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    Required Reading

    By Joanie Juster–

    I’ve been writing A LOT lately about the hateful and dangerous nincompoopery that has taken over so many state legislatures. Trying to keep up with all the bills against drag queens, trans kids, LGBTQ+ parents, librarians, books, teachers, and so on is an exhausting, depressing task. So, this week I’m going to recommend you read (or reread) the column from the last issue of the San Francisco Bay Times written by my brilliant, wise, and often trenchantly funny fellow columnist, Ann Rostow. She took a deep dive into this subject, and her piece is well worth reading. In case you missed it, here it is:

    This is What an Ally Looks Like

    “If this legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful, painful for everyone.”

    —Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh

    You never know where heroes are going to show up. On February 27, it was—of all places—Nebraska.The Nebraska state senate proposed LB574, a bill that would make gender-affirming care for transgender children illegal. And in this era when state legislatures are passing anti-LGBTQ+ bills right and left, one state senator stood up and said, “Enough!”

    Senator Machaela Cavanaugh quite literally stood up, and started talking. And talking. And talking. She made it clear that she intends to keep talking throughout the ensuing 50+ days of the legislative calendar. She has said, “I will burn this session to the ground over this bill.” She intends to keep filibustering in order to block any action on bills that are harmful to LGBTQ+ people, forcing her colleagues to make a choice: legislate hate, or actually take care of the business of their state. And by doing so, she has brought much of the legislature’s business to a screeching halt.

    Senator Cavanaugh has drawn a line in the sand to protect LGBTQ+ people from state-imposed harm. She has firmly said, “I have nothing, NOTHING but time. And I’m going to use all of it.”

    This woman is a fierce advocate and ally for the community. Look her up, support her efforts, and send her a thank you.

    Creating Change

    2023 marked the 50th anniversary of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the 35th anniversary of their annual conference, Creating Change. Billed as the foremost political, leadership, and skills-building conference for the LGBTQ+ movement, it brought over 3,000 attendees to San Francisco for four days of daylong institutes, workshops, caucuses, expo, and networking.

    This was my first Creating Change; I came away wishing I had started attending when I was younger. It was inspiring and empowering to see so many people in one place focused on, literally, creating change to make the world a better and more inclusive place. The expo hall alone was brimming with energy as attendees visited booths representing a wide range of organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community. One that impressed me most was Trans Tech, an incubator for LGBTQ Talent with a focus on economically empowering transgender people. TransTech is a co-working, co-learning community dedicated to empowering trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer people, and allies with practical, career-ready skills. I’ll be writing more about them in my next column, and their upcoming TransTech Summit on March 31–April 3.

    One inescapable theme at the conference was the need to collect good data in order to effectively advocate for policy and legislative change. The National Center for Transgender Equality was excited about the overwhelming response they have had to their recently closed U.S. Trans Survey; while they couldn’t disclose numbers yet, they said the response was far larger than the last survey in 2015. Another major survey, by the Anti-Violence Project, recently closed. They have been collecting data on the threats of violence against queer spaces, another subject that was a major theme at the conference.

    There were many outstanding sessions, but the one that really hit home was a session by the Florida Caucus. The room was overflowing with activists who are fighting every day on the front lines in a state that is determined to erase them, led by a governor who is so vehemently anti-LGBTQ+ that he literally created the Don’t Say Gay movement. These activists are motivated, fired up, and doing heroic work. There are many grassroots groups doing great work, as well as Equality Florida, the only statewide political advocacy group that advocates for civil rights and protections for LGBTQ+ residents of Florida. Support their work here:

    Pageantry With a Purpose

    The Imperial Council of San Francisco’s 58th annual Coronation was held February 25, and it was, as always, spectacular: the gowns, the jewels, the coiffures were stunning. After all, members of sister courts come from all across the country to take part in this family reunion, the culmination of a year of community service and fundraising, and a final week of wall-to-wall events that strengthen ties between these activists, performers, and community leaders. Congratulations to the outgoing monarchs, Empress Ehra Amaya and Emperor Brent Marek, and welcome to the incoming monarchs, Empress Cameron Stiehl and Emperor Michael Anthony Chua.

