Thursday, March 31, 2011

Extra! Bay Times Back in Print!
SF Hearts Polina Savchenko!

 (Kate Kendell, director of NCLR, left, with Polina Savchenko, Russian lesbian leader, smile seeing that a local rag is back in print and on the tables of Cafe Flore in the Castro. Credit: Gays Without Borders.)

Let's feed two birds with one seed, so to speak, with this single post about excellent developments in recent days for the Bay Area community.

First up, the news on the gay publishing front is that the San Francisco Bay Times is back to printing an edition on recycled-tree and available at fine watering holes around town. After three weeks of not hitting the streets, queer folks were worried the publication was evolving into an online-only endeavor.

For the time being, looks like publisher Kim Corsaro has managed to pull in some ads, pay the printers and keep the lights on for one more week. That is good news. What's not so positive is the sparse info Kim has shared with readers and the community about a printing hiatus.

A word of advice to Kim and her staff. Keep us informed about the publication's fiscal situation. You're supposed to upheld the sharing of details and light; not leaving concerned readers in the dark. Respecting the reader goes a long way for any publication these days.

The second bit of fabulous local news relates to Polina Savchenko, our lesbian friend visiting from St. Petersburg, has arrived in town and is winning the hearts and minds of everyone who meets her. Women-loving-women are falling victim to her many charms, as are a sizable number of gay men.

 (Living lesbian legend Phyllis Lyon, left, with Polina. Credit: Gloria Nieto.)

San Jose's Gloria Nieto chaperoned Polina to meet septuagenarian lesbian leader of so many civil rights and health care causes, Phyllis Lyon. Polina heard talk of the Daughters of Bilitis in the 1950s, and delivering medical services to lesbians and transgender persons, over soft drinks. The visit was lesbians without borders being practiced on a very personal, small scale and across the generations.

Her being new to global gay organizing and the specifics of America's rather small circle of activists who do any international work seriously year-round, she is free of the scars and skepticism of older global activists. Wherever she's gone, she's handed out posters, buttons, booklets and expressed a willingness to learn from our successes and setbacks.

Polina was the special guest last night at an intimate chat co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Gays Without Borders, held at the LGBT community center. She's a relaxed, funny speaker and it's amazing to watch her last night and all day today easily weave herself into the network of key players in San Francisco.

A dozen of us gathered to watch her fascinating slide show about her organization, Coming Out/St. Petersburg LGBT Organization. It's a social support and political advocacy group, they provide services to hundreds of supporters. We asked questions about life under Putin, general political attitudes in Russia today, and wondered how gays outside the big cities survive and live their lives.

We learned that Coming Out operates a successful and much-needed toll-free telephone hotline, one that is frequently a lifeline to a frightened, harassed or lonely LGBT persons. The organization also hosts the annual Queer Culture Festival, despite permit terminations by city officials forcing the group to scramble at the last minute to find a venue for a drag king show, rock concert and art exhibition in 2010.

Check out this sizzling vid Polina and lots of friends made. It shows the permitting hassles, last-minute venue change, and the sizzling drag performers with a delicious queer runway fashion show and beautiful younger and older queers declaring their liberation with joy and freedom. English sub-titles are provided:

If I do say so myself, that is one damn radical vid and queer fest the LGBT community put on last fall in St. Petersburg. We cheered heartily at the end. A job well done, all around.

This afternoon, Kate Kendell, the executive director of NCLR, shared strategic suggestions with Polina over iced tea at the sun-baked Cafe Flore. We all anticipate more collaboration between NCLR and Coming Out leaders in the coming year.

Tonight, Polina enjoyed meeting gay marriage advocates Molly McKay and Laurie Wagner, and Russophile Anders Nelson at the Ferry Building for food and drinks. Afterward, they all took the ferry over to Oakland, and marveled at the lighted cityscape as the boat pulled away toward the Bay Bridge, on a stunningly gorgeous hot day.

Sorry, no pix of that crew down at the Ferry Building, but Ken Hodnett and I are shooting a vid of a small part of Polina's visit, and we'll include footage of that get-together. We'll let you know when the editing is done.

Accompanying our sister is her way cool mom Maria, who has positively basked with pride at the welcome we are giving her daughter. Yes, Russian mothers love their gay children too and Maria has also become a member of San Francisco's extended worldwide collection of friends.

I believe I speak for a growing circle in San Francisco. We have taken Polina, and her extended community, into our flock. She has built bridges that will only grow stronger in time when she returns home. We're lucky she came to town.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gay Jamaicans' Families Hire Thugs
to 'Cure' Them of Homosexuality

Yesterday's New York Daily News printed a story with good and bad news involving gay and lesbian people from Jamaica. Of the positive developments, more of our brothers and sisters from island nation are being granted asylum in the U.S.

However, some of them say their relatives paid thugs to attack and harm them, a disturbing and reprehensible practice that reinforces Jamaica's status as a country unsafe for gays.

The government in Kingston denies there is institutional and religious persecution of gays, and too many leaders express the belief that brutal violence against gays is perpetrated by other gays, or that the survivors of the violence deserved their assaults. From the Daily News:

A growing number of gay and lesbian Jamaicans are finding safe haven in New York after being persecuted - sometimes by family members - back home.

Jamaicans in the New York area made up nearly a third of the 105 gay and lesbian immigrants who won asylum last year with the help of the legal aid group Immigration Equality. ...

Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality said the danger in Jamaica for gays is "pretty much undisputed" and pinned the blame on conservative religious views, anti-gay dancehall culture and police force. ...

Anthony, who did not want his full name used, left the southeastern St. Catherine Parish in 2008 after he was viciously attacked by men yelling "batty boy" - the Jamaican slur for gay. ...

He woke up in the hospital with broken arms and cuts all over his body. Three police officers were in his room, and one said, "Oh, batty boy, you are getting what you deserve," he said.

He believes his own sister set him up. ...

Ralls said several of his group's lesbian clients were attacked by men hired by their families to "cure" their homosexuality. ...

In other news about gay Jamaicans, the site today published a report almost wholly taken from the country's leading gay human rights advocacy and social support organization, about their calls for legislative changes:

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) is appealing to members of the Senate to move to have Jamaicans protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Charter of Rights, which protects the fundamental rights of all Jamaicans, is currently before the Senate having been passed by the House of Representatives.

