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    Five Revealing Moments of Kamala Harris’ Bay Area LGBTQ Advocacy

    When the news broke on Tuesday, August 11, that presidential candidate Joe Biden had selected Senator Kamala Harris to be his 2020 running mate, the phones lit up at the San Francisco Bay Times. Those who called could barely contain their excitement, which was palpable and sometimes deafening, while others held back tears of joy and perhaps relief. One thing was clear: for many in the Bay Area’s LGBTQ community, this critical decision felt personal.

    The emotional reactions reflect Harris’ own passions, which connect with many of us at levels that go far beyond surface level politics. Generations of women, as well as men from matriarchal families, immediately understand the significance of statements like: “There is no title or honor on Earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’ daughter. That is the truth I hold dearest of all.”

    And many Black community members, particularly from the Bay Area, have expressed heartfelt responses to this tweet from Harris’ sister Maya: “That day when a little girl from Oaktown became the first black woman to be a major-party vice-presidential nominee …”

    Photos proudly shared via social media this week provide further evidence of Harris’ Bay Area ties. One image after another shows local politicians, community leaders, and countless others with Harris at various events over the years. Her Bay Area network—built during her upbringing in Berkeley, her years as 27th District Attorney of San Francisco (2004–2011), 32nd Attorney General of California (2011–2017), and U.S. Senator from California (2017–)—is massive and loyal, with a large number of supporters coming from the LGBT community.

    That is understandable after considering moments like the following that reveal her deep connection to the Bay Area’s LGBTQ community and its concerns.

    Valentine’s Day 2004

    Harris will always remember Valentine’s Day 2004 in San Francisco. Just two days prior, then mayor Gavin Newsom made history by defying state and national laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. Harris was the city’s district attorney at the time, and happened to be traveling to the airport on that year’s Valentine’s Day.

    “I remember looking around and everywhere you looked there were families that were just full of joy,” she recalled in a piece for the Las Vegas Spectrum. “You could feel the energy. I walked right up those City Hall steps and I started performing marriages myself.”

    The L Word Fundraising Event for Lyon-Martin, 2005

    When she lived in the Bay Area, Harris often took time out of her busy schedule to attend events for our LGBTQ community. At “Betty’s List,” and later the San Francisco Bay Times, we could count on her support and she attended many events both for and within our local gay community. Frequently her support was only known by organizers and attendees, as she acted out of genuine allyship.

    One of our favorites among such events was a fundraiser for Lyon-Martin Health Services held at the (now closed) Sound Factory on Harrison Street in 2005. “Betty’s List” was a sponsor and co-producer. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon held court while L Word series stars Sarah Shahi and Lauren Holloman mingled with the numerous guests at the standing-room-only event that packed the large venue. Award-winning author Jewelle Gomez introduced the show’s creator and executive producer Ilene Chaiken. The Showtime star power was matched by Harris, who captivated attendees and demonstrated genuine affection for Martin and Lyon and their work.

    Bedazzled at Pride, 2019

    For nearly two decades, Harris has been a welcome sight at San Francisco Pride Parades and related celebrations. Last year, she spoke movingly about social and racial justice before the Pride Parade, where she dazzled onlookers with her bedazzled rainbow-sequined denim jacket and electrifying presence.

    Her energy spilled out of her large contingent and into the surrounding crowds, where she beamed, danced, and basked in the San Francisco spirit of that memorable summer’s day. Videos such as this captured just some of those moments:

    Phyllis Lyon’s 90th and 95th Birthdays, 2014 and 2019

    One of Harris’ many local mentors was Phyllis Lyon, and the two women remained in touch with each other until Lyon’s passing in April of this year. Harris always took time to honor Lyon on her birthday. Here is what she told us last year, on the occasion of Lyon’s 95th:

    “Throughout my career in public service, Phyllis has always encouraged me to continue working to secure justice for the vulnerable and the voiceless. She is a tireless advocate for women and girls and for the principle that everybody, no matter who they love, is worthy of dignity and equality. I’m proud to call her my friend and to wish her a very happy birthday.”

    Harris 2020 Campaign Rally in Oakland, 2019

    On January 27, 2019, Harris kicked off her presidential campaign (suspended later that year) in Oakland, the city where 55 years ago she was born at a Kaiser hospital. It was as much a coming home day for the charismatic leader as it was a rally, with friends and former co-workers, along with thousands of supporters, making up the crowd that swelled to at least 20,000. The event turned out to be one of the largest campaign roll-outs for 2020 among Democrats.

    She included LGBTQ concerns in her fiery speech, mentioning homophobia and transphobia as she spoke about racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism. “They are age-old forms of hate with new fuel,” she said. “And we need to speak that truth so we can deal with it.” She has continued to do so over these past several months and even now, as Biden’s 2020 running mate.

    Published on August 13, 2020