Category Archives: Cissexism

Discrimination against trans and nonbinary people

One year on, the pulse continues

[Image: A crowd in the Castro attends the HonorThemWithAction vigil.]

On Monday I attended a gathering in the Castro to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre, which occurred one year ago in Orlando. This San Francisco event was part of a nationwide “HonorThemWithAction” campaign. It was organized by Day of Decision San Francisco, a group that has organized a number of rallies related to marriage equality and other LGBT+ issues, so I recognized a number of people there.

HonorThemWithAction vigil in the Castro[Image: Ruben Martinez gives opening remarks, while Sister Merry Peter watches.]

Unlike last year’s vigil on the night of the shooting, the street was not closed, so we crowded on the sidewalk at the corner of 18th and Castro. I was concerned that it would be a white-dominated event, but then Ruben Martinez gave opening remarks in Spanish and English. (ASL interpretation was also provided).

Pastor Megan Rohrer[Image: Pastor Megan Rohrer speaks at the vigil.]

Pastor Megan Rohrer then gave a blessing and other remarks, which included shouting into the microphone, “Out of the bars and into the streets!”  I recognized Megan from marriage equality events, but didn’t realize that they are also openly transgender and non-binary. Their inclusive ministry is one example of why I am willing to work with (some) religious officials and organizations, despite being a long-time atheist.

Sister Merry Peter[Image: Sister Merry Peter speaks at the vigil.]

Sister Merry Peter of the Sisters for Perpetual Indulgence then led  a reading of the names of the 49 killed at Pulse, also putting in a mention for victims of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, and for the many transgender people (overwhelmingly women of color) murdered this year. As a microphone was passed around, I read out three of the names myself, calling on my limited knowledge of Spanish to pronounce the names  correctly (as most of the victims were Latinx).

Children at the vigil[Image: Young children draw with markers at the vigil.]

The mic was then opened to whoever wanted to speak. After listening to several others, I decided to take a turn. Here is what I said, to the best of my recollection:

Hey y’all, I’m Pax, it stands for peace (*flashes peace sign*). I’m usually behind the camera, so I think this is the first time I’ve taken the mic at one of these things.

I wanted to give a shout-out to all my fellow transgender and non-binary people. I’m actually agender, but I’ve transitioned from female to male for legal purposes, because non-binary gender identities are not seen as legitimate by 99.44% of the human population. I hope to change that.

Your genders are legitimate. Your names are legitimate. Your pronouns are legitimate. Your choice of which restroom to use is legitimate. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t allow yourself to be erased. Thank you.

A few more people spoke, including San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy (who I believe was not an invited speaker, just another attendee). Then Sister Merry took the mic again, and sprinkled the crowd with “fairy dust” (ashes from burnt offerings). Extra dust was provided in little bags for people to take with them.

HonorThemWithAction whiteboard[Image: A person attaches a note to a whiteboard reading “How will you pledge to #HonorThemWithAction?]

A whiteboard was provided for people to post notes of how they would take action to honor the victims. I wrote on my note, “Honoring authentic identities with words and pictures,” which is what I’m doing with this blog post. A couple of people also thanked me for my words after the event, so I was glad I spoke out.

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

On restrooms and allyship

[Image: lauren Ornelas, Pax, and Aph Ko at the Food Empowerment Project 10th anniversary party, April 2017. Photo by Deborah Svoboda.]

Yesterday my friend lauren Ornelas, founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project (a vegan food justice organization), posted a blog entry about a simple but important act of allyship; please read her post before continuing. I want to express my gratitude and explain the significance of this action, especially in an era of trans-antagonistic “bathroom bills”.

As a transgender person of color who attended the Food Empowerment Project 10th anniversary celebration, I wanted to highlight the importance of labeling the restrooms as gender-neutral. I last visited the Mission Cultural Center in April 2014, when I was performing there with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. At that time I had only been on hormone therapy for a short time, and was very frequently misgendered as female. (While I identify as agender, I have transitioned from female to male for legal and medical purposes.) This caused me a great deal of stress whenever I needed to use a restroom.

Once I began my hormonal transition, I decided to use mens restrooms exclusively in places where no gender-neutral facilities were available, such as the Mission Cultural Center. So I stood outside the mens room there, literally shaking with nervousness, waiting until no one was coming in or out before entering. I stood there for a good ten minutes before finally working up the nerve to enter that restroom. I finished my business without incident, fortunately.