But, JFLAG says the bill as passed by the lower house does not provide sufficiently for the protection from discrimination of a number of vulnerable and marginalised groups in the population.

J-FLAG says it is calling for all Senators to ensure that they capitalise on the present opportunity to decisively protect the human rights of all Jamaicans. ...

I wish the gay Jamaicans and their straight allies the best in making some headway with their Senate regarding the changes demanded. The Jamaican gay community has suffered enough and its members more than deserve legal protections, not persecutions, from their government and leaders.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BAR: Russian Lesbian Explains 
Gay Life in St. Petersburg

Staff writer Matthew Bajko of the Bay Area Reporter interviewed Polina Savchenko last week about gay life in St. Petersburg and her appearance tomorrow night, March 30, for a presentation and chat with local activists at the gay community center on Market Street.

Matthew's piece hit the paper's blog today, whets the appetite for meeting this brave lesbian leader and gives me a fuller picture of what life is like for her, in a country where democracy and gay activism are in their infancy stages.

I hope to see a warm welcome mat laid out for our guest from abroad from our beautiful Bay Area community. Come hear Polina speak and strengthening global gay solidarity.

Big thanks to Matthew and the paper for giving Polina's chat this wonderful pre-event promotion. From the BAR blog:

There isn't a clearly defined gayborhood like San Francisco's Castro District or Chicago's Boystown. But that doesn't mean St. Petersburg is bereft of a gay scene.

The Russian city, long considered a liberal bastion amid the sprawling Eurasian state due to its proximity to Western Europe, boasts gay nightclubs, poetry and music events geared toward lesbians, and various underground parties for LGBT locals and visitors.

"No, no neighborhood would be specifically a gay neighborhood in St. Petersburg. The cultural gay and lesbian life is very developed I think. There is a lot of things to do," Polina Savchenko told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview last week. "There is a very rich culture but very much underground."

Savchenko, 36, is the assistant general manager of Vykhod, which means Coming Out in Russian. Formed by a group of 15 people in 2008, the organization received its official registration from Russian authorities a year later, the first LGBT group to do so. ...

She is also the projects coordinator for the Russian LGBT Network, an affiliation of LGBT groups from 14 regions across the country that work together to share ideas and lobby for freedom of assembly for groups working on LGBT issues. ...
She is grateful to have an opportunity to speak with local LGBT activists and is looking forward to the discussion Wednesday night. ...

"I am very thankful to be awarded this opportunity to bring this information to American activist community," said Savchenko. "I believe the work we do is very deep, fundamental work that will bear fruit in the long-term."

Castro Theater: 
Dark for 8-Nights in April

My gay card needed to be renewed so I caught the Sunday evening show of the sing-along version of "The Wizard of Oz" at our historic Castro theater, and had a simply fabulous time warbling along with Judy Garland and the Munchkins. Afterward, I picked up the new calendar and saw that the Castro would be dark for eight-nights in April. Not the healthiest of signs for our cherished movie palace.

For the past year or so on average, the Castro's monthly schedule has included 2-4 weekday nights when the place is shuttered. Seeing that it will be closed every Monday and Tuesday next month makes me nervous because it could signal that patronage is declining. Considering how many dozens of single-screen movie houses San Francisco has lost in the past decade, it's never too early to be concerned we may lost more. There can't be enough attempts to get folks into our remaining single-screen and art house venues.

Look at the eight dark nights at the Castro in April in the larger context.

The Clay theater on Fillmore Street almost went out of business last summer, and its future is uncertain as the landlord and the SF Film Society continue to negotiate an agreement to keep the lights on and films unspooling on the big screen. I was there last weekend to catch the fine new Abbas Kiarostami film "Certified Copy" starring the intriguing Juliette Binoche, and am happy to report about a third of the house was full.

On Haight Street, the small Red Vic is struggling to overcome debt, stay open and maintain their great art house fare of eclectic movies, while serving up organic treats at the stamp-sized candy counter. The Red Vic has started a fundraising drive. To donate, click here. I'll be supporting the theater by purchasing a ticket for the screening tonight of Werner Herzog's "The Enigma of Kasper Hauser."

Here in my Mission district neighborhood, the Roxie is doing well enough these days that they've been printing up a program for their big single-screen space and storefront screening room since August. May our Roxie continue to show films that attract a paying crowd and keep it operating.

My role in supporting these theaters is to attend as many of the movies they show as possible, nudge friends to get their butts into the seats and experience the pleasure of cinema-going with an audience on a big silver screen.

Do your part to keep the Castro, Clay, Red Vic and Roxie theaters open and thriving. Take in a flick at one or more of the theaters real soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

SF Bay Times: No Print Edition
on the Street in Three Weeks

The smaller of San Francisco's two gay weeklies, the Bay Times, has not appeared in a dead-tree edition for three weeks. If I'm not mistaken, the paper has been around since 1985, when it was known as Coming Up! A number of readers I've spoken with are also curious about this disappearing act.

I've emailed the publisher Kim Corsaro twice, requesting some information and details, but she has not replied to me.

While Bay Times has been absent from the streets, it has managed to maintain weekly news and community updates on the publication's site, and there is no message from Corsaro explaining why the print edition can't be found or if they plan to become a web-only source of information.

I'd hate to see this paper stop printing on dead-tree, and I know many who feel the same way. Competition is good for gay newspapers everywhere, and San Francisco more than needs and deserves two weeklies that appear on the streets and in the bars, while also sharing news online.

Hey Kim, how about some details for your readers about what's going down, ok?

EQCA's Kors' $2.3 Palm Springs Estate,
Designed by Howard Hughes

The third most expensive estate sold in 2010 in Palm Springs was a property on N. Vine Avenue, originally designed by industrialist Howard Hughes, which was sold for $2.8 million and was purchased by the James Williamson and Geoff Kors Trust. This storied piece of real estate (above) is where the soon-to-be former executive director of Equality California will spend part of his free time.

(GWMs: Gays With Money. Kors with Williamson. Credit: Paige Green Photography.)

