Sunday, November 18, 2012

Will SF Mayor Lee
Fly Trans Flag From City Hall?

The San Francisco Office of Protocol, which handles when the flagpole off the mayor's office balcony facing Civic Center will fly flags other than the American flag, lacks a transparent request process. Since the spring, I and other activists who've been advocating for public control of the flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza, have pressed Mayor Ed Lee for transparent rules governing his balcony flagpole. Our requests for that info have produced naught.

Yesterday, I read the above rant from transwoman Robin Summers Mitchell at the San Francisco TDOR Facebook page (since removed), in which she mentions the mayor and displaying the trans flag from City Hall on November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance. Robin's note prodded me to email the mayor and his five press officers, asking why he was undecided about flying the trans flag on Tuesday and a copy of the request process rules.

I soon received a reply from Cecilia Chung, transwoman whom the mayor appointed to the powerful Health Commission in April, in which she showed greater concern for the mayor and his staff than in advancing a transparent process:

I believe it has already been a great victory that you have fought and won on behalf on the Trans community to fly the flag in Harvey Milk Plaza. Sadly, because of the media coverage around the incident, most of the community has thought the flag raising in Castro is this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance.

As you are fully aware, the Trans community has worked hard to advocate and to create our own community and space through consensus building. The idea of possibly raising the Trans flag in City Hall to bring the focus back to November 20 came actually from me but I see no reason to announce it to the whole world and the since the TDOR will gather in front of City Hall on Tuesday, I will have Monday to discuss with the Mayor.

I appreciate your impulse to advocate on our behalf when things does not seem to be moving, but Mayor Lee has a long history of working and advocating of Trans rights since he worked in the Human Rights Commission and to compare diplomatic relationships with community requests is like comparing apples and oranges.

Whether Mayor Lee decides to fly the Trans flag or not, the community does not wish for you to use this as an opportunity to put him, his staff City Hall or the community in any awkward position.

My reply to Cecilia laid out the concerns of Bill Wilson and myself of finally persuading the city to develop transparent and equally-applied rules for public access to the Milk Plaza and mayoral flagpoles. Unfortunately, Cecilia's hush-hush request shows she is not interested in larger public property access issues, or advancing a transparent request process for everyone not just mayoral appointees with access to his staff.

In no way am I questioning Cecilia's credentials as a transgender and HIV leader. Heck, earlier this year when she was a POZ cover girl, I sent her congratulations for the honor and her years of strong healthcare advocacy. What I am questioning is her commitment to transparency and putting queer public property issues before mayoral warm fuzzies.

The flag request is essentially about her having a meeting with Mayor Lee, looking out for his back and her moving up the political ladder, while using the flag request as the vehicle. I see no reason why sunshining all of this should in any way dissuade the mayor from doing the right thing, and if it is, well, then it's just one more problem on the very long list of problems stemming from opaque flagpole policies.

Why should the Ts get something from the mayor while the LGBs can't get their calls returned and questions answered? This is not just about the trans flag commemorating TDOR on Tuesday at City Hall, and I sure hope the mayor takes down the SF Giants flag and replaces it with the trans flag. The battle for reclaiming important city-owned tools on municipal grounds paid for by taxpayers is the larger issue here.

Transparency advocates could really use the support of the transgender community for our agenda of making flagpole use fair and equal for all.

No comments: