Category Archives: Classism

Discrimination against people of lower income levels.

Rock Against The TPP

[Image: A vocalist from Taína Asili’s band stands on an indoor stage in front of a banner reading Rock Against the TPP.]

Friday night I attended Rock Against the TPP, a rally and concert in San Francisco to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP deal was so secretive and problematic that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jill Stein are all against it, which is likely one of very few things those presidential candidates all agree on. You can read more about the issues and see upcoming tour dates for the concert on the Rock Against the TPP web site.

Evan Greer at Rock Against the TPP[Image: Evan Greer stands on an indoor stage, holding up a sign reading Rock Against the TPP.]

I learned about this event from Evan Greer, a trans activist who is frequently misgendered; I’d previously signed her petition calling for news editors to confirm the gender pronouns of their sources. Greer was even misgendered on stage at this concert that she co-produced (and also performed in), which was painful to witness.

Bonfire Madigan at Rock Against the TPP[Image: Madigan Shive of Bonfire Madigan plays cello on an indoor stage.]

Sellassie at Rock Against the TPP[Image: Sellassie stands on an indoor stage.]

Accordion player at Rock Against the TPP[Image: A member of the band La Santa Cecilia plays accordion on an indoor stage.]

Dead Prez at Rock Against the TPP[Image: The hip hop duo Dead Prez performs on an indoor stage.]

Besides Greer, speakers and performers included Raw-G, Ryan Harvey, Built for the Sea, Bell’s Roar, Sellassie, Bonfire Madigan, Jello Biafra, La Santa Cecilia, Jeff Rosenstock, Taína AsiliAudiopharmacy, and Dead Prez (featuring black vegan Stic Man). Quite a variety of musical styles were represented.

The musicians and other speakers talked about a number of social justice issues besides the TPP, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, racist police violence (hip hop artist Sellassie was one of the Frisco Five who helped oust police chief Greg Suhr), and access to healthy food and medical care. The crowd, which filled the Regency Ballroom, was engaged and energetic.

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!

Spread the money, spread the word

[Image: Pax Ahimsa Gethen | queer * black * trans * vegan * atheist | blogger * photographer | gender & animal liberation | pronouns: they * them * their]

I’m posting today with a special request. tl;dr: If you like my work, please give me some money. If you can’t afford to give or already have, please post a link to my blog on social media and ask your friends to give me some money.

I have not been taking many photos lately, partly because depression and dysphoria have kept me mostly housebound, but also because I’ve been discouraged by the lack of support for my work. And for me, photography is work, as is writing for this blog, particularly when I discuss sensitive issues like racism and trans-antagonism that affect marginalized people like myself.

I am grateful to those who have sponsored me on Patreon and sent tips, but after more than a year of requesting funds for my work, I have only six monthly patrons and less than $50/month in funding. This is not even enough to get to the second of the fundraising goals I set—upgrading the hard disks that house my images—much less approach my stretch goals of getting a new lens and replacing my aging camera. In between those goals is a funding level that would allow me to publish a new edition of my Walls to Walls photo book with my new name, which would be a lovely (belated) gift for my third nameday.

I recognize that many photographers pay for their expenses from a second job, but I can’t work a day job right now. My partner Ziggy’s income allows us to live comfortably, but only because I am frugal with my own expenses. Regardless, if my work is valuable to people, it is not unreasonable to expect compensation for it; this applies to my writing as well as my photography.

Unlike many fundraisers, I do not offer tiered incentives for contributions. I do appreciate those who give more, but I don’t want to privilege or be beholden to folks with higher incomes, and I don’t have any products or services to offer other than what you see on your screen. I would rather folks who have ten dollars a month to contribute spread those dollars out to multiple worthy causes than give it all to me. That’s how I’m distributing my own Patreon contributions; I’m currently supporting four people at levels for one to three dollars per month, and occasionally making one-time contributions to campaigns on other fundraising sites.

