Category Archives: Photography

Posts featuring my photography

Love and solidarity

[Image: A group of marchers carry flags and signs. Several wear T-shirts reading “Love Has No Borders”.]

Yesterday I returned to the Castro for a march to the Mission in solidarity with the LGBTQ Latinx community, who were the primary victims of the Orlando massacre. After last Sunday’s vigil, many complained that the event was marred by the inclusion of politicians and initial exclusion of Latinx speakers. This community-driven effort was a response to that.

Soon after I arrived at Harvey Milk Plaza, a number of shirtless white men arrived and began dancing, twirling flags, and blowing soap bubbles for an unrelated fundraiser. Though these activities were hardly out of place during Pride Month (or really, at any other time in the Castro), I began to wonder whether I was in the right place. Since becoming more woke about white supremacy, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable in white-dominated spaces, whether online or off. I know I’m not alone in this discomfort, especially with the continued erasure of queer people of color in mainstream coverage of the shooting.

Unite Here! Love has no borders[Image: Two people smile and pose for a photo, holding signs reading “Unite Here!” and “Love Has No Borders.”]

End oppression it is killing us[Image: A marcher holds a sign reading “End Homophobia Transphobia Sexism Racism It is Killing Us!”]

Writing the names[Image: People kneel on the sidewalk, writing the names of the Orlando victims on signs. Others hold signs and rainbow flags in the background.]

I was relieved when some brown and black folks showed up carrying signs. Then LGBTQ rights activist and event co-organizer Cleve Jones called into a megaphone for volunteers to help write the names of all 49 murder victims on large sheets of paper. These signs would be carried during our march to Galería de la Raza for the Latinx-led memorial, Pulso del Amor Continúa (The Pulse of Love Continues).

March in the Castro[Image: Marchers carrying signs and flags head down Castro Street, past the Castro Theatre.]

Remembering the victims[Image: A marcher holds a sign bearing the name and age of a victim: “Simon Adrian Carillo Fernández 31 years old.” Other marchers hold signs reading “Love Has No Borders.”]

Pulso del Amor Continúa[Image: A person with mirrored sunglasses stands in a crowd, holding a sign reading “Pulso del Amor Continúa.”]

Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval[Image: Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval speak on stage at Galería de la Raza.]

We marched two miles to Galería de la Raza, where an outdoor stage was set up. The program began with a blessing by Estela Garcia and a drumming performance by Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits. Ani Rivera and Lito Sandoval served as MCs. Speakers included representatives from AGUILAS, the Chicana/Latina Foundation, El/La Para TransLatinas, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, Community United Against Violence, and Somos Familia, as well as perfomances by Yosimar Reyes, Maria Medina, and Per Sia. ASL interpretation and Spanish-to-English translation were provided.

Yosimar Reyes[Image: Yosimar Reyes performs spoken word.]

Stage altar[Image: An altar on the edge of a stage contains a number of items atop a colorful blanket. A sign reads “TU ERES MI OTRO YO.” In the background are the feet of Ani Rivera, wearing purple high-heeled shoes and white polka-dot stockings.]

Maria Medina[Image: Maria Medina plays a drum while singing into a microphone.]

Per Sia[Image: Per Sia performs a drag act on stage.]

Per Sia and Estela[Image: Per Sia dances with Estela Garcia in front of the stage.]

Reading the names[Image: Seven people on a stage take turns reading the names of the victims.]

At the conclusion of the program, the names of all 49 victims were read, followed by a release of butterflies. A DJ provided music for people to dance to after the formal event.

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

We will not be silenced

[Image: Members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus hold candles in paper cups at the vigil for Orlando in the Castro.]

When I first heard the news of yesterday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, I didn’t have a strong reaction. I’d become so accustomed to reports of gun violence in the USA that I was somewhat numb. I knew what would follow would be more Islamophobic calls to ban Muslims, and more calls from the NRA to counter “bad guys with guns” by arming even more citizens. I didn’t want to participate in those conversations.

But slowly, the horror of the massacre sunk in. While the murder of even one person is a terrible act, this was being called the worst mass shooting in US-American history. Some have argued that that dubious honor belongs to the Wounded Knee Massacre, but the impact of last night’s 50 deaths and 53 injuries is hugely significant regardless.

