Monday, October 31, 2011

FBI: No File on Frank Kameny

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is getting better with its response time to FOIA requesters. It's not been even a month since gay icon and pioneer Frank Kameny passed away, and my Freedom of Information Act request for any and all materials the agency may have on him was submitted, triggering a search of FBI archives and the apparent lack of a file.

This letter arrived on Saturday, informing me of the following details:

Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the Central Records System. We were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject that you believe was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide us the details and we will conduct an additional search.

It strikes me as very odd the FBI says it has no file on Kameny - a man who picketed the White House in October 1965 and engaged in many other actions and protests that I would think caught the attention of the agency.

As Frank's survivors sort out his personal papers, I hope they keep an eye out for any indication Frank requested his own FBI file or information about why the agency may have put him under surveillance or subjected to an investigation. There may be reason for me to request further searching of the FBI archive.

Here's the FBI letter:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mixner Calls for HRC Town Halls;
No Forums for his March on Washington

(David Mixner addressing the October 9, 2009, gay rally at the U.S. Capitol. Credit:

What's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander, except in some sectors of the gay movement.

Back in 2009, longtime Democratic and gay leader David Mixner was involved in mobilizing the LGBT community to attend the National March for Equality in Washington, DC, in October. Many accountability types, myself included, asked Mixner and his colleagues Cleve Jones, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams to organize geographically diverse open meetings.

We wanted full transparency over the march and the key people behind it, simply because sunshine is crucial to viable, sustaining and effective grassroots organizing. Unfortunately, Mixner and colleagues refused to hold a single public meeting about their efforts, and when it was all over, the promised network of 435 Congressional district captains and other promises were unkept.

Recently, Mixner called for the Human Rights Campaign to hold six town halls across the country before they choose their next executive director:

However wouldn't it be both really smart and also genuinely a right move if they held town meetings where anyone can come and express where they think the organization needs to go at this stage of history? They could pick out six locations that would be sure to be reflective of all segments of the community from rural areas to large cities.

Yes, I know that at times it will require enormous patience for the panel listening to the suggestions. There are those who'll attend the town meeting to simply express anger. Also there will be a significant number of people eager to express their needs, constructive frustrations and some with amazing ideas. Listening is not hard ...

Great advice, and I wish Mixner had followed it in 2009 leading up the march on DC. Today I wrote to him asking a few questions. Why didn't he and his colleagues hold town halls, does he regret not doing so, what's his reaction if HRC cites his lack of town halls as part of their rejection argument, has HRC responded, does he understand why it seems hypocritical to ask something of HRC that the march organizers themselves never delivered, and would he hold his own town halls at the NYC gay community center.

Mixner has not responded, which I find curious since his I'm sure he issued his call to HRC hoping to generate community discussion about his idea and he won't dialogue with me about these concerns.

Down in Los Angeles, veteran reporter Karen Ocamb picked up on Mixner's town hall suggestion for Frontiers LA, but omitted anything about the 2009 march's lack of open meetings. However, Ocamb expanded the idea of forums to another Gay Inc component:

This suggestion might be a good one for the board of Equality California as well, as they undertake a search for a new executive director to replace Roland Palencia.

You may recall that as EQCA searched high and low for a new leader, spent thousands of dollars finding a three-month executive director, they never held a public meeting anywhere in California about their search with grassroots folks. And they wonder why the grassroots and others are over EQCA's elitist methods.

On the east coast, experienced reporter Paul Schindler of Gay City News plugged Mixner's suggestion:

Longtime activist David Mixner last week suggested that the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hold a series of town hall meetings nationwide as it undergoes its search process to replace its president, Joe Solmonese, who leaves early next year.

Good of Schindler to give the town halls a mention, but he too missed the opportunity to nudge Mixner to hold a public forum of his own and show HRC how it's done.

As someone who has for many years demanded regular democratic engagement through open board meetings and public forums with Gay Inc and AIDS Inc advocacy organizations, I wish to clearly state what I see as the essential problem why our groups are undemocratic.

The likes of our top groups and powerbrokers fear open forums because they fear hearing directly from average constituents and they don't want to give us any opportunity to genuinely mobilize the grassroots beyond check-writing or phone banking.

Witnessing the general assemblies of the Occupy movement, we see how all sorts of regular and not-so-normal folks come together to speak their voices and have their words fall on receptive ears. The general assemblies are beautiful street town halls and there should be a few of them taking place outside HRC's headquarters in Washington, or their store on Castro Street.

Let me state my 100% support for Mixner's town halls for HRC suggestion, while again requesting that he hold a meeting or two at the NYC gay community center.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Did Injured Occupy Oakland 
Vet Enlist in Bush's Iraq War?

It's beyond tragic that the Oakland, California, police and mayor made terrible decisions regarding the Occupy encampment in front of their City Hall that led to the serious bodily injuries upon a protester on Tuesday night.

Scott Olsen, who was at the wrong place at the very wrong time on the streets of Oakland, remains hospitalized and faces months of medical issues including assorted rehab care services. I wish Olsen all the best in recovering from his police-initiated injuries, and hope he's got decent health insurance coverage.

However, I also want to raise questions about his military service and motives for volunteering to fight in President George W. Bush's war for Iraqi oil, to get a better understanding of this young man. An article in the SF Chronicle provides the basics of Olsen's service:

Olsen joined the Marines in 2006, served two tours in Iraq and was discharged in 2010, according to Iraq Veterans Against the War. Now a systems administrator at San Francisco software firm OPSWAT Inc., he had spent most nights during the last few weeks at the Occupy SF camp, said his roommate, Keith Shannon.

Why did this young man, several years into the Iraq war and much exposure of the flat-out lies, subterfuges and overt manipulation of intelligence, not to mention complaints from peace activists and others over the billions of American dollars spent executing the war, and the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths and rising death toll for U.S. soldiers decide to sign up to fight in Dubya's war?

Since Olsen was harmed with a cop-tossed projectile and made international news, his friends and Occupy supporters have rightfully rallied to his cause and highlighted his status as a former Marine. At yesterday's Oakland vigil, among the enlarged photos displayed was one of Olsen in Marine uniform bedecked with medals and another as a smiling civilian.

Showing public concern for his well-being and illustrating the fullness of Olsen's short life, personalizes a small piece of the Occupy movement and is beneficial to the national dialogue.

In the coming days, I hope to hear from any and all Iraqi vets, especially those in the veterans' group opposed to the Iraq war, and learn why they risked life and limb for Bush's lies. My brain can't wrap around the idea of why any young American would step up and willingly, without a draft, go off to war for Dubya and his criminal co-conspirators.

That is why I hope as Olsen heals, that the words of the Occupy Iraq war vets speak up about how they traveled from volunteering for Uncle Sam to camping out on urban public space to right a lot of social wrongs, including the Iraq war.

(Photo: Occupy Oakland's October 27 vigil for Scott Olsen. Credit: Occupy Oakland.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ABEL = Anyone But Ed Lee

(L-to-R: Rose Pak, Gavin Newsom & Willie Brown. The puppet-masters pulling Ed Lee's strings. Image credit: Bay Citizen.)

The race for Room 200 at San Francisco's City Hall took a weird and sleazy turn the other day when the SF Chronicle ran a front-page, above-the-fold hit-piece about City Attorney and mayoral wannabe Dennis Herrera.

Before going any further, permit to state that I am voting for John Avalos as my first choice, and my second and third choices will be determined closer to election day.

Strangely enough, the Hearst-owned paper has endorsed Board of Supervisors president David Chui, but their Herrera story carried the water for Mayor Ed Lee via proxies for his predecessor Gavin Newsom.

