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    Sister Dana Sez, “At Least We Can Still Celebrate Harvey Milk.”

    By Sister Dana Van Iquity

    Sister Dana sez, “Maybe the Federal Government is a whole lotta bad news lately, but at least we can still celebrate HARVEY MILK DAY (May 22) as a huge win for queer civil rights!”

    On HARVEY MILK DAY, people celebrate the life and achievements of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist who was the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California. Tragically, Milk served as City Supervisor in San Francisco for only a little less than a year before he was murdered by Dan White, a rival politician. During his time in office, he was responsible for championing a civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. Harvey Milk found his calling as a leader of the gay rights movement in the Castro. He was naturally charismatic and deeply concerned with social issues. His successful campaign was a landmark in American political history. On Harvey Milk Day, people around the world celebrate the achievements of the international gay rights movement, and reflect on the work that still remains to be done. Personally, I prefer Harvey Milk Month! One day just ain’t enough.

    PAWS, SHANTI PROJECT, and philanthropist Dede Wilsey presented “PETCHITECTURE 2017 – CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF PAWS” commemorating three decades of maintaining the human-animal bond for our most vulnerable neighbors at PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support)’ signature event, Petchitecture, held at the Fairmont Hotel ballroom. This event was unlike any other in San Francisco—bringing together humans, animals and premier Bay Area architects to create a spectacular evening of fun, fundraising, and pet-friendly architecture (all animal homes available for bidding). Lenny Broberg was auctioneer extraordinaire. Among my fave habitats were the Poochella Pup Tent, Golden Gate Cat Hammock, and Cat-Thedral. We humans wore our Classy Cat and Top Dog attire for the occasion. There was ample food and drink for the bipeds, and passed dog treats for our canine guests. My grey & black tabby cat, Pink Panther, stayed home and sulked. Emcee was Senator Scott Wiener. Entertainment was provided by The Lollipop Guild, an ensemble group from the SF Gay Men’s Chorus. An award was given to the PAWS volunteer veterinarians. Mrs. Wilsey screened a heartfelt video of happy clients and their pets. Executive Director Kaushik Roy noted that since officially becoming a program of Shanti in November 2015, PAWS has been able to increase staff and fundraising with the goal of serving many more clients than ever before—on the pace to serve 750 this year and projecting 1,000 by 2018.

    Each year EQUALITY CALIFORNIA (EQCA) holds the EQUALITY AWARDS to honor the inspirational leaders and outstanding allied organizations whose selfless work helps to create a fairer and just society. These are special times to celebrate community achievements while renewing the commitment to the fight for equality. Among California’s premier gala events, attendants regularly include leaders of the LGBT equality movement and leaders from the business, nonprofit, civic and political landscapes. The Equality Awards are held each year in each of the top five media markets in California—Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Springs. This year in EssEff, the gala was held in the Westin St. Francis. Award recipients were California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, openly gay columnist and political commentator Jonathan Capehart, business leader Michael Dunn, and reality TV personality and author Jazz Jennings. Emcee was transgender star Scott Turner Schofield (known for TV’s The Bold and the Beautiful (1987) and various touring shows. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom presented the Equality Visibility Award to Jennings, a trans teen activist. This year’s co-chairs, State Senator Scott Wiener, California Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy and Equality California board members Andrea Casalett and David Tsai, all celebrated our heroes and allies. Senator Wiener presented the Vanguard Leadership Award to Becerra, who on January 24, 2017, was sworn in as the 33rd Attorney General of the State of California, and is the first Latino to hold the office in the history of the state. Tom Steyer presented the Humanitarian Award to Dunn. Ma and Sheehy presented the Equality Leadership Award to Capehart. Executive Director Rick Zbur spoke of the many victories LGBTQ citizens have accomplished, as well as those yet to be achieved.

    “BLISS 2017” was the 30th Year Celebration of MAITRI, providing compassionate residential care to men and women in need of hospice or 24-hour care. The event was held at the Golden Gate Club. Maitri came into existence in 1987, when the Zen teacher Issan Dorsey of the HARTFORD STREET ZEN CENTER took in a homeless student dying of AIDS. Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district, Maitri soon grew to become a model eight-bed hospice, a place of solace in a community ravaged by AIDS. As the dynamics of the pandemic changed—new drugs had helped reduce mortality but increased the number of patients living with severe debilitations—Maitri responded flexibly by doubling its capacity and extending care to non-hospice patients. This program expansion coincided with Maitri’s relocation to a state-licensed, custom-designed facility in late 1997. Michael Sorensen—as its newest executive director—spoke of how, for three decades, MAITRI HOSPICE has helped those with HIV/AIDS pass on with dignity. He noted that “almost 2,000 people have died well” at Maitri over the years. He screened a video about Maitri. Several past executive directors and board members were in attendance. A Zen blessing table and tribute to Issan Dorsey was presented as well. For entertainment, six members from the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco sang “Clouds” among other numbers; a small troupe from ManDance Company performed ballet; classically trained vocalist baritone Lawrence Beaman sang; and emcee/comic Marga Gomez gave us a hilarious standup act. As a very special treat, surprise guest singer and Broadway star Sheryl Lee Ralph entertained us, and when she upped the ante in a bidding war, by evening’s end, Maitri had met its $20,000 goal!