    Coronation is a joyful and celebratory event, but the sequins and tiaras are just the glamorous façade for the serious work these folks do, raising money for organizations that serve and support the community. Impressive fundraising totals for the year were announced: Over $65,500 was raised for organizations including the Castro Country Club, Lyric, Community Health Center, Coming Home Hospice, San Francisco Night Ministry, LGBTQ Asylum Project, Rafiki Coalition, Lyon-Martin, and Tenderloin Tessie. The Brotherhood of Emperors bestowed the Bob Cramer Award to Lawrence Wong, a longstanding public servant who, in 1994, became the first openly gay Asian-American elected official in the United States. In his acceptance speech, Wong summed up the spirit of the evening, saying, “If you want to live a life of purpose, live a life of service.”

    If you don’t happen to be familiar with the Imperial Council and the important work they do, I highly recommend watching the documentary Fifty Years of Fabulous.

    The Saints Come Marching In

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence promulgate joy and expiate stigmatic guilt on a daily basis (check it out; it says so right on their website). They devote themselves to doing good deeds throughout the community, providing service, ministry, and outreach to those the most marginalized. They stand up and speak out for human rights, expose bigotry and complacency with irreverent wit, and, in general, make the world a better, safer, and more joyful place.

    But you already knew all that, right? What you might not realize is that while they are busy helping others, they sometimes need help as well. Last August they went public with the sad news of an embezzlement that was a significant blow to their finances. Despite that, they found a way to dispense grants to a dozen small organizations and projects that provide direct services to underserved communities. And now they are gearing up to produce their biggest event of the year, their world-famous Easter celebration in the park. And they need our help to do it.

    Join us on Sunday, March 19, from 4–7 pm at The Edge Bar for “The Saints Come Marching In,” a benefit for the Sisters produced by some of the Saints—folks who have been “Sainted” by the Sisters as recognition for their community service. Come on down for a beer and soda bust, Jell-o shots, performers, raffle, and more. But most important of all: come and show the Sisters some love.

    Leather News

    There is lots going on in the leather community. First, the Bare Chest Calendar is holding preliminary competitions for the 2024 Calendar at the Powerhouse through the end of March, with the Finals Contest on May 6 at DNA Lounge. At the February 16 competition they presented a giant check representing their fundraising total from the 2023 calendar: $205,190, the second highest total ever raised in one year. The Calendar, which started as a fundraising project of the AIDS Emergency Fund, has raised over $3 million for beneficiaries since 1985. The sole beneficiary this year is once again Positive Resource Center and its program, Emergency Financial Assistance (formerly AIDS Emergency Fund). Want to try out? Attend? Support? Go to

    Another annual fundraiser for PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance program is also underway, with a change in leadership. The Golden Dildeaux Awards are being produced this year by the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District, after having been presented by the Golden Gate Guards for the past 28 years. In November 2022, the Guards rolled up their banner and dissolved the club at their anniversary party. They had served the Bay Area community for 36 years, and were proud to have supported this program, which provides grants to low-income San Francisco residents living with HIV/AIDS for their housing, medical, and/or utility bills.

    A good-humored contest among community members, the Awards are given in sometimes coveted, and mostly suggestively-named categories. Winners are chosen by popular vote, each vote costing $1. Nominations for the awards close today, March 9, with a launch party and beer bust at the SF Eagle on March 12 for revealing the nominations and kicking off voting. Voting ends April 20, with the awards and check presentation at the SF Eagle on April 22. Last year’s Awards raised $10,494; let’s see if they can top that this year. For more info, and to vote:

    Grief Workshop at Openhouse

    If you have ever taken on the role of caregiver for a family or friend suffering from chronic or terminal illness, you know the emotional toll that goes with the territory, and how the feelings of grief and loss can weigh on you. As we care for ones we love, we grieve as we watch them change or suffer due to illness, and grieve our personal losses as we prioritize caregiving over our own self-care.

    On March 23, Openhouse, in partnership with the Family Caregiver Alliance, is holding an Anticipatory Grief Workshop for LGBTQ+ Caregivers. This 90-minute virtual workshop is designed to help LGBTQ+ caregivers better understand how they may be affected by anticipatory grief. Thursday, March 23, 4–5:30 pm.

    Bayard Rustin Anniversary Celebration

    March 17 will mark the 111th anniversary of the birth of Bayard Rustin, so the Bayard Rustin Coalition will be celebrating his life and legacy of activism with a birthday party at the Grubstake Diner at 1525 Pine Street on March 18. Come celebrate with food, wine, a champagne toast, and birthday cake. More info:

    Until next time, friends. Go outside, make someone’s day, look for sunshine.

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

    In Case You Missed It
    Published on March 9, 2023