Regardless of the gunman’s background and specific motives, what cannot be ignored is that this attack took place in a gathering place for queer people, during a celebration of Latinx culture. Latina and black trans women were featured performers that night. This was our space; a space to celebrate and be ourselves. A space that, since the Stonewall and Compton’s Cafeteria riots, our community had sought to make a refuge from homophobia. The freedom and safety we seek has never felt more fleeting and remote.

I learned that a candlelight vigil was taking place in the Castro that evening. I texted my partner Ziggy (who was at work at the San Francisco Opera, as he often is on weekends), asking if he wanted to join me there. He immediately asked if I knew who was in charge, as he wanted to volunteer to run sound for the event. Which he did, despite being at the end of a very busy work week. Ziggy is awesome.

Ziggy at Castro vigil for Orlando[Image: Ziggy, wearing a purple and black jacket, purple and black headscarf, and sunglasses, stands in front of a sound mixer on a stage in the Castro.]

I walked three miles to Harvey Milk Plaza, knowing that the metro would be jammed with people. I arrived half an hour before the scheduled 8 p.m. start, and quickly realized that I could not get anywhere near the front of the stage (a flatbed truck); hundreds of people crowded the street. I ended up staying behind the truck with Ziggy, taking photos of the people gathered there, watching or waiting to speak.

Sister Merry Peter at Castro vigil for Orlando[Image: Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Merry Peter smiles while speaking with Reverend Megan Rohrer at the vigil for Orlando in the Castro.]

Vigil with dog in the Castro[Image: A vigil attendee wearing yellow-rimmed glasses and a pink jacket holds a candle. A small dog peeks out from under the jacket.]

Alex U Inn at the vigil for Orlando in the Castro[Image: Alex U Inn of Momma’s Boyz stands with others at the vigil.]

While I couldn’t see much of what was happening on stage, thanks to Ziggy’s excellent sound production I could hear everything crystal clearly. The event opened with a stirring vocal performance by the drag king duo Momma’s Boyz. One of them, Alex U Inn, later asked me where I got my purple Trans March hoodie. (It’s a limited edition; you can order this year’s now.)

Suzanne Barakat at vigil for Orlando in the Castro[Image: Dr. Suzanne Barakat, wearing a hijab and white lab coat, watches the vigil. On her coat is a verse from the Qur’an: “Verily, with every hardship comes ease” (94:6).]

It was made clear at this event that Islamophobia would not be tolerated. San Francisco General Hospital physician Suzanne Barakat gave moving testimony about losing her brother and members of his family to a hate crime. Clergy members, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a real order of queer nuns), also called for not only prayers, but action.

Supervisor David Campos at vigil for Orlando in the Castro[Image: San Francisco Supervisor David Campos waits to speak at the vigil.]

Some elected officials attended, to mixed reaction. Latino supervisor David Campos was generally well-received. (A group of Latinx speakers complained that they were not initially invited to speak at the rally, and had to ask to be included.) Castro supervisor Scott Wiener got a more lukewarm reception. Then at one point, the audience began chanting “WHERE’S THE MAYOR? WHERE’S THE MAYOR??” Mayor Ed Lee (along with a few other officials) took the stage shortly after, and when he attempted to speak, the audience booed him very loudly. Although our mayor certainly has a lot to answer for, I couldn’t help feeling that the booing was a bit harsh, given the solemnity of this occasion.

A highlight of the event for me was hearing former Supervisor and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who I’d photographed (along with several others present) previously at marriage equality rallies. Ammiano described himself as an “old queer,” and he clearly gave no fucks about respectability. The first words out of his mouth were “Fuck the NRA.” Then, referring to the allegation that the Orlando shooter was motivated by seeing two men kissing, he launched into a spontaneous kiss-in with the (all male) officials gathered on stage. I really wish I could have gotten photos of this moment, but I couldn’t even see what was going on; hopefully someone has it on video.

SFGMC group at vigil for Orlando in the Castro[Image: Members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus pose for a group picture at the vigil for Orlando in the Castro.]

March to City Hall for Orlando[Image: Marchers walk to San Francisco City Hall, which is lit up in the colors of the rainbow.]

Members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus closed the vigil with several beautiful songs, including a sing-along and a rendition of We Shall Overcome. We then marched to San Francisco City Hall, which was appropriately lit up in rainbow colors. I didn’t know that there would be a march, but was not entirely surprised, just not sure I was prepared to walk six (total) miles. But it was on my way home anyway, and probably faster than waiting for a bus, given the street closures.

