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    Déjà Vu, All Over Again

    By Joanie Juster–

    The French say it better, but the essence is: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Much of the current news seems awfully familiar; we’ve been down these roads before.

    Wait—Didn’t We Already Win This Battle?

    It seems like every time we claim a victory, we have to turn around and fight the same battle again, and again.

    I will never forget the sheer joy of being at City Hall on June 26, 2015, when word arrived that the Supreme Court had legalized the right of same-sex couples to marry. And yet here we are, just seven years later, with a very different Supreme Court that is threatening to take away that right, and many others. On July 20, it was encouraging to see the House of Representatives pass the Respect for Marriage Act—a bill establishing federal protections for same-sex marriage—with all Democrats and 47 Republicans voting for the bill. The bipartisan vote of 267–157 made it the most pro-LGBTQ vote in Congressional history. So far so good.

    But don’t start celebrating yet. First, the Respect for Marriage Act has real limitations. It does strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred the federal government from respecting the marriages of same-sex couples who were married under state law. DOMA also said that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution doesn’t require states to respect the marriages of same-sex couples performed by other states. So, striking down DOMA is good. But if Obergefell v. Hodges is overturned by this Supreme Court, it would not require any state to allow same-sex marriages.

    The other caveat is: It still has to pass the Senate. This Senate. This Senate that is notoriously gridlocked, and not inclined to pass LGBTQ+-friendly legislation. It would need all Democrats and at least 10 Republican votes to pass. How likely is that? Remember this on Election Day.

    In the meantime, the ACLU has provided a clear analysis of the Respect for Marriage Act; read it here: https://tinyurl.com/rfma22

    And Speaking of Déjà Vu: Monkeypox

    AIDS. COVID. Now monkeypox. Seriously, we’ve been to this rodeo before.

    But this time there is a big difference. Monkeypox is a disease that has been studied. We know how it spreads. There is an effective vaccine. And there is important information available to help protect you.

    The San Francisco AIDS Foundation held a town hall concerning monkeypox on July 12; a video is available on their website. They have also compiled basic information on monkeypox, including questions and answers from the town hall, to help you make informed decisions about prevention, testing, treatment, and vaccines: https://tinyurl.com/3jzjp4rz

    The problem is that there are not enough vaccines currently available. A protest rally was held outside the San Francisco office of the Department of Health and Human Services on July 18, demanding increased access to vaccines. Co-sponsored by the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the rally had a message that remains urgent: Time is of the essence to prevent wider spread of the disease, and the government is not responding quickly enough to prevent that spread.

    Help put pressure on the Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services Department to distribute more vaccines: text Prevent Monkeypox to 52886 to sign the petition for increased vaccine access. Call your elected officials and demand that they make monkeypox vaccines a priority. And most of all, stay informed, and stay safe.

    AIDS Walk Returns with a New Look

    After having to go virtual for the past two years thanks to COVID, AIDS Walk San Francisco returned to Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park on July 17 with an enthusiastic crowd of walkers, and a fresh look. Gone were some familiar elements from past years: the big stage, the bigger sound system, the VIP tent for sponsors and top fundraisers. Instead, the focus was more intimate, designed to bring people back together after the two-year absence. Dan Ashley, longtime anchor at ABC7 News, emceed the in-person and online event from the middle of the meadow, bringing up walkers from the crowd to share their stories of why they were walking. And as participants returned to the meadow after walking, they were treated to a dance party hosted by none other than Peaches Christ.

    To date, walkers have raised $780,024 for local nonprofits that serve the HIV & AIDS community. (Editor’s note: As of this writing, Joanie has raised well over $13,000 for this year’s AIDS Walk! She has supported this fundraiser since 1988.)

    Heroes in Sequins

    Heroes come in many sizes, shapes, and sequins. A Facebook post alerted me to inspiring news about longtime community leader, performer, author, and activist, Lil Miss Hot Mess, who had just been honored by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as a Saint (their highest civilian honor). One of the queens behind Drag Queen Story Hour, she is also the author of two popular children’s books, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish Swish Swish and If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It.