Based on the word of all anonymous sources, the Chronicle reported that Herrera in 2004 allegedly was not 100 percent pro-gay marriage, in his professional capacity as attorney for the city. The unnamed sources claim that almost eight-years ago Herrera presented a number of legal arguments about why Newsom's gay marriage push might fail in the courts.
In other words, Herrera was doing his job. Imagine that.

Reading the Chronicle's article I wondered why the sources waited so many years to bring their concerns to the paper, and why the heck the paper decided to give the allegations from so long ago such prominent attention.

The answers, IMO, lead back to the two sleazy powerbrokers who first installed Ed Lee back in January as the supposed interim mayor: Willie Brown and Rose Pak. They were aided and abetted by Newsom and his former minions, all of whom are desperate to maintain the status quo at City Hall.

A vote, either as first or second or third choice, for Ed Lee is actually a vote for the Brown/Pak/Newsom machine, a secretive and greasy machine out to crush any populist developments or politicians that they think threaten their hold on the levers of municipal power. 

If it weren't already clear enough before the Chronicle debased its credibility with their anonymous Newsom sources that Ed Lee and his backers will do anything to retain their grip on Room 200 at City Hall, it should be easy to see what sleaze this crew is made of.

My advice for San Francisco voters is the ABEL philosophy: Anyone But Ed Lee.
French Cinema Now 
Series Starts Tonight

The San Francisco Film Society's annual survey of contemporary French films kicks off tonight, with screenings taking place until November 2 at either the Embarcadero Cinema or the SFFS | New People Cinema. Click here for all the info on the films, showtimes and tickets.

Eleven new films are on the schedule and I have seen just one, "The Kid with a Bike", and it's fantastic, but then again, it's the latest work from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne so there is no question it's of high cinematic quality.

"The Kid with a Bike" follows a young teenage boy named Cyril abandoned by his selfish father to a government-run foster care program, determined to win back the attention and care of his parent. Combining influences of Cassavetes-like social realism and Bressonian sympathy for characters on the edge, we follow Cyril on his bike getting into trouble with a local thug and the cops.

He eventually is befriended by a kind no-nonsense hairdresser, Samantha, who allows Cyril to spend weekends with her before she agrees to serve as his foster parent. Samantha love and attention are initially not strong enough to set Cyril on the right path and he wanders into committing a crime involving assault and robbery.

As in all films by the Dardenne brothers, the situations faced by their characters are bleak and full of despair, and this new work is no different except for the first time they use music on the soundtrack, a mournful snippet from Beethoven that conveys a flicker of hope for Cyril.

There were scenes between Cyril and Samantha that had me on the verge of tears, because of the emotional rawness on the screen and the understated performances. It's never made clear why she endures all the constant grief, pain and expenses associated with caring for the boy.

Is Samantha acting on her maternal instincts, or does she help Cyril out of some primal urge to help a younger person deeply in need of adult supervision and love? That is a question to think about when I catch this excellent film a second time, during its commercial run early in 2012.

You can see "The Kid with a Bike" during the French Cinema Now mini-festival on October 28 at 7 pm and also on October 30 at 4:30 pm. Both showings are at the New People Cinema on Post Street near Webster. More info is available here.

(Photo illustration: Thomas Doret and Cecile de France riding bikes in a scene from the film. Credit: San Francisco Film Society.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PFA Screens 1978 'J. Edgar Hoover',
Rohmer Films, Mostel in 'Godot'

Quite an eclectic and bold choice of old movies to catch this week at the Pacific Film Archive on the Cal Berkeley campus, but first, a word about a contemporary movie soon to open in theaters.

Clint Eastwood's annual Oscar-bait film this year is "J. Edgar", as in Hoover, the former tyrannical boss of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Written by Oscar-winning and openly gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, "J. Edgar" opens in early November and stars dreamboat Leonardio DiCaprio as Hoover. This movie oozes high-quality, big budget and A-list production values.

The same cannot be said of Larry Cohen's 1978 exploitation B-picture "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover", starring Broderick Crawford, Celeste Holm and Jose Ferrer, it barely received a limited release in theaters.

Cohen's bio-pic was shown in the summer at New York's downtown temple of art cinema, the Anthology Film Archives, and contemporary critics urged readers to catch the rare screenings. Bay Area film lovers have only chance to see it up on the big screen, when it shows tomorrow, October 27, at 7 pm at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Let's compare trailers for the dueling Hoover bio-pics. First up is the one for Eastwood's version:

All that gloss and the intensity of DiCaprio should make for a memorable experience, even if I find DiCaprio way too fine-looking to make me forget about the bull-dog appearance of Hoover throughout his life.

Next up, the 1978 trailer showcasing that version's grindhouse approach to the story and look. "J. Edgar Hoover", if it played on the pre-Disney 42nd Street strip would have found an audience and some profit:

The PFA reverts to more expect fare on Saturday with two 1980s films by French auteur Eric Rohmer. From 1986, "Summer", about a lonely female Parisian secretary seeking companionship and maybe love while on vacation. I saw when it played stateside and enjoyed it tremendously, very much appreciating its quiet humor.

"Summer" shows on October 29 at 6:30 pm and also on October 30 at 4:00 pm.

Another Rohmer film, one that I have not seen, plays on October 29 at 8:30 pm, "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle". Some details about it from the PFA program notes:

Four episodes in the relationship between a naive but talented painter from the provinces and a worldly Parisian student. . . . Working a sophisticated variation on the country mouse/city mouse theme.

Finally, on Sunday at 6:00 pm, a restored print of the late 1950s TV version of "Waiting for Godot" with the great Zero Mostel unspools. The listing says sheds light on the production:

Premiering in 1959 on WNTA-TV in New York, the ambitious experiment Play of the Week [presented a variety of works] ... Thanks to progressive casting decisions by producers such as David Susskind, actor Zero Mostel, who suffered years of unemployment for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, enjoyed a comeback after being selected for Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece, Waiting for Godot.

I'm hoping to watch all of these films in the coming days, and enjoy the Cal campus' trees and scenery as fall begins. Click here for more info on all of the PFA's film programs.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I Saw (and Sang)
At Arthur Evans' Memorial

(The late Arthur Evans in December 2010. Credit: Rick Gerharter.)

The celebration of Arthur Evans' life and legacy on Sunday afternoon in the Castro, on a very hot day, was facilitated by his longtime friend Hal Offen and he was just the best emcee we could have asked for. Hal printed up an essay that he half read and ad-libbed, about the incredible pioneering work of Arthur and the lives he touched.

Due to technical difficulties, the service started half-an-hour late but it was good to have the microphone system in perfecting working order. Too bad the auditorium in the Eureka Valley Recreation Center has such terrible acoustics, even with the latest sound equipment, because I missed a lot of what was said.

We were treated to a ten-minute snippet of Arthur's appearance in the new documentary "Vito", that was provided by Jeffrey Schwarz who is the producer of the well-reviewed film about gay film scholar and all-round fabulous queer Vito Russo. Hal said the movie will soon play at the Castro theater, so be sure to catch it when it opens.

Murray Edelman, who I last saw in the winter of 1987 in Manhattan when we were involved with co-founding ACT UP, spoke about his times with Arthur, but he didn't properly adjust the mike in front of his mouth. Hal got up to arrange the mike closer to Murray's lips, and he seemed afraid of the mike. "Pretend that it's a penis!" shouted yours truly from the back of the room. That got a laugh.

Sitting the back row, in a blue blazer but not sweating as he took notes with a pen and pad was Adam Nagourney, the New York Times reporter who co-wrote "Out For Good" which of course included Arthur, and who was friends with him. That's Adam on the left and Hal has his arm around his shoulder. Adam was just observing, not reporting on the memorial.