I’d walked to the Castro many times before, to attend rehearsals with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. As I walked last night, I thought about our 2013 performance of Harvey Milk: A Cantata. There’s a line in that piece where a soloist sings while the rest of us whisper his words:

If a bullet should enter my brain

Let that bullet destroy every closet door.

We will not be silenced.

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

National Animal Rights Day 2016 at PreetiRang Sanctuary

[Image: Close-up of a cow, Mahalakshmi, posing for a photo with a human, Lucia. Lucia wears a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too.”]

This Sunday, Ziggy and I braved a 96 degree air temperature to attend The National Animal Rights Day at PreetiRang Sanctuary. I’d first attended this annual day of mourning and awareness last year in downtown San Francisco, where I took some photos in an unofficial capacity, some of which made it into the video of the event. This year, the event was moved to a private vegan animal sanctuary due to financial and safety concerns. Ziggy agreed to run sound, and I agreed to take photos as long as I was not the sole or “official” photographer.

Mourning a squirrel[Image: A human with long red hair and a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too” holds the body of a dead squirrel.]

Mourning a chicken[Image: A human with short black hair and a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too” holds the body of a dead chicken.]

Mourners with animal photos[Image: Several humans stand in a field, each holding a flower and the photo of an animal.]

The bulk of the ceremony consisted of participants holding the bodies of dead animals while the stories of how they lived and died were read. Other participants held photos of living animals. The dead were then gently wrapped in cloth and placed on the ground, and those holding flowers were invited to place them atop any animal whose story was particularly moving to them.

Funeral procession[Image: Humans holding flowers, photos of animals, and animals wrapped in white cloth, walk through a field.]

Madhulika at grave site[Image: Sanctuary co-owner Madhulika pays respects to the animals just buried.]

Plaque at grave site[Image: A grave marker, dated 5-30-15, is adorned with flowers. The plaque reads in part: “We’re sorry we couldn’t save you. We will never forget you.”]

After the ceremony, the participants buried the dead in a grave, alongside the animals from the 2014 and 2015 ceremonies.

Signing the Declaration of Animal Rights[Image: People write their names and messages on a large scroll of paper.]

Animals are people, not property.[Image: A large piece of paper with a Sharpie pen and messages written in various colors, focused on the message: “Animals are people, not property. – Pax”]

NARD group photo[Image: A large group of people stands behind a banner reading “The National Animal Rights Day”.]

Next, The Declaration of Animal Rights was read, and everyone was invited to sign it. We finished the formal portion of the event with a guided meditation, followed by a group photo.

Gandalf, Ziggy, and Hari[Image: Ziggy, wearing a purple shirt, poses with Gandalf, a goat, and Hari, a bull.]

While I questioned the wisdom of moving the ceremony to a private venue at first, the value of having it at PreetiRang became clear when we got to spend time with the living, rescued animals who reside there. It was lovely seeing how much some of them had grown since my previous visits, particularly the young bulls Harvey and Hari, the latter of whom loved photobombing whenever Ziggy and I tried to get a photo with Gandalf the goat. (Hari also ran off with an audio cable while Ziggy was setting up the speaker before the ceremony.)

Chester and Pax[Image: Pax pets Shiva, a steer. Photo by Ziggy.]

Luv and Kush being loved[Image: Luv, a goat, sniffs one person’s hand while a child kisses Kush, another goat, on the forehead.]

Shiva also looked fetching in his shorter, summer coat. And everyone continues to love Luv and Kush.

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

Transforming California

[Image: Trans activists Pau Lagarde, Kris Hayashi, and Elliott Fukui at the Bay Area launch of Transform California in San Francisco. Kris Hayashi is holding a sign reading “Nuestras Voces, Nuestro Futuro” (Our Voices, Our Future).]

Yesterday I attended the San Francisco launch of Transform California, a campaign founded by the Transgender Law Center and Equality California to fight discrimination against trans and gender-nonconforming people in California. Speakers included Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, SFUSD Board of Education President Matt Haney, and longtime trans advocate Felicia Flames, who was present at the Compton’s Cafeteria riot.