To this day, three years later, I am still nervous when using a gendered restroom, especially in an unfamiliar place, even in San Francisco, where people are legally entitled to use restrooms matching their gender identities. (As of March 2017, California law mandates that all single-occupancy restrooms be gender-neutral, but this venue had only multiple-stall restrooms available to the public.) So I was delighted when I attended the F.E.P. party to see the gender-neutral signs on both restrooms. I still used the one that was ordinarily designated for men, but I felt safer knowing that whichever one I chose, I belonged there.

Ally is a verb, as lauren and her staff at F.E.P. demonstrated at this event. I am grateful for their act of allyship.

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!

T+3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia, harassment, and inclusivity

I mentioned in a recent entry that I’ve been spending a lot of time editing Wikipedia lately. One of the contributions I’m most proud of is helping to reduce harassment by protecting user pages from editing by anonymous and new users. This change affects every registered user on the site.

The process started with an idea I submitted to the Inspire Campaign in June, which solicited ideas to combat harassment on Wikipedia. The proposal received a lot of support. So with the help of Chris “Jethro” Schilling from the Wikimedia Foundation, I created a Request for Comment (“RfC”) to implement the page protection, which was posted in August. The RfC was closed a month later with consensus to implement protection, which was done via an edit filter on November 30. You can read more about the process in an article by Chris in the Wikipedia newsletter, The Signpost.

While preemptively protecting user pages has been criticized by some as against the “anyone can edit” spirit of Wikipedia, the fact is that user pages are not actually part of the encyclopedia. There’s even a template saying as much, which I and a number of other editors have added to our user pages. As I said in the Signpost article and also mentioned during the most recent Bay Area WikiSalon (see video starting at 47:19), having my user page vandalized with deadnaming and misgendering felt like having hate speech spray painted on my front door. Protecting user pages doesn’t prevent vandalism and stalking elsewhere on Wikipedia and on other sites, but it is an important start.

As an aside, this month’s salon featured prolific Wikipedia editor Jim Heaphy giving a very informative talk about the Teahouse, a welcoming place for new editors. Some members of Jim’s family came along, including Dexter, an adorable Boston Terrier. You can see the rest of my photos from the event on Flickr, as well as on Wikimedia Commons (gallery may include photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks.

Dexter the Boston Terrier[Image: Dexter, a brown and white Boston Terrier, sports a colorful sweater.]

The Wikimedia Foundation has indicated that addressing harassment and creating safe spaces for participation—online and off—is a priority, which is encouraging. In addition to combating harassment on Wikipedia, I’ve continued to work on improving the representation of marginalized groups, particularly trans people. Wikipedia has a “Women in Red” project which seeks to address the content gender gap, as fewer than 20% of the biographical articles are about women. This week, I resurrected two articles from that list, both on black women: Debbie Goddard, an atheist and humanist activist; and Monica Roberts, a blogger and trans advocate. Both of these articles had previously been written, but redirected or deleted for lack of notability. I hope that the community allows them to remain this time around.

Stand with Standing Rock - SF[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall.]

I’m also pleased that the Wikimedia Foundation has used one of my photos in an article about the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’ve seen this particular photo used on a number of sites around the web, and I feel slightly conflicted about that, since this was of a protest in San Francisco, not at the site of the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota. Still, I am glad to help bring attention to the nationwide protests in solidarity with the indigenous people.

I hope to continue contributing productively to Wikipedia and Wikimedia, as frustrating as the process can be at times. I feel it is a good use of my writing and photography skills, and an opportunity to make a difference in this troubled world.

Facebook, disasters, and the value of social media

A couple of weeks ago, oversaturated with news and commentary about Donald Trump that I’d been following nonstop for months, I decided to take a break from Facebook and most other social media and news sites. The last time I took a Facebook break, I was soon nagged by e-mails I didn’t sign up for about posts I didn’t care about; the same thing happened this time, and I had to unsubscribe from yet another notification list. I haven’t removed myself from the site completely, but avoiding posting and reading items in my news feed has been a welcome break.

While I tried to avoid reading or watching the news as well, I did happen to look at SFGate, and saw news about a fire in Oakland. Not realizing the scope of the disaster, I didn’t think much about it until I got a text from Ziggy, asking if I knew anyone who was there. Neither of us did, but we both had friends who were listed as “interested” in the Facebook event for the ill-fated concert at the Ghost Ship on December 2. This motivated me to read more about the incident, and I began contributing a substantial amount to the Wikipedia article on the fire. That article made the top of the “In the news” section of Wikipedia’s front page on December 4. (There wasn’t a good photo for the article available at the time of this screenshot; I later found some photos of the fire on Flickr, and convinced the photographer to upload them to Wikimedia Commons.)

