I sing out, authentically

[Image: The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco performs at MCCSF. Photo by Ziggy. More photos are available on Flickr.]

This month I sang in a concert with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco for the first time in three years. I was pleased to be selected to lead off our performance with a short solo on “I Sing Out” by Mark Hayes. The title of this concert was “Here I Am: Living Authentically”, and short, original pieces on that theme were read in between the songs. I was not a part of the chorus when these readings were solicited, but if I had been, I would have submitted this:

How many folks can say they’ve sung in three different sections of the same chorus? I have that rare honor and privilege thanks to a supportive environment that helped me ease me into male puberty in middle age. Confused? Let me back up and explain.

I entered the chorus as an alto in 2012, at the age of 42. Having grown up in a musical family, I’d sung and played instruments for my entire life, but most recently had performed mostly rock music. And I realized that although I was living as a woman, almost every song I’d chosen to sing was written for a man, and I felt most comfortable in musical groups consisting mostly of men—gay and bi men, preferably.

Now, I was in a chorus with plenty of gay and bisexual people, but almost everyone in my section was a woman. These were women of all kinds, to be sure, from femme to butch to everything in between and none of the above. And yet, I felt out of place.

Our director, Billy, was great about addressing the chorus with gender-neutral terms, even changing gendered lyrics in our songs as appropriate. But sitting in the alto section, I still felt the growing sense that “I am not one of you”. I wasn’t sure that I was a man, exactly, just that I was not a woman.

These feelings didn’t start with the chorus, but crystallized there. When they grew too loud and large to ignore, I decided to do something about it. On August 23, 2013, I announced to the world my new name and non-binary gender identity.

I e-mailed Billy that I was planning to start on testosterone therapy in January, and would likely not be able to stay in the chorus as my voice would drop. He replied that I should stay and switch to the tenor section. This was wonderful news; not only could I keep singing, but I would now get the melody line occasionally!

I sang happily as a tenor for several months, before dropping out for awhile. I am now back, three years later, singing as a baritone in our bass section. I miss singing as a tenor, but what’s important is that I have taken steps to live a more authentic life. I am grateful to the chorus for giving me the space for this realization.

May Day, May Day!

[Image: Protesters stand in the street, fists raised and chanting, holding a banner reading “Unite Here – All races – All religions – All immigrants.”]

The phrase “May Day” has a number of meanings. It is associated with spring festivals, the pagan Beltane holiday, and International Workers’ Day. When uttered three times in a row, “Mayday” signals an emergency situation.

An emergency situation is exactly how I’ve come to see the presidency of Donald Trump. My ire and disgust at the tens of millions of US-Americans who voted for this man has turned into real fear that this incompetent bigot will not only set back civil rights by several decades, but actually start a world war.  Thus, despite my flagging energy, I continue to attend protests and document the resistance.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters holding large signs stand in an intersection, blocking traffic.]

On Monday, I attended two demonstrations in San Francisco, out of many protests, rallies, and marches that occurred throughout the country. The first was outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building. When I arrived about twenty minutes before the 8 a.m. scheduled start time, only a handful of people were milling around. But that quickly changed, and soon all of the streets around the building were filled with sign-carrying activists.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters sit on the sidewalk with arms linked in front of the ICE driveway.]

May Day SF protest[Image: Activists sit in front of the ICE driveway, holding a large banner reading “No ban no raids no wall”.]

Some of the protesters sat on the sidewalk with arms linked, blocking the driveways to the ICE buildings so that buses carrying immigrants about to be deported could not leave. There was no violence and no arrests, though police (and police observers) were definitely present and watching.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters paint a large circle with the word “Resist” in the middle of the intersection.]

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters paint a large circle with the words “Resist” and “No Wall” in the middle of the intersection.]

A number of those present, including several children, helped paint a large circle in the middle of the intersection, with the word “Resist” in the middle and “No Ban No Wall” around the outside.

May Day SF protest[Image: The Aztec ceremonial dance group Danza Xitlalli‎ performs at the demonstration.]

The Aztec ceremonial dance group Danza Xitlalli‎, who I’ve seen at many local events, performed during the demonstration.

May Day SF protest[Image: Activists speak from atop a truck at the demonstration.]

