Recent Comments


    In the News: 3.22.2018

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Toni Atkins Makes History as First Woman and First LGBTQ Senate Leader in California

    San Diego Senator Toni Atkins made history on March 21 when she became the first woman and first out member of the LGBTQ community to hold the California Senate’s top job. “Senator Toni Atkins is one of the LGBTQ community’s most respected and effective leaders and … as the Senate President Pro Tem, breaks multiple glass ceilings,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said. “This follows on her historic career in the Assembly where she became the first lesbian Speaker.” Atkins is taking over the post of Senate president pro tem from fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon. Zbur said electing role models like Senator Atkins is important to the LGBTQ community because it sends a clear message across the country, particularly to youth, that LGBTQ people can achieve anything. By having a seat at the table, LGBTQ elected officials can speak with their colleagues with authenticity and first-hand experience on issues that affect our community. In her legislative career, Senator Atkins has championed groundbreaking bills that have advanced LGBTQ civil rights such as SB 179 (Gender Recognition Act of 2017), SB 310 (Name and Dignity Act), AB 1577 (Respect After Death Act), AB 1211 (Transgender Name Changes, Birth and Death Certificates) among many others. In 2015, Equality California honored Senator Atkins with the Vanguard Leadership Award for her leadership and courage, which have inspired others to be more visible in their personal lives and active in their communities. Zbur concluded, “We look forward to working with the incoming Pro Tem to achieve a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”

    Mayoral Candidate Mark Leno Rolls Out Plan to End Street Homelessness by 2020

    Mark Leno, a candidate for mayor of San Francisco, staked the beginning of his policy proposal rollout on a commitment to end street homelessness in San Francisco by the end of 2020. “If you think that ending street homelessness can’t be done, then you support the status quo,” Leno said. “I won’t accept that, and San Franciscans won’t accept that. San Francisco can’t afford another decade of the same failed policies on homelessness. It’s time we commit to tackling homelessness once and for all.” He acknowledged the challenges of homelessness as a mental health and housing issue and vowed that as mayor, he would immediately move at least 1,000 people off the streets and into vacant Single Room Occupancy units identified by the city’s Department of Building Inspection; establish a Mental Health Justice Center; and make use of the $100 million dollars he secured as state senator to create 400 units of permanent supportive housing for mentally ill homeless individuals. Leno confirmed his plan would be funded by a range of sources, including a regional housing and homelessness bond measure, as well as a top-to-bottom audit of current homeless services to stop and prevent waste on ineffective solutions. Currently, the San Francisco Department of Public Works is spending $30 million annually to clean up human waste and needles, which is nearly half of the Department’s budget. Leno also committed to implementing a zero-based budget process if elected, highlighting additional savings that would be used to fund his homelessness plan.

    City College Transgender Students Now Allowed to Use Chosen Names

    Transgender students attending San Francisco City College will be able to use their chosen names for school emails, class rosters, online courses and student identification cards, instead of the names assigned to them at birth, according to both the College and the City’s Office of Transgender Initiatives. “In order for students to stay engaged in their education, they need to feel safe and supported by faculty and the administration, starting with being referred to by the correct name,” said Dr. Ardel Haefele-Thomas, Chair of the LGBTQ Studies Department at City College. “Our hope is that City College will next develop a chosen name system for faculty and staff, and fully implement all-gender restrooms throughout their facilities.” Pau Crego, Director of Policy for the Office of Transgender Initiatives, said: “This is a significant accomplishment for City College and for trans and gender non-conforming communities in San Francisco. Accessing formal education often leads to safety concerns for our communities, and this policy is an important first step to address some of those concerns. It is crucial that educational institutions such as City College of San Francisco tackle barriers to education for our most vulnerable communities through both training and institutional change.” Data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 24 percent of college or vocational school students who were out or perceived to be trans were either verbally, sexually or physically assaulted. This new rule allows a place of safety and equality for transgender students on campus.

    San Francisco Pride Announces 2018 Community Grand Marshals

    Kin Folkz and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band were both chosen by public vote to be Community Grand Marshals at the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade on June 24. SF Pride’s membership also elected Brian “Chickpea” Busta as a Community Grand Marshal. Kin Folkz is an award-winning educator, human rights activist, author, community catalyst, founder of the Oakland Pride Creative Arts & Film Fest, the founder of the Oakland Queer +Trans Open Mic, co-director of the Bay Area Bisexual Network, a member of Black Lives Matter Bay Area and Queer Black Lives Matter, and is the CEO and co-founder of Spectrum Queer Media. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB) is the first openly gay musical organization in the world, inspiring the formation of all other LGBT bands, choruses, and other groups around the globe. Locally, SFLGFB is the Official Band of San Francisco, having been given that honor by two different mayors. Founded in 1978 by Jon Sims, the Band first appeared when it marched up Market Street behind Harvey Milk’s car in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Brian “Chickpea” Busta, according to an SF Pride statement on social media, “has brought light, laughter, art, and music to San Francisco’s LGBTQ community for 30 years. He founded Gay Glow Street Theater, the Temple Whores drumming troupe, was Grand Duke of the Ducal Court, is the Creative Director of Comfort & Joy, and inspires audiences as the comic figure ‘Amber Alert.'” The San Francisco Bay Times congratulates all of the Community Grand Marshals and nominees.

