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    This Is Not a Drill

    By Joanie Juster–

    Not meaning to spoil your spring day, but the news from around the country just keeps getting worse with each passing day. The examples are too numerous to list here, but just in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen a ban on drag performances in Tennessee, “Don’t Say Gay” morphing into “Don’t Say They” in Florida, hundreds of swastika-waving self-identified fascists screaming “Sieg Heil!” at children at a drag story hour in Ohio, and books that even dare to mention LGBTQ+ or social justice themes banned everywhere. There are many, many more instances of overt, deliberate hatred raining down upon communities and individuals all across our country. The stories are chillingly familiar, getting closer and closer each day to stories from the rise of the Third Reich, when anyone who was “different” was not tolerated.

    This unbridled hatred, and the lies and disinformation that fuel it, is a direct threat to our democracy and our freedoms. It is also a direct threat to the physical and emotional well-being of LGBTQ+ people everywhere—all under the guise of “protecting children.” And make no mistake: this month they’re going after drag. But marriage equality and all other civil rights are next on the agenda.

    This is not a time to sit back and wring our hands. Action—bold, historical-level action—must be taken. It must be taken now.

    To fight this battle on the legislative level, the ACLU has set up a Drag Defense Fund, and support is building for it across the country. RuPaul’s Drag Race, MTV, and World of Wonder have been promoting it, and the International Court System (ICS) is raising money for it as well.

    According to Nicole Murray Ramirez, who is coordinating the ICS response, ICS has chapters in 70 cities across the U.S., as well as several in Canada, and at least half of their members are drag performers. They realize that banning drag is not only harmful to the individual performers, but also will have a detrimental effect on their core fundraising and philanthropic activities. Murray Ramirez, a longtime activist, stated, “We’ve always fought back, since Stonewall, and we’re not going back into the closet now.” They also invoked the famous fighting words of the founder of the Imperial Court System, José Sarria, who said, “United we stand; divided they pick us off one by one.”

    To contribute directly to the ACLU Drag Defense Fund:

    The ICS Facebook page will be posting updates on their fundraising as well:

    Transgender Day of Visibility

    March 31 is the Trans Day of Visibility, an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people. It’s a time to honor their lives, their spirits, and their contributions to society. It is also a day for raising awareness of the barriers and challenges they face due to discrimination, hatred, and violence.

    Transgender people have made tremendous strides in society in the past few years. But just because Time magazine put Laverne Cox on its cover and declared that 2015 was the year of the Transgender Tipping Point does not mean that everything suddenly became rosy. Given the Republican party’s all-out offensive against the transgender community, it is more important than ever that we all do whatever we can to support trans individuals, and to promote, not just their visibility, but also their safety, security, legal status, and well-being. And just for good measure, make it every day, not just March 31.

    Salsa Sunday for the Howard Grayson LGBT Elder Life Conference

    Salsa your Sunday away for a good cause at El Rio on Sunday, March 26, from 3–8 pm. Proceeds will benefit the Tenth Annual Howard Grayson LGBTQ Elder Life Conference, which will take place in September 2023 (date to be announced); its theme will be “Freedom, Dignity, Respect!”

    The Grayson Conference celebrates the life and legacy of Howard Grayson, a Black, LGBTQ+ labor activist, following his sudden passing in September 2011. He died alone in a hospital, and none of his family or friends were informed. Howard’s tragic death troubled many and underscored the challenges of aging in the LGBTQ+ community. Activists organized to educate community members to prepare for challenges LGBTQ+ people meet as they age, and to act as an agent for change. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club responded to this tragic circumstance in 2012 by creating a conference in Howard’s name. More info:

    Sequins for Cuba

    Some of you may only be familiar with Rainbow World Fund (RWF) because of the World Tree of Hope they create each Christmas in Grace Cathedral. But they do much more throughout the year. RWF is the world’s first and only all-volunteer, LGBTQ+-based humanitarian aid organization. They help people all over the world who are affected by natural disasters, war, poverty, and hunger.