Rexy Amaral at Transform California rally[Image: Trans advocate Rexy Amaral speaks at a podium in front of the high school from which she recently graduated.]

Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola at Transform California rally[Image: Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola speaks into a microphone. A sign on the podium reads “Our Voices, Our Future.”]

Transform California rally attendees[Image: Attendees at the Transform California rally stand and sit on the steps, holding signs. One seated holds a sign reading “Disabled trans folks gotta piss too!!!”]

Transform California rally[Image: Reporters, camera operators, and onlookers watch the rally from the sidewalk.]

The rally was racially diverse, with a strong representation from the Latinx community, which befitted the Mission District location. Local news stations covered the event.

Felicia Flames at Transform California rally[Image: Trans advocate Felicia Flames stands in front of a pledge she just signed to make California safer for trans people.]

At the conclusion of the event, everyone was invited to sign a pledge (also available on the Transform California web site) to oppose discrimination of trans and gender non-conforming people in California.

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!

Happy anniversary, Food Empowerment Project!

[Image: lauren Ornelas speaks at a microphone in front of a screen reading “Food Empowerment Project 2015-2016.”]

This Saturday I attended a benefit party in San Francisco to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Food Empowerment Project. I’ve written numerous times about this wonderful organization and their founder and executive director, lauren Ornelas. The F.E.P. advocates not only for non-human animals, but also for marginalized humans, including produce workers, restaurant workers, and enslaved children. Their commitment to food justice illustrates that just being vegan does not mean that one’s dietary choices are “cruelty-free.”

Fortunately, all of the chocolate at the anniversary party passed the F.E.P. recommendations for companies that don’t source from areas that use child slavery. Of course, there was plenty of other food there too, but I do love sweets.

Chocolate candies[Image: A colorful dish of chocolate candies.]

Beautiful cake[Image: A cake decorated with flowers and leaves in icing.]

I really appreciated that the volunteers labeled the restrooms as gender-neutral for this event. This was one of my suggestions in my  presentation on gender diversity at the Intersectional Justice Conference (at which lauren Ornelas also presented).

Gender-neutral restroom sign[Image: A sign with multiple gender symbols and the words “Inclusive restroom.”]

Azuah provided amazing music.

Azuah performing[Image: Azuah sings into a microphone while playing acoustic guitar.]

Food Empowerment Project team[Image: Food Empowerment Project team members pose and smile for the camera.]

Thanks to all the F.E.P. board members and volunteers for their great work. My full set of photos from the event is on Flickr. (This set is larger than usual, to meet specific requirements that I agreed to as the volunteer photographer.) Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Gender and education at Wikipedia

[Image: Pete Forsyth and Pax speak about transgender issues at the Wikimedia Foundation. Photo by Ziggy.]

Last night, Ziggy and I attended the inaugural Bay Area WikiSalon at the Wikimedia Foundation headquarters in San Francisco. When I was first alerted to the event (via my Wikipedia watchpage), I was intrigued by one of the featured guests: Kris Lyseggen, a photojournalist who would be speaking about her book, The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons. I signed up for the event, and downloaded a sample of the book to begin reading it.

Concerned by a callous remark made on the event’s discussion page, I contacted one of the organizers, Pete Forsyth, who I knew from the Wikipedia 15 birthday celebration earlier this year. Pete, Kris, and I all ended up meeting, and agreed that we would have a panel discussion, moderated by Pete and including myself, Kris, and her husband, child psychiatrist Herb Schreier. I included one of the slides from my recent presentation on gender diversity, to give basic definitions of terms such as transgender and cisgender.

While I felt somewhat unprepared and frazzled (especially after being misgendered by the building security guard), I was grateful for the opportunity to educate more people about transgender issues. I also expressed my frustration with the constant vandalism and disruptive editing on Wikipedia, particularly on the Genderqueer and Cisgender pages. Several people asked questions during and after the event, which I did my best to answer, and I pointed them to the links page on my blog for further reading.

Pax and Kris[Image: Pax with Kris Lyseggen. Photo by Ziggy.]

Kris presented a slideshow about the subject of her book: Trans women in male prisons. I read the entire book before last night’s event. It was moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating. I had to keep putting it down because it was so emotionally difficult for me to read about these women having every ounce of dignity stripped from them. This book, in conjunction with all the police brutality faced by cis and trans people of color in the USA, seriously made me want to join the prison abolition movement.

