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    A Lavendar Sweet for the Nation

    By Reese Aaron Isbell

    Twenty years ago, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club led our community into historic “Lavender Sweeps,” as they were then named, in 1990 and 1994. Twenty years later, in 2012, we have had our first “National Lavender Sweep.”

    During the times of Harvey Milk in the 70’s and the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, the LGBT community of San Francisco began coming together like never before in history. We started coming out, speaking out, fighting against bigotry, and saving lives. From this organizing, our own LGBT power began to take hold on a citywide basis in San Francisco.

    In the 1990 & 1994 citywide election, these “Lavender Sweeps” elected numerous openly-LGBT candidates to citywide office on the Board of Supervisors, School Board, College Board and judgeships. These victories inspired and initiated the next two decades of growing strength of our own voting power and continued to bring about our own community’s activists becoming elected leaders for the City. Now in 2012, this “National Lavender Sweep” can inspire nationally.

    Consider these facts from the 2012 “National Lavender Sweep” election results:

    • The first openly LGBT candidate ever winning office to the United States Senate (Tammy Baldwin, WI)

    • The first openly LGBT candidate of color winning office to the United States House (Mark Takano, CA)

    • The first openly Transgender person ever elected to a seat in a state legislature

    • Seven openly LGBT House members from around the nation

    • Seven new openly LGBT officeholders in state legislatures where there were none before

    • Hundreds of LGBT candidates around the nation winning public offices in their communities

    In addition, we won four historic statewide initiatives for marriage equality. Further, we have a President, and a Democratic Party, who ran on, and won by, supporting our equal rights and having our community a welcomed and open part of the national coalition.

    San Francisco has had several decades to get used to these ideas of an openly LGBT candidate winning public office, LGBT leadership becoming a traditional part of our local Democratic coalition, open LGBT elected officials being part of our City Family’s elected leadership and our state representation to Sacramento. The rest of the nation is now beginning to catch up, and with such an historic elected landscape around the country, we can excitedly be part of the forthcoming ten, twenty, thirty years and beyond when our nation increasingly views it just as we do in San Francisco– an obvious and valued part of elected leadership throughout the country. We are San Franciscans. We are Californians. We are in every state. We are Americans.

    We should be quite proud of our victories from this 2012 “National Lavender Sweep.” These victories came about because we, as the LGBT community past and present, came together and owned our own power– our power to come out, our power to voice our thoughts openly, our power to speak out, our power to fight for our rights, to join together, to take leadership, and to win the hearts and minds of others, one family member or friend or colleague at a time. And with our own power shining out from within us, knowing our history and envisioning our growing power in our future, we can fully celebrate these 2012 victories as our own.

    Thomas Jefferson stated “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and we know all too well the price. To continue to fight the good fight and own our own LGBT power in San Francisco, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club still organizes every day, 41 years after its founding. To join, support, and learn more about Alice, check out our website, And remember, to own your own part of history from the 2012 “National Lavender Sweep,” our community won these elections. You can take pride and ownership that you won them too.

    Reese Aaron Isbell is the Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

    Reese Aaron Isbell