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    The Fog of … Fogust

    By Joanie Juster–

    Rumor has it that it’s summer, but at my house I’ve scarcely seen the sun in over a month. Fogust is here, and I hold my jacket and scarf more closely around me when I leave the house. Here’s hoping that it’s sunnier where you live. In the meantime, fog or no fog, there is a lot going on.

    Monkeypox Updates

    As of August 4th, the city of San Francisco, the state of California, and the U.S. government have all declared public health emergencies due to the rapid spread of the monkeypox virus. Information seems to change daily as more is learned about how the virus acts, how to protect yourself and others, and where to go for help. Town halls and Zoom seminars are proliferating to help get information to people who need it. I attended two on August 1: a Zoom meeting hosted by Manny’s with infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi and health reporter Liz Highleyman, who was calling in from the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, and a hybrid live/Zoom town hall hosted by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club’s HIV Caucus.

    While the Zoom meeting focused primarily on the most up-to-date medical guidance, the town hall was more focused on listening to peoples’ concerns, and searching for solutions. Much of the concern was focused on the difficulty of getting tested, getting vaccinated, and getting treated. Others shared concerns about the health inequities experienced by those who cannot afford time off from work to stand in line for hours hoping for a vaccine, or quarantining for weeks if infected. One thing everyone agreed on: the government has moved much too slowly in addressing this public health crisis, and many affirmed that they were ready to stand up, make their voices heard, and demand change.

    With the situation changing daily, it is up to each of us to stay informed in order to stay safe. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has compiled useful information on their website. Please stay informed, stay safe, and help others who may need assistance.

    https://www.sfaf.org/monkeypox/

    Transgender History Month and Riot Party

    Last year, San Francisco officially proclaimed August as Transgender History Month, an annual event to honor and celebrate the significant contributions of trans advocacy and trans culture to our city, and to highlight the work that still remains toward achieving full equality.

    Keep an eye out for other events commemorating Transgender History Month, but in the meantime, be sure to mark your calendar for Riot Party, a concert and fundraiser for the Transgender District on August 28 celebrating the 56th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966—the first large-scale act of resistance on the part of Trans and Queer individuals against police brutality in the United States. Riot Party will feature celebrated transgender, nonbinary, and queer performers, as well as other special guests.

    For more info, and tickets to the Riot Party: https://www.riotpartysf.com/

    New Services for Black Women at SF AIDS Foundation

    Did you know that people over 50 represent the majority of individuals in the U.S. living with HIV? The CDC estimates that people living with HIV who are 50 and older will make up 70% of those living with HIV in the U.S. by 2030. And yet, in most communities, appropriate health care and social services for elders with HIV have not kept up with the need.

    The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has added a new program to its array of services for people with HIV over 50. Called HUES (Healing & Uniting Every Sista), the program is designed specifically to address the needs of older Black women with HIV. HUES program coordinator Ebony Gordon came to San Francisco after years of experience in the South, first doing HIV prevention and education work, then doing graduate work toward a counseling degree, and exploring trauma work with people living with HIV of all ages and backgrounds. Her work made her confront the disparities that exist at the intersections of race, poverty, and health.

    The program is being designed to give older Black women a safe space where they will feel less isolated, and more supported. It is a welcome addition, and complement to, other services available in the city. To see Gordon’s presentation on HUES:   https://tinyurl.com/SFAFHues

    Pacific Center on the Move

    Change is never easy, especially when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly. The venerable Pacific Center for Human Growth recently learned that it must move, after 50 years in the same location in Berkeley. The organization is known as the oldest LGBTQ+ mental health and community center in the Bay Area, and the third oldest in the country. The modest Edwardian house that has been their home on Telegraph Avenue for 50 years has been sold, but there is still no word on when they need to relocate.

    The Pacific Center offers a wide array of direct services to the East Bay’s LGBTQ+ and queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, including affordable therapy, peer-to-peer support groups, community outreach services, and facilitated workshops.

    Planning documents show that the new owners plan to tear down the house to make way for a proposed 5-story, mixed-use building containing 35 apartments, including 11% for very low-income households. There is no timeline yet for the project; we’ll keep you apprised of updates.