If you've got some bucks to spare and want to see this luxurious estate, you can do so this Saturday. For $100, a single can attend a brunch and stroll about the grounds, and for $250, a couple will receive the VIP package. From EQCA's site:
Don't miss Equality California's Dinah Shore Weekend Annual Champagne Brunch!
Saturday, April 2
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ...
Address provided upon ticket purchase
Palm Springs
Celebrate with us during the world's largest lesbian gathering and renew your commitment to equal rights! ...
Legislative & Legal Update
Geoff Kors
Executive Director
Equality California

His last day at EQCA is supposed to be March 31, so they might want to amend and say the former ED will speak at the brunch.

Why is it the only legislative and legal updates ever provided in-person by Kors cost at least three-figures to be in the same room with him? If he held a single free similar update session for the community during his EQCA tenure, I'd like to know about it. Equality from Kors and EQCA flies out the window when grassroots gays want the same exact legislative updates that wealthy gays receive.

Shall we have a look at some of the interior of the Kors/Williamson estate? These photos do not show us the current furnishings and decorations for the power couple. The pix illustrate what several of the rooms looked liked when the property was available as a pricey vacation rental:

But the Palm Springs estate is not the only home in California for Kors and Williamson. They also own a home in the San Francisco Marina District. Their home is the one in the center below, with a brownish garage door and front entrance door:

This piece of San Francisco property's most current info on the web is from almost two-years ago, and says the Kors/Williamson trust paid $3.2 million for the home back in August of 2006:

Do you think his wealth and fabulous homes hindered him in anyway from empathizing with gays on the bottom of the economic ladder, or truly understanding the needs of low-income gays? Have you heard Kors or EQCA deplore the harsh cuts Gov. Jerry Brown has made to the social safety net, affecting thousands of non-A-gays who can't afford to attend galas? What about any comments from him and the group demanding higher taxes on the rich?

Frankly, Kors has been great as a rich Democratic Party hack who happens to be gay and at controlling EQCA to carry out an A-gay agenda. Expect more of the same from his replacement.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

SF Police Set Up LGBT Forum:
Public Comment Prohibited

There's a much larger framework and political agenda in which to place this dangerous precedent of cops silencing the voices of gay grassroots activists by establishing a panel of mainstream gay leaders, and outlawing public comment.

Among the gay institutions based in this city that don't hold any public, open-to-all forums either irregularly or consistently are these organizations: Equality California, Human Rights Campaign (store, gala committee, Federal Club), the Haas Fund and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Add to that list the names of all the local gay electeds who fail to meet minimum standards of democratic engagement and hold forums with their gay constituents: Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener, Senator Mark Leno, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and when he was a Supervisor, Bevan Dufty was in this club of dubious distinction.

At the national level, I know of not a single awards-and-gala-throwing Gay Inc organization that bothers with public forums including HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, Equality Matters, and the many Tim Gill-funded groups.

On top of the Haas Fund and Gill Foundation charities that avoid organizing open forums like the plague, we have the Arcus, Astraea, Henry van Ameringen, Palm and Bohnett foundations. In short, gay sunshine and democratic principles are left to die on the vine by many levels of so-called community-based agencies and funders.

Here is the shameful icing on the Gay Inc and Gay Foundation Inc cake, courtesy of a law enforcement agency, hardly an institution invested gay liberation.

The San Francisco Police Department has created an advisory panel called the LGBT Forum, and there are forums also for Hispanics, business leaders, etc. The cops set up the forum for gays through their gay liaison cop, they decide who's on the panel and how the agenda is set. In short, this is a total cop-controlled endeavor.

The lesbian officer running this sham sent the follow email to community groups and others:

“This forum is your opportunity as LGBT community stakeholders to work together with the SFPD to build bridges, improve public safety and create positive change."

Yes, and a chance for the twelve leaders on the panel, and more of the community, to be co-opted. This dangerous development is bad enough just being under the the SFPD thumb, but where it truly sets off civil libertarian alarms is the prohibition on public comment. Verboten. Forbidden. Banned.

I believe the SFPD is flagrantly in violation of municipal and state laws for open meetings. Thus, I have filed a complaint with city's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force and will keep everyone apprised of how they handle my complaint. The LGBT Forum cannot stand unchallenged.

Some background on this LGBT Forum group from the Bay Area Reporter:

1. Officer Jennifer Thompson said in an email "that the forums are open to the public. However, she said, the nature of the forums 'do not provide opportunities for comment by members of the public. Members of the public may observe on a space available basis.'"  ( (

2. The BAR noted on February 17 that interim police chief Jeff Godown and other department staff were at the February 8 meeting, and spoke to the panel about important police business. No public comment was reported. (

3. From a March 25 BAR post: "The police department’s LGBT forum is meant to provide 'LGBT community stakeholders' a chance to work with police 'to build bridges, improve public safety and create positive change,' according to Officer Jennifer Thompson, police liaison to the LGBT community. (

NYT: Egyptian Group Cites
US Gay Marriages in Election Run-up

On Friday, the New York Times ran a front-page article about the rising influence of the no-longer-banned Muslim Brotherhood, and one passage about another group spreading a pro-religious message regarding Egypt's recent election pertained to gay marriage in America. From the NYT, emphasis mine:

With a record turnout, the vote was hailed as a success. But the “yes” campaign was based largely on a religious appeal: voters were warned that if they did not approve the amendments, Egypt would become a secular state. 
“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.” ...

Color me not surprised fear of something to do with the gays and lesbians reared its ugly head in the run-up to the Egyptian election. The hatred directed at the us knows no borders. Let's hope secular forces in Cairo are countering the fears and lies of the Egyptian Revolution Society.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

EQCA/Leno Mum on April 5 Gay Ed
Judiciary Cmte Hearing in Sacto

In little more than a week, the state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider SB 48 and SB 117. The former is Mark Leno's gay education bill that was heard before the Senate Education Committee on March 23. The latter is Christine Kehoe's bill outlawing discrimination based on gender and/or gayness in public contracts.

