professed his “love” for the “dreamers” he seeks to send back to countries that many of them don’t even remember.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal / No Human Being Is Illegal”.]

By the time I read the news on Tuesday, protests were already happening in cities throughout the country, including Washington D.C., Denver, and outside the Trump Tower in New York. Though I’ve grown weary of attending anti-Trump protests, I thought it was important for me to come to this one, to add my body and voice to the huge opposition to this move. It’s politically motivated, cruel, racist (the majority of those affected came from Mexico), and serves no positive purpose, to national security or anything else.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds signs in English and Spanish.]

The rally began outside the Federal Building, but soon spilled into the street. There was some confusion as organizers were only using a megaphone at first, but eventually we made our way (flocked by many police officers, as well as safety monitors in orange vests) to a makeshift stage with proper speakers (which Ziggy helped adjust briefly). I couldn’t get close enough to get decent photos of those speaking, but powerful words and songs were shared, with at least one speaker breaking down in tears.

DACA rally[Image: Protesters fill the intersection of Seventh and Mission.]

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Dreams Are Not Illegal”.]

We left while the rally was still ongoing; the protesters later marched to City Hall. A great turnout from a city that thrives thanks to the contribution of immigrants.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign in several languages reading “‘We the People’ Are All Immigrants”.]

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

Confronting white supremacy

[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Fuck white supremacy” and “End white supremacy”.]

On Saturday I joined thousands of counter-protesters in San Francisco battling back against Patriot Prayer, a group of Donald Trump supporters who planned to hold a “free speech” rally in the city that weekend. The group claims they are not white supremacists and not racist as they have some people of color in their ranks, but as this Medium article explains, they are still oppressors. They wield their idea of free speech as a weapon against marginalized people who are not on an equal playing field, and their outspoken support of Trump validates his racism, sexism, and neo-Nazi apologism.

The rally was originally scheduled to be held in Crissy Field, a familiar destination for my longer runs. Once the park service granted a permit (which was highly controversial), police prepared with a long list of restrictions on what could be brought into the park, to the point of banning liquids other than water in factory-sealed bottles. Public transit was also rerouted, and parking restricted. Between the restrictions and denouncements from Mayor Ed Lee and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the group decided the day before the rally to cancel their plans, and announced they’d be holding a press conference (without a permit) in Alamo Square Park instead.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Queer protesters gather in the Panhandle in preparation for the march to Alamo Square.]

With this new information, I headed to the nearby Panhandle of Golden Gate Park to meet up with a “queer resistance” group and march to the Alamo. Other demonstrations against Patriot Prayer were being held throughout the city, including a music and dance party at City Hall and a rally and march in the Castro.

When I had mentioned to a (gay male) friend a couple of days prior that I was tentatively planning to head to the site of the right-wing rally, he tried to talk me out of it, for safety reasons. I countered that I had attended over a dozen demonstrations since the election, and wasn’t sure that any of them had made a difference. But after seeing thousands of people shut down a similar “free speech” rally in Boston, I felt that joining those confronting these oppressors was worth the risk. I was also convinced by a fellow trans activist of color, Gwen Park, who urged all those physically and emotionally able to do so to meet in one location rather than spread out throughout the city. Another activist friend, Saryta Rodriguez, was visiting me that week and also wanted to attend, providing additional motivation.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Queer Jew Against White Supremacy” and “Queer Jew 4 Intersectional Liberation”.]

Upon arriving at the gathering spot on Saturday, I learned that Alamo Square Park had been completely fenced in by the police, with only documented residents allowed to enter. Patriot Prayer announced they would now hold their press conference in an undisclosed, indoor location. We decided to march to the park anyway, where we joined up with thousands of other demonstrators. We had some fun chants along the way, including “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us” and “If you’re a Nazi and you’re fired, it’s your fault.”

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold up a Workers World Party banner reading “Make Racists Afraid Again – Smash White Supremacy”.]

