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    Honoring Stonewall by Continuing the Fight for LGBTQ Safety

    By Andrea Shorter–

    Happy LGBTQ Pride! Whether you are an out, loud and proud denizen of the San Francisco Bay Area, or are eagerly visiting San Francisco from afar to enjoy one of the world’s largest Pride parades (averaging over 1 million spectators), the Dyke March, the Trans March, film festivals and endless series of festivities, we wish all an inspired and safe Pride holiday.

    As this 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings coincides with the overcrowded race for the 2020 presidential primary nomination, we can expect to see several candidates making the rounds throughout the country, appearing in at least one Pride parade or related affair to wave a rainbow flag and show unwavering support for LGBTQ community—and garner crucial primary support and votes. California’s daughter, junior U.S. Senator and candidate for president, Kamala Harris, will certainly make the rounds in and about her hometown area, enjoying a homecoming to the San Francisco Pride Parade, as well as making an appearance at the annual Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club’s famous Pride Sunday Breakfast.

    Part two of the first Democratic primary candidates’ debate takes place this evening, June 27, following last night’s part one. Airing on, and moderated by, various NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo network anchors, these events for many viewers provide the first time that they will see or hear several of the candidates. It is estimated that 80% of voters are not settled on a candidate yet.

    Precious time to make that memorable, impressive breakout moment for any of the candidates is proving to be daunting when competing for air time with numerous other individuals on stage. For some, tonight could result in a key moment to resonate with a largely undecided viewership. Brace for a contest of poll-tested, campaign trail-tried sound bites crafted to grab the spotlight, headlines and tweetable social media virility.

    While jockeying to prove who is best fit to fire Trump is the main attraction, I would hope that during this Pride month, contenders will do more than make cursory acknowledgements of Pride and the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, or their support for the urgency of enacting an Equality Act. I hope that in mentions of the LGBTQ movement for liberation and full equality, the issue of safety will also warrant attention.

    For the recent Human Rights Campaign report Violence Against the Transgender Community 2019 ( https://bit.ly/2uDJADg ), advocates last year tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were black transwomen. This year, 10 transwomen have been killed, with 5 of them having been slain in this month of June. While the circumstances underlying each case vary, it is very, very likely that these transwomen were slain because of who they are: transwomen, and most specifically transwomen of color.

    This national crisis of fatal violence targeting transwomen of color will likely not be called out on the presidential debate stage or campaign trail. It should. As queer people, we must demand critical response to this urgency and other burgeoning issues facing vulnerable LGBTQ populations—youth homelessness, underemployment, access to healthcare, etc.—from our national and local elected leaders.

    In San Francisco, one candidate for district attorney is making the protection and civil rights of LGBTQ citizens a top priority. A straight ally, former prosecutor under Kamala Harris’ terms as DA and attorney general, and past president of the SF Police Commission, Suzy Loftus proposes critical response to the facts of violence against LGBTQ people. Based on a study conducted by the SF LGBT Community Center, 48 percent of the SF LGBTQ community have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime, 68 percent experienced physical violence, and 81 percent experienced harassment.

    Loftus, among her series of proposed initiatives to address LGTQ safety, plans to direct the first-ever Civil Rights Unit within the office of the San Francisco District Attorney, with the charge of creating solutions to eliminate disparities in our criminal justice system that affect individuals of all racial and gender identities, sexual orientation, religious affiliations and physical abilities. She will also add hate crimes to the list of special initiatives under the Criminal Division Specialized Crimes Chief, with the aim of treating hate crimes with the same level of priority as other violent crimes.

    I’ve known and worked with Suzy Loftus, and respect her for her dedication to real criminal justice reform, and am confident that, as District Attorney, she will continue to elevate critical response to hate crime and violence against LGBTQ people. While it is a long shot that a presidential candidate will include critical response to hate crimes against LGBTQ people as a focal point along the campaign trail, perhaps we can hold elected county and state prosecutors accountable to providing more critical response.

    The Stonewall uprisings in 1969 were in response to harassment, violence and tyranny visited upon the LGBTQ community. Transwomen of color were at the forefront of leading those uprisings, standing up against oppression, and calling for a real gay liberation movement. At this 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, we wish everyone a happy Pride. Let us honor the fight for justice ignited by Stonewall by continuing the call for renewed, inclusive criminal justice and law enforcement reforms that will serve and protect us better than in 1969.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.