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    GLBT Historical Society Incoming Executive Director Roberto Ordeñana Shares Priorities and Goals

    By Bill Lipsky, Ph.D.–

    Anyone who says there’s no future in the past hasn’t met Roberto Ordeñana, the incoming Executive Director of the GLBT Historical Society. We can learn from the past, he said, to build the future we want. History, as he put it, “inspires us to move forward.”

    Born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District, Ordeñana received his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from San Francisco State University, where he majored in Human Sexuality Studies.

    Soon after graduating, he joined the STOP AIDS Project, creating HIV prevention programs and working with Latinx gay, bisexual, and trans youth to effect change.

    He continued his work at the SF LGBT Center, where he developed arts and cultural programs while serving as director of community programs, director of development and marketing, and most recently as deputy executive director.

    Now, in his new role, Ordeñana believes that we are at a pivotal moment in our history. He told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “Our hard-fought gains are under attack by political extremists who wish to force us back into the closet, lock us up in cages, or make us disappear altogether.”

    The attacks on our community, particularly those who are most marginalized, mean that “now more than ever it is vital that we preserve and exhibit our queer history and our contributions to culture and society,” he added.

    How do we do that? Ordeñana believes that one way our community can “create a strong path forward” is to uncover, safeguard, and “share the histories of our movement for liberation.” Among his goals for the Historical Society is to establish a permanent, safe space for its collections, exhibits, and public programs: “a home for our history.” 

    Ordeñana also believes it is vital that we understand our history in all its diversity. He especially wants to determine “whose histories are we missing and how to fill in the gaps.” He intends to “work hard and dig deep” so the stories of marginalized groups, a vital part of our shared legacy, are preserved and that their “histories and experiences are widely heard and never forgotten.”

    Whose history is it? Ordeñana plans to engage with the “broadest swath of community” he can, strengthen current relationships, build new ones and “do a lot of listening” in the days to come. He intends to have a “sustained engagement with the community” going forward.

    Recognizing the work that has gone before, he has among his priorities the continuation of the capital campaign to create a permanent home for the GLBT’s archive, museum, and public forums and other events. He explained: “Now more than ever it is vital that we preserve and exhibit our queer history and our contributions to culture and society.”

    What about the future? Ordeñana believes the work of the GLBT Historical Society is vital because we need “to preserve our history,” of course, but not only for its own sake. It is also important because we “learn and grow from our history” and we “learn from the past to build the future we want.”

    Bill Lipsky, Ph.D., author of “Gay and Lesbian San Francisco” (2006), is a member of the Rainbow Honor Walk board of directors.

    Published on October 6, 2022