Category Archives: Trans

Transgender issues, including nonbinary

Validation, not victory, for non-binary Californians

[Image: San Francisco City Hall, lit in the pink and blue colors of the transgender pride flag.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Validation, not victory, for non-binary Californians“, is about this week’s passage of a California law to recognize non-binary gender identities and streamline legal gender changes.

Reminder to readers: Please follow me on Medium if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

Presenting at Inclusivity Conference

[Image: Headshot of Pax (by Ziggy Tomcich) with the words “San Francisco Bay Area Inclusivity Conference – Prioritizing Harm Free(dom) For Our Future”.]

Update, October 15: This conference has been postponed; see explanation on Facebook.


Next weekend, I will be presenting at the Inclusivity Conference, hosted by Vegan Leadership in Oakland, California. In my presentation, I will discuss gender diversity, giving basic education on transgender, non-binary, and intersex terminology, and suggestions on how cisgender people can demonstrate allyship with the community.

I’ll also show photos I’ve taken at events in the San Francisco Bay Area, highlighting the role of queer and trans people of color in social justice movements, and discussing how vegan ethics have informed my activism and political outlook.

The conference is on October 21 and 22, 2017, and will be catered by S+M Vegan. Other featured speakers include A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project and lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project. My talk is scheduled for October 22 at 1:30 p.m. You can get tickets to the event (sliding scale), or donate to help with expenses, at the conference web site.

Assimilation or extermination: The lies of the “LGBTQ” president

[Image: Marchers in the Resistance contingent of the 2017 San Francisco Pride Parade hold various signs supporting trans, black and brown folks, and immigrants.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Assimilation or extermination: The lies of the ‘LGBTQ’ president“, is about the erosion of the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people by Donald Trump and his administration, after Trump lied about supporting the community during his campaign.

This is a post for Medium members only, but non-members get three free members-only stories a month, and my Patreon subscribers get access to exclusive previews. Please follow me on Medium if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

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!

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!

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.

TransAction: Trans Writing as Activism

[Image: Trans writers and activists Aria Sa’id, Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, Shafer Mazow, Julia Serano, and Natasha Dennerstein.]

Yesterday I attended “TransAction: Trans Writing as Activism“, a panel of trans activists reading and performing their work and speaking about their lives and experiences. The event was presented by Foglifter, RADAR Productions, Queer Rebels, and Bay Area Writers Resist, and featured Natasha Dennerstein, Sam Dylan Finch,
Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, Akira Jackson, Shafer Mazow, Aria Sa’id, and Julia Serano. Akira and Aria represented TAJA’s Coalition, an organization with a mission to “stop the genocide of trans women of color.”

Natasha Dennerstein[Image: Natasha Dennerstein reads from her book.]

Sam Dylan Finch[Image: Sam Dylan Finch speaks on the panel.]

Julia Serano[Image: Julia Serano reads from her book.]

I was familiar with many of these folks from prior reading and events. Sam writes powerfully about trans and non-binary identities and mental health in Everyday Feminism and Let’s Queer Things Up. I’d already met Julia, who I’ve mentioned on this blog frequently, at one of her book launch events. I’d seen Akira emcee’ing  the Trans Day of Remembrance and  Compton’s Cafeteria Riot 50th anniversary, and performing (as Tajah J) at the Trans March. I recognized Ar’ia from the Black Excellence Tour (and I believe the Trans Day of Visibility as well).

Aria Sa'id[Image: Aria Sa’id reads from her phone.

Akira Jackson[Image: Akira Jackson sings a capella.]

Stacy Nathaniel Jackson[Image: Stacy Nathaniel Jackson reads from his book.]

I had good conversations with several of the speakers. One of the organizers suggested I might speak at a future event myself. I don’t consider myself a writer in the literary sense, nor an artist; I’m a blogger, basically, and my photography is photojournalistic in style. But I am getting more comfortable with public speaking, particularly about trans issues, so it’s something to consider.

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!

Pride and protest

[Image: Marching with the Resistance contingent of the San Francisco Pride Parade.]

On Friday I attended the San Francisco Trans March for the fourth consecutive year. As usual, I concentrated on photographing the stage performances at Dolores Park rather than the audience or the march itself. An assortment of singers, dancers, and speakers were featured.

Trans March dancer[Image: A performer in a colorful, revealing costume dances at the Trans March.]

