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.

Social justice mages head to Washington

[Image: Banner reading “Interspecies & Intersectional Justice – Animal Rights, Human Rights, Just Society, Healthy Planet.” Animal footprints – non-human and human – adorn the sides of the banner.]

Tomorrow Ziggy and I are heading to Whidbey Island in Washington State for the Intersectional Justice Conference that I’ve been writing about. I’m excited about this event, and especially looking forward to meeting Aph Ko and Christopher-Sebastian McJetters*, whose work I’ve linked to frequently.

As much as I’m looking forward to this weekend, regular readers of my blog know that my mind is heavy lately, and the current political climate does nothing to assuage it. Mainstream news channels are covering “Terror in Brussels” 24/7, a level of concern not expressed for the victims of recent attacks in Istanbul, Ankara, and the Ivory Coast. Republican presidential candidates are calling for closing our borders and patrolling Muslim neighborhoods.

The same sort of conservatives who are predisposed to Islamophobia are introducing bill after bill to dehumanize trans people. After efforts in South Dakota and Tennessee** were thwarted, North Carolina joined the list of states attempting to force people to use restrooms matching their “biological sex” (wasting a great deal of taxpayer money in the process). Meanwhile, Ziggy and I will be arriving at the airport two hours before our scheduled (domestic) flight tomorrow, because the TSA treats trans people as potential terrorists.

Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and cissexism are all prevalent in animal rights and vegan messaging, and will be among the topics discussed at the Whidbey conference. Vegans and non-vegans alike often derisively label folks who care about these issues as “social justice warriors.” As I’m a pacifist, I like activist vlogger Kat Blaque’s comeback to this charge: “I’m a social justice mage.”

I likely won’t be blogging again until after the conference, though I’ll still review and approve comments if I have time. I believe the presentations will be filmed (though not live-streamed), so hopefully those who cannot attend in person can watch them later. There will be an official photographer, so I’m not planning on taking many photos, but I will post any good ones that Ziggy and I take for sure. Here’s to a successful conference!

* Whose arm I will be gently and lovingly twisting until he agrees to set up a web site of his own to host all of his brilliant writings. I hate linking to Facebook!

**After posting this entry, I learned that the anti-trans bill in Tennessee has not yet been killed. I wish I could say I’m surprised.

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!

Spring renewal

[Image: Pax stands in a park with a finishing ribbon and their fingers in a “V” sign. Several people in colorful running clothes and the Golden Gate Bridge are in the background. Photo by Ziggy.]

Content note: Discussion of health, fitness, and medical issues.

Happy Vernal Equinox! Today, when the hours of light overtake the hours of darkness, is my personal New Year. Normally I like to take a few minutes starting at the exact moment of the equinox to bear witness to the change of season, but this year’s came unusually early (March 19 at 9:30 p.m. PDT) and I missed it. I used to try to have a short observance of each of the quarters, a holdover from my brief exploration of neopaganism, but in recent years I’m satisfied if I can just remember the Spring time.

I celebrated by running a 10K race with my running club, which I was very much inclined to skip, as I’ve done very little running this year, and none at all in the past two weeks. But Ziggy (who can’t run for a few weeks due to injury) cajoled me with the promise of pancakes served with the huckleberry syrup he brought back from his recent trip to Montana. (I usually prefer oatmeal – I’ve really been getting into steel-cut oats made on the porridge setting of our new rice cooker – but if someone else does the cooking and cleanup, I’m not normally going to refuse a pancake brunch.)

I’m really frustrated with my continued inability to do something that is not only good for me, but (usually) feels good while I’m doing it. Dysphoria plays a significant part, as I’ve mentioned frequently, especially at races like this where I’m very likely to be misgendered at the registration table. But today, fortunately, I was handed the correct (“male”) race tag. I didn’t talk with anyone else at the event (other than Ziggy, who arrived shortly after I finished and snapped the photo at the top of this post), so I managed to get through the race and home again without being triggered.

I’m aware that depression is also a major part of my inability to maintain a regular exercise schedule, or in fact leave the apartment on a regular basis at all at this point. Despite my holistically-oriented doctor and (now-former) therapist both recommending drugs or other medical interventions, I’m still not willing to go that route again. I’m dismayed enough to be dependent on this country’s health care system for my testosterone injections, which I’ll (likely) need for the rest of my life; I don’t want to add another prescription to that if I can possibly avoid it, especially since the last psychiatric drug I tried face-planted me on the sidewalk with a tonic-clonic (“grand mal”) seizure.

