Monday, December 5, 2016

The tragedy of Ghost Ship, the Bay Area arts scene, and the housing crisis

With the recent news of the horrific fire in Oakland at the Ghost Ship artists' collective, I find myself reading article after article about the tragedy. Reading posts from Bay Area friends and community on Facebook. An acquaintance in Oakland who is a wonderful, sweet, and kind person lost her partner in the fire. Friends of friends perished in the fire. The impact of this tragedy is far reaching. It affects every queer, trans, qtpoc, poc, artist, musician, immigrant, ally, etc. that lives on the fringes of society, feels treated as an "other", or is simply gathering to connect in a community where one feels safe, seen, and validated for being their authentic selves, as well as enjoying music in a welcoming community space. Trying to find an affordable and sustainable way to make one's art, one's music, and earn a living in an expensive, gentrified urban area, where there is a major housing crisis, such as the Bay Area is incredibly difficult.

I'm sending love, light, and healing energies to everyone effected by this tragedy.

It's so sad that Bay Area creatives and lovely queer, trans, and qtpoc individuals died.

Life is sacred.

Life is precious.

There needs to be more spaces and buildings that are affordable and safe for artists to live, work, and gather in community.

At its root, this tragedy happened due to the Bay Area's major housing crisis.

I moved to San Francisco in 2009 to go to San Francisco State University to pursue my MFA in Cinema.

I recently relocated back to Portland, Or in late August 2016.

Living, studying, creating, and working in the Bay Area from 2009 to 2016, I'm intimately connected and aware of the Bay Area and the rapid changes that have occurred in the last 4-5 years. In particularly, regarding the major housing crisis.

I find it heartbreaking, that the Bay Area is no longer a welcoming or affordable place for artists, musicians, activists, intellectuals, healers, and anyone that experiences oppression and is looking for a supportive community in a progressive area. i.e. LGBTQ, Queer, Trans, QTPOC individuals.

In my opinion, the Bay Area is affordable for affluent people or people that work in tech.

What is a community if teachers, healers, artists, musicians, etc. cannot afford to live in an area?

What is a city without its vibrant art and culture?

The very fabric of a community ought to encompass everyone. The Bay Area has become a tech mono-culture.

Some artists and musicians that are hanging on by threads to live in the stressful, tense, and exorbitantly expensive Bay Area, live and congregate in places like Ghostship.

An MFA Cinema colleague of mine lived and worked in an artists warehouse in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. It wasn't Ghost Ship. He hosted a few events in his warehouse studio for our MFA cohort. I went there twice for events and gatherings. The building was only one story, yet the first floor was like a maze. There were many studios and doors. Finding the doors to enter and exit the building wasn't easy, unless you lived in the building.

These are the spaces where some artists live and work.

I lived in Berkeley and in Oakland for several years. The last three years I lived in the Bay Area, I was continually displaced from my housing. It was incredibly challenging to find new affordable housing for myself and I'm connected to my Bay Area communities. I would go to housing appointments to look at a potential new home and there would be several people there at the same time to go on a housing tour with. I would essentially be competing with these people for the room. Rather than touring an apartment or house with the current housemate(s), multiple people being shown the room and home at once created tension, competition, and trying to one-up each other. I remember leaving a housing interview and said, have a good afternoon to one of the interviewees who was ahead of me as he walked out the door of the apartment. He definitely heard me and ignored me completely.

If you rent in the Bay Area and are trying to find housing, it's incredibly difficult. Landlords, for the most part do not keep up their properties and renters put up with all kinds of decay and issues with their housing just to keep living there. People live with mold. People live in living rooms. People live in filth. People live on commuter couches and pay hundreds of dollars per month to do so. People live with incompatible housemates. People live with rodents that landlords do not feel it's a priority to get rid of. People live with doors falling off of their hinges from wood decay. Some people live with 3 people in one small studio in San Francisco. People put up with all kinds of unhealthy conditions just to continue to exist in the Bay Area.

The tension in the air in the Bay Area can be cut with a knife. So can the air of competition, materialism, and fear of displacement and housing evictions.

The last place I lived in Oakland, near Lake Merritt was affordable for me as an artist. While living there, I worked as a Waldorf teacher, worked on my film in the works; Queering Yoga, and did other odd jobs like Lyft, freelance photography and film work.

I was displaced from my Oakland home this past August. A couple of weeks before that occurred, I had clarity to move back to Portland, Or. It was challenging for me to let Oakland and the Bay Area go. I was attached. I love the Bay Area. I love the land. The water. Hiking in the Oakland hills. I love the food. Queer/Trans/QTPOC art and cultural events. I loved the Queer community yoga class that I attended regularly. I appreciate EBMC, The East Bay Meditation Center. The Bay Area was like a beacon of light for me as a child and teenager. It was a dream come true to move there in 2009 and have a purpose to be there (Graduate school). I lived in the Bay Area for 7 years. When it was time for me to move and leave the area this past August, it become evidently clear.

I will always love the Bay Area. I tell people that it's a great place to travel and visit. Yet, for me my quality of life is better in Portland, Or. It's calmer and more peaceful. The air and water is healthy. There are more trees. People are kinder. The pace of life is slower and thus healthier. There are a lot of art, cultural, and culinary delights in Portland. It's an exciting place yet more sustainable. For me as an artist, the Bay Area is unsustainable. I had my time there and I truly lived and worked really hard on my creative work. I was tired of continually being displaced from my housing the past several years. Having to move again and again and not having that be my empowered choice to make whether I move or not.

In a sense, I do feel exiled from the Bay Area and my community there. Yet, Portland is a wonderful place to be. There is no utopia or perfect area to live in the world. Each city, town, and area has it's pros and cons. I feel it's important to honor and trust one's inner guidance, knowing, and truth. That is infallible. If one is called to live in Oakland, then opportunities do unfold. It doesn't mean it will be easy, yet it will be more easeful. There are challenges and blessings everyday. Housing opportunities for me have unfolded since I've been in Portland.

The question is, how can we as a culture and society value creative professionals and musicians enough to create affordable spaces for artists and musicians to live, work, and thrive?

Portland is also having a housing crisis of its own, yet it's not to the degree of intensity as the Bay Area. Since, Portland is a smaller city than the Bay Area. I'll save talking about the Portland housing crisis for another time and blog.

Thanks for reading.

In light and hope,


Monday, November 21, 2016

One Step At A Time During These Extreme Times

Since the recent news of the election in the U.S., I've pondered how I can be of service during these extreme/intense times we are living in. I feel that simply being and existing in this world as my most authentic self is a courageous and radical act. As a Queer/Trans identified Transman, I felt waves of disbelief, shock, fear, sadness, anger, and the beginning of the grief process on Tuesday night, Nov. 8th. I was in my Co-Counseling class in Portland, OR. The class began at 7PM and ended at 9:30PM. All day on Tuesday, I was envisioning Hillary Clinton as our next President. Hillary smiling victoriously as she was named the first woman president of the United States of America. I had been sending prayers up and out for her to win throughout the election cycle. Including intentions for her to be the next President on my New Moon intentions and candle lighting. Having watched and/or listened to all three presidential debates, I found it unfathomable that T**** could possibly win. He didn't have a plan. He didn't have experience to be the leader of our country. With his hate fueled racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic rhetoric, I equated him to Hitler. T**** is abhorrent yet what concerns me is the millions of people who resonated with his hate fueled agenda/platform. That is truly scary. As well as what would happen to Muslims, Immigrants, the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Women, and anyone who isn't a white, cisgender, straight male who is able bodied in our society.

During the first 10 minutes of the Co-Counseling class I'm taking on Tuesdays, we paired up with a person in the class and each person had 5 minutes to discuss their feelings/thoughts about the election. I held space and heard one classmate who happened to be a cisgender white man. He told me that he didn't feel it would be any different if Hillary or T**** won. I did my best to hear him and I did hold space. Yet, I was shocked by that comment. That it didn't matter who won the presidency. When, yes it truly does. That comment to me was the epitome of white, cisgender, male privilege. Being blind to all of the ways that one is privileged. The privileged belief that if something doesn't affect one directly, then it's easy to ignore. 8 years of LGBTQ rights that have been advanced during the Obama administration could be abolished/overturned during a T**** administration. Roe vs. Wade could be overturned. Obamacare would be repealed. Millions of immigrants and children could be deported and separated from their parents and families. Environmental protections could be overturned, etc. The Dakota Access Pipeline could pollute water that millions of people depend on under a T**** administration. And so much more. This is the tip of the iceberg. I shudder to think about international relations now that the U.S. does in fact have T**** as our next president.

I gave a few lyft rides home after my co-counseling class on Tuesday, Nov. 9th. I remember how quiet the streets were. There was a chill in the air. It was so quiet. I reflected back on how uproarious Portland was when Obama was first elected in 2008. That was during the first three years when I lived in Portland and the year that I came out as Transgender. There was so much celebratory noise, people were so happy, and it felt like the entire city celebrated. November 9th, 2016--a quiet chill. The first lyft passenger who I drove to their home didn't know what to tell her students the next morning. She is a teacher who works with grade school aged children. I didn't know what to tell her either. I said it was difficult. How do you share this news with children in a way that they can understand? I told her that I've worked with children before and studied Waldorf Education. I suggested telling a story to the children. The next couple of people who I drove to their destinations were in shock as well. We talked about human rights and the lack thereof under a T**** administration. I chose to drive home after a few rides since I was emotionally exhausted and overall in shock.

I did some research on the internet when I returned home and saw all of the red states and so few blue states on a map of the U.S. Hillary was winning the popular vote yet not the electoral college. I felt fear. What about my Trans affirming healthcare? I wouldn't be able to afford the healthcare that I have through the Affordable Care Act if Obamacare is abolished. I felt fear as a Transman regarding important documents such as my passport, birth certificate, etc. that I still need to change the gender marker to male on those documents before T**** is inaugurated as President in January. I felt concern for every human being who isn't a a white, cisgender, straight male in this country. I cried a few times. I scrolled down Facebook and read different posts from friends and community members. It was difficult to fall asleep on Election night.

It felt like a collective nightmare.

We're all in it.

This is it.

I've been in process. During the past 12 days, I've talked about my feelings/thoughts about the election to friends, housemates, lyft passengers, classmates, a barber, my parents, and community members. As a coping mechanism, I've been keeping active. Continuing to work on Wednesday morning when I would have rather stayed curled up in bed or simply at home all day, in mourning. In process, feeling all of my feelings. I've been feeling all of my feelings while working, taking care of practicalities, appts., taking care of myself, and living an active life.

One way that I thought I could be of service is to write about my experiences. Thus, I'm finally writing about my experience for people to read and digest on their own schedules. This past week, I didn't want to talk about it anymore. I simply wanted to be and to write about it. I know that the majority of people whom I spoke with and have interacted with are devastated. It feels like a collective grief process that so many people are feeling and going through. On an individual level, everyone's S**T is activated right now. This is it, we are in the thick of it. It's messy, it's scary, it's beyond the beyond. Everyone can see America's blood, pus, and unhealed wounds. What was ignored and in the collective shadow is now clearly visible. It's a national and global healing crisis we are experiencing. My Mom said today that the healing part hasn't begun yet.

In this Country, the foundation and history of racism, misogyny, indigenous persecution, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. all of these isms and the social, cultural, and political institutions that uphold all of the isms is clearly visible and in the light. Illuminated for all to see. Needing to be reckoned with, acknowledged, and healed. In my opinion, the United States, as a Country needs to acknowledge all of the isms and apologize to Indigenous people in the U.S. and to all black people for all harm and persecution done. Reparations need to be made. The trauma of slavery needs to be acknowledged and sincere apologies and reparations need to be made.

There is so much division in this Country. Between T**** supporters and those that are abhorred at T****'s message of hate and discrimination. There are other stances yet I'm honing in on the major divisions in this country between acceptance/unity vs. hate rhetoric.