I pushed them both to endorse an idea I have about Arthur's papers, and that is to donate them to the San Francisco Public Library. Arthur left no directions about what to do with his papers, but he sent me a note in January seeking my advice on the matter, which is part of the reason why I'm being a nudge about his archive.

Two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence attended in full regalia, and like Adam, were full of sweat. They made heartfelt tributes to the Arthur they knew who embraced faerie spirits and costumes and masking one's personality, then blessed him and all he accomplished for gays and queers for so many decades.

A solid one-hundred folks showed up over the course of the two-hour celebration, where a few tears fell from our eyes, a lot of laughs and applause erupted, some anger was recalled, a bit of cruising and schmoozing kept the boys happy, and fabulous reminiscing was shared.

Great to see everybody who was there, and big thanks to Hal for organizing the event.

The highlight for me was Hal leading us in singing a re-worked spiritual that was sung in Gay Activist Alliance days. I liked it so much I plan to print up the lyrics and make sure we sing this tune at future street actions. Lifting our queer voices in unison, warbling new words to "Amazing Grace" was moving and I felt the spirit of Arthur smiling down upon us, in that knowing glance he was well-known for. Rest in peace, my friend.

Amazin' Gays
by Larry Wisch of the Choral Majority

Amazin' gays, how sweet we sound when we sing harmony.
We seek a world where justice reigns,
where people can be free.

We're many races, creeds and types.
We're many, yet we're one.
In every land, in every age,
we may be anyone.

Yes, we've been queer 10,000 years,
bright shining as the sun.
Our movement's progress has been great
and more is still to come.

Queerty's Chris Bull
Covers Up Milk Plaque Errors

Remember I blogged on Friday about Queerty getting a lot of facts wrong about the plaque honoring Harvey Milk stolen from the entrance to the underground transit hub named for him, in the Castro? This was the URL for Queerty's error-riddled post: It's been covered up through deletion.

This is the screen grab I made of the mistakes, just in case Queerty removed the post or changed it without telling readers:

Well, late yesterday a very revised story and new URL, without any note from the writer or editor, was posted and all the above info was gone. The comments pointing out the mistakes and original story getting deleted and links to accurate stories about the purloined plaque in the Bay Area Reporter and SF Chronicle remained up:

You have some of the facts wrong ... Does Queerty has a basic “no-fact check” policy? ... Why was the story removed?

No response was shared by Queerty, so I sent an email to Chris Bull, who once wrote for the Advocate and is listed on the Gay Cities site, the parent company of Queerty, as their editorial director. I asked why they couldn't simply admit mistakes were made in their story. Bull opted not to reply.

If accuracy and facts mean a damn thing to Bull and the teams at Gay Cities and Queerty, they can show their commitment to those ideals by acknowledging their errors.

Monday, October 24, 2011

City Hall Kills Talk
Over Milk Plaza Rainbow Flag

(MUMC's flagpole base is under repair by DPW.)

Let the record show the controversy in the Castro over the rainbow flagpole on public property at Harvey Milk Plaza is in its ninth month, with no resolution in sight. Here's the latest info on efforts to implement genuine community control over this important piece of municipal real estate.

Back in September, Bill Wilson and I as members of Gays Without Borders organized a commemoration at the base of the flagpole to honor Mark Bingham and all who died on 9/11. We requested a meeting through the mayor's office with an appropriate official regarding the illegitimate control of the flag by the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro.

Open lesbian Amy Brown, who serves as the interim City Administrator of the General Services Agency, which includes the Department of Public Works the agency responsible for Milk Plaza, agreed to invite Bill and I to her office for a chat following the commemoration. Her email said:

I would be happy to meet with you both next week to discuss issues related to the rainbow flag in Harvey Milk Plaza. Could I ask that you contact my assistant, Kathy Bianchi, to arrange a mutually convenient time? Kathy is out this afternoon, so if you could either email her or call her at 554-xxxx on Monday, she can schedule the meeting.

In the meantime, I look forward to joining you on Sunday to honor the memory of Mark Bingham and his heroism.

We had a great meeting with Amy, seeking her help in creating a solution to the control issues over the public's rainbow flag at the plaza. We made it clear we welcomed the attendance at a follow-up of MUMC leaders. She made a commitment to fostering a dialogue at City Hall with Castro stakeholders and to enlist the support and engagement of Andrea Aiello, the executive director of the Castro Benefit District:

Thanks to you and Bill for coming to meet with me yesterday, and also for planning the memorial event, which was indeed very special.

Thanks also for sending these suggested next steps. I agree that connecting with Andrea and the CBD is the first thing I need to do, so I will be getting in touch with her very shortly. Once she and I talk, I should be better able to have a sense of timing as to moving forward from there. I'll keep you posted and appreciate your offer to continue helping.

My optimism was elevated over Amy and Andrea being in touch and working toward meeting for stakeholders, but after a few weeks of not hearing from Amy I asked if the effort was kaput. Her reply:

Andrea and I have connected and are continuing to discuss, so I would not say that this is either stalled or dead. My schedule has been even more crazy than usual of late, so I apologize for not responding to your prior email checking on the status. But I want to assure you that this remains on my radar screen and I feel like the conversations with Andrea have been productive, so please bear with us.

That message kept hope alive and reinforced the respect I had for Amy. Early last week, Amy set October 26 as the meeting date and informed us that it would take place at City Hall. Needless to say, Bill and I were pleased that a big step forward in finding a solution was coming together.

Andrea from the CBD spoke with assorted Castro folks and had commitments from Paul Boneberg, head of the GLBT Historical Society, and Isak Lindenauer, longtime Castro resident and business owner, to be at the City Hall meeting. Hopes were raised that the flagpole control controversy might be nearing an end, and soon our hopes were dashed.

Last Thursday afternoon, this terse email arrived from Amy's executive assistant Kathy Bianchi:

I send out our apologies, but the meeting set for October 26th at 9:00 a.m. is cancelled.

Disappointed on many levels, I replied the next morning requesting a full explanation as to why the meeting was cancelled, what next steps Amy would take as City Administrator and how we would more forward. So far, Amy and her assistant have not responded.

(MUMC's flagpole base currently displays a sign from the city.)

Adding to the mixed messages and confusion, is the matter of DPW removing the bronze plaque at the base of the flagpole to make security repairs and prevent it from being stolen. DPW and MUMC have maintained that a verbal agreement places all responsibility for the entire flagpole structure with MUMC, so why is the city doing the repair work and putting its sign at the empty plaque space?

All pretty strange and absurd, these ten months of controversy all over the simple act of lowering a flag on city property that supposedly belongs to all of San Francisco citizens, wouldn't you say?

It is often asked around these parts, "What would Harvey do?" I believe Harvey, at minimum, would take the flagpole issue and bring the community, the city and all interested parties to meetings designed to organize genuine public responsibility and control of the flag. Harvey would not allow so much time to go by, as an intransigent business group ignored the calls for change and divided the community because their president is a bully.

When November rolls around, we will enter our tenth month of controversy, due to the bullying tactics of MUMC. That is strong demerit for the current Supervisor of the Castro.

(Photo credit: Petrelis Files.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Queerty Stupidity:
Milk Plaque Not Stolen from HRC Store

The increasing ignorant Queerty gay site showed more evidence of how little it knows about San Francisco's Castro district today.

