Thursday, May 31, 2012

9 Votes Against Dorsey 4 Dem Panel;
Guardian Must Rescind Endorsement

The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force (SOTF), is a civic body that hears complaints from citizens when city employees and agencies potentially violate San Francisco's good government laws and regulations. Lately, the SOTF has come under attack led by Sup. Scott Wiener and his downtown business allies, and the Bay Guardian has provided excellent coverage of conservative Supervisors eviscerating the SOTF here, here, here and here.

A key opponent of the SOTF is Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera who is gay and running to retain his seat on the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC). I've started calling him Matt Dracula because of his staunch loathing of the SOTF.

Here's what he told the New York Times in March 2011, bolding mine:

Matt Dorsey [...] said in an e-mail, “The task force has degenerated into a rogue, lawless jury that beats up on city departments and tries to get conscientious public employees fired.” Mr. Dorsey and other city public information managers said they spent an extraordinary amount of time and resources complying with the ordinance. They described task force hearings as a tedious kangaroo court. 

Since he has plenty of power at his City Hall perch from which to undermine the SOTF, I see no reason to keep Dorsey on the DCCC where he could do more damage to good government. I won't be voting for Dorsey, or Wiener, for the DCCC and have persuaded eight friends to also not cast ballots for them because of their vehement opposition to the SOTF.

Nine votes aren't much in general elections, but they could matter tremendously in the June 5 primary when so few San Francisco voters are expected to vote. This my way to doing something to send a message Dorsey and his ilk who want to do away with the SOTF or render it inconsequential.

Inexplicably, the Guardian has endorsed Dorsey in his DCCC race and he's making good use of a 2006 quote from the paper 

Of his tenure, in fact, the San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote: "Dorsey's done more for promoting open government than anyone who has ever worked for the Office of the San Francisco City Attorney."

Last night, I emailed Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann and editor Tim Redmond requesting that they rescind their backing of Dorsey, and reminded them of his noxious quote to the NY Times. It's not too late for them to do the right thing and send a strong and clear message to Dorsey and every anti-SOTF person at City Hall that the paper will do nothing to give further influence to political hacks on the wrong side of good government. When I hear back from Brugmann and Redmond, I'll share their replies.

If you're a San Francisco voter able to cast a ballot in the DCCC race, please vote for anyone but Dorsey and Wiener.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dufty's SF Homeless Talk:
No Homeless People or Housing Advocates

Former member of the Board of Supervisors, failed mayoral candidate and cog in the Willie Brown Machine Bevan Dufty has served as Mayor Ed Lee's housing czar since February and I'm not aware of him holding any regular public meetings of his own with the public. Dufty, like so many appointed or elected political hacks in this town, is happy to appear as a guest at forums other folks organize, but don't hold your breath waiting for him to organize his own public engagement.

Next week, Dufty is a guest of the City Club's series of City Summit chats and he'll deliver a supposed "frank talk on city homeless policy and housing", according to promotional materials. The talk is on June 5 and takes place during a luncheon. Price to attend, if you're not a member of the City Club? It will cost you $45 to hear what Dufty has to say.

A quarter-page ad in the SF Chronicle last week stated Dufty will be joined by the paper's editorial page editor John Diaz. The paper and its web site are listed in the ad as sponsors of the talk.

No current or former homeless individuals are part of the event, and the same goes for affordable housing advocates. The exclusion of such people says a lot about what is wrong with the June 5 meeting and maybe Dufty's approach to his job.

The failure of Dufty, Diaz and the City Club to include a homeless person or housing advocate reminds me of the hearing GOP Darrell Issa held a few months back on contraception and women's related health issues. Issa's invited panel was an all-male roster of speakers. Invite members of the effected population? Good luck with that.

As far as I can tell, the housing czar job was created as political patronage and payback for Dufty, because of his key role helping Ed Lee become interim mayor in January 2011 and other favors Dufty has done for the Willie Brown Machine. Maybe the only folks to directly benefit from creating this czar position are Dufty and his former mayoral campaign aide Amanda Kahn-Fried, who now serves as his housing aide.

While Dufty and Kahn-Friend enjoy their patronage positions at City Hall that deliver salaries and benefits to them, I doubt they've moved anyone from the shelters into permanent housing or improved any of the myriad safety and access to beds issues in the shelters. If I'm wrong about this, let Dufty and Kahn-Fried show us evidence of their direct roles making life better for the homeless of San Francisco.

It is not too late for Dufty to insist that the City Club and the SF Chronicle add speakers from the homeless community to his luncheon talk.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NZ Amb.'s Tweet on Gay Teen Bashing;
Locals Want to Work With Huebner

I heard back from our ambassador regarding the recent bashing of gay New Zealand teen Zakk d'Larte, which I blogged about here. Out and proud Amb. David Huebner wrote:

Thank you for the note. I have been in transit back to NZ from DC where I spent the last week on business, so I had not seen the story you flagged. I will retweet it with a comment. Thanks for calling it to my attention. My Ambassador twitter feed is @davidhuebner . I use the feed to curate stories of interest or importance that might not be being picked up by mainstream media. I regularly tweet or retweet stories suggested by my readers, particularly those who live here in NZ. 

Huebner's quick retweet with the note that "It's 2012. Not acceptable." brings a new level of attention the d'Larte attack, for which I thank the ambassador.

I also received a reply from Sam Shore, of the WTF campaign that is patterned after the It Gets Better endeavor, alerting him to my outreach with Huebner. Shore said:

Thank you so much for your email and your sign of support, it means a great deal to us. We are currently tackling through our campaign varying forms of discrimination, discrimination like poor Zakk faced on the weekend. We hope that with a great enough push and support from our communities these initiatives will be far reaching and change making. President Obama's speech on marriage equality resonated very strongly over here and i would like to extend our thanks. To see America's leader take such a brave stance was uplifting and inspiring for many people around the world. Thank you for keeping us in the loop with your ambassador. We would love to hear of any thought he might have in how we can work together going forward.

I've shared the message from Shore with Huebner and soon hope they'll be in communication with each other, and making plans for future collaborations. That might be one good thing to come out of the terrible violence against d'Larte.
Gay U.S. NZ Ambassador 
Asked to Deplore Attack on Gay Teen

(Zakk d'Larte documents his blood-stained bruises in this photo he's sharing after being bashed.)

The United States has an out gay ambassador posted to New Zealand and Samao, David Huebner, and I've requested that he take action regarding the senseless beating of a gay teenager in Auckland. Huebner blogs regularly and on May 17 he wrote about the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and her laudable remarks on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Bravo, Mr. Ambassador!

A word of encouragement to Zakk, and best wishes for speedy healing. Very good of him to bring attention to the attack he suffered and how he's refusing to be silent or a victim.

Here's the email I've sent to Huebner, pictured, and I'll let you know when he replies:

I am a member of Gays Without Borders and we are very concerned with the recent savage beating of gay teen Zakk d'Larte in Auckland, as reported in the New Zealand Herald.

The paper said:  A gay teenager was called "disgusting" before he was beaten unconscious in central Auckland. The attack on Saturday night at Westhaven Marina has shocked gay rights workers. It came a week after the start of a campaign against such discrimination. Zakk d'Larte, 18, was dropped off by friends at a boat party about 7pm and was walking back to his apartment in the city centre when three men started to approach him wolf-whistling.

