Tag Archives: lgbtqia

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!

Confronting white supremacy

[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Fuck white supremacy” and “End white supremacy”.]

On Saturday I joined thousands of counter-protesters in San Francisco battling back against Patriot Prayer, a group of Donald Trump supporters who planned to hold a “free speech” rally in the city that weekend. The group claims they are not white supremacists and not racist as they have some people of color in their ranks, but as this Medium article explains, they are still oppressors. They wield their idea of free speech as a weapon against marginalized people who are not on an equal playing field, and their outspoken support of Trump validates his racism, sexism, and neo-Nazi apologism.

The rally was originally scheduled to be held in Crissy Field, a familiar destination for my longer runs. Once the park service granted a permit (which was highly controversial), police prepared with a long list of restrictions on what could be brought into the park, to the point of banning liquids other than water in factory-sealed bottles. Public transit was also rerouted, and parking restricted. Between the restrictions and denouncements from Mayor Ed Lee and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the group decided the day before the rally to cancel their plans, and announced they’d be holding a press conference (without a permit) in Alamo Square Park instead.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Queer protesters gather in the Panhandle in preparation for the march to Alamo Square.]

With this new information, I headed to the nearby Panhandle of Golden Gate Park to meet up with a “queer resistance” group and march to the Alamo. Other demonstrations against Patriot Prayer were being held throughout the city, including a music and dance party at City Hall and a rally and march in the Castro.

When I had mentioned to a (gay male) friend a couple of days prior that I was tentatively planning to head to the site of the right-wing rally, he tried to talk me out of it, for safety reasons. I countered that I had attended over a dozen demonstrations since the election, and wasn’t sure that any of them had made a difference. But after seeing thousands of people shut down a similar “free speech” rally in Boston, I felt that joining those confronting these oppressors was worth the risk. I was also convinced by a fellow trans activist of color, Gwen Park, who urged all those physically and emotionally able to do so to meet in one location rather than spread out throughout the city. Another activist friend, Saryta Rodriguez, was visiting me that week and also wanted to attend, providing additional motivation.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Queer Jew Against White Supremacy” and “Queer Jew 4 Intersectional Liberation”.]

Upon arriving at the gathering spot on Saturday, I learned that Alamo Square Park had been completely fenced in by the police, with only documented residents allowed to enter. Patriot Prayer announced they would now hold their press conference in an undisclosed, indoor location. We decided to march to the park anyway, where we joined up with thousands of other demonstrators. We had some fun chants along the way, including “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us” and “If you’re a Nazi and you’re fired, it’s your fault.”

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold up a Workers World Party banner reading “Make Racists Afraid Again – Smash White Supremacy”.]

Outside the park, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition called for a sit-down in the street, and hosted several speakers. The number of speakers was a bit excessive, and some of us were getting antsy in the mid-day heat. Eventually we resumed marching, ending up in the Mission. I was unhappy with some of the marchers thanking the police who were guarding the park, and more unhappy with other marchers taunting the police who walked alongside us. I preferred to keep my distance from the police officers and try to ignore them as much as possible.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters march in the street, holding various signs and banners.]

Patriot Prayer wound up having their press conference in nearby Pacifica, then returning to the city to meet with individuals at Crissy Field and other locations, under heavy police presence. Reporter Dan Noyes of ABC 7 News was accompanying them and live-tweeting their moves,  which I wasn’t thrilled with even though I suppose it was under the guise of objective journalism. In any case, I was already home by the time I learned of the group’s return, and did not venture out again. I did not wish to speak with or otherwise confront these people face-to-face myself; I only wanted to join a large, peaceful demonstration against white supremacy, racism, and fascism.

Another counter-protest was held in Berkeley the following day, which I did not attend. I was glad that I stayed home when I learned that black bloc counter-protesters chased and pepper-sprayed some Trump supporters there, during an otherwise mostly peaceful demonstration. I realize that some (perhaps many) progressives feel that pacifism is unwarranted or even foolish in the face of oppression, and I am sympathetic to their views. But I am still personally opposed to physical confrontation, with the exception of immediate self-defense. Punching Nazis with words instead of fists might or might not be the most effective tactic in the long run, but I will not engage in violence if I can possibly help it; naming myself Pax Ahimsa was my pledge and constant reminder to be peaceful and avoid causing harm.

My photos from the protest are 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.

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.

One year on, the pulse continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Some of my photos are also on Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks.

On restrooms and allyship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!