Outside the park, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition called for a sit-down in the street, and hosted several speakers. The number of speakers was a bit excessive, and some of us were getting antsy in the mid-day heat. Eventually we resumed marching, ending up in the Mission. I was unhappy with some of the marchers thanking the police who were guarding the park, and more unhappy with other marchers taunting the police who walked alongside us. I preferred to keep my distance from the police officers and try to ignore them as much as possible.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters march in the street, holding various signs and banners.]

Patriot Prayer wound up having their press conference in nearby Pacifica, then returning to the city to meet with individuals at Crissy Field and other locations, under heavy police presence. Reporter Dan Noyes of ABC 7 News was accompanying them and live-tweeting their moves,  which I wasn’t thrilled with even though I suppose it was under the guise of objective journalism. In any case, I was already home by the time I learned of the group’s return, and did not venture out again. I did not wish to speak with or otherwise confront these people face-to-face myself; I only wanted to join a large, peaceful demonstration against white supremacy, racism, and fascism.

Another counter-protest was held in Berkeley the following day, which I did not attend. I was glad that I stayed home when I learned that black bloc counter-protesters chased and pepper-sprayed some Trump supporters there, during an otherwise mostly peaceful demonstration. I realize that some (perhaps many) progressives feel that pacifism is unwarranted or even foolish in the face of oppression, and I am sympathetic to their views. But I am still personally opposed to physical confrontation, with the exception of immediate self-defense. Punching Nazis with words instead of fists might or might not be the most effective tactic in the long run, but I will not engage in violence if I can possibly help it; naming myself Pax Ahimsa was my pledge and constant reminder to be peaceful and avoid causing harm.

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

Connecting with Wikipedians at Wikimania

[Image: Wikimania panelists discuss movement strategy during the Wikimedia 2030 keynote.]

Last week Ziggy and I traveled to Montreal to attend Wikimania 2017, the 13th annual international conference for editors and users of Wikipedia and related Wikmedia projects. My trip expenses were funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation via Whose Knowledge?, a campaign to improve the representation of marginalized people on the Internet. It was great to connect in person with more members of this group.Wikimania Whose Knowledge panel[Image: A panel of Whose Knowledge? members at Wikimania: Michael Connolly Miskwish, Stan Rodriguez, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, and Anasuya Sengupta.]

Siko of Whose Knowledge[Image: Siko Bouterse presents on the Whose Knowledge panel.]

Sadly, a fair number of people were denied visas by Canada for this event, and this included several Whose Knowledge members. One of them, Azra Causevic, joined the presentation by live video link.

Pax and Sydney at Wikimania[Image: Pax speaks with Community Advocate Sydney Poore following Pax’s presentation on harassment. Photo by Ziggy.]

I gave a talk during the WikiConference North America pre-conference to the main Wikimania event. As I blogged about previously, my presentation, Facing Defacement, described my efforts to combat harassment of users on the English Wikipedia. The talk was well-received, and I connected with several members of the Wikimedia Foundation anti-harassment team, who I hope to work with in the future.

Aside from my presentation, my proudest moment from the trip was confronting the president of the ACLU, Susan Herman, who gave one of the keynote speeches. As freedom of speech was a major topic of study for me in college, I was right with her up until she started discussing the controversy over the scheduled appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley. Herman referred to “echo chambers” and students only wanting to hear from people who thought just like they did.

As I’ve written previously, as a member of multiple marginalized groups, the phrase “echo chamber” causes me great irritation for a number of reasons. For the purpose of brevity in Herman’s Q/A session (which was already running overtime), I said that speaking as a black trans person, people like myself have felt targeted and threatened, particularly since the November 2016 presidential election. I argued that a university that championed gender and racial diversity and aimed to provide a place of relative safety for their students should not be obligated to welcome this speaker inside their halls (as opposed to allowing him to speak outside, in the true “public square”).  You can watch my response (and her reply) starting at 1:16:43 in the video.