EQCA is silent about the April 5 hearing on _two_ bills of strong interest to many gays, has no plans to hold a public forum giving the community a legislative update, and nothing is in the works at the group to have lots of pro-gay activists show up. Standard operating b.s. for EQCA and Geoff Kors in not engaging, organizing or mobilizing the grassroots.

By refusing to work with grassroots folks, and keeping information from the community until _after_ a hearing has transpiring, then sending out a fundraising pitch exploiting gay kids, we see an elitist A-gay approach, one that failed to empower gays in 2008's Prop 8 debacle.

Let's examine one of our key adversarial group's call to action posted a full week before the crucial March 23 education committee. It's from Lou Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition:

Here's what appeared on the EQCA site both before and after the March 23 hearing in Sacramento, and it tells you everything you need to know about the lessons the leadership of this Democratic Party-affiliated organization learned about respecting and energizing their base after they lost Prop 8:

The EQCA announcement to educate the community, get us off our computers, leave the bars and gyms, and walk into the halls of our government offices and hearing rooms is equal to their No on 8 campaign.

For more abysmal grassroots education and outreach, have a look at Mark Leno's site. Search his state-funded site for SB 48 and you'll find this very limited amount of info. The text of the legislation and a December press release on its introduction:

Speaking of Leno's December release, guess who gets a prominent and large quote in it? Kors. These two are quite a pair, joined at the hip, with EQCA's former communications director serving as Leno's current spokesperson and other cozy connections between their offices. Leno must fear us learning about April 5's meeting because there is nothing at his site about it and he's on the judiciary committee.

Why did A-gay Democratic community leaders not inform us of the March 23 hearing, like Lou Sheldon did? Sheldon not only got his people out, but in his successful turnout he forced Kors to write about their mobilization in his fundraising letter.

It's no wonder our opponents think we're timid and rabbity, scared to show our faces at public hearings in the capitol, when for years they've mostly seen only Kors at committee meetings.

Kors and Leno are different sides of the same fear-of-activists coin of the gay realm.

Both refuse to hold public forums, while Leno does Kors' bidding in Sacramento and Kors can always count on Leno to show up at the endless awards ceremony of EQCA. While the status quo suits these two, the rest of us are treated as mere spear-carriers in their grand opera, only to be called up for duty when money is needed, or the agenda's already been decided and they need foot soldiers to do the grunt work.

Here it is, three days after the March 23 education committee meeting, one day after Kors used it to rattle his begging bowl, and not one word about it appears on the EQCA site, never mind info on the April 5 hearing. However, their opening page is promoting these upcoming events:

If there is any proof out there that EQCA or Leno have a plan to utilize diverse grassroots gay activists looking to be politically engaged this legislative session, beyond calling only on their A-gay pals and other Gay Inc executives, show it to me and I'll eat it with ketchup at the next town hall meeting either EQCA or Leno organize for us.

Gay Pix Scandal Forces
Resignation at the Bolshoi Ballet

(Dancer Gennady Yanin. Credit: Fifi Cardiff.)

It's a scandal with duplicity, political backstabbing, salacious intrigue and naughty pix of a gay nature that rocked a revered and sometimes feared Russian institution nearly two weeks ago, and we're not talking about the Kremlin. 

Gennady Yanin, a superstar in the dance world and deputy artistic director of the 234-year-old Bolshoi Ballet company, left his position because the pix showed him engaging in gay sexual relations. From the Guardian in London:

Yanin was forced out last week when graphic images of him in bed with other men were posted online and a link emailed to thousands of people in Russia and abroad. Homosexuality remains little tolerated in Russia. He has declined to comment on the row, saying only that he decided to leave his position because he was tired.

"It's very complicated, difficult work," he said. "And because of what happened, the way my colleagues reacted, pushed me to do what I long wanted to do and leave the position." ...

While that story reports on the negative attitudes toward homosexuals even in the ballet world, it also alleges acceptance of heterosexual sexual liaisons arranged for the ballerinas of the famous dance company by its directors: 

Anastasia Volochkova, the former Bolshoi ballerina who was fired in 2003 over her weight, describes a theatre transformed into a quasi-escort agency for wealthy donors. Several other sources backed up her claims.

"Parties are organised for oligarchs, for sponsors. And they invite ballerinas from the Bolshoi," Volochkova said. "These girls aren't invited privately, but through the theatre's administration.

"The girls are told: if you go to the party, you will have a future. If not, you won't go on the next tour. What can they do? I saw it all with my own eyes. It was openly said, it wasn't even hidden." ...

Bolshoi leaders strenuously denied the escorting claims, just as I'm sure they would reject allegations of gay men in the company. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn the sexual intrigue and power-grabs at the Bolshoi equal the levels of those elements at the Kremlin.

Regarding the explicit photos at the heart of this scandal, said to number in the hundreds, shared via email and on a web site no longer online, none of the images turn up through Google's image search engine. Did no one cache the images?

Friday, March 25, 2011

SF DPW 'Not in Possession' of the
Key for Rainbow Flag at Milk Plaza

My struggle to gain a smidgen of community control of the enormous rainbow flag and pole on municipal property continues. The history of this struggle is here and here and here and here.

A recap: the Department of Public Works has no written agreement with the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro giving the private group control of an important piece of city property, Castro Supervisor Scott Wiener is beholden to MUMC and working against activists, and efforts to meet with DPW to establish a process allowing activists to use the rainbow flag pole have come to naught, due to DPW's bureaucratic game-playing.

Gloria Chan, the information officer for DPW, has been dancing around setting up the meeting, and I recently asked her for the name of the DPW supervisor in charge of the flag pole, her or his contract info, and who had the key to the box controlling the ropes flying the rainbow flag. Her response:

Thank you for your patience and your follow-up. DPW is not in possession of the key to the flag pole that you are asking for. DPW maintains the landscaping on the plaza and based on our knowledge, we have not maintained the flag and the pole.

This is what I know thus far. I hope this does not hinder the efforts you are putting forth with respect to your cause. If I can be further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In my follow-up, I asked her if they had thought to call a locksmith about the missing key, to explain how the city came to no longer possess the key and why all of a sudden DPW now claims it doesn't maintain the flag and pole. This has not been stated before and I feel it is one of many ever-changing aspects regarding the flag pole.