Herb Schreier at Bay Area WikiSalon[Image: Herb Schreier speaks at the salon. Photo by Ziggy.]

In his portion of the presentation, Herb talked about working with young trans children, and the criteria used to determine if they were ready to transition. He explained the harm of forcing trans children to live as their assigned sex. I asked him a clarifying question about what transitioning meant, because there’s a lot of people spreading misinformation about children being given genital surgery or other irreversible treatments. He explained that transitioning meant social changes (name and gender) and, at the right age, hormone blockers.

Jan and Pete at WikiSalon[Image: Research librarian Jan Patton speaks with Pete Forsyth at the salon.]

The other topic for the evening was a report on a high school Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Research librarian Jan Patton spoke about getting kids excited about editing an online encyclopedia. While she spoke, I thought of the printed World Book Encyclopedia set that my parents splurged on when I was in elementary school, back in the 70s. Instant online access to virtually any topic is a luxury I didn’t have until long after graduating from college.

Of course, many people throughout the world still do not have on-demand Internet access. (Projects like Wikipedia Zero are trying to help bridge that gap, although they have attracted criticism from net neutrality activists.) But it is great that school-age kids are now able to not only access an encyclopedia online, but actually contribute to it, instantly.

Canon v Nikon[Image: A Nikonista takes a photo of a Canonite.]

I’ve uploaded a few photos that Ziggy and I took at last night’s event to Flickr, as well as to Wikimedia Commons (the latter gallery may contain others’ photos as well). The Bay Area WikiSalon will be an ongoing monthly event, with opportunities for collaborative editing and casual discussion as well as formal topics, so locals should check it out.

ETA 5/14: Videos of the salon are now available on YouTube as well; the transgender panel is here, with closed captions provided by me.

Socialists for Bernie?

[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Your money can’t buy Bernie” and “We can’t buy a home in SF for $353,000”. One protester wearing a “Socialist Alternative” T-shirt bangs on a pan with a spoon.]

Disclaimer/reminder: I am registered with no political party and support no presidential candidate at this time.

Last night I heard a commotion outside my window. Going out on the balcony to investigate, I saw police on motorcycles driving the wrong way down the one-way steep hill I’ve lived on for the last 13 years. Following behind was a group of several dozen marchers, holding signs, banging on pots and pans, and chanting. As it is somewhat unusual for a protest march to come through my neighborhood—Nob Hill, San Francisco—I quickly threw on some (more) clothes, grabbed my keys and camera and ran outside to take some photos.

Protesters on Nob Hill[Image: Protesters stand in the street. One holds a sign reading “Oligarchy is Unamerican.” Another reads “$HRC + $DNC = $uperDelegate$”.]

SFPD on Nob Hill[Image: San Francisco police stand behind a barrier reading “S.F.P.D. Police Line – Do Not Cross.”]

I caught up with the group a block away, where I eventually learned that Hillary Clinton was in town hosting a fundraiser with George Clooney, at the home of a venture capitalist. Price for a couple to sit at the head table: $353,000. As the sign pictured at the top of this post notes, you can’t even buy a home in San Francisco for that, and not just on Nob Hill. Median home prices here are in the seven figures. Ziggy and I live in a rent-controlled apartment, which is a privilege in a city that has been rapidly gentrifying.

Police barricaded the street, but stood by passively; I did not witness or read about any confrontations. I can’t help wondering if the same would have been true if there had been more black and brown faces in the group of protesters.

Protesters on Nob Hill[Image: A protester speaks into a megaphone. Another protester wears a shirt reading “Socialist Alternative.”]

While trying to determine who organized this protest, I noticed that a number of people were wearing T-shirts reading “Socialist Alternative.” I looked them up, and found that they have a “Movement4Bernie” campaign to support Bernie Sanders. (I also located the Facebook page for the event. Far fewer people showed up than indicated by the RSVP numbers.) I was genuinely surprised that a socialist group would openly support a Democratic presidential candidate. I know that Bernie has been described as a democratic socialist, but as far as I’m concerned, socialism cannot happen under our two-party system. We need a (peaceful) revolution to create a society that truly treats all people (human and non-human) with fairness and equity.

Dog at protest[Image: A dog with their tongue hanging out stands next to a human wearing boots.]