We notice that you have a very active and informative blog, and we very much appreciate your recent promotion of IDAHO and the importance speaking up and helping LGBT kids. FYI, we staged an IDAHO event in San Francisco and you can check out our report, pix and vid here.

Today we are requesting that you speak out against the attack on Zakk d'Larte on your blog and other media platforms, consider reaching out to him directly and letting him know the American ambassador who happens to be gay is concerned about his well-being.

Your words in this sad situation could go a long way toward preventing future gay bashings and also give succor to the gay youths of New Zealand. We appreciate all of your visibility and actions related to gay people and our issues. Thank you.
Radical Avicolli-Mecca Slams
'Poorly Produced' Mariela Castro Talk

(Castro, center, answers a question at a forum last week in San Francisco. Credit: Jane Philomen Cleland, BAR.)

 Since I skipped last Wednesday's talk at the gay community center with Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, I asked my friend and longtime queer leftist radical Tommi Avicolli Mecca for a report because he attended the event.

Before we get to his report, I want to say that Jeff Cotter of the Rainbow World Fund, who hosted and organized the talk and other activities with Mariela while she was in San Francisco, has been asked to engage in dialogue with local activists who feel he singed bridges in his backyard by only working with gay electeds and ignoring grassroot folks. If Cotter agrees to such a dialogue, I'll let you know.

Here's what Tommi has to say about the May 23 talk:

Honestly, there were a lot of problems with the Mariela Castro event. First of all, the interviewer [local gay TV personality Liam Mayclem] was ill-prepared to talk to her. It was obvious that he had not done any homework on Cuba or the history of the queer movement there, or even the history of involvement of gay liberation in this country with Cuba (the Venceremos brigades of the 70s, for instance), and at times his questions were downright embarrassing.

Then there was the lack of audience participation (we had to hand in cards and who knows who decided which were worthy of asking? Judging from the questions they chose, it was obvious only the most lame questions were deemed worthy).

The choice of politicians and appointees to introduce the event was disastrous. Talk about setting the wrong tone. And what event was [Human Rights Commission executive director] Theresa Sparks attending? A benefit for Human Rights Commission, perhaps? She talked mostly about her own organization and not the subject at hand. It was obvious she had not done any homework on Cuba.

Why weren't activists asked to say something? Songwriter/activist Blackberri, who was in the audience, has been to Cuba many times and could have given a good perspective on things.

And why was Liam Mayclem chosen as interviewer in the first place? How much more depth could have been lent to the interview if someone from KPFA Radio, for instance, who covers Cuba regularly or someone from the Latino community who is familiar with the country could have done it.

Frankly, I'm tired of LGBT politicians and appointees being our spokespeople. Activists need to reclaim our movement. Electing folks to office or pushing for political appointments may seem like a useful strategy for change, but when it results in politicians and appointees becoming our spokespeople, it's a disaster (and it disempowers our community).

Scott Wiener does not represent me. He has no LGBT international record to speak of, yet he was allowed to make opening remarks. He represents downtown interests. Is that the state of our movement? Harvey Milk's old seat occupied by someone who represents downtown interests? It makes me sick.

 All in all, a poorly produced event.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dustin Lance Black's 
'Virginia' Bombs at the Box Office

To put it mildly, the New York Times' openly gay film critic Stephen Holden really didn't like the new movie "Virginia" written and directed by Dustin Lance Black. Holden wrote in his May 18 review:

Watching “Virginia” is like studying a goofy Rube Goldberg gizmo. There are so many moving parts spinning in so many directions that this movie’s purpose is inscrutable and the noise of its grinding parts distracting [...] it is nothing like “Milk,” the biography of the gay-rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, for which Mr. Black won an Academy Award in 2009 for best original screenplay. Overflowing with subplots and oddball characters, “Virginia” vaguely aspires to be something like Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” but set in and around Virginia Beach ...

[The film] has been re-edited and retitled (from “What’s Wrong With Virginia?”) since its disastrous reception at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, is semiautobiographical, Mr. Black having grown up in a family with a history of schizophrenia [...] Schizophrenia may be an appropriate subject for a melodrama. But it is calamitous in “Virginia,” which keeps you off balance as its tone zigzags among farce, pathos and satire. Scenes that are meant to be funny are laugh-free. [...]

Long before the end of the film’s 111-minute running time, I was exhausted by a story that seemed to be chasing itself in circles in a futile attempt to decide what it is and what it wants to say.

It's never helpful when the Times pans a low-budget independent movie, and "Virginia" lasted only one-week in New York theaters before being pulled by the distributor or rejected by the theater chain showing it.

Box Office Mojo's report on "Virginia's" opening weekend showed it took in a woeful $6,900 from five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. At the same time, the new Russian film "Elena", with no art house names attached either in front of or behind the camera, playing at a single theater in New York brought in a robust $13,200 profit.

The Zap2it site was the only place I could find a listing for any theaters showing "Virginia" this weekend, and both are in Los Angeles, where there may be an audience for it. Never one to totally trust a single critic or lousy box office receipts, I'd like to see Black's film if the distributor eOne Films decides to take a chance and open it in San Francisco.

Black's got tons of talent and I'm sure there are worthwhile aspects to his new film, which if nothing else will surely provide him with a few learning lessons to apply in future films. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IDAHO: Haiti's First LGBT Congress
& Kouraj Activists Form an Alliance

Reports and photos surfaced last week of gays and people with AIDS in Haiti participating in International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia with a national congress that brought together hundreds of ordinary citizens and non-governmental organizations.

Here's something I didn't know. There's now a pushy queer group in Haiti named Kouraj, and the world sure could use a lot such groups, demanding respect and the right to love and using a pink triangle, surrounded by three black triangles please my eye. The queer spelling of courage add fierceness to the iconic logo.

The Kouraj site contains a few pages in English, including reprinting a May 4 story in Xtra! about the group:
Masisi means faggot in Haitian Creole. But the founders of the Caribbean island’s first openly political gay rights organization, KOURAJ, are reclaiming it and using it with abandon in naming and speaking about themselves and their community. It is the central word in the mission they have set out for themselves: The Masisi Manifesto. Its first couple of lines read: “We were born masisi. We will always be masisi.” 

Here's wishing everyone in Kouraj the best fortunes possible as they continue their important advocacy.

(Le Nouvelliste's caption: "Une transsexuelle discourant sur ses droits fondamentaux". Tranlsation: "A transsexual woman speaks on his fundamental rights". Credit: Claude Bernard Serant.)

An article by Claude Bernard Serant in the Le Nouvelliste paper reported on the congress that took place in Port-au-Prince, and was translated into English in The Defender news web site:
The LGBT community in Haiti gathered more than three hundred men and women of sexual orientation stigmatized by Haitian society to tell the country to cease discriminatory practices against them. A man, slightly disguised, who spreads his fingers in speaking at the Hotel Montana, Thursday, May 17 at the first National Congress of the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Population of Haiti, said he was proud to belong to the LGBT community. In the hall resounded a voice: "Lese nou viv!"  [...]
The LGBT community openly in front of more than three hundred members of organizations from seven area departments of Haiti, people stigmatized for their sexual orientation by Haitian society, UN official Nigel Fisher stressed that the recognition of LGBT rights is a concept struggling to take root in the social and normative in different countries. [...]
Member of an organization that defends the interests of the LGBT community, Jean-Louis of Sérovie explains: "In 2003, two of my friends were returning from a party about eleven o'clock at Poste-Marchand. Sniffing they were gay, young men beat them savagely. One of them lost an eye. A patrol of the National Police on site did not even help." [...]
President Kouraj, Jeudy Charlot assumes and proclaims her gender. Having completed his studies in law, working on his thesis project. "My subject is the issue of homosexuality in Haiti. Reality. Legal approach. We fight against homophobia in Haiti. We have a structure to fight against all forms of stigma and discrimination. We have fifty active members."