Gloria Chan was also asked how another entity was given control of city property, and where are the memos of understanding for the public to see granting this control to a private group. She has not replied to my latest questions.

Stay tuned for further developments.

EQCA 'Shocked' Anti-Gays
Attend Hearing; Kors Wants Money

My friend Paul Barwick today sent along this confusing fundraising letter from the soon-to-be-retired executive director of Equality California, Geoff Kors. His last day at the group is March 31. Paul said:

The gist of the forwarded message from EQCA is that 40 folks turned up to testify against this pro-gay bill, therefor we need to donate money, $15,000 to be exact. WTF? Shouldn't EQCA be asking for people to come testify in favor of the bill at the next hearing instead? Just what do they plan to do with that money?

Thank you, Paul, for asking your questions and bringing the fundraising pitch to my attention. Let's unpack some of the latest tin-cup rattling by Kors:

We’re sponsoring a bill, called the FAIR Education Act (SB 48, authored by Senator Mark Leno), that would ensure that all students learn in school about the contributions LGBT people have made to the history of California and the U.S.  ...

This week when we were at the bill’s first committee hearing, anti-LGBT activists pulled out all the stops. They organized about 40 opponents of the bill to testify. These opponents argued that we shouldn’t teach about Harvey Milk in our schools because being gay had nothing to do with his success or his assassination. They contended that homosexuality is an abnormal medical condition. And one opponent referred to a transgender member of the community as a “so-called man.” It was beyond shocking.

Too bad EQCA and Mark Leno have held not a single town hall meeting to fully educate the community about this bill, and their full legislative agenda for this year.

Kors omits a number of how many pro-gay advocates were there. Two, three, or more? Care to wager we were outnumbered by out opponents, again, thanks to Kors' community-mobilizing fears?

If he were holding public forums to engage us, there could have been dozens, maybe even a hundred of us gays at the first hearing, but no, the last thing EQCA wants to do is deal with rank and file gays and involve us in the legislative process.

Just how naive is Kors to actually say any of the standard b.s. from our opponents is shocking? This is just more proof he and EQCA have learned very little from their Prop 8 campaign debacle in 2008.

He omits a date of when the hearing happened and where it was held, for unknown reasons he's not forthcoming with basic info that might get in the way of his asking for money.

There’s another committee hearing coming up, followed by a floor vote. Opponents plan to increase their attacks to defeat this bill. It will take everything we’ve got to counter them. ... Make a donation of $48 to pass SB 48, or as much as you can afford today, to help us reach our goal of $15,000.

Ah, the real point of the note. How can Kors make money and exploit bullied kids to fill EQCA's coffers? Omitted is the date of the next hearing. See any plans to organize a big turnout from the community? Like Paul Barwick, I want to know what will happen with that $15,000.

We have to mobilize a whole host of fair-minded and intelligent people to testify in support of SB 48 at the next hearing. ...

Finally, something about mobilizing supporters, but notice the lack of specifics on how Kors will do this. Considering no mobilizing was done for the first hearing, as far as I can tell from the lack of notices on EQCA's site telling us about it, I don't expect Kors is going to do a damn thing different to mobilize for the next hearing.

We won this round, but the next and final Senate committee hearing will be within the next couple of weeks. We have to ensure that the bill makes it out of committee. We don’t have much time to organize. Please, give $48 or whatever you can afford today to help us make education fair.

What did you/we win? Let's have some specifics, if a vote was taken, and tell us how the committee members voted and who needs to be lobbied. Funny that Kors talks about little time to organize when I've nothing from EQCA that qualifies as organizing the community on this bill, other than to send a check. This was Kors' post script on the fundraising appeal:

I testified in support of SB 48, as did Carolyn Laub of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, also a sponsor of the bill. Our calls for fairness helped us win this vote, but the next one will be tougher. Contribute now to help pass this important bill.

We finally learn there was a vote, but no tally is given, forget about the names of commitee members and how they voted. What was the vote specifically about? To move it out of commitee? Send it to the full senate? That info might get in the way of another begging sentence for money.

Two-years and five-months after EQCA leaders handed us the Prop 8 defeat, and wasted $45 million in the process, it is business as usual at this group, and that business is keep the money coming in, keep the non-donors and non-A-gays at arms-length, keep the community in the dark about important Sacramento hearings until they are over.

California's vibrantly fabulous and politically astute gay community deserves better.

Thursday, March 24, 2011 Co-Opted 
by Corrupt GLAAD

Have you noticed that in the past few months, there has been more toxic gushing than the Gulf Coast oil spill, spewing from assorted contributors to about one of their favorite Gay Inc groups, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation?

I have, as I've look over this starry-eyed coverage and see how the group blog is co-opted by a worthless social-climbers' organization sucking up gay dollars for six-figure salaries.

We really don't need serving as a docile lapdog to this organization, abandoning all watchdogging responsibilities. Some examples of the gushing, with my comments italicized:

In this town of red carpeting, you can always trust that GLAAD's Director of PR, Rich Ferraro, will make you glad you showed up, and with extra batteries for your camera. -Father Tony, November 11, 2010.

(And you can pretty much trust that any piece about GLAAD will mention the carpeting.)

I got the amazing opportunity to cover the 21st Annual GLAAD Awards in New York City. It was my first time at a glitzy awards ceremony or covering a red carpet (even though the carpet was technically more of a cerulean... but who's counting). -Jason Tseng, March 14, 2010.

(What's so amazing about a politically useless, money-making scheme involving a carpet?)

We've been honored to be nominated for a 2011 GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Blog category. You can check out the nominees for all the other categories to see a star-studded list of media personalities and properties. -Bil Browning, January 20, 2011.

(How can a politically-oriented, allegedly independent blog even think of accepting, much less think it's any sort of honor, an award from a non-profit organization they should be scrutinizing more often and in depth beyond the carpeting colors?)

I'll be joining others from the press to cover this year's GLAAD Media Awards. I've never covered an event like this before for my blog, nor have I contributed content for an awards show for The Bilerico Project, which just so happens to be up for a all sorts of excitement surround this event for me. -March 19, 2011, Leone Kraus.