GoodMob at Trans March[Image: The hip-hop duo GoodMob performs at the Trans March.]

Singing Bois at Trans March[Image: The Singing Bois perform at the Trans March.]

Mya Byrne at Trans March[Image: Mya Byrne performs at the Trans March.]

The highlight of the show for me was singer-songwriter Mya Byrne, who I’d enjoyed watching twice previously.

Ashley Love at Trans March[Image: Ashley Love speaks while holding a “Justice for Kayla Moore” poster.]

As in recent years, the march ended at Taylor and Turk in the Tenderloin, near the site of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot. Several people spoke, including Ashley Love, who wanted to bring attention to the fate of Kayla Moore, a mentally ill black trans woman who died in the custody of the Berkeley police. San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim announced that the city had proclaimed the area a Transgender Cultural District. (No elected officials were invited to speak on the Dolores Park stage after last year’s uproar.)

Alex U. Inn at Trans March[Image: Alex U. Inn speaks at the Trans March.]

Cecilia Chung and actors at the Trans March[Image: Cecilia Chung stands with When We Rise actors Ivory Aquino (who portrayed her in that miniseries) and Emily Skeggs.]

Other speakers included Alex U. Inn, activist, drag king, and community grand marshal of Sunday’s Pride Parade; professor and gender theorist Susan Stryker; and two actors from the miniseries When We Rise, who were introduced by activist Cecilia Chung, one of the trans people portrayed in that series.

I had not planned to attend the main Pride Parade on Sunday, but when I read that Alex U. Inn was leading a Resistance contingent, I decided to join in. We had a good turnout from a number of different organizations, as well as people not affiliated with any particular group (like myself) who were more interested in protesting oppression than supporting the corporate pinkwashed version of Pride.

Protest signs at SF Pride[Image: Marchers hold signs reading “Community over Corporations”, “We the People Resist”, and “Black Lives Matter”.]

Protest signs at SF Pride[Image: Marchers hold various signs supporting trans, black and brown folks, and immigrants.]

Alex U. Inn and Resistance contingent[Image: Alex U. Inn addresses the Resistance contingent at the end of the Pride Parade.]

At the end of the parade, our contingent was blocked and diverted from entering the celebration area at Civic Center. Alex was livid, denouncing the Pride committee for betraying and kettling us in this fashion. They said that we should go back in and demand to be heard. I was too tired to stick around long enough to see if any further action took place. But I did hear that one group in our contingent, the Degenderettes,  had earlier stopped the parade for a short period of time, lying on the ground covered with (fake) blood, forcing every marcher thereafter (we were near the beginning of the parade) to walk over the body outlines of trans people. A powerful performance, which Mya Byrne also participated in (while holding a “Trans Dykes are Good and Pure” sign).

My full sets of photos from the Trans March and the Pride Parade are available 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!

Presenting with pride at Wikipedia

[Image: Pax speaks at a podium on a stage. Photo by Wayne Calhoon.]

This coming Tuesday, June 27 at 1:30 p.m. (PDT), I will be presenting the inaugural talk for the LGBTQ+ Speaker Series hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation QueERG, an employee resource group for members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies. The talk will be livestreamed on YouTube and archived for later viewing. Discussion will be available in the #wikimedia-office channel on IRC.

The title of my talk is Living Persons, subtitle Trans lives and Wikipedia: Representation and impact. This title is a reference to the English Wikipedia’s Biographies of Living Persons policy, as well as to the living trans and non-binary people who are affected, as readers and editors, by how trans folks are represented and discussed on the encyclopedia. I’ve discussed these subjects in previous talks at the Bay Area WikiSalon and at WikiConference North America. I plan to provide more current examples of trans issues on Wikipedia and in society, and talk about my own gender history and experiences as well.

Editing Wikipedia articles and contributing photos to Wikimedia Commons has given me a sense of pride and purpose. This is especially valuable during Pride Month. I’ve contributed several new articles and a number of photos to the annual Wiki Loves Pride campaign, and plan to submit more before the month is out. Today I’ll be attending the Trans March for the fourth year in a row, so I hope to get good photos of the stage performances and speakers. I look forward to continuing to boost the visibility of my fellow trans and non-binary folks.

ETA June 27: The video, slides, and PDF of my talk are all now available online.