Queerty's Dan Avery is the only person reporting that the recently stolen Harvey Milk plaque from a cement pillar in the bowl of the Harvey Milk Plaza subway entrance was supposedly robbed from in front of the Human Rights Campaign souvenir shop that also houses a Trevor Project hotline:

For the facts about the purloined plaque from the Muni station, click here to read the San Francisco Chronicle's story. Queerty does not know what the truth is in this situation. By the way, this Chronicle photo by Liz Ha shows the empty spot at the transit hub, not HRC's store, where the plaque in question once was displayed:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kameny to Shilts:
1978 Four-Page Biograph: 'Gay is Great'

(The gay pioneer donned drag for a cover story in DC's Metro Weekly magazine in 2006. CORRECTION: Chris Geidner of MW writes: "The photo of Kameny in drag was from a 1998 April Fools' Day issue. The 2006 cover shoot was not in drag." Oops, and apologies. Credit: Todd Franson.)

The file on Frank Kameny in the collection of Randy Shilts' papers at the San Francisco Public Library's incredible and publicly-accessible San Francisco History Center is quite slim. The most fascinating item I found in it earlier this week was a typewritten rambling four-page biography by Frank from 1978.

I like the typos, grammatical errors and stream-of-consciousness mode because they provide a peek into how Frank's mind worked. Of course, I asked the librarians to copy the pages for me and I'm proud and happy to share them here.

A number of lines stand out and I've transcribed and corrected them, in the hope that it will make it easier for readers to cut-and-paste the lines and share them. Please be sure to give credit to the San Francisco Public Library, if you use the lines or the photos of the actual document.

Dismissed--1st to fight back...appealed up through White House, Eisenhower staff. Predictably, I got nowhere.

Weight went down to [the] point that my knees too boney to sleep on side.

Got NY Mattachine's Washington list...started in Nov. 1961, 13 people attended 1st meeting--not including member of local vice squad (then a dozen) morals division of DC [police?] department.

By 1966, I was spending more time on television than watching it.

When I started in 1961, you could write to the entire movement after dinner and have the rest of the evening free to do other things.

For all the talk of the late 60s, the revolution just isn't going to occur.

I have an absolute and total faith in the ability of the product of my own intellectual processes. If there is a matter in which the world and I differ, I'm willing to give it a second look. But if we then still differ, then I am right and they are wrong. They can go on being wrong if they want to--as long as they don't get in my way. But if they do get in the way, then there is going to be a fight and I don't intend to lose.

I have spent the last 15 years not adjusting my manner to society, but adjusting society to me.

Inspired watching Stokely Carmichael say black is beautiful. Gay is grand, gay is great in 1968.

Here are pages 1-4 of Kameny's biography. Hand-written notes in margins on page 3 are Shilts'. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shilts Files: Photo of Lady Bird Johnson
Holding a Village People Album

My, the interesting things Randy Shilts stuffed into his voluminous and disheveled files, now stored at the San Francisco Public Library's main library in their rich LGBT collection.

Today I was poring over the Shilts file on Frank Kameny (more of what was in there tomorrow), and the box with that file also contained one on the Village People. Shilts apparently wrote two articles on the Village People; one for the defunct New West magazine and another for Rolling Stone.

Among his drafts and hand-written notes were assorted news clippings on the group's rise, press releases from their record company and a photo that stood out even though none of the Village People performers themselves are in it.

The photo was taken in 1978 by Michael Rock, a New York based photographer, and on the back the inscription read, "Lady Bird Johnson accepting a Village People album." That's was it. No info on where she was when given the record, who gave it to her or why.

Yeah, I marveled and chuckled at the image and underlying readings of it - former First Lady and straight Texan icon having a link to the famous gay disco group pushing cultural boundaries - and made the librarians, all gay and of a certain age, come over and cast their gimlet eyes upon the photo. They loved it! "Who knew?" they asked, and I promised to shared it with more queens via my blog.

Googling for more info turned up these details from her 2007 funeral service, as reported by the Washington Post, which may explain the photo here and maybe not:

Harry Middleton, the retired director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, told of a breakfast meeting at New York's Plaza Hotel when he and Johnson were seated near the Village People, who were dressed in full costume.

One of the band members came over and expressed his admiration of Johnson, then asked if she would have her picture taken with her. She graciously agreed, Middleton recalled, although she didn't know who the people were. Told later that they were a singing group, Johnson smiled and said, "Well, I wonder if we just made the cover of their next album."

If there are photos on the web of her and the group together, I couldn't locate them. Maybe the First Lady was caught on film only with the album? Middleton's memory could be playing tricks. No matter. Hope the pic makes you smile!

Credit for the original photograph belongs to Michael Rock, courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library and the reproduction below was snapped by yours truly.

Monday, October 17, 2011

BAR: EQCA's Transition Plan?
BeSeTu: Palencia Interview When?

The downward spiral of Equality California continues and the gay press is dutifully reporting on the latest broken promises of the group's diminishing leaders.

First up, the editor of the Spanish-language LGBT news service D. Morales over the weekend posted a story about Roland Palencia ending his employment with the group and questioned its relevancy. Morales noted additional irresponsibility from their communications director:

On October 10, Rebekah Orr, EQCA spokeswoman promised an interview with Roland Palencia or the leadership of the organization for the next day and never heard from her again.

I'll say this about EQCA, right now, after reading Google's translated version of the BeSeTu piece. They are seriously further damaging their frayed relations with white and Latino LGBT folks equally. 

Seth Hemmelgarn over at the Bay Area Reporter's blog today wrote about EQCA and their vow to the at-large community last week about new ideas to energize us and demonstrate that everything is supposedly okey-dokey:

When the group failed to say Friday what they were going to do, Orr replied [that] “The board is in the process today of connecting with staff members to discuss the transition plan. We will release a public statement on Monday.”

But as of today (Monday, October 17), there’s still no plan.

In a phone interview, Orr wouldn’t say when the organization would reveal its plans. “The board is taking its time to make sure we get it right, and in the meantime, all of our staff is continuing to do all the work Equality California has been known for and, that we have set out to do for the year, and we’re moving forward,” she said.

When asked to explain the delay further, Orr said, “I think that we can all agree that it is better to do due diligence and to take our time to get it right than it is to have certainty without having …” She paused, struggling for words, then added, “with certainty without having gone through a deliberative process.”

Puhleeze, Louise, stop with the unhealthy and deceitful spinning. EQCA is a mess, serious trouble afflicts the board and staff, and only an isolated few naive gays may be buying the spin. Speaking in nonprofitese doesn't help the situation.

Let's have a reality check. We are soon approaching the third anniversary of the Prop 8 loss taking away gay marriage in the state. EQCA's former director Geoff Kors had enough rich friends and a strong support network to keep things solvent for a while, but now the organization may be collapsing.

Going out of business would allow California gays to make a fresh start of creating a truly democratic, small d, statewide network of activists collaborating with transparency and accountability focusing on political change. A group not beholden to gay Democratic electeds and A-gay, particularly Mark Leno, and their fealty to the party.

EQCA recently promised an empowering effort of "breakthrough conversations" to move the gays forward, an idea very much dead on arrival. What would really advance us would be a breakthrough closure - of this organization.
Nap Time: 'The Sleeping Beauty'

Catherine Breillat is one of France's leading filmmakers with a sterling art house reputation in America, where several of her films have enjoyed healthy box office returns. I've only recently discovered three of her very entertaining works - "Sex is Comedy", "The Last Mistress", and "Bluebeard".

All of them I highly recommended to friends, because each had a smart and engaging narrative, feminist questions and concerns were raised in natural ways, and I cared what happened to the central characters, be they sympathetic or unpleasant.