Wikipedia In the News 12-4-2016[Image: A screenshot of Wikipedia’s “In the news” section. The top line reads, “A fire at a warehouse party leaves at least 30 people dead in Oakland, California.”]

Ultimately, 36 lives were lost in the fire. A number of the victims were from the LGBT+ community; several articles noted that the friends and family members of the trans victims were struggling with authorities and media sources misgendering and deadnaming them.

This tragedy got me thinking about Facebook and the value of social media in spreading information in times of emergency. Coincidentally, I had just read an article in Wired (not currently available online) that talked about “Facebook Safety Check”, which has been deployed to help people find out if their friends are safe. The program has not been without controversy, but clearly many have found it helpful. As many issues as I have with Facebook, I can’t deny the power of a platform that has over a billion users, and is not likely going away any time soon.

I’m in no hurry to return to Facebook myself, however. My blog has gotten relatively few hits even when I have posted the links to Facebook and Twitter, and I am basically OK with that. Increasing visibility for marginalized people like myself who speak on sensitive and controversial topics has led to increased violence against us, especially now that bigots have been emboldened by the election results. Others may be better equipped to handle the hate speech, but I’m not obligated to subject myself to it, any more than necessary. I’m currently preferring to spend more of my time editing on Wikipedia, though I face marginalization there too, as I’ve spoken about previously.

Regardless, I’m not shutting my platforms down. I will still take photos and blog occasionally. I’m planning to shoot at least two or three events this month, and will link to the photos here after posting them (as usual). Being away from social media means missing reading about some events that I might like to shoot, but I do still (willingly) get e-mails of Facebook event invitations, comments, and private messages. (Comments on this blog are currently closed, but I can still be e-mailed at the address listed in the footer of every page; I’ve updated my About page to reflect this change.)

As always, if you value the work I do here and have the financial means, please sponsor me on Patreon or leave me a tip. I appreciate the support.

Trans community and remembrance in San Francisco

[Image: Min Matson and Janetta Johnson speak on a panel, accompanied by an ASL interpreter.]

Yesterday I attended a Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) event at TRANS:THRIVE in San Francisco. Each year, trans people and our allies worldwide gather to memorialize those lost to violence, and reaffirm the resilience of our community.

Agatha Varshenka at TDoR SF[Image: Agatha Varshenka plays the violin.]

Holy Old Man Bull at TDoR SF[Image: Holy Old Man Bull speaks into a microphone with fist raised.]

The event began with viola and violin music by Agatha Varshenka, then an invocation from Holy Old Man Bull, a two-spirit Ohlone (whose land we are occupying). I remembered both of them from the Trans March.

TDoR SF altar[Image: An altar with photos, flowers, decorated skulls, and the transgender flag.]

El/La Para TransLatinas[Image: Representatives from El/La Para TransLatinas speak on stage.]

Representatives from El/La Para TransLatinas then spoke about the altar they created to honor the dead.

TDoR SF panel[Image: Janetta Johnson speaks into a microphone while Min Matson looks on.]

TDoR SF panel[Image: Claudia Cabrera speaks into a microphone while Kataluna Enriquez looks on.]

Akira Jackson at TDoR SF[Image: Akira Jackson sits on stage, holding a water bottle.]

Emcee Akira Jackson (who also performed at the Trans March and co-emceed at the Compton’s Cafeteria 50th Anniversary) then moderated a panel. The panelists were Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project (who I also remembered from Trans March), Min Matson of the Transgender Law Center, Claudia Cabrera of Instituto Famliar de la Raza, and Kataluna Enriquez of Queen USA.

After the panelists answered prepared questions about the challenges and joys of being a member of the trans community and their hopes for the future, the audience was invited to participate. Some told emotional stories of the struggles and harassment they have faced. One asked if we could gather on more than just the three big occasions each year: TDoR, Trans March, and Trans Day of Visibility.

This event was held inside the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in the Tenderloin—the same neighborhood as the Black Excellence Tour I attended earlier this month—and had an all-PoC panel. This was not a space that centered the cisgender white gay men who are usually the face of the LGBT community (as one audience member pointed out).  When a white trans woman who had some issues said “All lives matter,” Janetta Johnson graciously explained the purpose and intent of Black Lives Matter.

Kahanuola Salavea at TDoR SF[Image: Kahanuola Salavea sings while playing ukulele.]

Vi Le at TDoR SF[Image: Victory “Vi” Le sings into a microphone.]

