Tag Archives: photography

System working as intended

[Image: Protesters speak at a Refuse Fascism rally in Union Square, San Francisco.]

Today’s post on Medium, “System working as intended“, contains photos from the November 4 Refuse Fascism protest in San Francisco (full set here) and thoughts on politics, religion, violence, and the need for a peaceful revolution.

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

Presenting at Inclusivity Conference

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

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


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

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

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

Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war

[Image: Protesters, led by Sunsara Taylor of Refuse Fascism, kneel with raised signs and fists.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war“, has photos and thoughts on freedom of speech and Berkeley Free Speech Week. My full set of photos from Sunday’s protest in Berkeley is 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.

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!

No human being is illegal

[Image: Protesters at a DACA rally hold signs and banners in support of the “dreamers”.]

On Tuesday evening my partner Ziggy and I joined hundreds of demonstrators outside the San Francisco Federal Building in protest of the rescission of DACA, President Obama’s executive order that protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Rescinding this order was one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, so the development was not exactly a surprise. But it was cowardly of Trump to send Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to make the actual announcement, while Trump professed his “love” for the “dreamers” he seeks to send back to countries that many of them don’t even remember.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal / No Human Being Is Illegal”.]

By the time I read the news on Tuesday, protests were already happening in cities throughout the country, including Washington D.C., Denver, and outside the Trump Tower in New York. Though I’ve grown weary of attending anti-Trump protests, I thought it was important for me to come to this one, to add my body and voice to the huge opposition to this move. It’s politically motivated, cruel, racist (the majority of those affected came from Mexico), and serves no positive purpose, to national security or anything else.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds signs in English and Spanish.]

The rally began outside the Federal Building, but soon spilled into the street. There was some confusion as organizers were only using a megaphone at first, but eventually we made our way (flocked by many police officers, as well as safety monitors in orange vests) to a makeshift stage with proper speakers (which Ziggy helped adjust briefly). I couldn’t get close enough to get decent photos of those speaking, but powerful words and songs were shared, with at least one speaker breaking down in tears.

DACA rally[Image: Protesters fill the intersection of Seventh and Mission.]

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Dreams Are Not Illegal”.]

We left while the rally was still ongoing; the protesters later marched to City Hall. A great turnout from a city that thrives thanks to the contribution of immigrants.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign in several languages reading “‘We the People’ Are All Immigrants”.]

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

Connecting with Wikipedians at Wikimania

[Image: Wikimania panelists discuss movement strategy during the Wikimedia 2030 keynote.]

Last week Ziggy and I traveled to Montreal to attend Wikimania 2017, the 13th annual international conference for editors and users of Wikipedia and related Wikmedia projects. My trip expenses were funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation via Whose Knowledge?, a campaign to improve the representation of marginalized people on the Internet. It was great to connect in person with more members of this group.Wikimania Whose Knowledge panel[Image: A panel of Whose Knowledge? members at Wikimania: Michael Connolly Miskwish, Stan Rodriguez, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, and Anasuya Sengupta.]

Siko of Whose Knowledge[Image: Siko Bouterse presents on the Whose Knowledge panel.]

Sadly, a fair number of people were denied visas by Canada for this event, and this included several Whose Knowledge members. One of them, Azra Causevic, joined the presentation by live video link.

Pax and Sydney at Wikimania[Image: Pax speaks with Community Advocate Sydney Poore following Pax’s presentation on harassment. Photo by Ziggy.]

I gave a talk during the WikiConference North America pre-conference to the main Wikimania event. As I blogged about previously, my presentation, Facing Defacement, described my efforts to combat harassment of users on the English Wikipedia. The talk was well-received, and I connected with several members of the Wikimedia Foundation anti-harassment team, who I hope to work with in the future.

Aside from my presentation, my proudest moment from the trip was confronting the president of the ACLU, Susan Herman, who gave one of the keynote speeches. As freedom of speech was a major topic of study for me in college, I was right with her up until she started discussing the controversy over the scheduled appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley. Herman referred to “echo chambers” and students only wanting to hear from people who thought just like they did.

As I’ve written previously, as a member of multiple marginalized groups, the phrase “echo chamber” causes me great irritation for a number of reasons. For the purpose of brevity in Herman’s Q/A session (which was already running overtime), I said that speaking as a black trans person, people like myself have felt targeted and threatened, particularly since the November 2016 presidential election. I argued that a university that championed gender and racial diversity and aimed to provide a place of relative safety for their students should not be obligated to welcome this speaker inside their halls (as opposed to allowing him to speak outside, in the true “public square”).  You can watch my response (and her reply) starting at 1:16:43 in the video.

It’s sadly ironic that the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, during which a domestic terrorist (“allegedly”) killed activist Heather Heyer with his car, happened on the same day as this talk. The neo-Nazi apologism from Donald Trump in response to this rally has raised my stress level to the point of physical illness (compounded by the stress associated with the international trip, and the subsequent, unrelated terrorism in Barcelona). There is a difference between supporting free speech and supporting incitement to violence.

Cute plushie[Image: A representative from the Cuteness Association sits on a table on the main stage.]

The trip wasn’t all stressful, however. I enjoyed connecting with people from all over the world and learning useful information, such as how to nominate photos for quality status on Wikimedia Commons. While I felt too worn-down and overwhelmed to explore Montreal beyond a four-block radius of the hotel, Ziggy spent plenty of time out and about in the city.  Going through security and customs at both airports also went smoothly, which was a relief.  I hope that I will eventually become more comfortable with traveling so that I can attend more conferences like this.

My photos from WikiConference North America and Wikimania are available on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Marching for impeachment

[Image: Protesters at the Impeachment March hold banners reading “impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org”.]

Yesterday I attended yet another anti-Trump protest, the Impeachment March. Held in cities throughout the country, the San Francisco contingent gathered in Justin Herman Plaza for a rally before marching along the Embarcadero, a nice change from the usual Market Street processions.

Impeachment March protester[Image: A protester at the Impeachment March stands with raised fist.]

The tone and crowd makeup appeared similar to what I witnessed at the March for Truth: Not many black folks; a number of people sporting American flags; shout-out of thanks to the police from the stage. That’s OK, but I’ve felt better about rallies that were more radical and/or openly socialist in nature.

Julia Brothers[Image: Julia Brothers speaks at the Impeachment March.]

The featured speakers were designer and actor DC Scarpelli, Alameda city councilperson Jim Oddie, activist Sita Stukes,  and actress Julia Brothers. ASL interpretation was provided. The sound quality was decent (though I wore earplugs as always).

Impeachment March protesters[Image: Protesters at the Impeachment March hold various signs.]

I’ve now attended about a dozen anti-Trump protests since the election. I’m feeling… not burnout exactly, as I haven’t spent a great deal of time or energy compared to the organizers of these rallies, but generally demoralized. I think the administration is just laughing at us while the bigot-in-chief tweets away any semblance of dignity or responsibility in serving the highest elected position in our country. It feels like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from.

Impeachment March[Image: The Impeachment March proceeds along the Embarcadero.]

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

TransAction: Trans Writing as Activism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride and protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My full sets of photos from the Trans March and the Pride Parade are available on Flickr. Some are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside photos from other contributors. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

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.