(She should get out more often, if she thinks these awards and the faux glam are worth getting excited about.)

The blue carpet (don't ask) was filled with members of the press last night, including Joe Jervis from Joe.My.God and me, for the 22nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City. -March 20, 2011, Leone Kraus.

(Another reference to carpeting!)

If you are on Twitter and follow @glaad, then you know that social media was a huge part of the GLAAD Media Awards this year. Almost every memorable moment was captured on Twitter, thanks to Allison Palmer, director of digital initiatives at GLAAD. Allison was responsible for executing the event's social communications via the @glaad Twitter account. There wasn't a red carpet or show moment that Allison missed. -Leone Kraus, March 21, 2011.

(One more day, one more fawning piece by this writer who again references the damn carpet and its color.)

When I attended the GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday, March 19, I thought I would be star struck when I saw Ricky Martin or Tina Fey but I wasn't. I didn't feel anything. -Leone Kraus, March 22, 2011.

(The fourth and final puff piece on the awards at

Three examples of the closest we get to anything the least bit critical from the group blog site about this organization:

GLAAD has a petition up, which might help if The Mike Gallagher Show legitimately thinks they're helping and isn't looking at this as a publicity stunt. -Alex Blaze, January 15, 2011.

(Yawn, a limp-wristed tap on the wrist of the GLAAD folks over a show most of us have never heard of.)

Karen [Ocamb] has a long video of Craig Zadan's introduction of Ricky Martin at the GLAAD awards, and Zaden outlines why Martin won: he's hot, he's charming, he came out, he had a successful album last year, he wrote an autobiography entitled Me (yup, no ego there), and he's done some very fashionable charity work. -March 24, 2011, Alex Blaze.

(Sheesh, more criticism is heaped upon Ricky Martin than GLAAD. Is there a limit on allowable criticism at and did Alex use up all of his criticism ration cards?)

Look, I know these awards are there to get a big star to show up so then a nonprofit corporation like GLAAD can fundraise a bit. I'm not criticizing the fact that Ricky Martin got this award - the schmoozy side of show biz isn't going to die without me. -March 24, 2011, Alex Blaze.

(Alex is not criticizing anything about the whole rotten GLAAD awards scam either. And these awards are there to also co-opt blogs like by nominating them for supposed honors.)

If ever awards are given out for a gay group blog least likely to challenge the status quo, corruption, lack of democratic engagement and town halls, no commitment to open-invitation organizing ways of Gay Inc, rest assured will be honored with a plaque.

A disclosure is required of me, at this point. I have cross-posted several of my post at in the past two years.

SF Chron: Mainstream Reporters 
Scrum at News Conference

Remember a few weeks back the report at the SF Appeal about the police department revoking and denying press passes to new media types like bloggers, and how the public info officer for the SF cops said he'd received complaints from traditional media folks, saying some people with the passes were disruptive at news conferences?

Okay, maybe you forgot about it so let me remind you the point was the police, under whose control the press pass process rests, were clamping down on non-mainstream news people because they allegedly weren't as responsible as others with passes.

Well, lo and behold, those corporate media professionals themselves sure know how to act up with each other without any assistance necessary from bloggers. The Chronicle yesterday noted the following disorderly behavior from reporters:

The most gripping drama in the Chauncey Bailey homicide trial so far was when the impromptu noon-hour news conference with defense attorneys in the lobby of the Alameda County courthouse turned ugly between two reporters covering the story.

Eyewitnesses say KTVU's John Sasaki tugged Bay Area News Group investigative reporter Tom Peele with his hand, hoping to get the reporter out of the line of sight of his camera operator. Peele glowered at Sasaki, then sputtered, "Don't ever touch me again, Pretty Boy."

... But when the media scrum was over, witnesses say, Peele marched over to the TV newsman, got into his face and let loose with an expletive-laced tirade - once again warning Sasaki not to touch him. Peele was eventually pulled away by another reporter. ...

Peele called it a "minor incident ... the sort of thing that happens all the time" when reporters jockey for position during a news conference. ...

Happens all the time? Then why are the SF police revising their approval-process for non-traditional online reporters and bloggers who want an official press ID card? There are quite a number of inconsistent standards at play here.

LA Weekly: EQCA's Lack of Forums
and the Search for a New ED

What would Harvey Milk do (WWHMD?) about the outrageous lack of regular, open community forums with the executive director and board of directors at Equality California? Would he only appear at EQCA galas and not set a good example of holding his own town hall meetings, like Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano and John Perez?

Might he hide behind a lawyer's verbiage when asked about full democratic engagement with the grassroots, as the A-gays ruining EQCA are doing?

These questions came to mind as I read Patrick Range McDonald's post this morning at the LA Weekly about EQCA's very-less-than-open search process for a new leader. Recall that Patrick in early January wrote an excellent and comprehensive cover story about longstanding lack of accountability and transparency matters at this statewide group.

We could certainly use more reporters and bloggers demanding more of EQCA and the process to replace Geoff Kors. Hello, Karen Ocamb and Syd Peterson of LGBT POV, and your guest essayists?

Please don't settle for business as usual at EQCA with minute changes, my friends. Our out vibrant, economically and politically diverse community in the state is only minimally embodied, represented and engaged by EQCA. That should not be the status quo.

What I would like to happen during the search process is for the top candidates to hold a public forum and discussion, so the community could size them up before one of them is presented to us as our new leader. Let us ordinary gays, and not just the straight search firm and EQCA board, get a look at potential EDs.

Why is it we demand political candidates debate openly before we cast our ballots, but when it comes to choosing Gay Inc executive directors, the community largely says it's okay to keep the selection process behind the curtain before someone is hired?

Kudos to Patrick for keeping tabs on EQCA's board and their murky search process to replace Geoff Kors. From his post:

Asked if Equality California has held town hall meetings as Petrelis and others have suggested, Cary Davidson, chairman of EQCA's search committee, says in a prepared statement to L.A. Weekly:

"Morris & Berger [the consulting firm spearheading the effort to replace outgoing executive director Geoff Kors] have contacted more than 1,000 people in the course of the search and are continuing to have conversations. They have spoken with people from grassroots organizations, unions, large and small nonprofits, foundations, elected officials, and a diverse array of advocacy organizations, per the recommendation of the search committee."

Davidson is a practicing attorney, so we'll simplify his answer: No town halls meetings have been conducted. Not only that, the above list of people and groups are largely gay rights insiders, not the general public. ...

That heavily hints that EQCA board members such as comedienne Wanda Sykes, Harvey Milk's nephew Stuart Milk, and labor union icon Dolores Huerta have no plans to face ordinary gays and lesbians in person and hear what they have to say. ...

Wonder if people will go to the EQCA web site and recommend town hall meetings? What will happen then?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Russia's Top Human Rights Advocate
is Sued by a Gay Liar

(Russia's most dedicated and famous dissident advocate, Lyudmila Alekseeva, when she was detained by cops on New Year's Eve 2009 for attempting to stage a protest at the Kremlin. Credit: Reuters.)

Lyudmila Alekseeva is widely revered veteran human rights advocate in her 80s and is still active in the struggle for justice in Russia. She's led quite the courageous life, standing up for truth at times of great risk to herself, according to her Wiki page:

In the late 1960s she signed petitions in defense of other dissidents who were prosecuted by the Soviet authorities, including Alexander Ginzburg and Yuri Galanskov. In April 1968, Alexeyeva was expelled from the Communist Party and fired from her job at the publishing house. Nonetheless, she continued her activities in defense of human rights. In 1968-1972 she worked clandestinely as a typist for the first underground bulletin “The Chronicle of Current Events” devoted to human rights violations in the USSR.

In early 1976, Alexeyeva became a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. As a member, she signed a number of documents issued by the Group, helped compose some of them, and collected information for some of the documents. Her responsibilities also included editing the Group’s documents and hiding copies of them from the authorities. ...

She's withstood decades of intimidation and woe from when the Soviet Union existed and now into the post-communist years under Vladimir Putin, and now the controversial and thin-skinned ego-driven gay Russian activist Nikolai Alekseev has sued her.

After dealing with Nikolai and seeing his many lies, obfuscations and inability to accept valid criticism during his disastrous American tour recently, I say with all honesty that Lyudmila speaks much truth about him. By the way, she has a blog giving readers a glimpse into her current causes.

This is excerpted from an autumn 2010 story on a Russian economic news site, and give the basic background. Pardon the Google translation:

Leader of the Russian gay community and the organizer of the Moscow authorities banned a gay parade Nikolai Alexeyev has sued the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseeva and radio station Ekho Moskvy. ...

In late August, [on Ekho Moskvy radio, Lyudmila was asked about Nikolai, the way their last names are almost the same, and his tactics. She said:] "Well, yes, this is my namesake. It is, thank you, Lord, not my son, not my brother, not because he was gay. It's just I'm quite calmly refer to these people. And because he is a man who is often lying. I personally experienced this, unfortunately." ...

It is reported that regardless of the outcome of the case, the Moscow Helsinki Group intends to continue its support of sexual minorities. ...

For stating the obvious reality about Nikolai, who has a law degree, the iconic Lyudmila was slapped with a nuisance lawsuit by him. The case is threading its way through a Russian court, and this week Nikolai gave an update on the latest court hearing:

On Monday, March 21 Meshchansky district court of Moscow postponed consideration of the claim organizer of Moscow Pride Nikolai Alekseev to the well-known human rights activist, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseeva and radio station Ekho Moskvy. ...

Learning about the transfer of the case, Lyudmila Alekseeva said that she no longer intends to appear in court. ...

In its lawsuit to the court Nikolai Alexeyev said that Lyudmila Alekseeva circulated by the media discrediting his business reputation information. He demanded a formal apology ...

Organizer Pride stressed that "sought from Ms Alexeeva apology out of court, but they never came. In this connection, I had no other options but to restore his reputation in court." ...

The only way Nikolai will have his tattered and shameful reputation restored to something approaching decency can only come from him. No lawsuit, defamatory accusations about other Russians both gay and straight, attacks on his growing number of critics in Europe and the United States, or bad logic and lousy arguing skills can perform the magic that is required if Nikolai truly wants a good reputation.

I stand in solidarity with Lyudmila. Nikolai is a liar.

CA Sen. Leno has Never Held
a Town Hall for Gays

A friend asked me recently if openly gay state Senator Mark Leno, whose district includes most of San Francisco, has ever held a town hall meeting with the gay community in his capacity as a member of the city's Board of Supervisors, when he was in the state Assembly or in his current political position.

I couldn't recall any public forums with Mark, and I'm not talking about state or city hearings he convened on either legislation or budget issues. We're talking open forums in the gay community, and after extensively searching the web, I found no proof of Mark ever holding town halls.

In numerous calls yesterday with his staffers Anna Damiani, Reese Isbell and messages left for his press secretary Ali Bay, I posed two simple questions. When was the date for the last time Mark held a public forum and what is the date of any future forums. Anna and Reese repeatedly cited the state budget crisis as taking up their boss's time, implying the crisis, which is longstanding and not going away any day in the near future, prevents Mark from holding forums.

Ali sent this message late Tuesday afternoon:

Senator Leno has participated in town halls that were designed for all the constituents of Senate District 3, and he also interfaces with the LGBT community through legislative activities, public and private events, personal meetings and the media. This year, he is the author of two bills that would help strengthen existing rights and protections for LGBT people. As Anna has shared with you, Senator Leno is currently focused on the state’s budget crisis. We will let you know when we plan any future town halls.

Not a single date is provided and I'm not sure why Ali mentions the two bills that have nothing to do with town halls.

For comparison's sake, let's look at Congresswoman Jackie Speier's track record on gay town halls. The Inside, Looking Out blog reported on Speier's general town hall in May 2009 in which gay immigration issues came up. According to the Bay Area Reporter, she held a forum at SF's gay center on August 31, 2009, open to all, and a similar event on June 26, 2010, at a church.

If a Bay Area Congresswoman can hold two gay open forums and other town halls, why can't Mark do likewise? Permit to further say that Speier's forums are organized by her and not gay Democratic Party groups, and Mark should not wait for any such group to host a forum on his behalf. He needs to follow Speier's great example.