The event concluded with more music, from ukulele player Kahanuola Salavea and singer Victory “Vi” Le.

In lieu of reading the names of those killed out loud this year, Gwen Park made a beautiful video. The tribute honored not only the 25 trans people murdered in the U.S. this year, but the 249 murdered worldwide. The video ended on a hopeful note, with montages of trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people, past and present, who are “doing the work” of liberation; I was honored to have my image included.

Gwen also designed the “I <3 Trans People” T-shirt that Akira and Min are wearing. You can order one, with or without an additional donation, to help low-income trans and GNC people in San Francisco.

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

ETA, November 22: A video of the TDoR event is now available.

Black trans excellence

[Image: Activists Joshua Allen and CeCe McDonald speak in front of a screen showing their images and the words “black excellence tour”.]

Yesterday I was still feeling very shaky and sleep-deprived after the election results, and was tempted to either stay home and rest or go out to join a demonstration. But I had committed to attending the Black Excellence Tour, featuring black activists CeCe McDonald, a trans woman who was imprisoned in a men’s facility for defending herself, and Joshua Allen, a gender non-conforming organizer and abolitionist.

CeCe McDonald[Image: CeCe McDonald speaks into a microphone.]

I had first seen CeCe speak at the Trans Day of Remembrance last November; my photo of her speaking there is currently featured on her Wikipedia page. She is the subject of the documentary Free CeCe, which I’m attending tonight at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. I contributed to the fundraiser for this film, which also features Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black; CeCe was Laverne’s inspiration for her character on that show.

Hearing CeCe talk the day after the election was a great reality check. She said that she woke up that morning “unbothered”; with all the oppression she and folks like her have faced, including under the Obama administration, it was “just another day” to her.

CeCe is a woman who gives no fucks about respectability politics. She said we need to respect the people with their pants down around their knees and the heroin users as much as any other folks. This was especially poignant given the talk’s location in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The venue, Faithful Fools, offers ministry and services for the people in that troubled area. I had a good talk with Sam Dennison, one of the residents and workers there.

Joshua Allen[Image: Joshua Allen speaks into a microphone.]

Joshua Allen spoke about their activism for queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, and the intersections of gender, race, and class, especially with regard to policing. I asked them a question about how to cope with being non-binary in a binary world. They replied that they had hope for change, and that if others tried to force their “gendered apparatus” on us then that was their problem, not ours.

I’m very glad I went to this event, and spent time in the company of queer and trans people of color. We need each others’ support, now more than ever.

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

ETA: A video of the event has now been posted.

The silent majority of deplorables

[Image: Screenshot from NBC News of Donald Trump speaking in Iowa, with the caption “What did Donald Trump think of the third night of the DNC?” A quote from Trump reads, “I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard… so hard their heads would spin they’d never recover.”]

Last night, along with the rest of the world, I watched the election returns come in with a growing sense of dread and disgust. Unlike many of my friends reacting on Facebook with shock and horror, however, the result was not entirely surprising to me. This country was built on a foundation of exclusion and oppression of everyone except for straight cisgender white Christian men, and those are the people who Trump correctly predicted constituted the “silent majority” that would carry him to victory.

Although I did not endorse or vote for Hillary Clinton, I don’t want to talk about her flaws, perceived or actual. I don’t want to talk about e-mail servers or Wikileaks or Russian interference or what might have happened if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic candidate. And I definitely don’t want to talk about third party “spoilers”. Anyone blaming or shaming progressives who voted for third parties, or who didn’t vote at all, needs to keep your comments out of my space.

The only thing I want to address right now is that millions of US-Americans voted for a man who ran on a campaign of unbridled bigotry, bullying, and blatant dishonesty. The people who say they want to “Make America Great Again” are thinking of a time when people like me—a queer black trans atheist—were invisible and openly oppressed, and ridiculed with impunity without any fear of repercussions. A time when joking or bragging about sexually harassing women was more socially acceptable, inside or outside of locker rooms. A time when religious freedom applied only to people practicing different flavors of Christianity.

This oppression and invisibility and rape culture never actually went away, which is what many of those who were shocked with the election results didn’t understand. You all need to understand it now. Donald Trump is the product—the very embodiment—of white supremacy. His people have spoken, and they want to “take back” a country that they never actually lost in the first place.

I am not willing to take this result quietly. I am a pacifist, but not passive; I support loud, angry protests and civil disobedience. Last night, people in a number of cities took to the streets, and that will continue today and likely for the forseeable future. This will not be a peaceful transition of power.