Several people spoke from the truck that served as a stage. One was very emotional about her sister who had been detained by immigration authorities.

After an hour and a half or so at this rally, I headed over to nearby Justin Herman Plaza to take a break before the start of another rally and march. Danza Xitlalli‎ performed again, and then the group from the first rally marched into the plaza.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters march into Justin Herman Plaza, carrying large signs and a banner reading “Sanctuary for all”.]

The rally featured a number of speakers, including several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. As with the March for Science last month, the plaza was soon completely filled with people.

May Day SF protest[Image: A crowd of people fills Justin Herman Plaza.]

May Day SF protest[Image: May Day marchers head up Market Street from the Ferry Building.]

At noon we made our way out to Market Street for the march to Civic Center. I made it as far as Powell Street this time before bailing out due to fatigue and the unseasonable heat. Before heading home, I paused at the cable car turnaround to take some photos of the oncoming marchers. Upon spotting my camera, one of the marchers flipped their sign around and made sure that I saw it:

May Day SF protest[Image: A May Day marcher holds a sign reading “Impeach the racist, lying, abuser, terrorist occupying the White House.”]

I nodded in solidarity and agreement.

My full set of photos from the protest is available on Flickr. Some of the photos are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside photos uploaded by others. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

March for Science San Francisco

[Image: March for Science San Francisco attendees hold up a large banner for the event.]

On Saturday, I attended the March for Science San Francisco, one of many March for Science rallies held on Earth Day throughout the world. Unlike some recent political protests I’ve attended, this event appeared to be very well-funded, with a professional sound system for once. Between the multiple speaker arrays, giant video screen, coordinated T-shirts, and laminated passes for the speakers and volunteers, it almost felt more like an industry trade show or rock concert than a rally.

Crowd at Justin Herman Plaza[Image: The crowd at the March for Science rally fills Justin Herman Plaza.]

Crowded plaza[Image: The crowd moves through Justin Herman Plaza for the start of the march.]

The pre-march rally was held at Justin Herman Plaza, which was already filled with people when I arrived half an hour before the 11 a.m. start time. By the end of the rally, the plaza was so packed that it took me 45 minutes to get from the far side of the stage out to Market Street for the actual march.

Kishore Hari and Adam Savage[Image: Rally emcee Kishore Hari shares a moment backstage with Adam Savage.]

Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña[Image: Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña speaks at the rally.]

Baratunde Thurston at March for Science[Image: Baratunde Thurston speaks at the rally.]

Science has no borders[Image: Two children hold a sign reading “Science has no borders”.]

The lineup of speakers was diverse, and support for immigrants was a recurring theme. ASL interpretation was provided, and a pre-recorded talk by a scientist paralyzed with ALS, Eric Valor, was shown . While I appreciated that scientists were in the spotlight, the speaker I was personally most excited to see was Adam Savage from Mythbusters, who billed himself as an inventor, not a scientist. I also enjoyed the talk by comedian and futurist Baratunde Thurston, who was a last-minute addition.

March for Science rally signs[Image: Rally attendees sit and stand on the steps, holding various signs and banners.]

While advertised as non-partisan, many considered this to be another anti-Trump rally, and brought signs accordingly. Speakers did not call out the current administration exclusively, however. Many emphasized the need for funding and for assertions based on evidence rather than opinion, needs which transcend political parties. The rallying cry, as seen on several signs, was “What do we want? Evidence-based science! When do we want it? After peer review!”

I’ll be the first to admit that science is not a strong area of aptitude or interest for me. Science and math were the subjects I had the most difficulty with in middle and high school, though I still took Advanced Placement courses (in order to look good on my college applications) and managed to get passing grades. I’ve done computer programming, but have little formal computer science training, and struggled greatly in this area even when employed as a full-time web developer.

Resist[Image: A rally attendee wears a jacket with the badges of various science and nature organizations, and the word RESIST.]

So my motivation for going to this rally was mostly to continue my documentation of the resistance. Resistance to willful ignorance is part of this effort, and ignorance comes from people of all political persuasions. While science and religion are not necessarily incompatible, science is absolutely not itself a religion, a claim I’ve heard made not only by fundamentalists, but also some very left-wing, “new age” people. (It’s ironic that just the night before the rally I’d attended a sing-along benefit showing of Jesus Christ Superstar, a movie I’ve always greatly enjoyed despite being an atheist.)