    Right now, they are planning their 9th annual humanitarian trip to Cuba on May 11–21. Want to join them? Great! See Jeff Cotter’s article elsewhere in this issue for details.

    Not able to go this year, but want to support LGBTQ+ people in Cuba? Wonderful! RWF has a project for you. RWF packs a lot into these 10-day trips, from the educational (visits to schools and medical clinics) to the political (meetings with members of Parliament and political dissidents), to the fun (snorkeling, beaches, concerts). But the main focus is humanitarian: meeting and working with the LGBTQ+ community, human rights activists, and leaders in many fields, and learning about Cuba’s fascinating and complex history, culture, politics, and spirituality.

    To that end, RWF is not only providing financial and medical donations, but also this year they are collecting wigs, gender-affirming clothing, costume jewelry, heels, make-up (new), and accessories for the trans and drag community. These are items that are out of reach for most Cubans, as much of the country lives on or near the poverty level. Trans and drag expressive people simply cannot afford these items. This is where we can all pitch in and help.

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the SF Imperial Court are helping to collect these items. Donors are asked that items be of very good quality and in good condition. Donations can be dropped off at the RWF office in the Castro at 4111 18th Street, Suite 5, on the following Sundays: April 15, 23, & 30, from 12–4 pm.

    RWF is also planning another humanitarian trip to Guatemala July 20–30; more details to come. For information on RWF, their humanitarian trips, or donations, email

    Update from Wisconsin

    I recently wrote about “the most important election you’ve never heard of”—the State Supreme Court election coming up on May 4 in Wisconsin. Well, it has quickly become “the most expensive election in Wisconsin’s history.”

    The good news is that in the recent primary, Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a progressive candidate, earned more votes than both of her conservative challengers combined! Now the bad news: Well-heeled conservative groups are going all-in to try to prevent her from winning the election and changing the ideological balance on the court. They know that if she wins, she could reverse the extreme gerrymandering that has held Wisconsin in an iron grip for far too long, making it almost impossible to hold a fair election in the state. A MAGA PAC is throwing over $3.2 million into television ads—an insane amount for a state Supreme Court election. This epic battle will have consequences far beyond Wisconsin’s borders; the outcome could affect all of us. Want to help? Wisconsin Democrats would welcome your support. Do it now, before it is too late:

    Disco Trash Pickup with Manny’s

    The seemingly nonstop series of atmospheric rivers and other dire weather events that have kept us hunkered down and glued to our weather apps since October seem to have calmed down, so it’s time to get outside for volunteer opportunities that combine both fresh air and exercise. Fortunately, SF Public Works, Together SF, and Shine On SF have collaborated with Manny’s to create just the right opportunity: Manny’s Weekly Neighborhood Disco Trash Pickup.

    Every Sunday morning from 10–11 am, volunteers spend an hour helping to keep the neighborhood around 16th & Valencia clean. And at the end of that hour, they are treated to a certificate that includes discounts and treats at local businesses that day.

    Sounds like every neighborhood could use a fun weekly trash pick-up, to take pride in your neighborhood and meet your neighbors. Here’s the link to sign up:

    I Read Banned Books

    Since school districts, state and local legislatures, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis all seem to be laser-focused on banning books, I feel compelled to read as many of them as possible to see what they are objecting to—especially since it’s quite clear that most of the people insisting on banning certain books have never read the books they aim to ban.

    First on my list was The Hate U Give, a novel by Angie Thomas. I was bowled over. It is a brilliantly written, important book that reflects our times with clear eyes and a warm heart. The book challenges hide-bound assumptions, busts old cliches wide open, and features a 16-year-old protagonist who is wise beyond her years yet still very much a teenager. She speaks truth on every page, and is also slyly funny when she wants to be. A must-read.

    Join me in the Banned Book challenge: Read up on banned books here, and let me know how it goes.

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

    In Case You Missed It
    Published on March 23, 2023