I know that the money is out there, and I also know that people find a lot of value my work. I just need your help to connect the dots. If you agree that my work is valuable and worthy of funding, please post a link to my Patreon page on your social media platform of choice, and ask your friends to support me. Optionally, please let folks know I also accept Paypal tips for those who don’t want to make a monthly pledge. If you are posting on Facebook, please tag my page Pax Ahimsa Gethen aka funcrunch, not my personal profile. If you’re posting on Twitter, I’m @funcrunch on there.

Thanks again to those who have supported my work, and thanks in advance to those who will support me in the future.

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.

Socialists for Bernie?

[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Your money can’t buy Bernie” and “We can’t buy a home in SF for $353,000”. One protester wearing a “Socialist Alternative” T-shirt bangs on a pan with a spoon.]

Disclaimer/reminder: I am registered with no political party and support no presidential candidate at this time.

Last night I heard a commotion outside my window. Going out on the balcony to investigate, I saw police on motorcycles driving the wrong way down the one-way steep hill I’ve lived on for the last 13 years. Following behind was a group of several dozen marchers, holding signs, banging on pots and pans, and chanting. As it is somewhat unusual for a protest march to come through my neighborhood—Nob Hill, San Francisco—I quickly threw on some (more) clothes, grabbed my keys and camera and ran outside to take some photos.

Protesters on Nob Hill[Image: Protesters stand in the street. One holds a sign reading “Oligarchy is Unamerican.” Another reads “$HRC + $DNC = $uperDelegate$”.]

SFPD on Nob Hill[Image: San Francisco police stand behind a barrier reading “S.F.P.D. Police Line – Do Not Cross.”]

I caught up with the group a block away, where I eventually learned that Hillary Clinton was in town hosting a fundraiser with George Clooney, at the home of a venture capitalist. Price for a couple to sit at the head table: $353,000. As the sign pictured at the top of this post notes, you can’t even buy a home in San Francisco for that, and not just on Nob Hill. Median home prices here are in the seven figures. Ziggy and I live in a rent-controlled apartment, which is a privilege in a city that has been rapidly gentrifying.

Police barricaded the street, but stood by passively; I did not witness or read about any confrontations. I can’t help wondering if the same would have been true if there had been more black and brown faces in the group of protesters.

Protesters on Nob Hill[Image: A protester speaks into a megaphone. Another protester wears a shirt reading “Socialist Alternative.”]

While trying to determine who organized this protest, I noticed that a number of people were wearing T-shirts reading “Socialist Alternative.” I looked them up, and found that they have a “Movement4Bernie” campaign to support Bernie Sanders. (I also located the Facebook page for the event. Far fewer people showed up than indicated by the RSVP numbers.) I was genuinely surprised that a socialist group would openly support a Democratic presidential candidate. I know that Bernie has been described as a democratic socialist, but as far as I’m concerned, socialism cannot happen under our two-party system. We need a (peaceful) revolution to create a society that truly treats all people (human and non-human) with fairness and equity.

Dog at protest[Image: A dog with their tongue hanging out stands next to a human wearing boots.]

Dogs at protest[Image: A leashed dog wearing a T-shirt sniffs the rear of another dog.]

I had short, reasonably pleasant conversation with one of the protesters, who was wearing a Bernie shirt. He didn’t openly identify as socialist, but was sympathetic to my view that the two-party system was an intractable problem. He pointed out that Bernie had been an independent; I countered that he had moved to the Democrats, and was now part of that machine. Would he not endorse Hillary if she won the nomination? The protester said he was going to make sure she didn’t win, but when I pressed him on whether Bernie would endorse Hillary, he mentioned “lesser of two evils.” (ETA: A recent editorial echoes some of my concerns.)

I don’t want to get into a debate about lesser evils, third party “spoilers,” or Hillary vs Bernie; I’ve heard it all before. But I am particularly interested in hearing from socialists, whether or not you support Bernie Sanders. Others are welcome to comment as well, but please respect that I am an independent and intend to stay that way.