Regardless, ethics also plays a large role, especially from my stance as a vegan animal rights activist. I can’t simply ignore vivisection and animal testing, no matter how much these practices might benefit humans. Though I do look for products that are not tested on animals, my reliance on some medications and medical procedures is beyond my reasonable ability to control at this time.

Ethics applies to the hot-button issue of GMOs as well, concerns about which one of the rally speakers dismissed in the same breath as vaccines causing autism. While I agree that the latter has been thoroughly debunked, I am still not convinced GMOs are a great idea. This is not primarily because of concerns about the safety of the humans consuming them, but concerns about capitalism and patenting. I also believe that ending animal agriculture, not engineering more higher-yield or pest-resistant crops, is the ultimate solution to world hunger. But again, I am not a scientist.

Marching with cat[Image: A woman with long braided hair and glasses walks while holding a cat with jaguar-like markings.]

During the short time I was on the march, I encountered someone marching while holding a cat, an unusual sight. We spoke briefly, and she commented that the cat would not exist without science, because domestic cats have been specially bred. This raised another animal rights issue, but I didn’t want to get into that discussion at the time, so I just snapped photos, thanked her and moved on.

Folk singers at March for Science[Image: Musicians sing and play instruments alongside the march route.]

Shortly afterward, I saw some people on the sidewalk playing live music, so I headed over and joined in the singing. By the time we finished the song, the end of the march had caught up to us, and I was peopled-out, so I headed home. Science-related activities continued for the rest of the afternoon at Civic Center.

My full set of photos from the rally is available on Flickr. I’ve also uploaded the photos to Wikimedia Commons, alongside those from other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

Tax March San Francisco

[Image: A giant inflatable “Trump Chicken” looms in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Yesterday I returned to San Francisco’s Civic Center for yet another anti-Trump demonstration, the Tax March. Like the Women’s March, the Tax March was held simultaneously in dozens of cities. I helped update the Wikipedia page on the event as well.

The purpose of this event was to protest Trump having not released his tax returns, despite promises during his campaign that he would do so. March organizers and participants didn’t necessarily think that these marches would pressure him into releasing them, but hoped to spotlight the lack of transparency in the Trump administration.

Speakers at the San Francisco event included Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who was mailed a page from Trump’s tax return and revealed it on the Rachel Maddow Show last month. As she did on Arts Advocacy Day, Kim said “I’m not afraid to call Donald Trump an enemy of this state.” Pelosi pointed out that Democrats have raised motions for Trump to release his taxes every week in Congress.

Jane Kim at the Tax March rally[Image: Jane Kim speaks at the rally.]

Nancy Pelosi shaking hands[Image: Nancy Pelosi greets rally attendees. I was nearly trampled by people seeking handshakes and selfies when they caught sight of her.]

David Cay Johnston at Tax March rally[Image: David Cay Johnston speaks at the rally.]

Also featured at the rally were three giant inflatable chickens. I watched the last and largest of them being inflated just before the start of the rally, to cheers from the crowd.

Deflated chicken[Image: A Trump Chicken lies in the street just before being inflated.]

Trump Chicken inflated[Image: The fully inflated Trump Chicken rises before the crowd.]

Thousands of people filled Civic Center for the rally and Market Street for the march, which ended at Justin Herman Plaza.

Tax March crowd at Civic Center[Image: A Tax March attendee at Civic Center holds a “Mein Trumpf” sign.]

Crowd at Tax March San Francisco[Image: The crowd leaves Civic Center and heads toward Market Street.]

Tax March on Market Street[Image: Tax Marchers head down Market Street.]

Tax marcher in pussyhat[Image: A Tax Marcher in a “pussyhat” has words for the President.]

While the march and rally were well-attended, there were sound and accessibility problems. The audio speakers were inadequate for the crowd size and had frequent, squealing feedback, and there was no sign language interpretation. At least two of the featured speakers had difficulty getting on and off of the flatbed truck that served as a stage, with one of them actually falling.

I hesitate to criticize logistics at events like this as I know volunteers are perpetually overworked and underfunded, but sound problems in particular have been a recurring theme at rallies I’ve attended this year. Messages voiced at these events are important and deserve to be heard by as many people as possible. Hopefully more funding can be raised to address these problems in the future.