Part of coping with depression and dysphoria requires separating the things I can control from those I can’t. Therapy was helping with this somewhat, but ultimately – after a period of years, not weeks or months – my therapist felt he really couldn’t help me any further with talk sessions alone. I respected this, but felt frustrated that I could not adequately convey the impact of the cissexism, racism, and other oppression in the world that has made me feel more and more vulnerable and helpless the more I become aware of it. I don’t want to just take a drug that will lull me into complacency.

I spent many years being complacent, largely due to ignorance; now that I’ve seen more of the world for what it is, I don’t feel I can ever go back to that state. My activism might be limited mostly to blogging right now, but at least it’s something. Speaking at the Intersectional Justice Conference this coming weekend will also be worthwhile. I just wish I had a way to spread my messages more effectively without compromising my values or mental health.

As I prepared to head out to the race this morning, Ziggy said he was proud of me. I said, “Don’t be.” I meant that because I don’t consider running 6.2 miles at a non-competitive pace to be an accomplishment for someone at my fitness level. But I should have accepted the compliment, because what was significant was not that I was running a race of this distance – regardless of my finishing time – but that I was leaving the apartment voluntarily, for an event I didn’t have to sign up for in advance, and where no one would be there waiting for me. I’ve made very, very few commitments lately because I don’t like letting people down, but I seem to have no problem letting myself down, over and over again.

I know I’m capable of doing more, or should be. Yesterday I watched a movie that I’d had in my Netflix queue for some time, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the book of the same name by a man with locked-in syndrome who communicated solely by blinking his left eyelid. Through my growing awareness of ableism I know that disabled people resent being “inspiration porn,” so I’m not going to say that this movie gave me renewed faith in the indomitable human spirit and that I have no excuse not to live life to its fullest and yadda yadda yadda. But it did make me feel grateful that I (currently) have the full use of my limbs, even if my brain makes it difficult for me to get motivated enough to get out of my chair.

Will I be able to renew myself this year? I can’t see going on like this. I’m only 46 years old, but I feel each day like I just want to hurry up and get my life over with. That’s no way to live.

Black and brown unity against police impunity

[Image: Activist Benjamin Bac Sierra speaks at a podium on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. Next to him, another activist wears a shirt reading “Justice for Alex Nieto – Strike Out Police Brutality.” Another holds a banner partially reading “Justice 4 All”,  with an image of the police chief crossed out in red.]

Yesterday I went to San Francisco City Hall to attend a rally against police violence. Hosted by the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, Justice for Alex Nieto, and Justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, this press conference was called in the wake of the jury verdict exonerating the police officers who killed Alex Nieto in 2014. To literally add insult to injury, one of the cleared officers made a callous post on Facebook in response to the verdict.

Rally at SF City Hall[Image: An activist sits on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, holding a sign reading “Children what do you want to be when you grow-up – Alive!”]

Rally at SF City Hall[Image: An activist sits in front of the steps at San Francisco City Hall, holding a sign reading “Justice for Mario Woods Coalition.”]

Rally against police violence[Image: Activists hold signs and banners on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, with the images and names of Amilcar Perez Lopez, Alex Nieto, and Mario Woods.]

The rally was well-attended, with a diverse crowd of people holding signs protesting police killings. Banners called for the firing or resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Gregory Suhr, an independent investigation, and murder charges for all involved officers.

Rally against police violence[Image: Minister Christopher Muhammad speaks at a podium on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.]

Among the speakers were several ministers. Minister Christopher Muhammad pointed out that these racist killings are taking place in a Democratic city; “that’s not Mayor Trump.” He repeatedly called on “Mister and Miss Democrat” to hold our elected officials responsible. Both Muhammed and Archibishop King (who I’d met previously at the Reclaim MLK rally at Coltrane Church) called on black elected officials to speak out against police impunity. (Latino supervisors John Avalos and David Campos both spoke at the rally.)

Rally against police violence[Image: Elvira Nieto, mother of Alex Nieto, speaks at a podium on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.]

Elvira and Refugio Nieto, the parents of Alex Nieto, both attended the rally. Elvira spoke in Spanish, with another activist providing translation. Her words and determination provided a moving reminder of the real impact of police killings. After the press conference, many of the activists headed inside City Hall, but I did not attend that portion of the event.

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

Honey is for bees, not vegans

[Image: A honeybee perches on a red flowering plant with waxy leaves.]

Honey is a perennial topic of debate among vegans. On the face of it, whether or not to eat honey should be a simple matter: Bees make honey, bees are animals, vegans avoid exploiting animals to the extent possible, eating honey is avoidable, therefore vegans should not eat honey. Yet many vegans continue to rationalize that eating the food made by these amazing animals is consistent with vegan ethics.