    We joined ACADEMY OF FRIENDS at a very special event at the Clift Hotel when AOF & Sponsors presented Bay Area HIV/AIDS agencies with the money raised over the past year and at their gorgeous annual OSCAR NIGHT GALA. There we honored their many wonderful volunteers from the board, members of the community, and beneficiary agencies. AOF has distributed over $8.8 million to HIV/AIDS services since the beginning of the pandemic.

    There is a fabulous new Orbitz ad starring Randy Rainbow and featuring Margaret Cho, Bianca Del Rio, and Miss Richfield 1981. Along with a Broadway-esque jingle, a half-naked male acrobat, tap-dancing, and a few cynical references to politics, the ad is definitely directed at the gay male traveler. lgbtqnation.com/2017/05/randy-rainbow-sings

    DRAGATHON 2017 was the culmination of an amazing, super-powered crowd-funding campaign hosted by the SFGMC Divas, with all monies supporting the SAN FRANCISCO GAY MEN’S CHORUS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE NETWORK (FAN)—helping Chorus members who can’t afford to participate the ability to do so. Over a dozen of these fierce fundraising “females” battled it out against one another at the Oasis club in SHEROES vs. VILLAINS” for a chance to earn the title of MS. DRAGATHON 2017 in a RuPaul’s Drag Race-styled event. Judges were burlesque dancer Rory Davis, Dragathon past winner Miss Nomer D’Sparateaseand Australia’s RuPaul winner Courtney Act. I had the honor of sitting next to SFGMC board member, handsome Gregory Marks. So, I gave him a spontaneous lap dance. Top queen of the night, Shero BELLE BOTTOMS, saved the world and won the trophy—all with an incredible show and appearances by Courtney Act, the (burlesque) Men of Baloney, and the SFGMC Divas. Top fundraising contestant, AMMY THEST aka The Joker villain, brought in an impressive $4,000. The total raised for SFGMC FAN was over $33,000.

    SISTER DANA SEZ, “MAY I SUGGEST THESE GREAT MAY SUGGESTIONS?”  

    Monday evening, May 22, 6–7:30 pm at the LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER lobby gallery, the Dutch delegation is unveiling a photo art exhibit to hang in the gallery. It is also the official SF/Amsterdam joint celebration of HARVEY MILK DAY. Speakers will be Stuart Milk (co-founder and board president of the all-volunteer HARVEY MILK FOUNDATION), SF Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, the Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Mark Leno and others. Also, watch for the appearance of the Dutch Rainbow Dress at STRUT in the Castro.

    CASTRO STREET ARTSAVESLIVES STUDIO AND GALLERY, 518 Castro Street & 18th, presented a magnificent MAY ARTISTS RECEPTION at the gallery—open to everyone—with free food, drinks, and comic emcee Kristine Wilson showcasing local entertainment such as Scarlet Astrid executing modern dance under black-light; Kim Lembo with vocals on guitar; Julia Austenfeld giving us four coloratura soprano opera arias; Magnolia Black belting out the blues; faux queen Ruby Vixen singing and doing burlesque; and Sister Dana reciting “I Will Survive Trump”—changing the Gloria Gaynor disco lyrics to an anti-fascist president anthem.

    Just a few of the artists now on display all month of May are Lorraine Grassano, Liam Peters, Vicki Kieban, James Windsor, Suzie Curtiss, Thomas H Lublin, Jay Davidson, Mark Arnold, Bob Burnside, Harry Leaf, Paul Arnold, Brad Jack Stelnicki, and Butch. Among my favorites are Michael Lownie (another of my returning fave raves, especially with his clever “Distrumpian Off-White House National Portrait Gallery” and seven scary dump Trump troll dolls); Gregory Conover with his whimsical robotic 3-D mixed media; Malcolm Drake‘s luscious colorful oils, including a self-portrait; returning oil painting artist Donna De Matteo and “La Casa de las Madres/Holocaust Center” making a statement against immigrant discrimination with a nun guarding undocumented children and a dog peeing on a nasty ICE agent’s leg; Mark Gebhart‘s color photography of tasteful male nudes; and “Dance Naked,” the black & white photos by Dot—capturing men in intricate ballet choreography. There is also art by THOMASINA DE MAIO, the owner and curator of ARTSAVESLIVES. Just in time for Harvey Milk’s birthday week, the windows feature artist renditions of Milk.