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

Happy International Women’s Day

[Image: lauren Ornelas gives a presentation on the Food Empowerment Project.]

Happy International Women’s Day! In honor of the occasion, I’d like to say a few words about each of the women currently featured on my links list.* I present them here in alphabetical order, along with one recommended work for each.

Kat Blaque

Kat Blaque is a vlogger, illustrator, and activist, speaking out against sexism, racism, and trans-antagonism. She has created educational videos on these topics for Everyday Feminism, and has built a thriving, active community on Facebook and other social networks. I recommend her video explaining the difference between gender expression and identity.

Greta Christina

Greta Christina is a writer on topics including atheism, feminism, sexism, cis/heterosexism, and sexuality. She has published several books on atheism, and speaks out against oppression in the atheist movement. I recommend her article on what not to say in response to misogyny.

Amie Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a speaker, educator, and author on feminism, veganism, and critical race studies. She founded Sistah Vegan Project and Critical Diversity Solutions, and is on the advisory board of Black Vegans Rock. I recommend her article on raising children in a world of oppression and hostility.

Aph Ko

Aph Ko is a blogger, performer, digital media producer, and founder of Aphro-ism and Black Vegans Rock. She advocates veganism from black feminist perspective. I recommend her video on animal oppression and anti-racism.

Syl Ko

Syl Ko is a writer, activist, and doctoral student, researching the human/animal binary from a black vegan feminist perspective. She co-founded Aphro-ism with her sister Aph, and is on the advisory board of Black Vegans Rock. I recommend her article on anti-racism and the human/animal divide.

Sophie Labelle

Sophie Labelle is a trans activist, illustrator, and author of the web comic Assigned Male. Her comic challenges cissexism (including non-binary and intersex erasure) from the humorous perspective of a young trans girl. She has so many great strips that I can’t single out one to recommend; if you have time, just read them all from the beginning.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is an author, primarily of fantasy and science fiction, whose books explore gender and sexuality, among other topics. Le Guin is my favorite author; I took my last name from her book The Left Hand of Darkness, which is my recommended read.

lauren Ornelas

lauren Ornelas is the founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project, a vegan food justice organization that actively works to counter oppression of marginalized humans as well as our fellow animals. I recommend her post on experiencing oppression in the fast food industry.

Ali Seiter

Ali Seiter blogs about feminism, anti-speciesism, and anti-racism on Chickpeas and Change. The site has been on hiatus for awhile, but has many articles well worth reading. I recommend reading her thoughts on the origins of the term “intersectionality.”

Julia Serano

Julia Serano is a writer, performer, speaker, and trans activist. She has authored numerous essays and books, including Whipping Girl, a classic on trans feminism and gender theory. I recommend her article on the “T” word and the language of trans activism.

Sarah K. Woodcock

Sarah K. Woodcock is the founder and executive director of The Advocacy of Veganism Society. She speaks out against all oppression of humans as well as our fellow animals. I recommend her article explaining why her organization stopped using the word “abolitionist.”

Corey Lee Wrenn

Dr. Corey Lee Wrenn is a lecturer, author, and founder of The Academic Activist Vegan and Vegan Feminist Network. She advocates veganism from a feminist perspective, and calls out oppression in the animal rights movement. I recommend her article on sexism faced by vegan women.

Several of the women on this list  – A. Breeze Harper, Aph Ko, lauren Ornelas, and Sarah K. Woodcock – will be speaking at the Intersectional Justice Conference later this month, where I’ll also be presenting. I trust you will find much of value in their wise words.

* Remember that not everyone who has a feminine-sounding name or appearance is a woman; several people on my links list are non-binary.

Chocolate: No labor of love

[Image: A chocolate rhinoceros from Chocolate Decadence, currently a recommended company on the FEP Chocolate List.]