Breillat's latest film is "The Sleeping Beauty" and except for a short nap during the first half, I saw most of at the San Francisco International Film Festival's screening with a full house. Unlike her previous works, "The Sleeping Beauty" had little to hold my attention. It felt longer than its 80-minute running time.

The movie is about a princess, who at birth has competing spells cast upon her by an older witch and three younger ones, spells that lead to wildly divergent fantasies during her slumbering. When she awakens in the world of today, the princess is ill-equipped to consummate the sexual interests of handsome young man.

I was left cold by it all, even the elegant visual style failed to overcome the plot's shortcomings, and confused about the great leap in time toward the end, a sentiment shared by two female cineaste acquaintances at the film festival screening. They are also fans of Breillat's other films, and were disappointed with "The Sleeping Beauty".

Still, I'm glad to have seen it because Breillat, even when her work doesn't engage me, is an important director to watch. If you've liked her previous films, or have an interest in the Sleeping Beauty myth and revisionist feminist examination of it, check out the new film.

"The Sleeping Beauty" plays at the SF Film Festival | New People Cinema on Post Street through October 21. Click here for screening times and ticket information. You can watch the trailer below:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

SF Prepares to Remember Frank Kameny

My first fight with Frank in the early 1990s was over AIDS issues of the day, especially the massive number of gay men dropping dead like flies. I attended a Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance meeting at the Sumner school near Dupont Circle, to introduce myself as the new queer poz agitator in town ready to shake it up with a local ACT UP chapter, and Frank welcomed me to Washington and wished me luck.

I didn't have much interacting with him, except during my DC years, but we kept in touch with occasional phone calls and emails. In recent years, whenever we had contact in any form, I clearly and cogently laid out my gratitude to him for being a proud and honorable homosexual, at great risk to himself. Wanted him to hear appreciation from this gay grandson of his, with my own streaks of Kamenyistic righteousness.

My friend Jamie Kirchick wrote a remembrance last week in the New Republic and sums up Frank's basic advocacy method, which has also served as my guiding activist principle:

Frank’s mantra, whenever anyone complained about something they had read in the newspaper or heard about on TV, was “TELL THEM!” Had someone written an op-ed that made a silly argument against same-sex marriage? TELL THEM. Had a pastor made an outrageous comment about gay men wanting to molest children? TELL THEM. Had no less a figure than the President of the United States buckled to congressional pressure on this or that gay rights measure? Then, by all means, CALL THE WHITE HOUSE.

Speaking of calling the White House, I did that a few times in a small campaign over a few years to have President Obama award Frank the Medal of Freedom, a campaign that sadly didn't succeed while he was alive. From the Washington Blade:

“It would be very nice [to receive the medal],” Kameny said. “It would sort of tie up what has been a very long effort and it would leave me feeling very content. I’m deeply appreciative of Michael Petrelis’ effort.” The White House has been noncommittal on the matter. Outgoing White House LGBT liaison Brian Bond told Petrelis that Kameny’s name was “in consideration.”

Should the president include Frank among future recipients of the Medal of Freedom, I will add my voice to the chorus of those hailing this honor for our pioneering grandfather.

Enough digression. Here is an essay by good pal Clinton Fein about what we're planning to do locally to remember our cherished friend and leader:

The activist group, Gays Without Borders, are organizing "Gay Is Good: San Francisco Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Frank Kameny," to allow friends and admirers of gay pioneer Frank Kameny an opportunity to commemorate his life and teach a younger generation who he was and the contributions he made.

The celebration -- organized by Michael Petrelis, Bill Wilson and yours truly -- is set to take place at the base of the controversial flagpole in Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro, where a wreath will be laid honoring the decades of Kameny laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans' Day to honor and remember fallen lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the U.S. military.

The flagpole itself is mired in a petty, bitter, nine-month old controversy over control of the pole, the rainbow flag that flies atop it, and the process by which it is occasionally lowered to recognize the lives of those who have made a valuable contribution to the community or events such as 9/11.

While it is understandable that lowering the flag too frequently will weaken its poignancy and reduce its meaning, many community members and activists (myself included) find the secretive and inconsistent process through which requests are made and randomly granted by Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC) unacceptable for a community space on city property. MUMC has refused to put forward a methodology that invites community involvement, or a transparent articulation of their vetting process which appears to be at the whim of one or two people on their board.

In an apparently unprecedented verbal contract with the San Francisco Department of Public Work giving MUMC custodianship of the flag and flagpole, their stubborn and childish refusal to cooperate with concerned members of the community despite repeated requests, or to meaningfully address their grievances, have resulted in steps currently underway to challenge MUMC’s custodianship and return the plaza to the citizens of San Francisco.

Whether MUMC lowers the flag to commemorate Kameny’s life or not, however, is irrelevant at this point, as laying a wreath at its base is better suited to remember him and his annual pilgrimage to Arlington.

The date of the celebration and wreath-laying at Harvey Milk Plaza is designed to fall on the same date as a similar celebration taking place in Washington, DC, Kameny’s hometown, and will be announced once it is determined by the executors of his estate and his longtime friends.

For more on Kameny and his extraordinary journey, read: The Irrepressible Frank Kameny (In the words of Randy Shilts).

Friday, October 14, 2011

SF Chronicle: EQCA Fails
to Release Transition Plan

The Chronicle's chief Sacramento correspondent Wyatt Buchanan reported earlier this week on the abrupt departure of Equality California's executive director for three months, and other troubles for the group. Late Friday he posted an update and one doesn't have to read through the line to see even more ills besetting EQCA:

[...] A statement from the group announcing the departure of Roland Palencia said there would be a "transition plan" released by the end of the week. Well, that didn't happen.

Equality California spokeswoman Rebekah Orr told us Friday, "The board is in the process today of connecting with staff members to discuss the transition plan. We will release a public statement on Monday."

Let's stop here. I must express gratitude to Wyatt for doing old-fashioned journalism by asking an advocacy group about a promise, then reporting the response, in this case is another broken promise by EQCA and it's fast-evaporating staff. Quite interesting that their newly-moved from Oregon spokeswoman doesn't promise the transition plan. We're supposed to see a public statement come the new week.

Hmm, my mind entertains the possibility we could learn the group is closing up shop, every employee is moving on and EQCA is kaput. That would be a huge benefit to California's fabulous queer community. Not sure what the A-gay donors would do without their social networking galas and private cocktail receptions, but they'd survive.

IF, all caps intended, they release a statement on Monday, will many LGBT folks give a darn? I mean, as far as I know, the SF Chronicle is the only source to report today on EQCA's inability to share their transition plan. Lemme know if any gay media or bloggers have written about the missing plan.

The organization is hemorrhaging staff . . . they have already laid off one of their top Capitol staffers and the other is leaving soon.

The developments raise serious questions about the group's finances. We asked Palencia whether Equality California is in financial trouble, but he would only say, "Right now a lot of nonprofits are having problems." The group's IRS tax filings are available only for 2009 and back, when they were flush with money from donations due to the Proposition 8 campaign.

According to the secretary of state, the organization's two political action committees had just under $500,000 as of June 30. Looks like we'll have to wait a few more days to find out more about what's actually going on here.

My accountability and transparency genes get excited whenever I see an organization's IRS 990s mentioned and the latest numbers for their PAC reported.

Looking forward to Wyatt's next piece on EQCA, and hope he addresses an important question this group needs to answer. Will the Secretary of State allow them to use their half-million dollars in their gay marriage PAC for purposes other than that issue, given that they will not be organizing a 2012 repeal of Prop 8?

Very curious to see what EQCA says on Monday about their general plans, and what they intend to do with all that cash.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Castro Biz Group Spits on Kameny;
Flag Creator = Benedict Arnold

(B.A.R. letters, July 3, 2003. Image credit: Larry-Bob Roberts.)