My full set of photos from the rally and march is available on Flickr. Most of them are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside those of other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

Celebrating LGBT community in San Francisco

[Image: The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco performs in the lobby of the newly renovated SF LGBT Center. Photo by Ziggy.]

Yesterday I sang with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco (pictured at the top of this post) to welcome visitors into the newly renovated San Francisco LGBT Center. Ziggy and I had attended opening week festivities 15 years ago, so it was great to be there together again for this rededication. He took some photos of the ribbon-cutting outside while I waited with chorus members in the lobby. As soon as the doors opened we performed a three-song set, then Ziggy and I went off to explore the space and watch the other performers.

Sister Roma at SF LGBT Center[Image: Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence poses under a rainbow bridge.]

SFGMC at SF LGBT Center[Image: The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performs at the center.]

Honey Mahogany at SF LGBT Center[Image: Honey Mahogany performs at the center.]

Indigenous dancers at SF LGBT Center[Image: Indigenous dancers perform on the roof of the center.]

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. If you use any of the photos, please credit Ziggy Tomcich for the first seven and me, Pax Ahimsa Gethen, for the rest. Thanks!

Trans Day of Visibility 2017: Love and resistance

[Image: Shawn Demmons and Nya emcee Trans Day of Visibility 2017 at SOMArts, San Francisco.]

Yesterday I attended the annual Trans Day of Visibility celebration in San Francisco. I saw many of the same familiar faces from last year’s event, including emcees Shawn Demmons and Nya (pictured at the top of this post). This year’s theme was “Love and resistance”. A short film produced by the SF LGBT Center featured submitted photos of trans folks with their trans and cis loved ones, with voice-overs emphasizing the need to love trans people.

TGI Justice Project at TDoV SF[Image: Representatives from the TGI Justice Project speak on stage.]

Gwen Park at TDoV SF[Image: Gwen Park speaks on stage, canine companion in tow.]

Awards were given out to several organizations and individuals, including the TGI Justice Project, Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic Transgender Clinic, Fresh! White, Aria Sa’id of St James Infirmary, and Gwen Park, who brought a sweet canine companion to the stage. (Gwen was not the only one to do so; Holy Old Man Bull, who gave the invocation, also brought a dog along.) Gwen, a talented videographer, streamed behind-the-scenes footage of this event to Facebook Live; I can be seen speaking briefly about 20 seconds into this video.

Riya and Momma's Boyz at TDoV SF[Image: Riya performs with Momma’s Boyz.]

Entertainment included performances by Riya and Ares with Momma’s Boyz, StormMiguel Florez, and 10-year-old diva-in-training Emmie (who also performed at the Trans March in 2015 and 2016).

Gigi Gorgeous at TDoV SF[Image: Gigi Gorgeous answers questions on stage with singer Emmie and emcee Nya.]

This year’s special guest was Gigi Gorgeous, a Canadian actress, model, and YouTube personality. She answered some questions that had been submitted in advance.

I was glad to attend this event, which as always showcased the cultural and ethnic diversity of San Francisco, and centered trans people of color. I was feeling a bit depressed shortly after arrival, however. I had just walked two miles in warm weather, carrying heavy camera equipment in my backpack, and was sweating in my dress shirt. Though I didn’t bother wearing a jacket and tie this year, semi-formal attire was suggested (but not required). Regardless, I would have rather worn something cooler, like a strappy tank top. But with my visible breasts, that kind of attire would virtually guarantee I’d be misread as female.

Chatting with some folks outside while waiting for the doors to open, I lamented that even at a trans-focused event in San Francisco, I still could not truly be myself. I emphasized that I didn’t want to wear a strappy tank to bring out my femme side; I’m agender, and I don’t have a femme side. I simply wanted to be more physically comfortable, without the emotional dissonance that comes with being misgendered.

On the other hand, one positive aspect of dressing “like a man” is that I could walk for 40 minutes in dress shoes quite comfortably, and had roomy pockets so I didn’t need to carry a purse or fanny pack. Also, considering that my walk took me through the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood, and past a homeless encampment under the freeway, I acknowledge that even as a trans person of color, I personally enjoy many privileges.