This Valentine’s Day, many vegans will enjoy what they might think is “cruelty-free” chocolate: Made without milk or other animal products. Unfortunately, much of the cocoa used to make chocolate treats is the product of child labor, and, in some cases, slavery. This applies even to some chocolate that is labeled “Fair Trade.”  The Food Empowerment Project has detailed information on this tragic situation.

The FEP has created a chocolate list that recommends companies whose cocoa does not come from slave labor. The list includes only vegan chocolates (containing no animal products). The research on these companies is ongoing, and the list is continually updated. It is available for iOS and Android as well as on the web. I highly encourage everyone to review it before your next shopping trip.

Some vegans might be resistant to adding one more product to the “not allowed” list. Here’s the thing: Chocolate is a treat. Avoiding chocolate does not put an unfair economic or health burden on anyone. Turning down a treat is, at most, a social inconvenience.

The question here shouldn’t be whether slavery-made chocolate should be considered “vegan” or not. Lots of products we use in our daily lives, including cell phones, come from oppressive working conditions. If we were to only grant the title of “vegan” to those who lived a truly cruelty-free lifestyle, likely none of us would earn that designation.

We should strive to cause the least possible harm simply because that’s the right thing to do, not because we’re vegans. What does it say to young African children if we are willing to enjoy momentary taste pleasure from their involuntary servitude, but balk at eating the same treats if they were made from the forced labor of cows? For US-Americans, does our distance from the African continent – or, dare I say it, difference in skin color – influence our choices here?

The Food Empowerment Project has a saying: “Eat Your Ethics.” No amount of taste pleasure can justify child slavery. Please review the chocolate list before your next shopping trip.

Vegan simplicity

[Image: Red tomatoes growing on a vine.]

Tonight for dinner I made a one pot meal, pasta e fagioli, consisting of three packaged ingredients: Pasta, beans, and sauce. The normal recipe I use for this dish calls for a lot more ingredients, cookware, steps, and time, and ideally I would use beans I’d cooked myself. But this simpler, faster version was perfectly tasty and satisfying.

I think both vegans and non-vegans sometimes overthink what it takes to make a good home-cooked meal. I realize that most people would not be satisfied having a meal consisting entirely of yams or bananas as I was experimenting with for a month, but there’s no need to combine proteins or to count and track calories or grams of anything, unless you have special health needs.

What about greens? Ideally I would have made a salad to go with the pasta, but I didn’t feel like it. Most health professionals agree that eating green vegetables is very good for us, but doing so actually has nothing to do with being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean choosing between a steak and a salad, it means choosing between a steak (with optional salad) or a bowl of vegetable chili (with optional salad). Some vegans do choose to just eat the salad, but most people can’t get full enough on green vegetables alone, as they’re very low in calories. And non-vegans who eat nothing but steak are going to suffer from nutritional deficiencies sooner or later.

As I’ve posted before, it’s a serious problem that many people in the USA do not have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. And even the simple meal I made tonight, consisting entirely of packaged ingredients from Trader Joe’s, would be out of reach for those who have very low incomes, lack access to a kitchen, or work so hard that they simply have no time to cook. But not being able to afford nutritious food is a problem for non-vegans as well as vegans. We must address income disparities, rather than just blithely repeating how easy it is for everyone to be vegan.

Veganism is more than a plant-based diet; it is an ethical stance against violence. But eating is an activity most humans participate in multiple times a day, every day, often in the company of others. So our food choices have a significant impact, not only on ourselves, but on those around us. Those who do have the money and access to shop and cook would do well to investigate simple vegan meals. I like the Happy Herbivore cookbooks (tonight’s pasta recipe came from Happy Herbivore Abroad) and Simply Vegan, but there are also thousands of vegan recipes on the Internet.

Don’t let fear of malnutrition or complicated meal planning stop you from going vegan. Keep it simple, and always remember the lives at stake.