The man originally designed the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, fancies himself the Betsy Ross of the modern gay movement and to a large degree that designation applies, but he's also lately proved himself to be a Benedict Arnold.

In early September, the Bay Area Reporter ran a letter from Gilbert about the nine-month controversy over the rainbow flag and pole on public property at Harvey Milk Plaza. Excerpts from the letter:

This was never a community flagpole; it is there for one reason, to fly the rainbow flag. Now a blowhard bully with zero knowledge of the flag's history is determined to wreck a landmark work of art by making it a turf war and a posthumous popularity contest. One day it's Elizabeth Taylor the next day it's Ruth Brinker, perfectly nice heroes, but the flag should not be lowered for them or anyone else. It is a beacon of hope and symbol of liberation that should always be flown full staff 24/7, 365.

The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro people started this craziness when they allowed the leather flag to be flown there during the Folsom Street Fair. Nothing against leather folk or their flag but it does not belong there, nor does any other flag.

Nice of Gilbert to weigh in from Harlem, NY, about how San Franciscans should operate the flag and pole but he was suffering from amnesia when he penned his note.

The image above was snapped by San Francisco resident Larry-Bob Roberts, a local writer/activist/performer, while going through old BARs on recycled tree. The 2003 letter from Patrick Batt, who adamantly opposes current efforts to use the flag as living educational tool, shows the hypocrisy of Gilbert and MUMC:

It is true that Gilbert Baker and I have not necessarily always agreed upon the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro’s stewardship of the flagpole at Market and Castro, however, his request to fly the American flag as a result of the Supreme Court overturning the Texas sodomy law was inspired! Gilbert's instincts were right on and I'm happy that MUMC was able to participate.

So, it was okay to take down the rainbow flag in the summer of 2003 to mark the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, hoist the stars and stripes and stage a ceremony at the base of the flagpole. According to an Associated Press story at the time written by Lisa Leff, a true community collaboration took place:

Members of a local American Legion Post made up of gay men unfurled the American flag, then saluted and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, as residents marveled that a goal they had been seeking for so long had been realized.

Gilbert was all in favor of flying other flags at Harvey Milk Plaza before he was against it. Same goes for the control queens at MUMC.

Yesterday, my colleague Bill Wilson spoke with MUMC's president Steve Adams regarding our request on Tuesday to have the flag lowered to honor gay icon and extraordinary pioneer Frank Kameny, who passed away on October 11.

In keeping with Steve's commitment to pettiness and refusing to cooperate with street activists, he informed Bill that someone else had "beat us" in terms of being the first to submit a request to honor Frank, as if the request process were a competition. Steve said he had unilaterally already decided to lower the flag yesterday morning, without working with any activists or community leaders to stage a ceremony. There was no educational component, not even a simple notice on the MUMC web site, to make sure folks knew why the flag was flying at half-mast yesterday.

But as far as Steve was concerned, that didn't matter because for him the important thing was not give the appearance that the request Bill and I had submitted played any part in the half-assed lowering yesterday.

It's beyond insulting that MUMC refused, again, to cooperate with activists and friends of Frank to properly honor him with a properly-planned flag lowering, plenty of advance notice to the local community and press and bloggers about why the flag would fly at half-mast, and an effort made to educate younger lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people about Frank's life and legacy.

So the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza was quietly lowered yesterday, supposedly in honor of Frank, but it really was an act of MUMC spitting on Frank.

And who was the person who "beat us" in being the first to request the lowering? The answer comes at the end of the BAR's story today about Frank's passing:

Steve Adams, president of the merchants group that oversees the flag, said the request was made by flag creator Gilbert Baker.

WTF? The same guy who just last month was saying the flag shouldn't be lowered for anyone flips-and-flops, showing he has a political spine like an overcooked piece of organic spaghetti.

The harm MUMC inflicts on the community by allowing their president to act like a kindergarten sandbox bully engaging tit-for-tat behavior over the rainbow flag on public property, that should be a living educational that unites and doesn't divide, should be unacceptable to responsible members of the Castro and LGBT communities of San Francisco.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Will Castro's Rainbow Flag Fly at 
Half-Mast for Late Gay Icon Frank Kameny?

There is simply no denying the importance of Frank Kameny and his tremendous impact on the lives and loving relationships of gay people everywhere.

My friend Bill Wilson and I, as members of Gays Without Borders, have submitted the following request to the president of the group that controls the enormous gay community flag at Castro and Market Streets. We've asked for a quick reply and will share updates as they become available.

If not for Frank Kameny, who? If not now, when for this homo hero?

Dear Steve Adams,

A giant and a legend of the American gay civil rights movement, Frank Kameny, passed away today at the age of 86 at his home in Washington, DC. The invaluable contributions he made over many decades to the nation that benefited lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people both at home and abroad cannot be overstated.

We firmly believe Frank's passing should be honored with a one-day lowering this week of the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza and we are requesting that the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro agree to fly our community's flag at half-mast as a tribute to him. 

Lowering the flag for Frank's work would show everyone the respect of the neighborhood, the city's at-large and diverse LGBT residents, and the entire San Francisco family for the life and legacy of this courageous man.

It is our hope that MUMC will recognize the importance of Frank in helping America live up to her promise to all her citizens by flying the Castro's rainbow flag at half-mast in his honor.

We ask for a written reply by noon on Wednesday.

Michael Petrelis & Bill Wilson
Gays Without Borders
EQCA Hires Straight Person
to Serve as San Francisco Coordinator

There are hundreds of unemployed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Bay Area with the qualifications necessary to serve as the San Francisco area's field manager for Equality California, an organization seriously lacking links to the local community.

The Bay Area Reporter's blog yesterday posted a story about EQCA's coordinator for ultra-queer San Francisco, and she is not an LGBT person:

[Angie] Coleman-Levy [pictured], who declined to state her salary, is straight, but she has gay family members, including her brother.

Why couldn't EQCA hire a gay person for this position? Judging Coleman-Levy only by what is reported in the BAR, there is no info on her at the EQCA site, she seems to be a nice young and enthusiastic person and not a heck of a lot of roots or experience in the gay movement. What has she been working on these past few weeks?

Coleman-Levy, who started in the position September 20, said her main task is “building the volunteer base in the Bay Area,” since “We don’t have a very big base right now.” So far, her efforts have involved phone banking, and going to the Castro Street Fair to recruit volunteers, she said.

Three years after EQCA led the community to an unnecessary defeat with Prop 8, and no discernible democratic engagement, cocktail receptions and galas don't count, the new straight woman running the group's coordination with us local yokels informs us they lack a big base. Well, duh, and given the turmoil this week over staff resignations and firings, don't expect a flood of volunteer to sign up for phone banking or (yawn) data entry.

What's on the top of the field manager's agenda?

However, Coleman-Levy said, “The biggest thing is finding out what people want to do.”

Oh, dear Goddess, how many times must we say democratic engagement with the grassroots is a key component to determining what the at-large LGBT community wants to do politically and activism-wise. And we now learn that the straight coordinator for EQCA is clueless regarding what gay people are interested in.

EQCA must go out of business, for so many reasons. The joke's over. Someone get out the hook and pull this worthless organization off the political stage.

Monday, October 10, 2011

EQCA Executive Director Resigns;
Dismantle the Group Now

(Roland Palencia. Credit: Rex Wockner.)

Let's not beat around the bush. EQCA needed to be lanced like the boil that it is upon the gay body politic a long time ago. It's nothing more than a club for A-gay Democrats good at throwing galas and receptions, contriving mostly minor legislative changes, and pretending to be representative of the diverse LGBT California community.