    Throughout the country, far-right activists are working overtime to demean, diminish, intimidate, and downright erase LGBTQ+ people. They are protesting against Drag Queen Story Hours and the libraries that host them, and are even threatening the drag queens themselves. It takes courage and commitment to keep putting on glitter and showing up.

    Lil Miss Hot Mess has addressed these issues and more in an informative and thoughtfully written article that appeared in the Huffington Post on July 7. She provides historical background on the art of drag performance, as well as its political roots. She tackles head on the ill-informed criticism that drag queens are “grooming” or “indoctrinating” children:

    “At its core, drag is always an art of reading and interpretation: It engages critical thinking to scrutinize elements of dominant culture and expose their injustices. And that is why Drag Queen Story Hour is so powerful: not because it ‘indoctrinates’ children (as if!), but rather drag offers a sense of freedom and possibility in a world that restricts who we can be.”

    Too often children feel forced to conform to rigid stereotypes and standards that simply don’t fit them. In loving, entertaining, and fabulously glittering ways, drag queens are giving children a glimpse of a more inclusive and welcoming world. As Lil Miss Hot Mess puts it: “In a society that too often wants things to be this or that, drag reminds us to appreciate the complexities and nuances of being both and.”

    Do yourself a favor and read her entire article here: https://tinyurl.com/Dragqsh

    Castro Theatre Town Hall

    Change never comes easily in San Francisco, and seldom without controversy. The proposed changes to the beloved Castro Theatre stand out as a shining example.

    Another Planet Entertainment has announced an in-person town hall meeting to discuss proposed changes to the historic Castro Theatre. Scheduled for Thursday, August 11, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Castro Theatre, the event is free to the public. At this time there are no plans for the town hall to be broadcast.

    Ever since it was announced in January that Another Planet Entertainment would be partnering with the theatre’s owners to refurbish and manage the 100-year-old venue, many in the community have been on edge, worried that the iconic theatre would be so altered that it would no longer be a welcoming place for film lovers, community groups, local performers, and the queer community in general.

    After months of speculation, the community will finally have an opportunity to hear about the plans in person at the town hall, and to ask questions. Representatives of the theater owners, APE, and the Nasser family are expected to be present. The meeting will begin with a presentation by the APE representatives, followed by a question-and-answer session. The town hall is certain to be a don’t-miss event. Read all the details here: https://tinyurl.com/hoodln

    Harvey Milk Photo Center Show

    While today we mostly think of Harvey Milk as a groundbreaking politician and civil rights leader, it is worth remembering that he also ran a camera store in the Castro that was an influential gathering place for photographers. That legacy lives on at the Harvey Milk Photo Center at 50 Scott Street.

    The Harvey Milk Photo Center is holding its annual Member, Staff, and Volunteer Show July 23 through August 20. The show portrays the current look at what is being created in the darkrooms and digital labs at the Center. The exhibit has been curated by the staff, volunteers, and members, and encompasses a wide range of styles and subject matter. It is free and open to the public. Check the website for hours. https://www.harveymilkphotocenter.org/

    Martinis for Sisters

    Want to have a cool cocktail and do a good deed? Welcome to the first-ever San Francisco Martini Week. Co-hosted by local distillery Junipero Gin and San Francisco Magazine, the week-long event (August 1–6) will allow customers to try creative martini variations with Junipero Gin at bars and restaurants across the city. And the good deed part? Junipero Gin will donate $10,000 to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Even better, $2 from every signature Junipero martini sold during Martini Week at participating bars and restaurants will also be donated to the Sisters to support their grant program that funds progressive, grassroots organizations and projects that serve marginalized communities and promote wellness, joy, tolerance, and diversity around the Bay Area.

    Inspired to do even more good deeds? Support the Sisters’ good works directly by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fvyvfane

    For more info and a list of participating bars and restaurants, visit https://tinyurl.com/mspsuaec

    The Last Word

    Summer is in full swing, and events and street fairs are back. Monkeypox may be getting all the press, but COVID is still very much with us. Please stay safe, and protect yourself and others. And enjoy our cool San Francisco summer fog.

    Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.

    Published on July 28, 2022