Fed up, still voting

[Image: Rainbow and American flags.]

I am disgusted but not entirely surprised that the major news networks have already crowned Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee, on the eve of tomorrow’s six-state primary.

I am disgusted not because I support Bernie Sanders; I don’t. As I’ve repeated numerous times in this blog, I am registered with no political party and support no mainstream candidates. And if it’s not obvious from my several posts on the subject, I also do not support the disruptions and hyperbolic criticism of Bernie Sanders by Direct Action Everywhere and Collectively Free.

I’m disgusted at the capitalist machine that grooms and propels candidates who support the status quo to victory. And as I’ve said before, I’m simply fed up with the two-party system and the expectation that as a progressive, I have a duty to play along.

As fed up as I am with US-American politics, I am still going to vote tomorrow. There are contests for local non-partisan offices and a number of ballot measures, the outcome of which may affect me and other San Francisco residents for years to come.

If you live in California or any of the other states holding a primary tomorrow, don’t let the predictions of news networks deter you from voting. If you want to vote for a third-party candidate, don’t let supporters of the two-party system convince you that you’re a “spoiler” or “throwing your vote away.” And if you are a vegan, make up your own mind on which candidate is best not only for non-human animal rights, but for human rights as well. (The only presidential candidate I’m aware of that has veganism and animal liberation expressly written into his party’s platform is Clifton Roberts of the Humane Party.)

I’m convinced that the only way to make this country fair and equitable for all is a peaceful revolution. Until then, I will continue to vote, but only in accordance with my conscience.

Gender and gaming: The Sims bulldozes binaries

[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Pax’s Sim has long black locs and is wearing a black and white patterned jacket, black hat, and black jeans.]

In a climate of relentless cissexism and transphobia, it’s great to share some good news for trans and non-binary people for a change. Today, Maxis announced new gender customization options in The Sims 4, the latest version of their mega-popular video game. All Sims will now have full access to all hairstyles, clothing, makeup, accessories, and other formerly gendered attributes.

I’ve been wanting this change for a long time. I had posted about it numerous times on the official game forums, most recently just a week ago when players were speculating about new unisex clothing options:

Sims forum comment on gender[Image: A screenshot from The Sims forums (text below).]

No clothing “belongs” to any gender.

As I’ve said in other threads, if it were up to me, all clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, and makeup would be available to all Sims in CAS [“Create a Sim”]. The game could be coded to ensure that townies only show up with what most players consider to be conventional styles for their genders. If people really objected to men having long hair or skirt options even in CAS, I guess there could be another option to hide “unconventional” styles in CAS or something.

What I most wanted to do was to make a more accurate Sim of my partner Ziggy, who likes wearing skirts. Ziggy is genderqueer, not a trans woman; he uses he/him pronouns and is not currently pursuing any sort of gender transition. He just prefers wearing clothing that is branded as “feminine.” Now, I can finally dress his Sim appropriately, and give him better hair to boot:

Ziggy Sim in purple skirt[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Ziggy’s Sim is wearing a floral purple-and-white blouse, purple skirt, and lavender hat. Under the “Fashion Choice” menu, the word “Feminine” is checked.

Ziggy Sim at the mirror[Image: A screenshot from The Sims 4. Ziggy’s Sim is seen from the back, in front of a mirror, wearing a floral purple-and-white blouse, purple skirt, lavender hat, and long, braided lavender and white hair.]

I haven’t changed my own self-Sim much yet, as I prefer clothing that is branded as “masculine,” and my Sim counterpart in this version has always been male. But I love that I can now have the long locs that my male self-Sim sported in The Sims 3, which were only available for female Sims in this version before today.

Pax Sim with long locs[Image: A screenshot of the Create a Sim screen from The Sims 4. Pax’s Sim has long black locs and is wearing a black V-neck T-shirt, black cap, and blue jeans.]

I’m very happy that The Sims has continually become more progressive and affirming of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Same-sex relationships have been supported since the beginning, with The Sims in the year 2000; the first Sim I created was a gay man, and he ended up living in a house with three other gay male Sims. The Sims 2 added “joining” which was not quite equivalent to marriage, and then The Sims 3 added full same-sex marriage in 2009, years before it became legal nationwide in the USA.

Support for varying gender identities and expressions was the next logical step. As the Sims team explained:

  • ..the team also worked very closely with GLAAD to assure that the update was authentic and respectful to the transgender community.
  • … I’m very proud that we managed to remove some barriers to creating Sims that defy stereotypical gender definition.

Of course, this change will not come without backlash. I’ve read a lot of cissexist and heterosexist comments on the forums whenever gender identity or non-hetero sexual orientations have been mentioned. Although blatant hate speech is normally removed by the moderators, the language is triggering enough to me that I’m mostly avoiding the forums right now. Regardless, the team did reassure players that non-player-created Sims (NPCs or “townies”) would continue to sport traditional “masculine” or “feminine” styles for their sexes:

These options are entirely in your control and the game itself will not modify how Sims appear in your world. Instead this is about adding more tools in your toolbox, and letting you pick the tools that make sense to you while ignoring what doesn’t.

I am looking forward to spending more time exploring all the new options available to my many Sim families. I am grateful that in an industry known for sexist oppression, there’s at least one safer harbor where I can more freely express my authentic self.

Dear marginalized vegans: You are enough

[Image: Section from a panel of a Robot Hugs comic. Words at the top read “No one benefits from being told that their pain is unimportant, or non existant [sic]!” Below the words is a scale with a lighter weight reading “Not Harm” and a heavier weight reading “Harm.”]

This post is addressed to vegans who are marginalized due to their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, or other factors. This post primarily concerns vegans currently living in the USA.

In light of certain animal rights disruptions in the news, you might be feeling pressured to “do something” for the animals. You might be reading that having vegan potlucks and the like without committing to activism is being selfish and ineffective. You might be reading that our fellow animals suffer more than any humans do, so whatever your personal situation, you have a responsibility to fight for animal rights.

You might be hearing this from any or all of the following:

The list goes on and on, but you get the picture.

As a queer black trans vegan who suffers from significant depression and dysphoria, I am here to tell you this:

You are enough.

You are enough if all you can do is have a vegan potluck.

You are enough if all you can do is buy prepared vegan meals from a non-vegan restaurant or supermarket.

You are enough if all you can do is share photos of farmed animals on social media.

You are enough if all you can do  is cuddle with your companion animals.

You are enough if all you can do is get out of bed in the morning.

If you can do more than this, great. But the fact that some marginalized vegans are able to be activists for the animals does not obligate you to do so.

It’s a violent world out there. Let’s take care of each other.