It has now come to pass, after months of an executive search conducted by a straight and expensive headhunting firm, and not a single damn public meeting held with the gays, the relatively new leader Roland Palencia tonight announced he's resigning. Hasta la vista, baby!

Every step of the process I kvetched about the stultifying dearth of democratic engagement that gave us Roland, and continued complaining when he assumed the helm and appeared only at restricted receptions, shunning open forums. He was lauded for being an immigrant Latino progressive gay among other qualifications that made him suitable to serve as EQCA's honcho. After barely three-months on the job, he's history.

ECQA should not and cannot be saved. It is so tainted with the rancid odor of the Prop 8 loss and the incompetency that led us to failure, while in deep fear of its very constituency - ordinary gay activists - and no mechanism for direct input, along with dozens of other substantive defects.

Good-bye, Roland. Please take EQCA with you. California gays have endured enough of EQCA's stupidity and slavish relationship with the state Democratic Party.

This is excerpted from Karen Ocamb's LGBT POV blog. Congrats, Karen, for breaking the news:

In a brief phone interview Monday night, Roland Palencia told me he was resigning as Executive Director of Equality California.

“I am stepping down. We will be having a board meeting and have a transition plan by the end of the week,” Palencia said.

Palencia called me because late this afternoon EQCA Communications Director Rebekah Orr called and cancelled a scheduled interview with me for Frontiers In LA magazine. Palencia called with an explanation.

When asked why he was stepping down, Palencia hesitated. He then agreed to go through with the interview for Frontiers, a portion of which will be posted immediately on

Palencia is very concerned about Equality California as an organization:

“I want to make sure that everyone supports the organization. This is the time for all of us to rally and support Equality California. I have seen how this organization literally changes lives. It is a community asset and we have to keep our eye on the prize.”

This is a developing story…..
EQCA Loses Finance Whiz Steve Mele

A little birdie with access to key players at and donors to Equality California spilled some beans over the weekend, about what he sees as unhealthy developments for the group, and the larger community. This anonymous source and I disagree on many EQCA and LGBT issues across the state, but his facts have been correct in the past, so I'm sharing his info and analysis today because he provides much-needed transparency regarding this group and some of what is happening regarding staffing.

Before we get to the source's details, I want to point out that in the coming month EQCA will not be holding a single public forum to discuss items like their anti-repeal decision, personnel turnover and inform LGBT people of any plans the group has to create democratic engagement principles to make the grassroots feel like they have a stake in EQCA.

However, they'll be doing what they are experts at - putting on the gay glitz! A gala awards show! Noshing, schmoozing and boozing with the ladies in LA! Swimming and cruising at the beach! Raking in LGBT dollars!

We queers sure could use an Occupy EQCA effort, but until then, give this a read:

I don't know know the whole story, but at the same time EQCA decided not to pursue it ballot initiative, the main proponent of going froward, Steve Mele, was let go. Earlier, Jim Carroll, who came within a hair's breath of being appointed Geoff Kors' successor, was forced out. The Board itself has seen some resignations. There was a major battle within the organization over the ballot initiative issue. The staff wanted to go, the Board did not. Roland Palencia will always do as the Board says.

Steve and Jim were forced out because of their strong advocacy of a ballot proposition and because they lost the leadership battle with Roland (just barely). When the Board decided to ignore the organization's previous promises, upon which much of its fundraising had been done in the past 2 years, and go against the wishes of the vast majority of its members, it decided to get rid of any dissenting voices as well.

EQCA is still the largest, richest and best organized LGBT rights organization in CA. Politicians listen to them and want to be seen as partnering with them. Many activists take their cues from them, rightly or wrongly. When EQCA chooses not to pursue a course of action, it is much like taking the bat and the ball with them. If they won't play, no one else can either. The grassroots cannot repeal Prop 8 on its own.

Personally, I don't believe that the Perry case will get us marriage equality in CA anytime soon, if ever. At best, marriages will resume in 2014. More importantly, the conservatives on the US Supreme Court could use the case to deal a blow to the very concept of LGBT rights across the board. I think that is a very likely scenario and legal experts are pretty unanimous that the chances of success for Perry at the Supreme Court are remote. Most of them are too terrified of Chad Griffin to say so publicly.

To me, the Perry case is a runaway train headed for disaster and the community has been lulled into complacency by a favorable ruling in the lowest court which was always a foregone conclusion

Polish Gay, Trans Leaders
May Win Seats in Parliament

(Polish transgender leader Anna Grodzka. Courtesy photo.)

Word out of Poland today from Greg Czarnecki, board member of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii/Campaign Against Homophobia, is that the heavily Catholic nation is on the verge of seeing its first gay and transgender members of Parliament.

I'm a bit fuzzy on out gay or transgender elected officials in Europe, beyond the mayors of Paris and Berlin, but I believe these two Poles could be the first of their kind to win elective seats in Eastern Europe. Many congratulations to the LGBT community of Poland on what appears to be a nice big step forward.

(Polish gay leader Robert Biedron. Courtesy photo.)

Click here to visit the Trans-Fuzja site and learn more about trans Polish issues, and Anna Grodzka. Very interesting to read that among the new political party's agenda is legalizing marijuana! Here's the full message from Greg Czarnecki:

Preliminary Parliamentary elections results in Poland show that the new left party, Palikot Movement, has gained about 10% making it the third strongest party. This means that trans activist Anna Grodzka, president of Trans-fuzja (elected in Krakow) and LGBT activist Robert Biedron, board member of KPH (elected in Gdynia) will become MPs. This is a historical event which would make them the first openly LGBT people in the Polish Parliament. In an interview, Palikot promised to present a bill for registered partnerships before the end of the year, though he doesn’t know how it will be received by the rest of Parliament.

Palikot’s Movement is a recently formed party (2010), lead by entrepreneur Janusz Palikot. He was an MP with the ruling Civil Platform (PO) leading the so-called “Friendly Government” Commission. He left the party after disagreements with the Prime Minister. His party is very left on social issues, gathering many activists from movements for LGBT rights, legalizing marihuana, abortion and women’s rights, and is very anti-clerical. Economically he is more liberal than left. He is criticized for having been the owner of a homophobic and Catholic magazine “Ozon” in 2005-6 which he now admits was a mistake.

The PO party gained about 40% and it is the first time in post-communist Polish history that a party was re-elected with such popularity. This will mean that they will most likely be reluctant to make many reforms. The left-wing party, SLD, which presented the bill for registered partnerships earlier this year, suffered a huge defeat with only 7%.

Official results will be available on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Occupy SF:
Public Space, Male Flesh & Gay Inc

Over the past couple of weeks, I've stopped by the Occupy San Francisco encampment on the public sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on lower Market Street and watched some of the General Assemblies, just to show my solidarity with the activists and ordinary folks showing up to lend their voices to the protest.

On Saturday, I was at Occupy San Francisco in the mid afternoon, as the day's march was being decided on, and was quite aware of how much of the private sidewalk space inside the anti-terrorism cement pillars was barricaded off, because it's not public property. The SF police department's metal barricades went up the night the cops broke up the encampment last week.

I didn't know until this week that Occupy Wall Street's location, Zuccotti Park, is a privately-owned public park, showing me a common thread between my advocacy to reclaim the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza and remove empty news racks from our corporate colonized sidewalks. Public control of public space across America is just one more item to add to the list of Occupy demands that is of concern.