    Rainbow Honor Walk Receives $10,000 Donation

    Kathy Amendola, owner of Castro Walking Tours, is known for her informative and passionate tours of San Francisco’s historic Castro District, including the iconic Rainbow Honor Walk of which she is a board member. After a recent tour, one of the attendees, Nathan Allen, approached her, moved by the history lesson he had just received. Allen, Co-Chair of the Walmart PRIDE Associate Resource Group, got to work. The result: a $10,000 donation for the all-volunteer nonprofit Rainbow Honor Walk. The donation was presented on Monday, March 12, during a reception at Catch Restaurant, adjacent to the Market Street segment of the Honor Walk. “I’m absolutely thrilled that our PRIDE Associate Resource Group could help make this grant possible for the Rainbow Honor Walk,” said Allen. “This is such a fantastic organization, in how it’s honoring notable LGBT community members throughout history with sidewalk plaques in our beloved Castro neighborhood. Our company and our PRIDE ARG are committed to giving back to the communities we serve, and we couldn’t be happier to support the work of the Rainbow Honor Walk.” All funds for manufacture of the Rainbow Honor Walk are raised privately, with each plaque costing approximately $7000. A major source of income comes from the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store (575 Castro Street) through the sale of commemorative mugs, t-shirts and lapel pins. These sales have generated over $20,000 for the Rainbow Honor Walk.

    Dennis Peron Memorial and Celebration of Life Held in the Castro

    The many friends and family of Dennis Peron, affectionately called “The Father of Medical Marijauna,” put together a Memorial and Celebration of Life on Sunday, March 11, from 5 to 10 pm. Noe Street in the Castro was closed off, and a huge tent was erected to protect an altar for all to share a moment of connection with Peron. A video montage of photos, video clips, newspaper clippings and posters were screened on a wall, illustrating how Peron helped to save lives and forever changed our attitude about cannabis. There was music and a stage provided for passionate speakers to share stories and experiences about Peron. Food and beverages were catered by Flore on Market, where so many LGBTQ, cannabis, and HIV/AIDS stories had been lived out.

    The Late Stephen Hawking Supported Gay Rights

    Visionary physicist Stephen Hawking died on March 14 in his home in Cambridge at the age of 76. He is known for his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, and for his studies on quantum mechanics, general relativity, and black holes. But he is also recognized for his liberal stances, including signing a letter asking the British government to pardon gay mathematician Alan Turing. In 1952, Turing had been found guilty of homosexuality and was punished with chemical castration and committed suicide shortly after that. He wrote to the government, saying, “We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today. It is time his reputation was unblemished.”

    Senate Committee Approves Bill to Extend Alcohol Sales to 4 AM

    On March 13, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee approved Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) bill to allow—but not require—cities to extend sales of alcohol at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants (but not liquor stores) to as late as 4 am. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The new 5-year pilot program version of the LOCAL Act, which stands for Let Our Communities Adjust Late-Night, preserves complete local control in terms of decision-making and applies only to the six cities whose Mayors have expressed interest in pursuing later hours: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento, West Hollywood, and Long Beach. “Nightlife is vital to many of our cities throughout California, and we need to do more to let these cities find ways to promote and support nightlife,” said Senator Wiener. “This bill gives cities the ability to extend hours wherever and however it works best for them, whether that’s in limited neighborhoods, certain nights a week, or only on a few nights a year. By taking this nuanced approach to empower—but not require—local communities to extend alcohol sales hours, we can support nightlife in California.”

    California Could Be at Forefront of Supporting Intersex Infants and Families

    Senator Scott Wiener also recently announced the introduction of a resolution that would put California at the forefront in supporting intersex individuals and their families. Senate Concurrent Resolution 110 calls on the medical community to stop performing nonconsensual and often irreparably harmful sex assignment and genital “normalization” surgeries on intersex infants at birth. Instead, Senator Wiener and others hold that “medically unnecessary surgery” should be delayed until the intersex individual can decide for themselves whether to pursue surgery at all, at an age when informed consent is possible. SCR 110 is sponsored by Equality California and interACT, an organization that advocates for the human rights of children born with intersex traits. In conjunction with the resolution, Senator Wiener’s office hosted a briefing with interACT in the capitol titled “Unnecessary Intersex Infant Sex Assignment Surgeries.” Approximately one in every two thousand individuals is born intersex, meaning that their genitals do not appear typically male or female. A much larger number are born with intersex features that go unnoticed, such as internal testicles. Although intersex infants occasionally require immediate medical attention, the vast majority are born perfectly healthy and are able to live rich, fulfilling lives without any modification to their genitals.

    San Francisco and Amsterdam Set Goals Concerning HIV/AIDS

    San Francisco and Amsterdam are members of the Fast-Track cities, a global partnership between the City of Paris, International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Human Settlements Program in collaboration with local, national, regional, and international partners and stakeholders. The goal of most members is to attain 90-90-90 targets, referring to ensuring that at least 90% of HIV+ people know their status, access to treatment is improved by 90%, and that 90% of patients already on treatment have an undetectable viral load. San Francisco and Amsterdam have set an even higher goal of 100% for each of those targets. Supervisor Jeff Sheehy of San Francisco and Deputy Mayor Eric van der Burg of Amsterdam urged other cities to join them in their aim of “getting to zero.” “I am proud to participate in this historic announcement of the 100-100-100 goals by San Francisco and Amsterdam,” said Supervisor Sheehy. “These goals ensure that everyone who is HIV positive will know their status and be successfully treated. Realizing these new targets will guarantee better health and longer lives for people living with HIV.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that people with HIV whose virus is reduced to undetectable levels in their blood are unable to transmit to partners. “Attaining our 100-100-100 aims will also significantly advance our joint objective of zero new infections,” he added.