It’s sadly ironic that the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, during which a domestic terrorist (“allegedly”) killed activist Heather Heyer with his car, happened on the same day as this talk. The neo-Nazi apologism from Donald Trump in response to this rally has raised my stress level to the point of physical illness (compounded by the stress associated with the international trip, and the subsequent, unrelated terrorism in Barcelona). There is a difference between supporting free speech and supporting incitement to violence.

Cute plushie[Image: A representative from the Cuteness Association sits on a table on the main stage.]

The trip wasn’t all stressful, however. I enjoyed connecting with people from all over the world and learning useful information, such as how to nominate photos for quality status on Wikimedia Commons. While I felt too worn-down and overwhelmed to explore Montreal beyond a four-block radius of the hotel, Ziggy spent plenty of time out and about in the city.  Going through security and customs at both airports also went smoothly, which was a relief.  I hope that I will eventually become more comfortable with traveling so that I can attend more conferences like this.

My photos from WikiConference North America and Wikimania are available on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Combating harassment on Wikipedia

[Image: Pax speaks at WikiConference North America 2016. Photo by Ziggy.]

On August 10 I will be presenting a talk on combating harassment with user page protection at WikiConference North America 2017 in Montreal. The presentation will discuss the idea I submitted which led to protecting user pages on the English Wikipedia from editing by anonymous and new users. The working title for my talk is “Facing Defacement”.

In preparing for this talk, I’ve been monitoring the abuse log that captures attempted edits to user pages that were prevented by a filter. I’ve seen some pretty ugly examples of hate speech, particularly regarding sexual orientation. I’ve been subjected to racist and trans-antagonistic taunts on Wikipedia myself, which was what led me to submit the idea. While protecting user pages does not prevent harassment elsewhere on Wikipedia and the Internet, it’s an important start.

WikiConference North America leads into the Wikimania 2017 conference, which I will also be attending. I look forward to meeting with hundreds of Wikimedians from all over the globe.

Sometimes being trans is literally a pain in the ass

[Image: Self-portrait of Pax wearing glasses with red and black frames.]

Content note: Medical issues, including needles.

Yes, I did mean literally in that title. For the past three weeks I have been dealing with pain in my rear from a trans-related medical procedure. This has disrupted my life far more than I expected it would, and made me even more depressed about being trans. I’m sharing this experience not to seek pity, but in the hopes it will be informative and useful to others.

Background: I started on testosterone therapy with biweekly intramuscular injections in January 2014. After being trained and doing them myself at home for awhile, I began having greater and greater difficulty, to the point where I had my partner Ziggy take over administering my shots last October (though I still prepped and filled the syringes myself). I was not happy with this solution, nor with the prospect of being stabbed with a needle every other week for the rest of my life, so I investigated alternatives.

After working with doctors to adjust my dosage and get my hormone levels in a good range (as both my testosterone and estrogen levels were too high), I got a referral to a doctor who would administer Testopel, testosterone pellets that are implanted in the buttock fat every 3-4 months. I’d researched this previously, reading specifically the experience of trans guys who’d had it done, and it seemed like a superior option to injections. You can see a video of the procedure on YouTube (not for the squeamish, and contains some information likely only of interest to doctors).

It took some wrangling with the insurance company to get them to cover this, but eventually they agreed and I scheduled an appointment for the procedure, which occurred on June 16. The injection of lidocaine to numb the area was painful, but I knew that it would be. Once numbed up I felt no pain during the procedure, as the doctor implanted ten pellets into my right buttock. He bandaged me up and I was fine walking home and for the rest of the day.

I knew the area would be sore for a few days once the lidocaine wore off, but I was not prepared for the level and duration of pain I experienced. I don’t think I have a particularly low or high pain threshold, but I rarely take painkillers unless I’m in significant distress, preferring to rest when possible and not mask pain that might be a sign of something seriously wrong. Bottles of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin in our medicine cabinet normally expire long before they’re used up. But after the Testopel implants, I used more painkillers in one week than I had in the previous year. I also used ice packs.