(A banner heralding IDAHO was on display at the congress.)

'Anatolia' Returns to SF Film Society
for One-Week Engagement

The latest film by Turkish master director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia", will be on my ten-best list later this year and I'm looking forward to catching it again over the Memorial Day weekend.

"Anatonlia" played at last year's Cannes film festival where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize and received warm critical acclaim.

The San Francisco Film Society showed the film earlier this year at their cinema in Japantown, and they've brought it back for a one-week engagement. If "The Avengers" and the latest installment of "Men in Black" don't whet your cinematic appetite, consider taking in "Anatolia" and seeing a foreign work that re-defines the art house film.

With a minimal plot involving police driving murder suspects around the countryside, hunting for the corpse of the man they killed, "Anatolia" features stunning cinematography and beautifully choreographed long takes, as the investigators fight among themselves and badger their suspects.

Bring along a robust dose of patience and your cinema-loving DNA will thank you after the film is over.

Click here for ticket info and showtimes. "Anatolia" is at the SF Film Society Cinema on Post Street until May 31.

Friday, May 25, 2012

SFFD: '07-'11 Annuals MIA;
No Written Rule for Fire Report Transparency

As I've dealt with three top public relations brass at the San Francisco Fire Department - Mindy Talmadge, Kelly Alves, Rhab Boughn - in the past week, I've been impressed with their ability to obfuscate and keep the department's rules as opaque as possible regarding web-posting fire reports. SFFD is very adept at throwing up smoke screens, pardon the expression, trying to keep my prying eyes out of their transparency business and I'm just as adept pushing my transparency agenda forward.

Today I saw the SFFD has not posted their 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 annual reports and asked the p.r. folks why this was so. How could five-years of annuals not be open for public inspection on the web, as with previous years' annuals? Not that the annuals are all that informative, but it's a report SFFD may not have published or posted since 2006.

SFFD's secretary Alves had this say about the missing reports:

I am acknowledging this email per your request. I will follow up on the status of our Annual Reports and get back to you some time next week.

Oops, five-years of annuals are not on the department's web site and it's going to take some days to find out why. Does not instill much confidence is counting on SFFD to regularly post annuals, a simple task. I can't wait to read Alves' email next week when she hopefully has actual answers. 

Alves further had this milestone of an answer to the question I've been posing for days: where exactly in written department regulations is the wording that says the only way to obtain these public documents is via writing:

To my knowledge, there is not a written policy as to why fire reports are not on our website. It has been always been our procedure that we require a request for a fire report. 

Oh, so SFFD brass decided amongst themselves how the public would receive public fire reports and created a process that suit only their needs and ignores the validity of simply posting the reports on the web. For days Talmadge, Alves and Boughan have been dancing around the basic lack of a written process and characterized my need for answers as looking for an argument.

There is much rotten with this lack of a written process and the way the three p.r. people have tried to shoo me away.

One next step in this campaign is reaching out to fire commission member London Breed, who is running for the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors, and asking her to take up the matter of expanding transparency that more meets the needs of the taxpayers. I'm especially keen to hear what she's going to do about this lack of a written process. It cannot allowed to continue.
AIDS Czar Colfax's 2-Month Silence

When he was HIV prevention chief for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, I got to know Grant Colfax, MD, primarily through the planning council he co-chaired every month.

He's a dedicated and educated public health official with some progressive views on needle exchange and bringing diverse at-risk populations to the table, but I've also seen him reject treatment-as-prevention theories without holding any public meetings when proposed by Swiss AIDS experts in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Colfax is now President's Obama's director of ONAP, Office of National AIDS Policy, at the White House and we've not heard a peep out of him for almost eight-weeks.

ONAP's opening page and blog were last updated on April 4. Nearly two-months of silence from Colfax and ONAP, particularly with the very-fast approaching International AIDS Conference in Washington in July, or at any time in the fight against AIDS is unacceptable.

As a person with AIDS and an advocate on a host of HIV issues Colfax is working on, he owes me and the larger AIDS community more regular communication and online engagement. What has he been up to for the past two months?

The April 4 post reports on his last public activity:

 (White House photo.)
Lynn Rosenthal, [left], the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, answer questions on Twitter regarding the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities.

Okay, a nice one-time stunt with Twitter on important issues is noteworthy, but where's the substantive engagement?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lancet: Greek Economic Crisis
Responsible for HIV Rate Jump

(Greek Pride marchers in 2011. Courtesy photo.)

A report in The Lancet medical journal recently looked at the health effects of the Greek economic crisis, and the news about HIV infection rates was troubling because they're rising. I contacted Andrea Gilbert who's the spokesperson for Athens Pride, to see what Gays Without Borders could do show solidarity with the LGBT community during the banking troubles and preventing HIV transmissions.

We're considering a few ideas and once details are agreed upon next week, we'll share the good word about our collaboration. The goals are to send tangible assistance to our LGBT family in Greece and receive media images of Gays Without Borders symbolic presence at Athens Pride, which is on June 9. More info on it here.

Here's what The Lancet reported in October 2011, and was cited by the NY Times of May 18:
Greece has been affected more by the financial turmoil beginning in 2007 than any other European country. 15 years of consecutive growth in the Greek economy have reversed. In adults, unemployment has risen from 6·6% in May, 2008, to 16·6% in May, 2011 (youth unemployment rose from 18·6% to 40·1%) [...]

Richard Horton has asked whether anyone is looking at the effect of the economic crisis on health and health care in Greece, in light of the adverse health effects of previous recessions. Here, we describe changes in health and health care in Greece on the basis of our analysis of data from the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, which provide comparable cross-sectional and longitudinal information on social and economic characteristics and living conditions throughout the EU. [...]

A significant increase in HIV infections occurred in late 2010. The latest data suggest that new infections will rise by 52% in 2011 compared with 2010 (922 new cases versus 605), with half of the currently observed increases attributable to infections among intravenous drug users. Data for the first 7 months of 2011 show more than a 10-fold rise in new infections in these drug users compared with the same period in 2010.

The prevalence of heroin use reportedly rose by 20% in 2009, from 20 200 to 24 100, according to estimates from the Greek Documentation and Monitoring Centre for Drugs.
Haight's 2011 Fire Report Posted;
But Not on SFFD Site - Transparency Needed

(Two-pages from the incident report on September 2011 blaze in the Haight.)

At the recent neighborhood meeting at the Friends School a few days after the fire at Valencia and Duboce Streets, that left dozens homeless, I asked Matthew J. McNaughton of the San Francisco Fire Department when the fire report would be ready.