Dogs at protest[Image: A leashed dog wearing a T-shirt sniffs the rear of another dog.]

I had short, reasonably pleasant conversation with one of the protesters, who was wearing a Bernie shirt. He didn’t openly identify as socialist, but was sympathetic to my view that the two-party system was an intractable problem. He pointed out that Bernie had been an independent; I countered that he had moved to the Democrats, and was now part of that machine. Would he not endorse Hillary if she won the nomination? The protester said he was going to make sure she didn’t win, but when I pressed him on whether Bernie would endorse Hillary, he mentioned “lesser of two evils.” (ETA: A recent editorial echoes some of my concerns.)

I don’t want to get into a debate about lesser evils, third party “spoilers,” or Hillary vs Bernie; I’ve heard it all before. But I am particularly interested in hearing from socialists, whether or not you support Bernie Sanders. Others are welcome to comment as well, but please respect that I am an independent and intend to stay that way.

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

Trans visibility in San Francisco (and beyond)

[Image: Event emcees Lexi Adsit, Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya, Shawn Demmons, and Nya (from Transcendent) stand on a stage in front of a screen reading (in part) “Trans Day of Visibility – Embracing Our Legacy. #TDOV”]

Last night I attended a San Francisco event celebrating the Trans Day of Visibility. Unlike the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors lives lost to trans-antagonistic violence, the TDoV—an annual, international event since 2009—highlights the vibrance and vitality of the transgender community.

The Singing Bois at TDoV[Image: The Singing Bois – three singing into microphones, one playing guitar – perform on stage.]

Breanna Sinclairé at TDoV[Image: Opera singer Breanna Sinclairé – the first trans woman to sing the national anthem at a pro sporting event –  sings into a microphone on stage.]

Our Lady J at TDoV[Image: Our Lady J (the first openly transgender writer for Transparent) sings into a microphone while playing keyboards.]

This event featured video presentations, comedy, and musical performances. Awardees for 2016 were the Fresh Meat Festival, Ms. Billie Cooper, St. James Infirmary Clinic, Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Florez for the documentary film MAJOR!, and—to her surprise and delight—HIV/AIDS awareness activist Tita Aida.

Tita Aida at TDoV[Image: Tita Aida speaks into a microphone while holding a trophy on stage. Others on stage are smiling in the background.]

As uplifting as events like this can be for the trans community, violence is the flip side of visibility. The non-binary performance art duo Darkmatter had some sobering words to say about TDoV on Facebook; in part:

On this day of trans visibility so many of us are left uneasy and conflicted. Yes, of course, visibility has been helpful and transformative. But visibility is not the same thing as justice. What has become increasingly evident is that the system is, in fact, much more willing to give trans people visibility than it is to give us compensation, resources, safety.

Telling our own stories is part of how we can dismantle the cisnormative framing of gender, and counter the ignorance, hatred, and fear that lead to discrimination and violence.

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

Making connections at Whidbey

[Image: A large group of people of color stand together outside the Whidbey Institute. Photo by Ziggy Tomcich.]

This weekend, Ziggy and I attended the Intersectional Justice Conference at the Whidbey Institute in Washington State. As I’ve written here previously, I was invited to be one of the speakers, and my presentation was on “Welcoming gender diversity: Trans, non-binary, and intersex inclusion in activist spaces.” I also led a workshop on gender identity and related issues. The event was a rewarding, challenging, and overall positive experience.

Striving with Systems at IJC[Image: Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, Aph Ko, and Justin Van Kleeck stand together in a hallway at the Whidbey Institute.]

The above photo features three of the participants I was most excited to meet in person: Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, Aph Ko, and Justin Van Kleeck, all contributors to the intersectional blog Striving with Systems. Christopher-Sebastian was my initial point of contact for this conference, and we both wept tears of joy on first meeting. Aph I have to thank for inviting me to the advisory board of Black Vegans Rock (which she founded and maintains), and we were thrilled to be housed together for the event. Justin has continually inspired me with his dedicated sanctuary work at Triangle Chance for All, as well as his writings on veganism and anti-oppression.

pattrice jones[Image: pattrice jones speaks at the Intersectional Justice Conference.]