In any case, once I got inside the venue I felt better. I connected with several people, talking about my work on Wikipedia to improve representation of marginalized groups. To that end, I created a category for the Trans Day of Visibility on Wikimedia Commons.

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

Arts Advocacy in San Francisco

[Image: Idris Ackamoor of Cultural Odyssey speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall for Arts Advocacy Day.]

Yesterday I returned to San Francisco City Hall for yet another rally, this one to support funding for the arts. San Francisco Arts Advocacy Day was organized by Arts for a Better Bay Area, “a coalition of arts practitioners invested in quality of life, creative expression, cultural equity, and vibrant neighborhoods”. During the 2016 election season, this group worked to secure funding for the arts using hotel tax revenue under Proposition S, which won over 63% of the vote but did not pass (as a two-thirds majority was required).

ABADÁ-Capoiera at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: ABADÁ-Capoiera gives a demonstration in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

ABADÁ-Capoiera at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: ABADÁ-Capoiera gives a demonstration in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Márcia Treidler at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Márcia Treidler speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

The event began with a demonstration by ABADÁ-Capoeira. I was very impressed with their athleticism. The leader of the group, Mestra Márcia Cigarra (Márcia Treidler), spoke afterward about what immigrants like herself bring to the arts.

Jane Kim at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

The arts have always been politicized, but this is especially so under the Trump administration, and I appreciated that the speakers at the rally brought a multicultural perspective to the situation. San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Jane Kim spoke out especially strongly against Trump, calling him an enemy.

RaMona Webb at SF Arts Advoacy Day[Image: RaMona Webb of the Queer Cultural Center speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Jason Bayani at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Jason Bayani of the Kearny Street Workshop speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Jonathan Moscone at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Jonathan Moscone of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts speaks in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

Other speakers included Dr. Anne Huang of World Arts West (who served as the emcee),   RaMona “Mona” Webb of the Queer Cultural Center, Sarah Pritchard of SOMArtsJason Bayani of the Kearny Street Workshop, Ruth Nott of the San Francisco Opera, Leah Greenberg of the Contemporary Jewish Museum,  Idris Ackamoor of Cultural Odyssey (pictured at the top of this post), San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Sandra Lee Fewer, and Jonathan Moscone of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Crowd at SF Arts Advocacy Day[Image: Arts supporters fill the space in front of San Francisco City Hall.]

There was a good-sized crowd for the event, no doubt helped by the warm, sunny weather. Unfortunately the sound system was not hooked up until halfway through, so many attendees probably could not hear the first few speakers. The small speaker that was eventually turned on appeared to be same one used at the Day Without a Woman rally earlier this month;  hopefully groups like this can get funding for better sound support in the future. A public comment session at the Board of Supervisors meeting followed the rally, but I did not stick around for that.

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

Stardew Valley: Fun and food for thought

[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley farm in fall of year 4, featuring a giant pumpkin.]

I mentioned in a recent post that I had been thoroughly engrossed in the game Stardew Valley. After five weeks and five virtual years in the valley, I put my current save file on hold, as I felt 201 hours of gameplay was a bit too much escapism. In some respects though, this experience has helped me reconnect with other real-life human beings, as forming relationships—both platonic and romantic—is a core feature of the game.

Stardew Valley greenhouse[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s greenhouse in Stardew Valley, year 5, featuring starfruit and ancient fruit.]

Farming crops is the feature that drew me to Stardew Valley, however. I had previously enjoyed playing Farmville, for reasons I explained in my post about my most popular Flickr photos, and I’ve done lots of gardening in The Sims as well. I’ve tried my hand at real-life gardening, but after three years of volunteer work I concluded that I have neither aptitude for nor enjoyment of this hobby, sadly.

Stardew Valley cellar[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s wine cellar.]

In this game, after struggling through learning the mechanics (which were quite different from other games I played), I turned to amassing a virtual fortune by making wine and jelly from the two highest-grossing crops, starfruit and ancient fruit. Having a shed full of kegs and a cellar full of casks is pretty amusing for a teetotaler like myself, but unlike animal products, I have no moral objection to alcohol.

Stardew Valley chicken coop[Image: Screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley coop, with Quackers, Snackers, Bella, Midnight, and Galla.]