McNaughton said it generally takes about thirty-days for an investigation to be completed and report filed, would be available for public inspection but not on their web site. In response to my question about such a stone age approach to public reports, he replied it's long been the policy of the department make the reports available only when someone requests it.

My curiosity as a sunshine and transparency advocate led me to file a public records request, along with a few questions, last week with the department for the report on a blaze last fall in the Haight district that attracted much media and community concern because it also displaced dozens of families and individuals. The report states the department has listed the Haight incident's cause as undetermined, and here is where I've shared the report.

Here are excerpts from my exchanges with various department officials:

MP to SFFD, May 16: I have looked all over your site for the department's final report on the cause of the fire on September 28, 2011, at the corner of Haight and Fillmore Streets. Is the report posted on your site, and if it is, how do I find it? If that report is not available for public inspection on your site, why is that the case?

SFFD reply, May 17: Your request has been received. Please allow up to 10 calendar days to receive responsive records. Thank You Public Records Officer

Chief Joanne Hayes-White reply, May 22: The Department has undertaken a diligent search in an attempt to provide any and all records that could reasonably be identified as responsive to your request for public records. [...] As a result of the search, the Department has located and is providing eight (8) pages of records which may be considered responsive to your request. Please see attached PDF file. [...] Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Public Records Officer.

MP reply, May 23: As you are probably aware, Chief Hayes-White has sent me the eight-page report on the fire in question last year. I wish to acknowledge receipt of this document. Also, I am still expecting a response from the public information office regarding my outstanding questions previously stated.

SFFD reply, May 23: I'm not sure if it is what you are looking for, but the Department also has databases on [...] I advise that you call to discuss your many questions - as it is a more efficient method of communication. [MP: Phone calls also don't add to building email trails!] 

MP reply, May 23: Thanks for the additional info, but I am deeply unsatisfied with all the details you sent about, which you already know does not contain incident reports. [...]

SFFD reply, May 23:

Q: Is the report on the Haight and Fillmore fire posted on your site?
A: The Fire Department does not post Fire Reports on the Website. The simple process for requesting a copy of a Fire Report is clearly posted on our website. You request, we provide! It doesn’t get more transparent than that. [MP: Transparency would be better served if taxpayers could just click on link and not have write and file requests.]

Q: If that report is not available for public inspection on your site, why is that the case?
A: This is not a new process, this is the process that has always been in place. [MP: I didn't ask if the process old or new. My request was for details about the failure to post reports to SFFD's site.]

Q: What precisely are these alleged limitations?
A: We do not post Fire Reports on our website so this is not currently an issue. [MP: The department repeats itself about how the process is fine with them, and says nothing about bandwith, a technical problem, lack of money, etc, that is the reason for the limitations on their site.]

It's my contention that the fire department needs to rethink its current inability and unwillingness to regularly make fire reports available in a click or two, on their site. These reports are of keen interest to people and businesses displaced by blazes, and the surrounding community members.

I have posted the eight-page report on the September 2011 fire at Haight and Fillmore Street here. It took less than five-minutes to download it to my hard drive and then upload it to my Google doc page. The fire department could do the same, if they really have limitations with their official site, and cease with their "we've always done it this way and it suits us, so we're not going to change" policy on reports.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Queer Rules of Engagement: 
Fidel's Niece in the Castro Tonight

 (Mariela Castro using the mic at Havana's IDAHO rally last week.)

When my friend Jeff Cotter, the executive director of the Rainbow World Fund, contacted me because he wanted my assistance promoting a talk tonight at the gay community center starting at 6 pm with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuba's president Raul Castro and niece to Fidel Castro, I told Cotter of my concerns regarding lack of local grassroots activists.

Castro district Supervisor Scott Wiener was listed on Cotter's release as a cosponsor and the only action he's done since being elected on global gay matters is vote for a resolution shepherded through the Board by Supervisor David Campos. Wiener's biggest mark on any foreign issue is declaring Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit a symbolic citizen of the city in September 2011,when he was still a hostage of Hamas.

Locally, Wiener has devoted energy to stopping any discussion or moves by activists to gain equal access to the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, and use the flagpole for solidarity building across borders. In short, Wiener's credentials on international gay matters is abysmal and I would in no way do anything that might bring him an undeserved feather in his cap.

I was also disappointed Cotter had not reached out to Gays Without Borders, which had spent the last two months organizing for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and had done buckets more of good work than Wiener on the global front. There was also the matter of no local Latino gays either sponsoring the talk with Mariela or speaking at it.

Long story short, I contacted other grassroots gays and asked them to share their thoughts with Cotter about the very narrow list of speakers and cosponsors. Several activists agreed with me that outreach and inclusion by the Rainbow World Fund could have been much better and strengthened local bridges to global gay and Latino activists. A few activists want to have an open dialogue with Cotter and other San Francisco LGBT leaders about how we engage each other when doing international work. It's my hope that discussion starts soon.

Cotter heard our immediate concerns and addressed them in an email yesterday. Good that he added a gay Latino Supervisor to speak. However, in the long term our community needs to discuss moving away from putting on events in which elected and appointed politicians get to speak, and early in a meeting or at a rally, usually for as long as they like, and the rest of us are treated as extras who should be grateful to have sixty-seconds to make a comment or ask a question.

Finally, I'm skipping the meeting tonight with Mariela because I don't need the stress and agita I'd endure just walking in the doors of the gay community center. A word of advice to Cotter. Since Mariela's time is so short for the talk, start no later than 6:01 pm and keep the remarks from the pols to one-minute. Here's Cotter's update:

A little bit of background about the event. Supervisor David Campos and Executive Director Theresa Sparks of the Human Rights Commission will be making opening remarks at the event. When I spoke with Michael they had been asked but were not as yet confirmed.

Ms. Castro's visa to the US was granted less than a week ago. Prior to that we very little notice that visit might happen. In that short amount of time huge amount of arrangements have been made to make this visit happen.

Her visit to the Center will be for 90 minutes tops. Everything will be translated Spanish/English – this is time consuming - so figure roughly 45 minutes - if we are able to start on time.

This visit to the Center is an opportunity for Ms. Castro to educate us about LGBTQI issues in Cuba from her very unique perspective. She has a lot to share about LGBTQI healthcare, the Cuban LGBTQI human rights movement and her personal story in a very small amount of time.

There will be time for some audience questions and answers. My hope is that people will focus on asking questions and so we can really hear from her. Many people have approached me about wanting to use the time to make statements and with special requests. Ms. Castro is our guest at this event, I want to use the precious time to hear her.

Monday, May 21, 2012

NJ Equality: April: Throw Book at Ravi;
May: We Opposed Book-throwing

(Rev. Sharpton in a yarmulke. Oy.)

The blacks have Al Sharpton to whip up dangerous frenzied public reactions in high-profile crimes that put the wrong kind of pressure on prosecutors, and the gays in New Jersey have Steven Goldstein, pictured, to do the same.

In the tragic death of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, Goldstein, who is executive director of Garden State Equality and former producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, has been part of a lynch mob against Dahrun Ravi, an Indian-American sentenced to thirty-days in jail, three-years probation and thousands of dollars in fines and fees for web-cam spying.