    To learn more about Pacific Center’s good work: https://www.pacificcenter.org/

    SF Bishop Plays Politics

    Last month, the Respect for Marriage Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 267–157 with 47 Republicans in support. It will soon be heading to the Senate, with a large majority of Americans now in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry. But one prominent San Franciscan just couldn’t resist speaking out against it. The notoriously conservative and contentious Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco—Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone—wrote a letter on July 22 urging U.S. senators to reject the bill. Posted on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and speaking as the chairman of the bishops’ conference Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, he proclaimed: “Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal—it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children.”

    He goes on to pontificate: “People who experience same-sex attraction should be treated with the same respect and compassion as anyone, on account of their human dignity, and never be subject to unjust discrimination … . It was never discrimination, however, to simply maintain that an inherent aspect of the definition of marriage itself is the complementarity between the two sexes.” Uh huh.

    Funny: you’d think a man as highly educated as the archbishop would be familiar with the concept of the separation of church and state. He should also be familiar with the fact the leader of his own church, Pope Francis, has specifically forbidden weaponizing Holy Communion—a trick other U.S. bishops tried to use against President Biden because of his pro-abortion policies.

    Clearly, though, he has issues with that concept. In May, during the midst of the national uproar over the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, he made the mistake of challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, publicly refusing to allow the San Francisco Democrat (and devout Catholic) to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, and urged other Catholic dioceses to follow his example. Without batting an eye, Pelosi went to Rome, where she received Holy Communion directly from Pope Francis. And next thing you know, Cordileone was overlooked for a promotion.

    Don’t play politics with peoples’ lives, Archbishop. If you don’t believe that people of the same sex should be married, you have every right to refuse to perform those marriages in your own church. But your authority stops at your church’s doorstep. And by the way, if you’re going to play politics, maybe you ought to be paying taxes.

    Meanwhile, in Wisconsin

    In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken has taken anti-LGBTQ+ policies in diocesan schools to a new level of cruelty, by banning trans students and staff from using their preferred pronouns, clothing, and bathrooms. The policy also rejects the use of the words “lesbian” and “gay,” compares being queer to sexual abuse, and falsely accuses the LGBTQ+ community of trying to turn people gay. Whew.

    In an interview with local station WBAY, Kathy Flores, director of the Wisconsin advocacy group Diversity & Resilience, said, “My first thoughts were about the high suicide rates of the LGBTQIA+ youth and how we have seen study after study that suicide risk decreases and depression decreases when we use a student’s name and pronoun that they have asked us to use.”

    There is a wonderful advocacy group that stays on top of this kind of news, and works hard to effect change. Faithful America is the largest online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Every day they fight against Christian nationalism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, and extreme right wing political agendas masquerading as “Christianity.” They are 100% member supported, and are doing great work. To get their action alerts and help fight back:  https://tinyurl.com/FaithAm

    Leather Events – Volunteers Needed

    Leather and kink enthusiasts braved the summer fog on July 31, and now the biggest events—LeatherWalk (9/18) and Folsom (9/25)—are on the horizon.  In the meantime, the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District’s popular monthly vendor, art and artisan fair, Second Saturdays, continues on August 13. You can make a full day of it by visiting the SOMA West Farmers’ Market at Eagle Plaza first (it is now open from 9 to 12:30), and then the Saturday Beer Bust at The Eagle afterwards (3–7 pm).

    The District will also have a booth on August 21 at Sunday Streets SOMA. The event will stretch 1.5 miles along Folsom Street from 9th Street to Main. They are partnering with Folsom Street to host the block of Folsom between 8th and 9th. The event needs a lot of volunteers for setup, breakdown, crossing guards, and block monitors. To volunteer, click the following link, then click on Register. When asked if you are joining as a member of an organization, type LEATHER.

    www.sundaystreetssf.com/volunteer

    One Last Word

    With all the focus on monkeypox, we cannot forget that COVID-19 is still firmly planted in our community. Please take appropriate precautions, folks. Stay safe.

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

    Published on August 11, 2022