I know, because I was one of those vegans myself. From 2011 to 2014, I called myself vegan because I did not consume any flesh, dairy, or eggs. But I still occasionally ate honey, mostly in products like bread. When asked about it, normally by people who were not vegan and had no interest in animal rights or welfare, I gave various excuses, but eventually admitted that I just couldn’t get all that worked up about the plight of bees.

Even then, I knew that eating an animal product was inconsistent with a vegan diet, but I didn’t yet see animals as people, not property. In addition to eating honey, I still used some animal-derived clothing and other products, and visited a zoo once or twice. I stopped doing all of that, to the extent possible, when I became an animal rights activist in 2014. I could no longer justify exploiting any animal – including insects – if I could reasonably avoid it.

I’m bringing this up now because I read a recent article by KD Angle-Traegner about additional reasons to avoid honey; namely, the use of honey in animal testing. The same author had previously posted a more comprehensive guide about the problems with honey, which I recommend reading, as it addresses many common questions and objections. Whether you’re vegan or not, having additional information on this subject cannot hurt; it’s troublesome, though not surprising, that the author notes that many people have unfollowed her on social media just for posting about honey. (If you’re tempted to do the same to me, go ahead; I don’t self-censor to get more “likes.”)

The timing of this article’s publication was fortuitous because I’ve been watching the series Inside Man by Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) on Netflix, and had just gotten up to the episode where he investigated honey and bee colony collapse. I like Spurlock’s documentary style, but as with other episodes of this series where he’s covered issues involving our fellow animals, it was difficult for me to watch because of the overt speciesism. To the commercial beekeepers Spurlock worked with (more for pollination services than for honey), these animals were nothing but mindless automatons, and when they died off in massive numbers, the only mourning was for the loss of income. Even the smaller beekeepers he visited actually hunted and captured wild bees to breed them with their existing “stock.”

Whether on a large or small scale, to me, beekeeping is forced labor, indistinguishable from dairy or egg farming. Bees make honey and royal jelly to feed themselves, not humans. The fact that bee pollination is responsible for a large portion of the plants we eat just makes it even more unfair to take their food away from them. If large-scale agriculture cannot be sustained without commercial beekeeping, that’s just more evidence to me that humans are taking up far too much space on this planet.

While I do not consider eating honey to be compatible with veganism, my point of writing this post is not to shame people who call themselves vegans despite eating honey; as I said, I was once one of those people myself. My goal is to provide information about animal exploitation so that people can make informed decisions about what products and services they buy. While I have no authority on who merits the title of “vegan,” I expect that if I buy a food or other product that is labeled “vegan” at a grocery store or restaurant, it should not contain honey, pollen, royal jelly, or beeswax. These are animal products, period.

Bees are remarkable, hard-working animals. Let them keep the product of their labor.

Gender-neutral shopping fantasy

Today, artist Sophie Labelle, the author of Assigned Male who I featured in my International Women’s Day round-up, posted a link to a Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls comic which  perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with so-called gender-neutral fashion. In short, gender-neutrality and androgyny are typically associated with female-assigned people wearing conventionally masculine clothing. Some formalwear shops have launched that cater to transmasculine people, but non-binary femmes are pretty much invisible.

As for me being agender has nothing to do with fashion, the discussion on Labelle’s page got me thinking about what kind of clothing or department store would make me feel welcome. As I’ve mentioned I absolutely hate going shopping, especially now that I’m faced with exclusion and erasure everywhere I go, so a truly gender-neutral shopping environment would be a welcoming space for people like me.

Such a store might feature:

  • Clothing separated into categories, not genders. i.e., pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, underwear, casual/formal, kids/adults
  • Handy size conversion charts (i.e., U.S. women’s shoe size 8 = men’s size 6.5 = European size 39)
  • Model photos and mannequins representing diverse body shapes and races
  • Gender-neutral single-occupancy restrooms and dressing rooms
  • Staff trained to say “May I help you?” and “Thank you, have a good day” without adding “Ma’am,” “Miss,” or “Sir” to these sentences
  • Staff trained not to read a customer’s name out loud off of their credit card or ID at checkout (important to respect privacy and avoid outing stealth trans people)
  • Bulletin board or table spotlighting local resources for trans people

You get the general idea. It would be so nice to walk into a clothing store that didn’t segregate merchandise into Men’s and Women’s, with no acknowledgement that non-binary people also exist.