Back in February, Goldstein wanted a manslaughter charge filed against Ravi, according to NBC news:

“Frankly I think Dahrun Ravi should be charged with more than just invasion of privacy, which is essentially calling him a ‘Peeping Tom,’” said Steven Goldstein with Garden State Equality, a gay rights group. “In my view, Dahrun Ravi should be charged with manslaughter.”

He wasn't alone in desiring that charge. According to a New York Times article in October 2010, another gay executive director thought that charge would be appropritate, not only against Ravi, but also against Molly Wei who was originally charged in the case but eventually cooperated with prosecutors and had the charges dropped:

Malcolm Lazin, a former federal prosecutor who is executive director of Equality Forum, a national gay rights advocacy group, called on prosecutors to charge the two students with reckless manslaughter. “Clearly, what they did was premeditated,” Mr. Lazin said. “This was not a visceral response. This was something that was well thought out, executed and then put on the worldwide Internet.” 

To my ears, I hear him saying throw the proverbial book at him.

Further back in time, Goldstein didn't dance around with what he wanted in a quote originally given to WINS Radio and later picked up by WCBS, in April 2011:

“This was the only conceivable way to go. This indictment, 15 counts, signifies that Dharun Ravi clearly violated New Jersey law in terms of Tyler Clementi’s invasion of privacy,” Steven Goldstein, of Garden State Equality, told 1010 WINS. “The fact that Mr. Ravi invaded Tyler Clementi’s privacy based on his perception that Tyler Clementi was gay, we believe the book should be thrown at Mr. Ravi for a heinous, heinous crime.”

Funny how yesterday, when the judge rendered the sentence, Goldenstein issued a statement, carried un-fact checked by dozens of gay bloggers and news sites, and mainstream media outlets, in which all of a sudden he saying something totally different about that damn proverbial book:

"We have been public in taking a position of balance: We opposed throwing the book at Dharun Ravi. We have spoken out against giving him the maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and against deporting him. That would have been vengeance beyond punishment and beyond sending a message to the rest of society."

Goldstein is practicing Etch-a-Sketch politics here and should be called to account for coveting a manslaughter charge, that clearly would have been been over-charging and very likely rejected by a judge or jury.

Instead of discussing tossing the book at Ravi, I'd like to chat with Goldstein about opening the book on how he came to promote bad judicial proposals and within months, reverse his views an official Gay Leader of the Movement on what he wanted from the judge at sentencing.
IDAHO: Burma's 106-Year-Old 
Trans Woman Shines in Photos

Over at the Gay Star News, in a story written by Anna Leach, is a report about the first International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Burma and how a 106-year-old transgender woman was present. The IDAHO event was held at a social hall titled "Paying Respect to Seniors", and was organized by the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma.

Since the story omitted the name of the transgender woman and a photo of her, I contacted the executive director of the institute, Aung Myo Min, and asked him for additional info. He wrote back and included the photos you see here. Aung Myo Min said:

I am glad to help you and to make her known. Her name is U Kyaw. She was a singer and dancer at the Burmese traditional music band, called "Saing Win". Of course, her favorite is activity is dancing. Her husband died and she is now staying the relatives of her husband in Yangon. 

It is with great pride and humble gratitude to share the photos, which were snapped by Atta Kyaw:

 (U Kyaw, center, with transgender friends. Credit: Atta Kyaw.)

(U Kyaw, at IDAHO in Burma. Credit: Atta Kyaw.)

All of the transgender folks in the photos are beautiful and are examples of our brave LGBT sisters and brothers around the world who make IDAHO the fabulous event that it is. Let's salute the courageous LGBT community of Burma for their first of hopefully many IDAHOs to come!

My previous IDAHO coverage is here and here and here and here.
IDAHO: Georgia Gov Issues Weird
'Mistreatment Awareness' Proclamation

(To insult LGBT people in Georgia, the governor issued this proclamation for IDAHO. Credit: Dyana Bagby.)

I'm having quite a difficult time finding reports about International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia actions of significance (Gay Inc releases don't count) in the United States, in addition to the Gays Without Borders rally and flag-lowerings in San Francisco.

Thanks to a story by Dyana Bagby in the GA Voice of Atlanta, I learned that one activist pushed Republican Gov. Nathan Dean to take a stand:

There's no doubt Gov. Nathan Deal is far from a friend to LGBT people. He ran one of the most — if not the most — anti-gay campaign in the state's history. His homophobia reared its ugly head again on the International Day Against Homophobia, recognized in Atlanta and around the world on May 17. Atlanta's IDAHO organizer Betty Couvertier last year asked the governor's office for a proclamation recognizing IDAHO. [...] This year, she made sure to meet the deadline and sent in a proclamation request asking Gov. Deal and his office to recognize May 17, 2012, as International Day Against Homophobia in Georgia. [...] But Couvertier likes to push buttons and she persisted and finally she got the proclamation. Except the governor's office changed the name of the day to "Mistreatment Awareness Day." [...] 

The proclamation was read aloud at the IDAHO event held in Hapeville's Village Church by Couvertier, with a hint of sarcasm and a few giggles from those in attendance. Essentially, "Mistreatment Awareness Day" states that it's wrong for people to commit "criminal mischief" against others and subject them to harassment in violation of any state law. [...] 

[The closest Gov. Dean's weird proclamation comes to addressing homophobia is in this section:] "Whereas the state of Georgia does not tolerate the criminal mistreatment of its citizens in any way shape or form, whether it is bullying on the playground, harassment in the workplace or general mental and physical abuse our state is one that will see that individuals who act against the law are … held accountable for their behavior."

(Betty Covertier. Credit: J.D. Harvill.)

Kudos to pushy lesbian activist Couvertier for organizing IDAHO events in recent years, and for requesting something - anything! - from her state government. I like that in addition organizing a meeting at her church on May 17, she also pressed her elected officials for recognition of the global solidarity day.

In a show of true insult and weirdness, the governor declared May 13 as IDAHO revealing the petty lengths he goes to in order to disrespect gays.

Couvertier and I have traded emails this weekend, and she informed me that respectful proclamations honoring IDAHO were received from the Atlanta City Council and the Georgia House of Representatives.

While I could quibble that Couvertier didn't hit the streets for IDAHO visibility, the important thing here is that pushed a number of government bodies to take a stand on May 17 for global LGBT solidarity, which in turn strengthens the local gay activist community.

Imagine if for IDAHO 2013, gay Americans in all fifty states and the District of Columbia asked their city councils, governors and mayors to issue proclamations for IDAHO. It would a giant step forward for engaging gay Americans in global LGBT issues and express solidarity with our brothers and sisters beyond our borders.

Again, I thank Betty Couvertier for her continuing activism on behalf of IDAHO.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

IDAHO: Gay Iranians Display
Rainbows, Make Vids, Begin Facebook Page

Let's talk about a handful of incredibly brave young gay Iranians, who participated in International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 in several very creative ways, despite great risks of being detected by the dreaded secret police and religious fanatics in Iran.

I first found photos and a report on the JoopeA News site, explaining some the public activism:

In Iran, because of anti-homosexuality laws and oppressive conditions, there aren't many observable activities; however, LGBT activists have many actions for this day every year. Last year, many of the LGBT rights activists distributed brochures and ads about this day in Tehran. [...] This year, LGBT rights activists have launched the “Homophilia” campaign on Facebook. Some homosexuals and transsexuals distributed educational brochures in Tehran, carried rainbow flags and banners, and flew colored balloons in order to create new social movements.

