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    Alice and Milk LGBT Democratic Clubs—More Similar Than Different

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer

    Welcome to my debut column in the San Francisco Bay Times. I look forward to the opportunity to amuse and educate, as well as to engage with readers on issues that impact the LGBT community. As a veteran of both the women’s and LGBT liberation movements, and now a member of the Resistance movement, I follow the principles of author Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who wrote the book “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” (Yes, it was a book, and not just a bumper sticker!) I hope to encourage you to get active, resist the current Republican administration, and as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says, “Don’t agonize, organize!”

    For my maiden voyage, I will address the questions that I hear most often as Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic club.

    Why are there two LGBT Democratic clubs in San Francisco?

    In 1976, Harvey Milk and his supporters started their own club, presumably because they felt that Alice was not a good fit for their political ideology. I was not at that meeting in 1976; I was an awkward 14-year-old in Connecticut collecting bicentennial quarters. I have personally experienced fractured organizations, however, and based on the countless public meetings I’ve attended over the years, I’m guessing it involved raised voices, door-slamming and some heated dialogue. It would have been a great scene in ABC’s recent production of When We Rise; too bad it wasn’t included. As it turns out, the existence of two LGBT clubs in San Francisco strengthens and increases democratic engagement. While many of us are “homo-sexual,” we’re hardly “homo-genous,” so having two strong clubs provides options for the veritable rainbow of diverse views and ideas within our community. 

    What is the difference between the two clubs?  

    Initially, Alice was considered more “moderate” while Milk was strongly rooted in the “progressive-left” territory. At times, Alice moves more to the left on specific issues and Milk comes more to the center. In most elections, the clubs are usually closely aligned on state and local initiatives. In the November 2016 election, the embarrassingly long ballot contained 17 state ballot measures and 25 local initiatives. For state and local initiatives, Alice and Milk matched on 71% of the propositions on which they took positions. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were a few candidate races with drama so intense that the clubs could have raised money by live-streaming the action on “pay-per-view.” But, in general, club members are respectful of the differences in candidate choices and treat each other with grace and civility.

    Which club should I join?  

    If you really want to support LGBT Democratic clubs, join both. Go to membership meetings and determine which club is a better fit. You might surprise yourself and find an unexpected home. I voted the Milk slate in the 1990s, but as I became more politically active, I met more Alice members and was recruited to join the Alice Board. After serving 2 years each as Co-Chair of the Field, Finance, and PAC committees, I’m now Co-Chair of the club.

    Do the members of the clubs get along?

    Yes, there is much crossover socially and politically, and a few relationships have fallen into “James Carville/Mary Matalin territory.” Alice and Milk co-sponsor events and deliver joint statements on issues of concern to the LGBT community. This year, the co-chairs/co-presidents of both clubs committed to work together as a united front against the unrelenting horror show of the Republican administration. 

    Alice and Milk will always be different clubs with distinct personalities and philosophies, but both clubs are committed to Democratic values and fighting for our community both locally and nationally. Together, we stand united against any assault on LGBT rights, attacks on civil liberties, exploitation of transphobia and the embrace of religious exemptions to condone LGBT discrimination.  

    Our unity is more important than our differences. Come and join us—you have two clubs from which to choose!

    Louise “Lou” Fischer is the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple non-profit and community based organizations.