I began this blog to write about hope. I'm doing my best to take one step at a time. To breathe. To eat healthy foods, keep hydrated, and take excellent care of myself during these very challenging and extreme times. To reach out for support. To be heard, seen, and mirrored with love, compassion, and kindness. To connect with community. To do all of the steps to get a new passport before January as well as a new birth certificate with my name and male gender marker on it.

A few days after the election, a lyft passenger said my name correctly, Ewan. With an emphasis on the E. (ee-whan). I turned and looked in the passenger seat behind me and it was a friend who I met in Albuquerque when I lived there for 6 months in 2013-2014. (For this person's privacy, I'm not going to reveal their name). They have lived in Portland for two years. I knew that I would run into them sometime at a Queer/Trans event in Portland, yet this was our first encounter. I asked how they were doing. They said that they were having a very difficult time. On Wednesday, they were attacked and physically assaulted for being visibly queer while waiting at a bus stop in Portland. They were called epithets and were physically injured and have trauma from that experience. I heard them and I didn't know what to do except say kind and supportive words and I'm so glad they are okay. I felt horrified and scared for the many people who were attacked or assaulted the day after T**** was elected. It's beyond the beyond. People feeling fueled and empowered to act out in violent ways and to target members of the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Immigrants, Women, etc. the list goes on. I thought of the book, The Stone Butch Blues and it felt like traveling back in time. Is this what it felt like during Stonewall or the 1950's? The feeling of safety that someone has to simply stand and wait at the bus stop was shattered for them since they were visibly queer.

Since Wednesday, November 9th, I haven't been feeling "SAFE" as an American in my own Country. I feel that American has a lot of potential. My Jewish Ancestors came here to escape from the persecution of pogroms and anti-semitism in Eastern Europe. My Mexican Great-Grandfather Duarte fled the Mexican Revolution and left his home in Michoacan as an 18 year old. Traveling north until he reached Fresno, California on his own. My German ancestors came here for a better life. So much persecution for simply being Jewish. Brown. Mexican. Immigrants.

America is the land of immigrants. How can this Country reconcile its past and how can we create unity in the present so that we can move forward in integrated and healthy ways as a nation?

It's up to each individual to discover who they truly are, most authentically. Then have the courage to BE one's most authentic self in this world. It's about taking personal responsibility for the internalized isms and phobias. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia. Do one's work around privilege or the lack thereof and become an Ally to all people.

We are all ONE.

I'm concerned about what life will be like under the T**** administration.

What I can do today is to get my papers in order and get that new passport ASAP and updated birth certificate. The future remains uncertain and the ground feels groundless.

May we continue to ground in these times of groundlessness and upheaval to the Earth even more so. We are on a spinning, magnificent, blue ball. Our thoughts matter. Our words matter. Black Lives Matter.

Your individual healing helps the collective healing process.

May you breathe. Root down for strength. Center yourself. Love yourself. More. Cultivate support. Reach out for support. Keep hydrated. Take one step at a time and do the best that you can.

You are enough.

We are all enough.

There is hope. Even if we are all in the dark at this time.

In light,


Monday, April 18, 2016

You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served

Last year I ended a significant friend relationship.

This blog post is an offering about relationships and accountability.

I've been contemplating and mulling over how to share this--if to even share it at all.

It's come to my attention that I need to express these words.

How I live and am in the world is guided by my inner compass.

I contemplate. I discern. I listen to my inner knowing.

From here, I then take action.

From decisions such as, how will I structure and organize my day? To big decisions such as which graduate school I chose to go to and important decisions regarding relationships, etc. I'm committed to carving out the time to create stillness, peace, and listen as the answers arise from my inner knowing. My inner compass.

From this place of knowing, peace, and stillness I received clarity and guidance to conclude a friend relationship that was significant to me since I moved to the Bay Area in 2009.

Our mutual friends and community were interwoven together with this friendship.

This ending had been building. I had clarity that the friendship was unsupportive to me. I didn't feel appreciated or seen. If I do not feel supported then I don't feel respected.

I feel that support, respect, appreciation, being seen, and heard are the basic building blocks of a healthy relationship. As well as trust and communication.

At times examples and experiences of major lack of support as well as small acts of unsupportive gestures, words, and actions are insidious. They build over time.