Another inspirational sanctuary worker and activist who attended the conference was pattrice jones of VINE, an LGBTQ-run sanctuary. Christopher-Sebastian had begun the conference by reading an “Activist Bill of Rights” he created, which started out with “Fuck respectability.” pattrice took that instruction seriously, and at the beginning of her presentation she called out our host venue for housing chickens on the premises under unacceptable conditions. Other attendees throughout the conference called for the prisoners to be released to a sanctuary, and I am hopeful that the Whidbey Institute will agree to do so.

Black love and healing[Image: Aph Ko and Christopher-Sebastian McJetters comfort Dr. Amie Breeze Harper during her presentation at the Intersectional Justice Conference.]

The need to confront and dismantle white supremacy was a recurring and important theme of this conference. Aph Ko and Dr. Amie Breeze Harper both included images of lynchings in their presentations, to illustrate the very real and ongoing impact of racism, both in the animal rights community and the USA in general. The subject was so painful that both broke down in tears during their respective talks, and were comforted by each other, as well as by Christopher-Sebastian.

This moment pictured above illustrates to me the fundamental purpose and value of this event. Anti-oppression work is messy and uncomfortable and downright painful—and absolutely necessary.

The large number of people of color participating in this conference—as featured speakers and facilitators as well as attendees—was a welcome change from the mostly-white faces generally seen at vegan and animal rights events. A number of people featured on the Black Vegans Rock blog attended, including myself, Aph, Breeze, Christopher-Sebastian, Seba Johnson, JoVanna Johnson-Cooke, Brenda Sanders, Keith Tucker, and Unique Vance.

WoC at Whidbey[Image: A group of women of color stand together outside the Whidbey Institute.]

Carol Adams[Image: Carol J. Adams speaks at the Intersectional Justice Conference.]

Women—white and of color—were well-represented in featured roles as well. One of the featured speakers was Carol J. Adams, whose books on feminism and animal rights, including The Sexual Politics of Meat, are well-known and respected in the field. Her multimedia presentation was a fascinating and disturbing tour of the patriarchal and often blatantly sexist nature of animal product marketing. (Carol updated her presentation at the last minute to include a video of the Whidbey chickens, whom she also called to be released.) I was honored that Carol attended and actively participated in my breakout session on gender diversity.

Marnie and Dylan[Image: Marnie Jackson-Jones sits with her arms around her daughter.]

Marnie Jackson-Jones, who extended the official invitation for me to speak at this conference, did a heroic job as a facilitator. One of her young daughters attended many of the sessions with her, and was delightful.

This conference, while somewhat exhausting physically and emotionally, exceeded my expectations. I am hopeful that future iterations of this event can be improved in several areas, with more careful vetting of sponsors and venue to minimize speciesism, and more accommodations such as ASL interpretation. (I was very happy that the organizers implemented my suggestion to make restrooms gender-neutral for the duration of the event.) Regardless, these shortcomings did not diminish the impact of the anti-oppression work that was accomplished and the connections that were made this weekend.

While I was not the official photographer, Ziggy and I did take a number of photos, which are available on Flickr. If you use any of them, please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen unless otherwise stated in the photo description (most of the photos that I’m in were taken by Ziggy Tomcich). The slides and notes from my presentation are also online, and I’ll post links to the videos of the speakers as soon as they are made available.

One million views

[Image: Screenshot from Pax’s Flickr account, with the current total number of views, 1,000,045, circled.]

Today, my Flickr account reached a milestone: One million views of my photos. While I’ve been on Flickr for nearly ten years and some celebrities probably have millions of views every day, it’s still a fun number to celebrate, so in this post I’ll tell the story behind each of my ten most popular photos on Flickr.

Now, my Flickr account, unlike my photography web site and professional galleries on Zenfolio, contains a mishmash of casual snapshots, screenshots, and photos taken of me by other people, in addition to some of my professional photos. (I began posting all of my photos to Flickr last summer; before that, I kept my professional work primarily on Zenfolio, and posted some personal photos only on Facebook or Google+.) So as it turns out, two of my top ten viewed photos were not taken by me, and five of them are not photos at all. As a skilled photographer I find this irritating, but also amusing, given the nature of the content.

Flickr top ten views[Image: Screenshot from Pax’s Flickr account, heading “All Time views”, with columns showing photo thumbnails and the number of views, favorites, and comments.]