After five days of the pain not letting up at all, I was worried I had an infection. Though the doctor didn’t think I did without other symptoms (like a fever), I got another appointment for him to look at it. He didn’t take the bandages off as he didn’t want to disturb the healing, but said it looked like I was just bruised. He said I could take a lot higher dosage of painkillers and combine ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and I did so, and also increased the use of ice packs.

I took the bandages off after 10 days and thought I was out of the woods, but the pain kept coming back. I still didn’t have any other symptoms, but I was worried enough to call the doctor again two days ago, when I woke up with intense pain. They didn’t call me back this time. Fortunately, the pain once again subsided, but I’m on edge worrying that it could come back at any time.

This experience has made me more aware of the suffering of people who deal with pain on a daily basis, sometimes for years or decades. I can’t imagine what it must be like to function under those circumstances. I am truly fortunate that I have Ziggy to support me because it would be very difficult to concentrate at a regular day job during this time, when any kind of movement or even sitting the wrong way could bring on waves of pain. The painkillers helped me make it through my Wikimedia presentation and the photo shoots I did of the Trans March, Pride Parade, Trans Writing as Activism panel, and March for Impeachment, but putting in a full eight-hour work day would have been very taxing.

More worrisome for the future is the realization that I can’t risk putting myself through this amount of pain again; I’ll have to go back to the shots. When done correctly they are physically painless; it’s the psychological issues I have with them (mostly when I have to administer them myself), the inconvenience, and the preference for having the more steady flow of hormones that the pellets provide that makes me sad to abandon this form of hormone therapy. I’m stuck with the pellets for three-four months regardless, unless the pellets extrude sooner on their own (a potential complication).

Regardless of what hormone therapy I use, I am resentful that I was not born with a body that was designed to produce a cistypical male level of testosterone naturally. Granted, Testopel and other testosterone therapies were designed for cisgender men, but that gives me little comfort, as those individuals are generally still recognizable as their correct genders even if they have low T. My agender identity is authentic regardless of what kind of body I have or what I look like, but I simply feel better in a testosterone-dominant body than in one fueled by estrogen. If I need to stop taking hormones altogether and my menstrual period returns, I will be devastated.

Sometimes, despite all the needed and necessary positivity we generate around celebrating authentic lives, being trans just sucks. The literal pain in my ass may subside, but I’ll still be left fighting with a body that is out of sync with my brain.

Marching for impeachment

[Image: Protesters at the Impeachment March hold banners reading “impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org”.]

Yesterday I attended yet another anti-Trump protest, the Impeachment March. Held in cities throughout the country, the San Francisco contingent gathered in Justin Herman Plaza for a rally before marching along the Embarcadero, a nice change from the usual Market Street processions.

Impeachment March protester[Image: A protester at the Impeachment March stands with raised fist.]

The tone and crowd makeup appeared similar to what I witnessed at the March for Truth: Not many black folks; a number of people sporting American flags; shout-out of thanks to the police from the stage. That’s OK, but I’ve felt better about rallies that were more radical and/or openly socialist in nature.

Julia Brothers[Image: Julia Brothers speaks at the Impeachment March.]

The featured speakers were designer and actor DC Scarpelli, Alameda city councilperson Jim Oddie, activist Sita Stukes,  and actress Julia Brothers. ASL interpretation was provided. The sound quality was decent (though I wore earplugs as always).

Impeachment March protesters[Image: Protesters at the Impeachment March hold various signs.]

I’ve now attended about a dozen anti-Trump protests since the election. I’m feeling… not burnout exactly, as I haven’t spent a great deal of time or energy compared to the organizers of these rallies, but generally demoralized. I think the administration is just laughing at us while the bigot-in-chief tweets away any semblance of dignity or responsibility in serving the highest elected position in our country. It feels like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from.

Impeachment March[Image: The Impeachment March proceeds along the Embarcadero.]

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Most of the photos 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.