I choose to build, cultivate, and co-create relationships that are soul-nourishing, reciprocitous, supportive, where there is mutual appreciation. Where there is more harmony than times of conflict. Where who one is, their art, their offerings to the world are authentically appreciated, honored, supported, and respected.

What I didn't foresee was how this act of empowerment, choosing to end a relationship that wasn't healthy nor supportive nor empowering to me nor mutually beneficial or in the highest interest of all would create a rift in the community that I had been a part of and cultivated for years. A community that I loved and contributed so much to. A community of people that I saw as friends, supporters, allies, and family.

What transpired from this action that I took to end a relationship that I felt in my heart and core was unhealthy and unsupportive for my growth and evolution as a human being,

I felt like I lost my community.

The repercussions of my action that I took from my place and stance of empowerment, inner knowing, and personal growth were viewed as "bad" and "negative" by people who I called friends and community members. Multiple narratives were expressed that I heard.

The question that I have is, "Don't we as a community want to support, honor, and encourage personal growth, authenticity, healing, honoring one's truth and taking the action that one needs to take to be supported and live an empowered and healthy life?"

I did not receive the support and honor from those that I thought would have my back and would be there for me.

What I feel is important to say is that relationships whether it be a colleague, a friendship, a romantic relationship can be successful and still end!

Every relationship has a natural time-line.

Western culture views relationships ending as being "un-successful."

This isn't true at all. I feel that this friend relationship had a successful timeline and I honored it's ending. I was ready for it and felt empowered about the conclusion. So that I could move on and co-create healthy relationships where I feel honored, supported, appreciated, and seen.

Ending a relationship or creating any change is uncomfortable. It is unknown. It is not a safe and snuggly couch to sit on.

It's walking into unknown territory and not knowing what will happen next. It's having the courage to trust one's inner guidance and relying on one's inner compass to guide them on their journey into the depths. With or without the support of their friends and community for the decision that they are making or will soon make.

Many human beings mostly see things in terms of dualism. Good/Bad. Black/White. Man/Woman

The Queer/Trans communities in the Bay Area and beyond are all about moving beyond the binary regarding gender.

Can't we move beyond the binary of Good/Bad and dualistic thinking regarding relationships ending naturally?

Can we not see that our experiences and decisions are a spectrum? Just like gender being a spectrum as well as sexuality.

Endings and death are a spectrum as well.

There doesn't need to be an "other" in a relationship. Yes, everyone has a perspective yet I wish that we would view two people who ended a relationship from a grander perspective.

Zoom out!

There are two perspectives from two people. Maybe there are more than two!

Yet, do we need to create an "other"?

For example, I'm right and you're wrong! They are wrong and he's right.

There are more than two sides.

The stories and narratives that we do share with others have an impact on how people are perceived and thus treated.

Rather than choosing to push people out of one's community from "things they've heard," observe and have an expansive and open heart. A neutral mind. Do one's best to view an ending as a spectrum. It is what it is. It's a journey into healing. Into the unknown. It's mysterious. Unless, it's yours to experience you can have empathy, yet not understand. Since, you are not in the shoes of the person experiencing the end of the relationship.

Relationships can end and we can still be civil and neutral to each other in community. Greeting each other and saying hi. Having eye contact, etc.

We can evolve past a dualistic mind-set and honor each individual for the path that they are on. Whether that includes being on their journey with them or not.

We can learn to honor one's decisions when we know that they are a person of integrity, truth, and kindness.

May we all evolve and honor each person's path of personal growth, heart, and honor the decisions that they make from a stance of empowerment and evolution as they journey on.

Nothing lasts forever.

I like to say that forever is the moment.

This is why I feel it's important to be present with people. To honor the moment and to honor the relationships you have and cultivate in the present moment.

We need to learn how to let people go and things go when it's time for them to conclude. To end. To die.

As Nina Simone said, "You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served."

I release this blog post. May all who read it receive it as an offering.

In light,


p.s. BIG thanks to my beloved friend and facilitator, Riza Noyama-Zee for her support, guidance, and active listening regarding this topic. Her support and holding space for me to be heard and seen about this topic was and is invaluable.