ReclaimMLK in the Fillmore

[Image: Activists march in the street carrying a banner reading “Dear Ed Lee, We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere. Sincerely, Bayview, Mission & Fillmore”]

This weekend, activists throughout the country are holding events to reclaim the radical legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., with 96 hours of direct action. I attended one such event on Friday in San Francisco’s Fillmore district, one of our rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods where black folks are being displaced from their homes. Though when I arrived I was only expecting speakouts and music, the event turned into a march that took over the streets.

Music at Coltrane Church[Image: Musicians perform at Saint John Coltrane Church.]

Archbishop King playing sax[Image: Archbishop King plays the saxophone at Saint John Coltrane Church.]

We gathered at Saint John Coltrane Church. I’m a jazz lover, and I think it’s awesome to have a church where the archbishop plays the saxophone. (This is no gimmick; the legendary musician John Coltrane is actually a saint.) While I’m an atheist, I’m not an anti-theist; I’ll happily cooperate with religious organizations and individuals as long as they’re not trying to convert me or tell me I’m going to hell.

Etecia Brown of Last 3% of Black SF[Image: Etecia Brown of Last 3 Percent of Black SF speaks into a microphone.]

ReclaimMLK speakers[Image: Activists at ReclaimMLK event, wearing shirts reading “The Movement for Black Lives” and “Justice for Alex Nieto”]

Speakers at the event included representatives from the Anti Police-Terror Project, Last 3 Percent of Black SF, and the Justice for Alex Nieto Coalition. Cause Justa :: Just Cause was also there, providing Spanish translation. While anyone who doesn’t look white (or straight, or cisgender) is a potential target for police violence and housing discrimination, this night’s action focused on the impact on black and brown lives.

Homes for people, not for profit[Image: Activists in the street hold signs reading “Evict Ed Lee” and “Homes for people, not for profit. ACCE: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment“]

Last 3 percent[Image: An activist in the street wearing a shirt reading “Stay Black” holds a sign reading “Last 3 Percent.”]

ReclaimMLK street action[Image: Activists holding signs and raised fists block traffic at the intersection of Webster and Geary Blvd, San Francisco.]

Following the speakers and music, attendees took to the streets, eventually holding space during rush hour at the busy intersection of Webster and Geary Blvd. One angry white man asked “Do you people even have a permit?” San Franciscans expect their marches to be scheduled and orderly. But social change requires inconvenience.

Activist at ReclaimMLK march[Image: An activist at the ReclaimMLK action raises their fist in the air.]

I was nervous about police harassment once I realized we’d be taking over the intersection, but I did not personally witness any incidents. The police escorted us as we marched back to the church. I spoke with one of the organizers then, thanking him for mentioning transgender and gender non-conforming people in his talk at the start of the event.

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Please credit Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them. A videographer I met at the church made a video of the event; I can be seen in the background (wearing a purple jacket and black beret) of several shots:

I’m very glad I attended this action. Tomorrow, I’ll be marching in Oakland for the culmination of the 96 hours of direct action. I was pleased to learn that the march will have a transgender contingent, hosted by the TGI Justice Project and TAJA’s Coalition. I hope many of my fellow activists are able to attend.

Election Day

[Image: Sunset at the National Mall, Washington D.C. ]

Tomorrow is Election Day in the USA. As I have done virtually every year since I first became eligible in 1988, I will be casting a ballot. But I’m not excited about it, because I know that “electable” politicians do not support what is most important to me: True equity and justice for all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or species.

Unlike many progressives, I don’t subscribe to the “lesser of two evils” rhetoric. First of all, as I’ve written before, I don’t believe people are evil or good; rather, people only take more or less harmful actions. Nor do I say that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. I’m simply too radical to support the two-party system, and I don’t want to vote for someone whose positions I don’t like.