    The gallery is usually open daily until 4 pm, and offering live figure drawing sessions on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 6–9 pm. Mark your calendars for Friday, June 9, 6–9 pm as “SF PRIDE PARADE PAINTINGS” (featuring the Pride Parade paintings by Alan Beckstead) offers artwork, a party, reception, food, drink, and live performances—all free to the public—at Art Saves Lives Gallery. Sister Dana sez, “Do NOT miss these marvelous monthly manifestations!” sfartslave.com

    Join the SAN FRANCISCO LESBIAN/GAY FREEDOM BAND for the second annual fun-filled audience participation concert on May 20, 8 pm at the beautiful Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Union Square, 450 Powell Street. We will belt out some of Broadway’s most beloved show tunes from throughout the decades! Artistic Director Pete Nowlen will lead the fun as the Band musically transports us to the bright lights of Broadway with tunes from classics such as Hamilton, West Side Story, Hairspray, Chorus Line, Sweeney Todd, Shrek the Musical, Sound of Music, and more. Special guest artists Donna Sachet and Leanne Borghesi will emcee the evening. brownpapertickets.com/event/2914615%20

    Celebrate HARVEY MILK’S 87TH BIRTHDAY this year at the Castro Theatre for two special screenings of the Oscar-winning documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK. Presented by the HARVEY MILK LGBT DEMOCRATIC CLUB, this anniversary event will include a daytime 12 pm program, free for students and seniors, as well as an evening 6 pm VIP reception and screening. milkclub.org/birthday

    The DRAG QUEENS of COMEDY – 2017 TOUR (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City) is in EssEff’s Castro Theatre on Saturday May 27 with two fantastic shows: 6 and 10 pm. Starring these hysterical DQs: Alaska, Willam, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Soprano, Coco Peru, Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat, Peaches Christ, Heklina, & Lady Red Couturedqoc.com

    “IN THE SPRINGTIME OF HIS VOODOO” is an art exhibition by Nathan Rapport on display all May at STRUT in the Castro. Nathan Rapport is a California-based multimedia artist working and showing in galleries and alternative creative spaces across North America. In October 2015, he released his queer adult coloring book, “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” receiving tremendous visibility and press for the project. In 2016, he launched a queer focused line of wearables and fine art, and continues to nurture this project. Currently Nathan lives in Los Angeles, and works full time creating visibly queer, sex positive art. My favorite is entitled: “And Right There for a Minute, I Knew You So Well” (two men embracing passionately). My second fave is: “I Hope He Never Lets Me Down Again,” with emotion shown vividly in the color palate. NathanRapportArt.com

    “RAISE THE RAINBOW” is a very special GILBERT BAKER MEMORIAL celebration of life for the all too suddenly late great Gilbert (creator of the iconic rainbow flag) aka Sister Chanel of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. In 1978, this “Gay Betsy Ross” (as he called himself) hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of vibrantly colored fabric into a rainbow flag, instantly creating an enduring international symbol of gay pride. Most of the work on the rainbow flags was done at Tom Taylor‘s shop, and the DIVERSITY FOUNDATION OF SAN FRANCISCO with Jerome Goldstein, M.D., has taken the ultimate steps to help further Gilbert Baker’s efforts to leave this universal symbol that is recognized worldwide as the statement of Gay Pride. Consider donating to the Gilbert Baker Fund in order to continue Gilbert’s vision and advocacy. For more information, visit diversitysf.org/give/ Memorial will be held on June 8 @ 7 pm at the Castro Theatre. Free admission with RSVP: tinyurl.com/gilbertbakermemorial

    Great news from Tinseltown: NBC‘s “WILL & GRACE” returns for a 12-episode run beginning this Fall. Original series creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will serve as writers, showrunners and executive producers. Legendary director James Burrows, who helmed every episode of the show during its initial eight-year run, will direct and executive produce. It’s about time for this reunion!

    PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, the live stage musical by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, runs at Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, May 27–July 1. This is the glorious musical adventure about drag queens, drag shows, Down Under, and what we will do for love. therhino.org

    Sister Dana sez, “Now, according to new reports, T-rump’s 2018 budget proposal will include $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid and other programs such as Meals on Wheels—completely apart from the healthcare cuts—and he tops it off with additional cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance. Resist!”