All posts by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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!

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.