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    It’s Time for Our Better Angels

    By Joanie Juster–

    February ended on a shockingly cruel note. The governor of Texas announced a war on trans kids, their families, and allies, and the next day Putin unleashed his full fury on Ukraine. In the face of such madness, it is up to the rest of us to summon our better angels, stand up to the aggressors, and support their victims with as much kindness and aid as we can. Let the courage of the Ukrainian people—and the countless Russian citizens who are risking everything to protest their dictatorial leader—inspire us to do whatever we can to make the world a kinder and safer place. I’ve included a few suggestions as to how we can all help.

    Crisis in Ukraine: How You Can Help

    The brutality and inhumanity of Putin’s assault on Ukraine is hard to fathom, but the resilience and resistance of the Ukrainian people has galvanized the world. We need to help them, but how?

    Simply this: Send money. Every organization working on the ground in Ukraine and the surrounding countries needs a massive influx of funds to provide humanitarian aid of the most basic kind: food, shelter, water, medical supplies, sanitation, and transportation to safer regions. The big organizations (International Rescue Committee, World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, and others) are experienced in providing aid to conflict zones, and helping large numbers of refugees, but need financial support. Check their websites, and give what you can.

    LGBTQ+ Ukrainians are facing additional dangers from Putin’s homophobic policies; many are being targeted and need to flee.  According to the Facebook page of Grupa Stonewall in Warsaw, Poland, “Refugees are feeling immense stress and fear that we cannot imagine. LGBT+ people are also uncertain about whether their orientation and/or identity will be respected in the new place.”

    Knowing that LGBTQ+ people face higher risks and cannot count on access to other avenues of social assistance, OutRight Action International, an international human rights organization, is responding to the crisis in Ukraine by working with organizations in neighboring EU countries to prepare safe shelters for displaced people. Sadly, BIPOC Ukrainians, and people of color working and studying in Ukraine, are also having difficulty at borders as they try to evacuate.

    The website for Outreach International states, “As we know all too well, in times of crisis, LGBTIQ people who are already marginalized face higher risks and cannot count automatically on access to humanitarian and/or social assistance. So let’s give our community some sense of hope and help, by providing the funds they need to survive, and the resilience they need to thrive.”

    Here in San Francisco, Rainbow World Fund, an all-volunteer organization, has also set up an emergency fund for Ukraine to support LGBTQ+ Ukrainians. Their statement focuses as much on spiritual needs as physical ones: “This is a time to remember who we really are—to call upon the better angels of our nature, to respond with courage, compassion, and generosity … . Your effort will not only provide needed aid but will create and share the hope that is essential to our survival, our healing and humanity.”

    Clearly the situation in Ukraine is highly volatile, and changing rapidly. But even if the invasion ended tomorrow, the need for basic humanitarian aid will be going on for a long time. People will always need food, clean water, shelter, sanitation, warm clothing, and medical care. Whether you can give $5 or $5,000, know that every dollar will help someone in an unimaginably difficult situation.

    Anti-Trans Bills

    Seriously, February seemed to end with a tsunami of bad news. The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, the governor of Texas unleashed a barrage of unimaginable cruelty upon trans kids, by calling on “licensed professionals”—including teachers, nurses, doctors and “members of the general public”—to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving gender-affirming medical care, and providing criminal penalties for failure to report such “child abuse.”

    And Texas is just one example. As I write this, Alabama is advancing similar anti-trans legislation in their state house, and one after another, other states are doing their best to deny the very existence of trans people.

    You have to ask: what is the point of such cruelty? And what can we do to reverse this trend? Support organizations that fight for the rights of trans people. The Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality are on the front lines battling these anti-trans bills.

    Support organizations that support not just the rights, but also the physical and mental health of trans youth. These legislative assaults are creating real danger for vulnerable young people. And most of all, be a friend and an ally. Organizations like The Trevor Project and Family Equality have posted guides to being an ally on their websites.

    3/21 HIV Rally and Die-In at SF City Hall

    AIDS activism is alive and well in San Francisco.

    For two years, San Francisco has been a leader in the fight against COVID-19, with infection, hospitalization, and death rates far lower than most other major cities. But that battle meant that resources and personnel were stretched thin, and other services suffered—among them, HIV prevention and care. With access to health care, prevention, and testing limited during the pandemic, infection rates rose, viral loads went up, and some of the city’s most vulnerable populations suffered.

    A coalition of activists and HIV providers are looking to reverse that trend by holding the city accountable. They are planning a “Back to HIV Rally & Die-In” on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Monday, March 21, from 11–1.  Speakers at the rally will include keynote speaker Dr. Monica Gandhi, Medical Supervisor at SF General Hospital’s Ward 86, and more. Join us on March 21, because AIDS isn’t over, and silence still = death.

    Horizons Foundation Announces Grantees

    On a happier note, Horizons Foundation, which supports grassroots LGBTQ+ organizations in the Bay Area, recently announced their newest round of grantees, in which $400,000 was granted to 31 organizations. The grants, ranging from $7,500 to $15,000, make a big impact on small groups. The work produced by the grantees covers an eye-popping range, from the arts, to social services. It is well worth your time to check out this list of grantees and celebrate all the good work they are doing in the community.

    AIDS Walk Returns to Golden Gate Park; AIDS LifeCycle set for June 5–11

    After two years as a virtual event, AIDS Walk San Francisco is returning to its traditional home in Golden Gate Park on Sunday, July 17. The live event will run in tandem with a live broadcast on ABC7 KGO-TV. And AIDS LifeCycle will be on the road again June 5–11.

    I’ve been raising money for AIDS Walk since 1988, as well as supporting riders in AIDS LifeCycle, and will be writing more about both of them in the weeks to come. AIDS Walk provides vital support to a diverse group of Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations, while AIDS LifeCycle, which starts in San Francisco and ends in Los Angeles, provides major support to San Francisco AIDS Foundation and AIDS Project Los Angeles. Between them, these high-profile events make an enormous difference in the battle against a disease we’ve been fighting for over 40 years, which still has no vaccine and no cure.

    Chances are you know someone who is participating in one or the other of these events, so you can support them here:

    And Now for Something Completely Different … and Fabulous

    In case you are under the impression that classical song recitals are boring, we have news for you. On March 15, San Francisco Opera Center and Merola Opera Program’s esteemed Schwabacher Debut Recital Series will feature a genre-bending recital by decidedly non-traditional mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz, who has self-described as a “Human opera singer. A queer, trans, trapeze-swinging them-fatale.”

    Their concept for the concert: “This program is a love letter to all forms of gender expression told with a narrative or finding and flailing through the thin veil between femininity, masculinity, and all that glitters in between. Like breaking the binary—I wanted to step out of the traditional mold of recitals and put my story in three parts. I like to think of it like an opera where the main character I am playing is myself!”

    This will be a don’t-miss event. Tickets here:

    Remembering Anna Damiani

    Our community is mourning the passing of our beloved Anna Damiani. Fierce and fabulous, kind and loving, powerful yet using her powers for good, she brought grace, dignity, wisdom, and tremendous joy to every room she entered. Thank you, Anna, for all the good you did in the world.

    That’s it for this week, friends. Stay strong, and be kind to one another.

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

    Published on March 10, 2022