1, 2, 3, 8, 9: FarmVille levels 22, 20, 29, 36, 28

Numbers one, two, three, eight, and nine on my top ten list are screenshots from the Zynga game, FarmVille, which I played from 2009-2010. For those of you who were fortunate enough to miss this phenomenon, the original version of FarmVille was a crudely animated but extremely popular Facebook game, where players grew and harvested crops in “real” time. Animal farming was also involved, which I’m now firmly against even though no animals were killed in this typical pastoral fantasy.

I started playing FarmVille solely because my friend and music teacher Steve Kirk, a very talented musician and video game composer, wrote the original theme song for it. Here’s a video I shot of him performing the complete song live:

I’m guessing that my screenshots were popular because I put some effort into making my farm look attractive and realistic, rather than just planting the highest-value crops to level up quickly. I was also fairly active on the game’s forum for a time. Regardless, I grew sick of it after a few months and ultimately blocked all Zynga games on Facebook, as that company relies on players spamming their friends to gain popularity.

4: Stradivarius cello, detail

Stradivarius cello, detail[Image: Side view of a cello, showing ornate detail.]

I photographed this Stradivarius cello at the Museum of American History on the first day of 2009, during a trip to Washington, D.C. with Ziggy. From a technical standpoint, I really don’t think this is a good photo; in contrast, the photo I took of the violin in the same display case is much better (and, to be fair, just missed the top 10 list, at number 11). But people seem to like the cello, so there you go.

5: Mayan Palace pool

Mayan Palace pool[Image: Pax relaxing in a large outdoor swimming pool.]

Ziggy snapped this swimsuit photo of me during our honeymoon in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, October 2004. I’m not surprised at this photo’s popularity given that I tagged it with “cleavage,” for reasons that should be obvious. As I’ve posted previously, unlike the vast majority of transmasculine people I’ve encountered, I’ve never had a problem with my breasts. When I was heavier, I showed them off frequently. I only hide them in public now because most people assume that anyone with visible breasts must be female.

I’m not ashamed of this or any other photo that shows off my body. I’m only sad that I haven’t been in a pool or any other body of water since I started my hormonal transition two years ago. Though I can’t swim, I do miss hot-tubbing. But I can’t bathe topless or fully nude safely unless I’m in a private space with a group of trusted friends.

6. Sculpture at UCSF Mission Bay

Sculpture at UCSF Mission Bay[Image: A large green geometric sculpture inside an office building.]

I shot this sculpture in 2005 while I was working for UCSF Public Affairs and taking video footage of the then-new UCSF Mission Bay campus. This photo was shot with the still mode of the video camera I was using, and the graininess is evident even to the untrained eye. The white balance is also off. Regardless, this photo has more “favorites” than any other I’ve posted to Flickr. I’ll give the sculptor, Liz Larner, all due credit for this.

7. Ziggy and [Pax] at Swingers

Ziggy and Pax at Swingers[Image: Ziggy and Pax sitting together in a restaurant, smiling.]

My friend Amy shot this photo of Ziggy and me while we were visiting her in Los Angeles in 2007. (The original title, as with many of my Flickr photos, contains my birth-assigned name; please do not mention it here.) The restaurant we were visiting is named Swingers. Most of the people searching for that term must have been disappointed to find this photo in the results. As a consolation prize, Ziggy and I are, in fact, polyamorous. Though swinging is normally associated with heterosexual couples swapping partners, the distinction between swinging and polyamory is a matter for endless debate.

10. Short shorts

Short shorts[Image: Pax standing in front of vertical blinds, looking to the side, wearing shorts and a deep-necked T-shirt.]

At last, a photo I’m actually proud of! I took this self-portrait in 2009, when I was in the process of losing weight, and pleased with my figure. I liked this photo so much that I included it on an early version of my business cards, but others convinced me that it wasn’t really appropriate for the kind of photography services I was advertising.

Here again, I’m not ashamed of my body, including the prominent nipples visible in this photo. I never liked wearing bras, though I usually did so in public before my transition, reluctantly. I would still wear low-cut shirts like this if they didn’t guarantee that I’d be misgendered as female.

So there’s my top 10. If you’d like to see more Flickr photos that I’m personally proud of, rather than screenshots of video games, check out my Best of 2011 and Best of 2012 sets. And if you like my work and want to support my efforts, please consider sponsoring me on Patreon or leaving me a tip. Thanks!