In the meantime, for anyone in the LGBT+ community who is feeling suicidal, please know that there is help out there.  You can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Our community is under attack, but we are resilient, and we will get through this if we have each others’ backs.

CeCe McDonald at TDoR SF[Image: CeCe McDonald speaks at the Trans Day of Remembrance, SF.]

I had already planned to spend time with fellow black trans people (and our allies) over the next two days, tonight at the Black Excellence Tour with CeCe McDonald and Joshua Allen, and tomorrow night at the Free CeCe documentary that opens the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. I will have to miss the Trump protests in San Francisco and Oakland tonight, but it’s important for me to be with some of the people who are most impacted by his bigotry.

I am not OK. I was not OK before the election, and I don’t know if I ever will be OK in the future. If you want to support me, please amplify the voices of the marginalized people who have been speaking out against institutionalized oppression all along. Make our country great, for the first time.

Making connections at WikiConference North America

[Image: A hanging banner with the Wikipedia globe logo and the words “Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia”.]

This past weekend, Ziggy and I attended WikiConference North America 2016 in San Diego. As I wrote previously, my abstract for a presentation on “The Transgender Gap: Trans and non-binary representation on Wikipedia” was approved, and I also received a scholarship to cover part of my travel expenses.

Pax and other presenters at WikiConference[Image: Pax speaks at a podium while fellow presenters Jami Mathewson and Wynnie Lamour look on. Photo by Ziggy.]

Katherine Maher at WikiConference[Image: Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher speaks at a podium.]

While I was nervous about how my talk would be received by this audience, the reception far exceeded my expectations. Numerous attendees came up to me throughout the conference, thanking me for my presentation. Those thanking me included Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher, who posted about my talk on Twitter. Another attendee said that he’d be updating the software of a web site he manages for thousands of people, based on my recommendations for more accurately representing gender diversity.

Pax and Jethro[Image: Pax and Chris “Jethro” Schilling pose for a photo. Photo by Ziggy.]

Lane Rasberry at WikiConference[Image: Lane Rasberry moderates a discussion at the WikiConference.]

In addition to the positive feedback, I also enjoyed meeting a number of Wikipedians I’d only interacted with online, including Chris “Jethro” Schilling, Jake Orlowitz, Jason Moore, and Lane Rasberry. I was far more social than I expected to be, considering the stress of travel and the sleep deprivation from our noisy hotel room.

I attended a number of sessions at the event, and was impressed that the organizers made a sincere effort to represent diversity, at a deep rather than superficial level. “Inclusivity” was the theme of the conference, and several talks addressed gender and racial disparities, not only on Wikipedia but in society at large. Indigenous People’s Day occurred during the conference, and several talks (including a keynote) and an edit-a-thon centered on Native American history and culture.

Pax at San Diego Central Library[Image: Pax stands on a staircase inside the San Diego Central Library, under the words “We read to know we are not alone.” Photo by Ziggy.]

As welcome as I felt at the event, I was still marginalized by my trans status during the trip. The only gender-neutral restroom I saw at the conference facility (the beautiful San Diego Central Public Library) was a locked “family restroom” that required patrons to ask staff for access. (I used the men’s room.) The San Diego airport did have an all-gender restroom right across from my gate, but on the return trip both Ziggy and I were both misgendered and briefly detained by the TSA. The TSA staff at SFO had called me “Sir” and had a male agent pat down my legs, but in San Diego three agents stared at me until one of them pointed to their pink-and-blue monitor and said, right in front of my face, “It’s a female!” I responded, “Actually I’m male, but I don’t care who screens me.” (I just really, really wanted to get home.)

Regardless, I am glad I made this trip, and grateful that my concerns about transgender representation on Wikipedia are being heard and taken seriously. Ziggy is encouraging me to pursue paid public speaking gigs based on this and other talks I’ve given on transgender issues. I’m skeptical about doing these talks on a regular basis, as I dislike travel and strongly prefer writing over speaking. But I do agree that trans folks should be compensated for sharing our stories and expertise. (Here are some other things to keep in mind when booking a trans speaker or performer.)

My Transgender Gap talk is available on Google Slides (with notes) and as a PDF on Wikimedia Commons. A video should be available soon as well. My photos from the trip are available on Flickr; many are also on Wikimedia Commons, along with photos from other attendees. Please credit me (as Pax Ahimsa Gethen), Ziggy, or whatever other photographer is listed if you use any of the photos, thanks!

P.S. The second presidential debate was shown at the conference during a scheduled reception. I only watched part of it; the less said about it, the better. (Obligatory reminder of my independent political status.)