A few of their photos:

(Looks like they are in a park or a fairground in these two images.)

 (I'd say they took photos being visible on a public bus.)
After reading the report and appreciating the photos, I followed the link to the activists' Homophilia Facebook page, which is open to folks like me who are not on Facebook. (A big thank you to the gay Iranians for unlocking their page for everyone to see!) There were more photos available at that page including this one:

The caption explained the story of the image: "Ali and his sister's hand with bracelet that their mother made. His mother and sister are Homophiles. We love you!"
Simply amazing, that a young gay Iranian is out to his sister and mother, who created their rainbow bracelets, showing the world very crucial support for this gay youth.
I went to the YouTube channel for this Homophilia campaign from LGBT Iranians, watched all of their videos and each person who made one a message of support. These courageous Iranians take the time to add English subtitles to each video, making me love them for all of the diverse ways they are supporting each other, joining IDAHO every year and making it easy for Westerners to understand them thanks to the translations.

Here's a touching video from a female-to-male transgender Iranian, talking about how his rejection by some friends led to some positive advocacy on his part:

The video below made me cry, I was so overcome with emotion for this heroic gay youth. He speaks about coming out to his mother over a five-year period, says she is sitting next to him and that even though he's not formally told his brother about being gay, the brother knows and still loves him:

At about the 1:01 mark, it sounds like his mother corrects or reminds him about the point he is making. Ah, mothers everywhere, always looking after their kids! ;-)

While these fearless, bold and intrepid young LGBT Iranians put themselves at risk and take big chances to do _anything_ public for IDAHO, professional gay advocates and organizations in America did the bare minimum on May 17 and issued press releases or held meetings in their offices.

The likes of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Global Equality, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Human Rights Watch, Anti Violence Project of New York City, and Truth Wins Out should look to the gay Iranians for inspiration about betting into the streets and being visible for IDAHO.

And to all the LGBT Iranians, their families, and friends who did all these great things for IDAHO this year, I salute you and your love and advocacy. You are true heroes and heroines.
SF Film Society Screens
Rohmer's 'Summer' & 'Reinette and Mirabelle'

The Pacific Film Society in October showed new prints of "Summer" and "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle", two Eric Rohmer films made in the 1980s and I headed over to Berkeley for those screenings. Glad I did.

I saw "Summer" when it was first released here, enjoyed it tremendously and was pleased to find it holds up remarkably well. We follow the woes of a young Parisian woman trying to make the most of her annual vacation, traveling alone seeking out friendship and romance. As with other Rohmer women characters the lead talks and talks and talks about her troubles, unwilling to compromise her standards, often irritating people who like her.

Ah, but what talk, that is always revealing more about the heroine and consistently entertains. My favorite scene is when she has dinner with newly-made acquaintances, eats practically nothing and explains her belief that vegetables have feelings. The ending is especially moving when she accidentally meets a man and they make the best of what is likely to be a summer fling.

Starring Marie Riviere, pictured, who reveals a human hunger for the right companion, with occasionally heartbreaking vulnerability. Riviere applies the perfect touch of humor, and several times I wanted to reach across the screen and give her a hug.

"Reinette and Mirabelle" was something I hadn't seen before, and while it's not as entertaining as the other Rohmer film, it's still work checking out.

We follow two women friends, one from the city and the other from the countryside, as they pursue careers and romances and they talk, talk, talk. The dialogue and scenarios don't sparkle here as in "Summer" but the lead actresses more than compensate for those deficits with beautifully relaxed performances.

A character study in which the action consists of "Reinette and Mirabelle" in their daily lives, I found the most charming and enjoyable adventures to be the first, set on a farm, and the last that plays out in a Parisian art gallery.

If you have time for only one of the films on this double-bill, playing through May 24 at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema in Japantown, choose "Summer". The society is showing the new prints, from The Film Desk company. Click here for showtimes and ticket information.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gay Inc USA:
Flurry of Futile Releases on IDAHO

(Is a bomb scare the only way to get Joe Solmonese out of HRC's office in the daytime? Credit: Will O'Bryan, Metro Weekly.)

Let's have a look at how American LGBT advocacy groups large and small marked International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia yesterday, judge how engaged they were from a visibility perspective.

The the Human Rights Campaign held a forum inside their Washington headquarters titled The Road to Safety: Strengthening Protection of LGBTI Refugees in Uganda and Kenya. It was cosponsored by Human Rights First, which issued a report that day with that title, Global Equality, and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Neither the HRC release nor the story on the meeting from Metro Weekly list an actual LGBT refugee as among the invited speakers, nor does it appear any Ugandans or Kenyans were present.

I'll give the sponsoring organizations small credit for doing something, an event very much in their comfort zone. It's too much to ask these lobbyists and nonprofit researchers to get out of the suites and into the streets, say, in front of one of the many foreign embassies within walking distance of HRC.

Sure, address the needs of LGBT refugees, but don't forget the power of also picketing at embassies of government oppressing LGBT people. 

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation observed IDAHO by writing a blog post, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's blog marked the day, while the Truth Wins Out blog commented on IDAHO actions in Italy.

New York City's Anti Violence Project sent out an email inviting everyone to attend a meeting at their office about bathroom safety issues for LGBT people. Nothing about IDAHO was posted on their site, but their Facebook page reported the meeting was their third in a series of such talks on the same issues and IDAHO is omitted from the post.

What about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, also based in New York? They issued a release recognizing the day.

From the Human Rights Watch site, we learn that one of their LGBT researchers penned an essay the day before IDAHO about how a UN official's video promoting gay love and tolerance get her arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Not that HRC's organizing around IDAHO is any great shakes, the flurry of releases from the others shows the low importance they give to the day of global solidarity where many risk harm and being bloodied by taking to the streets to be visible. And designating an already-schedule in-house meeting does not impress.

All these groups in New York must be allergic to the hundreds of foreign consulates, trade offices and missions to the United Nation because the professional LGBT advocates could muster up a single public protest at one anti-gay government office. 

Until I read a column at the Advocate, I had no idea the IDAHO committee had an American-based campaigns officer named Ryan Ubuntu Olson. He never reached out to us here in San Francisco, nor did he offer any assistance in attracting more folks or media to our May 17 action.

Based on the fact that he says nothing in his Advocate piece about actually staging an action himself, I can safely say he would fit right in at any of the Gay Inc groups mentioned.

If just the people at HRC making more than $100,000, or the top three employees and their executive assistants at the New York groups decided to stage a picket at an embassy or UN mission, there would be a decent crowd for the cameras and reporters to cover.

Out of the suites! Into the streets!
Party Time: Blade Sells 
Journalistic Soul to NGLTF

(NGLTF's Winter Party in Miami will soon enjoy free p.r. from the Blade.)

In the future, I won't waste my time pitching story ideas critical of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to the Washington Blade. The paper's site today heralded their co-opting by the task force, in an announcement indicative of future Blade treatment of the group. Not a single person is quoted from a journalistic watchdog organization or the community weighing in on the myriad ethical challenges of this questionable partnership.