Radical idea to consider. What about creating Occupy Gay Inc actions, since we can't just outright dismantle its components? Get a crew together to camp out, lots of puns intended, at the Human Rights Campaign corporation's headquarters in Washington. Same thing at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force offices. Let's not overlook the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. There's also the statewide "equality" organizations. They could all use a massive, sustained injection of democratic engagement and develop transparency for the LGBT people they claim to work for. Demand the impossible: HRC General Assemblies open to all.

Soon after Rep. Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House, a watchdog effort was launched to hold her to promote and enact San Francisco principles, including large-scale accountability regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Unfortunately, Pelosi Watch was led and co-opted by Code Pink, which had a rigid top-down operation with leaders of their choosing. Pelosi Watch meetings were rare, but when they took place Code Pink schedule their expert pals to lecture. It didn't last because democracy engagement was sorely lacking. That is not the case with Occupy SF and its staunch democratic ideals and transparency. There is much to be proud of with a great experiment in truly public meetings in the (ever-shrinking) public square, along with lots of other affiliated pushes for change. Happy to do my part to keep the momentum forward moving.

A few young men doffed their shirts in the warmth of the sun baking the tiled sidewalk and cement pillars. Some used their flesh to express themselves politically. The nude fellow above usually hangs out at the public parklet at Castro and Market Streets. Any American protest-for-change-in-the-streets movement that includes nudists amidst calls for economic justice has a lot going for it.

Feed two birds with one seed. Fantastic phrase to adopt. Whenever you're about to say "kill two birds with one stone", stop those words from coming out of your mouth. Only Tippi Hedren is allowed to use that phrase and even she would probably not say it, being the animal rights activist she is! Did you know there's a birdhouse on Market Street, just past Third Street, on the south side? Only discovered it myself last week. This is the perfect post to include this photo. Hope to see you down at Occupy SF.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Castro's Gingerfruit Has Closed

It was back in June when I blogged about the opening of a new Asian tapas restaurant and bar named Gingerfruit, on the outer edge of the Castro neighborhood. Last night, I walked past Gingerfruit on Market Street opposite the Safeway supermarket and saw that it was closed.

Though I never ate at the place, I'm sorry to see Gingerfruit go out of business and so quickly too. It joins the recently-shuttered because of bankruptcy Home restaurant at the Market & Church & 14th Streets intersection as a Castro dining spot that couldn't survive.

Let's see if either location soon acquires a new owner and starts serving food and libations again.

FYI, the web site for Gingerfruit is nothing right now but a totally black screen. No message about the shuttering, or thanks to patrons who dined there, or anything. I can't recall ever seeing a site still-live, but offering nothing other than a empty, dark screen. Very odd. Click here to see what I'm talking about.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

EQCA's Gay Marriage PAC = $470K

If the folks at Equality California were committed to democratic engagement with the grassroots and holding regular public forums in San Francisco where breakthrough conversations were taking place, I'd ask the executives about their still-active political action committee to win back gay marriage rights.

After breaking a promise to announce their decision by the end of September, EQCA yesterday said they would not be heading up a ballot repeal effort next year to reverse Prop 8, and they made a new promise to the community. Actually, it's the same damn thing they've been saying since they led us to the Prop 8 defeat nearly three years ago.

EQCA says every gay needs to talk to our neighbors and friends about our lives, as if we are not already doing that, and they will develop winning talking points for us to mouth to our social networks.

Are the LGBT people of California so pathetic we really need a multimillion dollar organization to assume we're all meek creatures not already engaged in such chats, or that we're saying the wrong things, and we need their alleged cutting-edge research to help us communicate with the world?

EQCA's opting out of mounting a 2012 repeal is an excellent decision, but the drawn out, slipshod and less-than-transparent approach they employed to arrive at the obvious decision revealed a Keystone Kops element that further undermined activist faith in the group.

The California Secretary of State's web site reports the EQCA Issues PAC is currently active and has a nice chunk of change sitting in the bank. This PAC, as the screen capture clearly shows, was tasked with holding the money for ballot proposition to restore gay marriage via the voting booth. Click to enlarge both images.

I'd like to hear from EQCA about the reasons why the PAC has gone through a number of names, just so I have a clear understanding of evolving purposes of the committee. Let's look at its most current activity report with basic financial numbers:

This EQCA gay marriage PAC has $469,030 in the bank, spent $33,622 and received no contributions for the first six-months of 2011.

Now that EQCA has no repeal effort to organize, what will they do with all that money and if donors asked for refunds, would the lobbying organization give folks their money back?

We LGBT people of this great state deserve a statewide advocacy group that consistently holds breakthrough conversations with ordinary folks, where we can ask about this PAC and lots of other important concerns.
Ex-EQCA Board President
Wonders If Palencia is a 10? 

(Gary Soto. Credit: Frontiers.)

Gary Soto, the former president of the board of directors of Equality California, speaks some truth that does not instill confidence in the group or its new executive director. He did it in an interview with Los Angeles-based lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb for Frontiers, when discussing EQCA's chief Roland Palencia:

And if there are issues out there with Roland—because I don’t really know now because I’m out of there—certainly you can look at that. And that’s not ‘internal.’ That’s a regular norm organizational restructuring piece of knowledge every company knows about. ... So what’s the board leadership doing about it? If you want Roland to be a 10 and he’s not a 10—what are you going to do to make him a 10? I don’t have any pointing of fingers at Roland. My thing is what is the board leadership doing now? ...

While Soto believes he lacks fingers pointing at Palencia, just raising these questions is a form of exactly that. There's a degree of disingenuous in what he says.

Yes, there are plenty of concerns among grassroots gays who aren't donors to EQCA that Palencia is, to be charitable, lacking in a number of ways and in only holding receptions and fundraisers for donors, while ignoring the need for public forums and direct engagement with the at-large community, the elitism continues to EQCA's detriment.

What is surprising about Soto's comments is the direct way he publicly challenges the board. They can't be happy with his remarks. Soto also unloads about the criticism they received after Prop 8 lost in November 2008 and the community was exacting accountability from the remote leaders of the failed campaign:

I was horrified at the thought that Equality California was the target of the backlash of what didn’t work. There were so many people that were Monday quarterbacks coming out of the woodwork that were not involved in the process—but they were certainly out there with their vicious attacks on why it didn’t work. ...

The process was an invitation-only affair among the usual Gay Inc and A-gay folks, with barely a ray of transparency over how they made their decisions. Soto and company didn't know how to respectfully engage the grassroots and they paid a price for their mistakes.

Having never met the guy, I'm not sure if it's fair to judge his skin, thin or thick?, when it comes to public accountability for a major fuck up based solely on comments such as these, but I can't muster any sympathy for Soto not having a backbone when it was needed on behalf of his organization and his close friend, Geoff Kors, who was tarred and feathered after Prop 8 passed. Soto said:

I will put it on record: as board president of Equality California, the thing that I did not do and I regret the most in my role as board president of Equality California Institute that I did not respond to the bloggers out there that attacked Geoff Kors and attacked Equality California. ... But no one else was speaking. And if all the voices out there that were speaking were the negative voices—that’s who people were listening to. So I am not proud of the fact that I did not step up to the plate to defend Geoff Kors and the organization. And with that, we got the brunt of the backlash. ... And all the work we had done was being attacked by a handful of people. ...

Oh, boo hoo hoo. Not only were Soto and colleagues spineless during the campaign - refusing to debate the Yes on 8 leaders, afraid to put gay people in TV ads, denying Prop 8 was about gay marriage and instead was a referendum on equality - they failed to understand the depth of rage beyond their tight, little circle.

Someone must tell Soto it was waaaaaaaaaaaay more than a handful of people who were demanding accountability and better leadership after November 2008. Almost three years later, I'm still waiting for EQCA to prove it has adopted genuine transparency and democratic engagement principles.