New site for atheism and social justice

Today, Greta Christina, one of the women I featured in my International Women’s Day post, announced her new blogging home on The Orbit, a site dedicated to atheism and social justice. As with animal rights and veganism, the atheist movement has a lot of sexist, racist, and otherwise oppressive messaging, which Greta and other feminist bloggers have been fighting against for years. A site created by and for atheists who care about social justice is a welcome development.

As I’ve written previously, I’ve been an atheist for 30 years – it’s my longest-standing identity – but atheism isn’t currently a high priority for my activism. It’s still important to me, however, and I’m always glad to see others writing about atheism in a non-oppressive way. Despite our theoretical separation of church and state, the USA is a very religious country, and being a nonbeliever can be challenging or even life-threatening in some communities. Atheists who are already facing discrimination on the basis of their skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other factors especially need safe spaces within the skeptic movement.

So check out The Orbit, and whatever your feelings on religion, please make space for those who don’t share your privileges.*

* Obligatory note/reminder: I’m no longer with DxE (and neither are several others in the montage on my post about privileges), but the main content of that post still holds true.

Climate of hatred and fear

I have witnessed or read of a number of cissexist micro- (and macro-) aggressions lately that have bothered me to the point that I’m just going to spill them all out.

  • Since Caitlyn Jenner – a rich white conservative Republican woman – has made statements that she likes Ted Cruz and that Donald Trump would be “very good for women’s issues,” cissexist people who (understandably) hate her views have misgendered and deadnamed her in response. Many of these people likely consider themselves to be liberal or even progressive, yet think it’s OK to strip someone they don’t like of their authentic identity.
  • Since filmmaker Lilly Wachowski was harassed into outing by The Daily Mail, Chelsea Manning has come forward to say that she too was outed without her permission. This hit me especially hard as I announced my own transition the day after I learned about Manning’s, and didn’t realize at the time that she was not consulted about the timing of her own revelation.
  • In a recent conversation with a US-American woman who had lived in India for several years, I mentioned that the country was the first to grant legal recognition to non-binary people: The hijra. (Though I noted the sad irony of a country being progressive on trans issues while still criminalizing homosexuality.) The woman spoke of hijras positively, but referred to them as “men dressed as women.” I explained that they are not men, they are hijras; that was, in fact, the point of the law recognizing them as a “third gender.” She said that she meant “genitally.” I knew she didn’t mean any harm, but I was very upset by this all-too-common statement of biological essentialism.

During the question period of the talk with Julia Serano this week, I asked her how we could best counter transphobic bathroom bills. I mentioned that I used the word “transphobic” rather than “cissexist” here consciously, because these legislators are creating a climate of hatred and fear, specifically to paint trans women as sexual predators. She seemed optimistic, especially in the wake of the South Dakota veto, that cis people are starting to “get” trans people, and push back against this discrimination. I am not so sure.

Since the year 2013, not a day has gone by that the gender binary has not been foremost on my mind.  If you’re cis, I hope you appreciate what a privilege it is to be able to ignore it.

Julia Serano and trans activism

[Image: Julia Serano speaks at the GLBT History Museum, San Francisco.]

Last night I attended a talk by Julia Serano at the GLBT History Museum for the launch of the second edition of her classic book, Whipping Girl. I’ve written previously about this book, and how grateful I am to Serano for introducing me to the concept of “subconscious sex,” which finally explained the feelings I have about my own identity. Her book is an excellent read for anyone interested in gender theory, but of particular relevance to trans women, as the subtitle, “A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity,” indicates.

Serano read from the preface to the new edition, the main text of which is largely unchanged from the first. A lot has changed for trans people since she first published the book in 2007, however, as she pointed out. She’s kept her web site updated with a number of essays, one of which I linked to in my post celebrating International Women’s Day earlier this week.

Part of my motivation for attending this talk was to take a photo to replace the old, not-particularly-good one on Serano’s Wikipedia page. As a Wikipedia editor I’m always trying to improve trans and non-binary coverage on that platform, and frequently running into frustrations dealing with cis-privileged editors and vandalism. Taking newer and (hopefully) better photos is one way I can improve trans pages without (hopefully) inciting controversy.

Besides Serano, so far I’ve added photos of Ryan Cassata (musician and activist),  Monica Helms (designer of the transgender pride flag), Willy Wilkinson (writer and health care activist), CeCe McDonald (public speaker and activist), S. Bear Bergman (writer and performer), and, though she already had good photos on Wikipedia, actress Laverne Cox. I’ll continue to be on the lookout for local trans-focused events to shoot, as my energy levels and health allow.

The full set of my photos from last night is available on Flickr. As always, please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!