Let's unpack the gushing release:

The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT newspaper, today announced it has become a National Corporate Partner of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Blade becomes the sixth National Corporate Partner of NGLTF and joins Grey Goose Vodka, Showtime, Southwest Airlines, Chili’s Restaurants and Wells Fargo as National Corporate Partners. 

That acclaim the paper once enjoyed from some quarters of the community just went down the toilet, along with its independence from a political group it should not be in bed with. Nice of the Blade to give good p.r. to the other corporate sponsors of the task force, for no good reason other than to show how cozy they now are with NGLTF.

“We’re pleased to join in this partnership with the Washington Blade,” said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of external relations of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “We both have long histories in the LGBT rights movement and are excited about this opportunity to work together.” 

Of course Roybal is happy as a clam, now that his group can count on nothing but glowing reportage on their activities. They may be excited about their collaboration, but readers should not share in their joy.

“As a longtime supporter of the Task Force, I am excited to work with this important organization as a National Corporate Partner,” said Blade publisher Lynne Brown. “The Blade looks forward to furthering our mission of informing the LGBT community while supporting the Task Force’s work for full LGBT equality.” 

Oh, a longtime supporter of a political organization? Makes me question previous reporting by the Blade of their new partner. Another aspect of this deal that stinks.

The Blade will also sponsor the annual Pink & Purple Weekend in Washington, D.C., the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in Atlanta, and the Winter Party Festival in Miami. The Task Force events will be publicized through all of the Blade’s media outlets.

How lovely. The Blade will be promoting the task force's three annual parties. Yes, Making Money, er, Creating Change is one big schmooze-and-cruise event disguised as movement building. It's like the Winter Party, only not held annually in Florida.

The respect and integrity once a hallmark of the Blade is now official over. Finally, can anyone point to a genuine accomplishment or two of deep benefit to the gay community from NGLTF in the past year, five years or decade? Crickets are chirping.
SF Chronicle Covers IDAHO,
Ignores SF Action Noted by Fox News

(SF's UN Plaza on May 17 was the site of an IDAHO-related speak out and remembrance. Credit: Gays Without Borders.)

Someone should tell the editors at the San Francisco Chronicle that their selection of eight wire photos of various International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia that they're running on their site tonight are welcomed attention for this important global event, but that one important city was omitted from the paper's photographic roundup.

Those editors also need to be told that an IDAHO action happened in their own backyard yesterday. Yes, less than a fifteen-minute walk from the Chronicle offices at Fifth and Mission Streets, Gays Without Borders staged a great IDAHO event at UN Plaza.

Not only did I send alerts to assorted Chronicle editors and reporters, but the Bay City News ran a listing prior to today's UN Plaza action on their daybook. Also, the Bay City News also wrote a short piece about our action before it happened and it ran at the SF Appeal.

Interestingly, Fox News' Latino wire wrote about Latin American celebrations of IDAHO and had this say about one American city's participation:

The San Francisco Pride organization will lower the flag at UN Plaza in downtown.

Okay, so they got it wrong about the group that staged the event here, but I wish to note that we had Brendan Behan, executive director of the SF Pride organization speak at our event, and we were glad to have him and his group join us. The crucial thing is Fox News got it right about the flag lowering in this gay mecca.

Says a lot when a gay event gets more attention from a Fox News wire than the Chronicle.

Why did this city's major daily totally ignore the IDAHO flag lowerings a short distance from where they work? IDAHO is not something that only occurs beyond San Francisco's borders.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

S.F. Flies UN & US Flags
at Half-Staff Honoring IDAHO

(UN Plaza's American and UN flags at half-staff. Credit: MPetrelis, Gays Without Borders.)

(Heidi Beeler of the SF L/G Freedom Band plays "Taps" as Old Glory descends down the flag pole. Credit: Dan F. Nicoletta.)

(The UN flag flies at half-staff. Credit: Dan F. Nicoletta.)

Gays Without Borders earlier today attracted a crowd of 25-30 San Francisco civic leaders and activists from the LGBT community to United Nations Plaza, to stage our fifth annual action for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The following people spoke about global gay issues and called for additional American advocacy regarding LGBT at home and abroad:

- Brendan Behan, Executive Director of SF Pride
- David Campos, Member of the Board of Supervisors
- Clinton Fein, Political artist and activist
- Veronika Cauley Fimbres, African-American trans advocate
- Michael Petrelis, Person living with AIDS
- Melanie Nathan, Lesbian blogger and activist
- Christina Olague, Member of the Board of Supervisors
- Mark Snyder, Spokesperson for Transgender Law Center
- Amy Whelan, Attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights
- Gary Virginia, Executive Committee Member of Gays Without Borders

We also had Heidi Beeler of the SF Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band play "Taps" on her trumpet, and community documentarian Ken Hodnett tape the whole thing and create an incredibly moving video showing our solidarity activism.

Our action consisted of thirty-minutes of moving speeches and showing visibility, before our friends Miguel and John from the Department of Public Works lowered the flags.

The flags are flying at half-staff for 24-hours in remembrance of all the LGBT people murdered or bashed since IDAHO 2011.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who showed up today or helped make IDAHO 2012 in San Francisco a reality and our best IDAHO action yet.

And on behalf of all the folks who came out to UN Plaza this afternoon, I extend a hearty salute to the brave LGBT around the world who staged their own IDAHO events. We look forward to reading reports, seeing vids and photos about all the fabulous actions that took place today beyond America's border.

Until IDAHO 2013, solidarity and peace to all! Here's our video:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BAR: San Francisco & the World
Ready for May 17 IDAHO Actions

Heather Cassell, who writes a column about global gay issues for the Bay Area Reporter, has written a terrifically comprehensive story about IDAHO for tomorrow's print edition which is up on their site tonight. I spoke with Heather, thanked her for this article, requested permission to reprint it in full here, and she said yes.

On the eve of IDAHO 2012, I wish to express my deep and genuine gratitude to everyone in San Francisco who has helped organized our local action and will participate tomorrow, and offer best wishes to all our LGBT colleagues and friends around the world who are staging their own events.

From the BAR:

San Francisco LGBT activists will stand in solidarity with individuals around the world by lowering the United Nations flag in honor of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia today (Thursday, May 17).

The ceremony will be held at United Nations Plaza at noon. Activists will join thousands of LGBT individuals and allies hosting actions online and in the streets to raise awareness about homophobia and transphobia.

Gay Supervisor David Campos, who led the effort to host the first city-sponsored IDAHO event, will keynote the local action. Campos worked with members of Gays Without Borders to circumvent bureaucratic red tape and to organize the first formal event at the U.N. Plaza, said Michael Petrelis, a member of the global queer activist group.

Community leaders, including Amy Whelan, attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Brendan Behan, executive director of San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee; and Veronika Cauley Fimbres, an African American transgender advocate, will remember LGBT people who have experienced atrocities within the past year, said Petrelis.

Some of the incidents include: the transgender individuals who have been repeatedly abused and murdered without justice in Turkey; the young gay Chilean man murdered by neo-Nazis; the murdered gay youths in Iraq; and the lesbians found murdered in Thailand, Petrelis said.

While there have been great strides, particularly within the past week with Argentina's landmark gender identity bill and Chile's anti-discrimination law passing, Petrelis said IDAHO is to memorialize those lost.