Raising animals is a featured part of Stardew Valley. Like most activities in this open-ended game, raising animals is optional, but one most players indulge in to acquire animal products such as eggs and milk, for cooking and for achieving collection goals. The sole developer, Eric Barone (also known by his handle “ConcernedApe”), is a vegetarian, and decided not to allow slaughtering of farmed animals in the game, offering this explanation in an interview with Vulture:

Beta testers had asked Barone to include a feature that enabled users to butcher their animals and harvest the meat, and he listened to them at first, but in the end he couldn’t bring himself to include the mechanic. “I didn’t want to have that sort of violence. You give the animals names, pet them, and a little heart goes above their head and stuff, and then you butcher them?” he said. “It just felt wrong. It didn’t jibe with the feeling I was going for with the game, so I cut that, and I don’t regret it.”

Stardew Valley newborn pig[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s barn in Stardew Valley, featuring information about newborn pig Sorpresa. (So-named because she was a surprise birth; I thought I had disabled pregnancy on her parents.)]

As a vegan playing a version of myself in this save file, I did not prepare or consume any dishes containing animal products. Even though it’s just a game, since becoming an activist (for human as well as animal rights), my pacifism has influenced my virtual activities. I did decide to share my farm with some animals as if i were running a sanctuary. In a real vegan animal sanctuary, however, the chickens’ eggs would be fed back to them, and the goats and cows would not produce milk unless they were pregnant.

More importantly, on real farms, even free-range and backyard operations, the overwhelming majority of male chicks are killed shortly after hatching, and the overwhelming majority of egg- and milk-producing animals are killed once they are “spent”. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has more detailed information on the “Humane Myth” which leads many (if not most) US-Americans to believe that idyllic settings like Stardew Valley, where farmed animals can live out their natural lifespans in comfort and happiness, could actually exist. I’m not blaming Barone for reinforcing these myths, I just want more people to be aware of them.

Although farmed animals are not slaughtered in the valley, fishing is another key feature of the game. To me, fishing is merely aquatic hunting; fishes are sentient like land animals, and octopuses, one of the sea animals that can be caught, are particularly intelligent. I avoided fishing completely in the game until I realized that I might not be able to finish one of the key goals (repairing and re-opening the Community Center) without it. I ended up turning all of the fish that I didn’t need for that purpose into fertilizer, which is in line with how most crops, even those consumed by vegans, are grown. (Veganic farming is a viable option, but not widely practiced at this time.)

Combat is another feature of the game, which is difficult to avoid if one is to make any progress in the mines, a rich source of gems and ores for crafting and upgrading equipment. I justified fighting with the rationalization that the enemies in the mines are hostile imaginary monsters, unlike the fishes who are just peacefully going about their lives when they are yanked out of the water. If and when I start a new game, I will likely choose the farm map that comes with a small mining area, so I can start that activity immediately without so much killing.

Getting back to human relationships: This game is surprisingly deep in that regard. Dialogue with the villagers explores themes including alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide. I remember one moment in the game where I was elated that I acquired a needed item for the community center and was rushing to deposit it, when I suddenly got a cutscene with a character who was had passed out drunk and was seriously contemplating jumping off the edge of a cliff. This was a good wake-up call and reminder that the developer intended players to focus on issues beyond earning money and completing game milestones.

Stardew Valley - Elliott[Image: A screenshot of dialogue from Elliott, Pax’s spouse in Stardew Valley.]

Stardew Valley is home to a dozen eligible bachelor/ettes, all of whom are open to same-sex as well as opposite-sex relationships (there are no non-binary characters, unsurprisingly). Elliott, a long-haired artistic type, was my natural choice for marriage, as he reminded me of my real-life spouse Ziggy (though Ziggy doesn’t use so much flowery language). They even both play the piano, though sadly Elliott did not bring his along when he moved into my farmhouse. Romance and marriage, like most other game activities, are not required for advancement, and neither is having children, which I didn’t see a point to as they don’t grow beyond the toddler stage. (Same-sex couples can adopt.)

Stardew Valley farm in winter[Image: A screenshot of Pax’s Stardew Valley farm on the final day of winter, year 5.]

Overall, I’m very happy with the Stardew Valley experience. It’s an incredibly detailed world, and particularly impressive considering one man, Eric Barone, created all of the art, music, dialogue, and every other aspect of the game. The animal farming and fishing aspects raise important ethical questions, but I would still not hesitate to recommend this game to others, including vegans. While I am now, slowly, attempting to spend more time outside of my apartment, socializing with others (I just rejoined the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco after a three-year absence), I’m sure I will return to Stardew Valley for further adventures.

ETA: You can now see more detailed information on my farm here.

Day Without a Woman

[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for A Day Without a Woman.]

Yesterday I attended a rally at San Francisco City Hall for A Day Without a Woman, an event created by Women’s March organizers to coincide with International Women’s Day. The peaceful gathering included an hour of speakers, starting with an invocation from Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman), who reminded us that we were standing on Ohlone land.

Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) [Image: Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Several of the speakers were from the currently majority-female San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including board president London Breed and board members Katy Tang, Hillary Ronen, and Sandra Lee Fewer.

London Breed at Day Without a Woman[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Katy Tang at Day Without a Woman[Image: Katy Tang, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

While it was great to see representation from women of color in high positions, this event has been criticized for focusing on the mostly-white women who are privileged enough to take the day off. In that respect, it was good that one of the speakers was Maria Trujilo, a Latina janitor from SEIU United Service Workers West. Unfortunately, I could only see her translator when Maria was at the podium, as the sound monitor was lifted up there in an (unsuccessful) attempt to boost the volume, blocking many of the subsequent speakers from view. I did manage to catch a photo of Maria and the next speaker, Maya Malika from Refuse Fascism, off to the side.

Maria Trujilo and Maya Malika at Day Without a Woman[Image: Maria Trujilo of SEIU United Service Workers West raises her fist. Next to her is Maya Malika of Refuse Fascism.]

Other than the sound problems and lack of ASL translation, the event was successful, with a turnout of over a thousand people. The beautiful sunny weather (in contrast to the pouring rain on the weekend of the Women’s March) no doubt helped, though I’m sure many women who would have liked to attend were unable to leave work, childcare, or other duties.

Women in red at Day Without a Woman[Image: A woman and young girl, both dressed in red, sit on the steps of City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Crowd at Day Without a Woman[Image: The crowd at Day Without a Woman fills the sidewalk and street next to San Francisco City Hall.]

Day Without a Woman attendees[Image: Day Without a Woman attendees hold a sign reading “Not a paid protester – If I were would I make 78 cents for every $1 too?”]

I’ve posted my full set of photos of the event to Flickr. I’ve also posted some of the photos to Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Quietly overwhelmed

I’ve been pretty quiet online this month for a number of reasons.

I still haven’t adjusted to the fact that over 60 million of my fellow US-Americans elected Donald Trump to be our president. I cannot look at that man’s face on my computer or television screen without feeling dismay and sinking despair. Attending and photographing protest after protest has not really done anything to help address these feelings.

I am also having personal difficulties regarding gender transition and other issues. Most of these issues are not really new from what I’ve blogged about in the past. Though there have been a number of trans-related developments in the news that I could write about, these tend to depress me further as they are mostly negative. (ETA: OK, “mostly negative” is probably an overstatement, but the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of guidance that provided protections for trans students looms largest in my mind.)

Regardless, I don’t feel much like blogging when I don’t get much feedback on my posts. But if I turn comments back on or resume posting on Facebook, I will subject myself to harassment and micro-aggressions that I’m not equipped to handle right now. I’m not talking about genuine criticism, but racist and trans-antagonistic attacks.

I have still been active on Wikipedia at least, contributing several articles to this month’s Black Women Online Editathon. I’ve also submitted a proposal for the annual Wikimania conference, taking place in Montreal this August. I’ve switched my DuoLingo language preference to French to try to pick up a bit of that language before visiting the Francophone province of Quebec.

But mostly, I’ve been overwhelmed and trying to escape the world with television and video games. After finishing watching every episode of The Jeffersons, I began watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show after that actress died last month. And after growing bored and frustrated with the bugs in the latest version of The Sims, I started playing a new game, Stardew Valley, which I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in for the last two weeks. I might blog about it from an animal rights perspective at some point.

So I am still alive, but not well. Although I’ve turned off comments, I am still reachable by e-mail if anyone would like to send a friendly note.

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