Ultimately, all major parties in this country uphold capitalism, which I can no longer support. I was registered with the Green Party for a long time, but when I changed my name last year I updated my voter registration to “Decline to State.” (Unfortunately I failed to realize that by registering to vote online, I would be added to a zillion mailing lists.) I still review the Green Party endorsements, but generally I vote only for ballot measures and non-partisan offices.

We do have a lot of measures on the ballot here in San Francisco, so I’ll be glad to exercise my civic duty in trying to make this ridiculously expensive city more livable.  I’ve posted before about Proposition I; I won’t make any other endorsements here. Wherever you live, if you’re eligible to vote, I encourage you to read the ballot, not just the political ads, and make your own informed decisions.

Vegans and health shaming

I’ve been quiet for the last week because I came down with the flu. This one hit me hard enough to keep me offline almost entirely for two days, which is very unusual for me. My temperature got above 103 before my fever broke. (I do have a history of high fevers.) I don’t get flu shots anymore because I’m not in a high-risk category, and two of the three times I did get a shot (when I worked at a health sciences university that strongly encouraged them and provided them for free) I got the flu anyway.

Some vegans are afraid to admit when they get sick because of the false idea spread by many health-oriented vegans that eating a plant-based diet prevents illness. I’ve frequently read people bragging that they haven’t had the slightest sniffle since giving up animal products. If others get sick, they must not be “pure” enough. They need to eat a whole-foods diet, or better yet, a raw diet, or have a juice cleanse, or otherwise purge their system of all pollutants, and then they’ll never get sick again.

Illness doesn’t work that way. It can strike anyone without warning, even those of us who lead very healthy lifestyles. The creator of the FatFree Vegan Kitchen web site wrote a moving piece about being diagnosed with cancer despite following a lowfat, whole-foods plant-based diet. Sometimes these kinds of confessionals end in the author tearfully saying goodbye to their vegan diet, but this was not one of those cases; she wrote, “So if you’re reading this and worrying that I’m going to be another vegan blogger who goes back to eating animals for her own health, don’t. No diagnosis in the world could convince me to eat another animal or animal product.” (Emphasis in original.)

Some vegans get very sick, and some non-vegans live long, robust, illness-free lives. This is why I do not use human health benefits to promote veganism. The only person whose health is guaranteed to be harmed by a non-vegan diet is the animal whose flesh, milk, or eggs are on the plate. When we realize that their desire to live is as strong as ours, we will stop eating them for their sake, not for ours.

Another form of vegan health shaming is criticizing those who use pharmaceuticals containing animal products or tested on animals. I am opposed to all forms of animal use, but I recognize that in a deeply speciesist world, animal products are so ubiquitous that in some cases their use is unavoidable. If a person can avoid death or serious health consequences by using animal-derived or tested products, I will not condemn them for it. It would be better for them to live and become activists for animal liberation, working toward a time when no animals are used as ingredients or imprisoned in laboratories. This is consistent with my stance on those who “fail to thrive” on a pure vegan diet.

Regardless of diet or philosophy, the number one thing that people who do get ill need is rest, and in the USA that commodity is in short supply. Employers don’t give adequate sick leave, and advertisements abound for over-the-counter medications to allow people to mask their symptoms and keep working, thus spreading their germs to everyone else in the office. Whether self-employed or working for an employer, working while sick is considered a virtue, and for many, unfortunately, is a financial necessity.

I’m fortunate that I always had enough sick leave during my fifteen years of full-time employment. Part of why doing hired photo gigs didn’t work out for me was that if I became ill I either had to work sick, find a replacement, or lose the gig. Replacements don’t work out so well when you’re doing a job that relies on your unique creative vision and process. I ended up shooting my first wedding with a stomach bug (which I’d determined was non-contagious, but did make for a miserable day.)

Our health is the most important asset we have. We should work to make nutritious food available and affordable to everyone, but recognize that even with the healthiest possible diet and exercise program, some will fall ill. Those who do need the time and support for true recovery. There’s no shame in being sick.