Lowering of the U.N. and American flags are a symbolic gesture, sending the message that "we haven't forgotten how we still have a long way to go before we achieve true equality for LGBT people across the world," Campos wrote in an email.

In San Francisco the LGBT community has accomplished a lot in regards to protecting LGBT rights, Campos wrote, but he believes, "it's critical for us to remember that homophobia and transphobia not only still remain a problem in our city and country but are prevalent in other parts of the world. It's important for we in the LGBT community in San Francisco to stand in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters abroad who still face discrimination and violence, even death, because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

San Francisco's upcoming Pride Parade has the theme of "Global Equality," noted Behan.

"In some ways San Francisco has been so deeply involved with the global movement around LGBT rights and in other ways there are certain elements ... that we could do more to be more practically involved in the international struggle," said Behan, who believes that San Franciscans have an "opportunity" to be "more present in the global struggle to fight homophobia and to fight transphobia."

U.N. Plaza is a poignant setting for the fifth San Francisco IDAHO event and the first one supported by the city, Petrelis noted. He pointed to the U.N.'s historic actions within the past two years on behalf of LGBT individuals around the world and the fact that the U.N. was originally chartered in San Francisco.

"It made sense to use the plaza and the flag there to commemorate, remember, [and] honor all of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people killed in the past year," said Petrelis.

IDAHO organizers hope more U.S. cities will take the opportunity the day provides to open a window to the rest of the world, said Joel Bedos, an IDAHO committee member, speaking to the Bay Area Reporter by phone from France.

"This day provides a fantastic opportunity for having an insight into what happens around the world," said Bedos.

IDAHO started in 2003 as National Day Against Homophobia in Quebec, Canada by Louis-Georges Tin, a French black and LGBT rights activist and professor.

A year later his initiative was turned into an international call for action on May 17 to commemorate the World Health Organization's removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

In 2005, an estimated 24,000 people and organizations around the world participated in the first official IDAHO. In the years following, IDAHO added transphobia to its title, but retained its original acronym, and is run by a nearly 35-member advisory board represented by countries around the world. Events range from online discussions to protests and rallies, he said.

This year's campaign theme is focused on bullying, Bedos said.

Every year more countries, like Burma, which is celebrating for the first time this year, are joining IDAHO events, said Bedos. Unfortunately, some countries, like Malaysia, are refraining from hosting an event due to security concerns as the country continues to struggle with LGBT rights, reported Gay Star News.

IDAHO is unique in the fact that it allows people no matter where they are in the world or their level of acceptance or acknowledgement to openly discuss the human rights of LGBT people.

The organization encourages and works closely with embassies around the world that raise the rainbow flag for IDAHO. Bedos said the committee hopes IDAHO will "break the habit of homophobia" and realize how deeply connected and rooted it is to other forms of oppression. It is his dream that IDAHO will bring individuals and countries to beyond the borders of their communities and nations, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity and race to truly come together globally.

"We would like IDAHO to become the international LGBT solidarity day," he said. Behan couldn't agree more and said that the "fight for LGBT rights needs to go beyond our urban enclaves our major cities," pointing out that there are lessons to learn and teach about the LGBT movement around the world.

For more information, visit,41-.
Obama's AIDS Czar Colfax:
No Email Trail Before Leaving SF DPH

When President Obama in March announced he was appointing a new leader for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Dr. Grant Colfax, pictured, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, my curiosity was piqued about what email discussions Colfax had with the administration before accepting the position.

I wanted to know if he laid out plans for expanded PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, for persons at high-risk of contracting HIV, or advocated for federal funding for needle exchange programs, or ideas to get cocktails to every person with AIDS currently on waiting lists. What about any demands from the administration on what they would require of Colfax as the nation's AIDS czar.

A public records request was sent to Eileen Shields, the SF DPH's public information officer, for any and all emails between Colfax and the White House prior to him resigning from the department, along with his calendar. She replied:

I have been advised that staff has been able to identify a number of e-mail's from Dr. Colfax' archived account that are responsive to your request [...] Whatever negotiations Dr. Colfax did with Washington, DC regarding his new position were done privately and not on his City account, so those e-mail's are not part of the Department's response. But I send you what we have. We do not have his calendar.

Shields provided me with four batches of emails from Colfax's DPH addy. Go to these links to read batch one, two, three and four. Most of the messages he received were from public health colleagues and executives at AIDS Inc groups, congratulating him. The few exchanges he had with White House officials pertain to things like setting up phone chats or his travels plans.

There are no emails from Big Pharma people, which is odd given the huge appointment he had accepted. Bear in mind the tremendous influence Colfax has had already in backing universal test-and-treat policies in San Francisco, and how other health officials want to follow his lead on this.

I imagine executives at Gilead Sciences, maker of Truvada which is soon expected to receive full FDA approval as part of PrEP strategies, are very pleased with this appointment. Back in October, David Tuller in the New York Times reported on a Truvada PrEP pilot study developed with Colfax and SF DPH. The Times noted:

[Colfax] said he hopes that the new research will yield important information about how best to use the emerging strategy. “The question is, will people be able to maintain the regimen?” said Dr. Colfax, whose agency is a major partner in the study. “What are the risks and benefits outside of a randomized clinical trial? Will they want to take the pill, will there be changes in their risky behavior, will they come back to get H.I.V. testing on a quarterly basis?” 

My guess is that Big Pharma communicated with him through a private addy when Obama made his announcement. I sure do wish Colfax had left a substantive email trail at his DPH addy, to give us all a better sense of what the White House expects of him and what his national AIDS agenda will be regarding test-and-treat and PrEP.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diverse LGBT Speakers List
for SF's May 17 IDAHO at UN Plaza

On behalf of Gays Without Borders, I am pleased to announce the following update for our May 17 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia commemoration that begins at noon at UN Plaza in San Francisco.

We will start off with poignant speeches about the violence and jeopardy too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face every day around our planet. After that, workers from the Department of Public Works will lower the United Nation flag to half staff, followed by the lowering of the United States flag to the same position.

The UN and US flags will fly at half staff to honor and remember all of the LGBT people murdered and maimed globally in the past year.

Gary Virginia of Gays Without Borders will serve as the emcee. Here are the names of confirmed speakers:

- Brendan Behan, Executive Director of SF Pride
- David Campos, Member of the Board of Supervisors
- Clinton Fein, Political artist and activist
- Veronika Cauley Fimbres, African-American trans advocate
- Michael Petrelis, Person living with AIDS
- Melanie Nathan, Lesbian blogger and activist
- Amy Whelan, Attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights

In addition, community video documentarian will be taping the event and Heidi Beeler of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band will play "Taps" as the flags descend.

The speakers will address topics such as the recent murder of a trans woman in Oakland, California, "corrective rape" of lesbian South Africans, the killing of gay youth Daniel Zamudio in Chile, the unsolved slayings of lesbians in Thailand, the slaughter of trans persons in Turkey, the deaths by skull-crushing of gay and emo youths in Iraq, the stigmatization and criminalization of HIV positive individuals, and the importance of organizing LGBT solidarity through IDAHO every year.

For more information on global IDAHO activities, check out this Facebook page,, and go here for additional details on the San Francisco IDAHO event, .

Please join us this Thursday at 12 pm at UN Plaza, located at Market and 7th Streets, and assist in making our IDAHO event the best yet in San Francisco!