He can make time to show up at the February 12, 2011, gala at SF City Hall for Equality California where the tickets were priced at $350, and pose for pix like the one above.

Mark was able to make the Human Rights Campaign pricey-dinner at the Fairmount hotel on October 24, 2010. I believe he regularly attends all EQCA and HRC dinners, if I'm wrong about this, I'll publish a correction.

My point is that Mark is available very frequently for social galas and the like for EQCA and HRC, two groups that don't hold regular town halls with the gay community, showing there is disturbing common ground of non-engagement with regular gays who are not big donors or Democratic Party hacks.

To be fair, I must acknowledge that Mark has also shown up at street rallies, including one I helped organize on May 17, 2009, at Harvey Milk Plaza on behalf of gay Iraqis, and he and his staff have been helpful with statements and proclamations on many crucial global gay issues. For these favors, I have expressed my thanks.

But Mark and his staff should build upon his appearances a A-gay fundraisers and activist protests, and get with the town hall agenda already, and stop using the state budget issues as a lame excuse for avoiding forums.

Is it coincidence or collusion or something else that prevents Mark, EQCA and HRC from democratic public forums? Why are these entities unable to put on regular open meetings? This fear of using town halls create much distrust, unnecessary divisions and betrays weakness on the part of Mark and Gay Inc.

I look forward to Mark Leno's first gay town hall, which I hope is scheduled in the next month or so, and that the forums become regular events.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Ken Doll Model = Dark, Beefy, Jock

(And a few thousand gay wet dreams thus are born. Meet Kurtis Taylor. Credit: BarbieMedia.)

Dolls didn't interested me in the least growing up. I was more the hopscotch kind of sissy boy. Whether it was Barbie or GI Joe, dolls bored me. That is changing. I may buy my first doll.

Today's NYT Advertising column was about Mattel choosing a fresh body and face for its Ken Doll line. A courtesy photo from the toy giant showed the young male candidates and the beefiest of the crop caught my eye, without knowing he was the winner of the model competition. His all-American name is Kurtis Taylor and he's a football player from Iowa.

Oh, if only there were a shirtless pic of him on the web, I'd like to eye it, ran across my mind. Sure, he's not mature, hairy-chested and won't see a streak of gray for decades, my usual fave, but I can be flexible about an attractive male. Not only is there that shirtless pic out there, I also found the official video for Kurtis Taylor in his run-up to scoring the contract for the Ken gig. Eye-candy in motion:

Not that Mattel asked me for my gay view, but I lustily approve of their olive-skinned, dark haired slab of young gridiron beefcake. Someday, I hope he plays for the gay team. From my lips, to the goddess's ear when she is dispensing favors.

Kurtis formerly played for the Iowa Cyclone's team and when rooting around their photo galleries, I came across this fellow's image and thought I had stumbled upon the Mormon Adonis Training Camp for Hunks with Shaved Heads:

Meet Jake McDonough, boys. Click to enlarge and see every little hair on his hard bicep and the stubble on his scalp and around his chin. A good reason to run a gratuitous pic of one more young beefy football player from the heartland, wouldn't you say? But let's close this post with one more vid of Kurtis and his body. This vid is from his work out at 2010 football try out in Iowa:

EQCA Must Hold Town Hall Meetings

(Sara Beth Brooks of Sacramento. Courtesy photo.)

Over at Karen Ocamb's blog LGBT POV, assistant editor Syd Peterson has been running lots of essays from too many Gay Inc types and an abundance of boring lawyers about the future of Equality California. Radical ideas have not been part of the series.

I've been surprised at the high number of folks who've called for what I label the "Kumbaya plan of action" regarding what the next executive director ought to with this organization that is supposed to represent the full diversity of California's full gay diversity, and more than just wealthy donors, Democratic Party hacks, Gay Inc folks and attorneys.

To my delight, an essay from Sara Beth Brooks, whom I've never heard of before and who I want to keep an out for, broaches the thus-unspoken challenge at LGBT POV to have EQCA hold public meetings, a subject long discussed here. She wrote:

In local cities across the state, regularly scheduled LGBT community leadership meetings provide a place for local community to share information, network, and get training. This concept can be translated statewide if someone built that conversation. ...

As a movement we have a communication problem: we are not doing enough communicating. Statewide conversation stopped when tensions ran too high.

There has not been an all-inclusive forum for conversation among leaders since the San Bernardino meeting almost two years ago. It’s time to start talking again. EQCA could begin that conversation by holding regular open meetings and publishing information about them widely (both before and after). ...

Brava! Cheers! Hooray! Those words from Sara Beth, especially the last sentence, could have been written by me, and I'm so happy to see a younger activist understands the crucial need for ongoing public forums.

By the way, the last time the current executive director of EQCA appeared at a community meeting in San Francisco open to all was in February 2009. Two years without regular meetings like this is unhealthy and dysfunctional. Also, EQCA has no forums listed on their events calender.

It's becoming quite disgusting that EQCA can put on endless and continuous galas, hand out award, throw cocktail receptions, arrange invitation-only strategic meetings with rich donors, make decisions without grassroots input and then claim to representing all of us. They aren't and getting EQCA to open the doors, let fresh voices be heard and decide our statewide gay agenda is going to be a monumental struggle.

The absence of this basic component of democratic engagement, in-person town halls, in the organizing toolbox of EQCA is a serious flaw that is not even acknowledged by the group's boosters or the traditional gay print media, and forget about thinking that EQCA leaders want to seriously deal with this missing component.

Why does EQCA fear democratic discussions open to everyone?

Memo to Sara Beth: Thanks much, for endorsing regular open forums with EQCA. Keep calling for them until the organizations get with the democratic engagement concept.

Russian Lesbian Activist Speaks
in S.F. March 30 at Gay Center

Today I have the pleasant honor of sharing the exciting news that a lesbian leader from Russia, Polina Savchenko (above), will speak on Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30 PM at San Francisco's gay community center. The center is located at 1800 Market Street, at Octavia.

She is the coordinator of international programs for the Vykhod (Coming Out) group in St. Petersburg, where she produced the Queer Cultural Festival and she co-moderates the newly-launched Queerussia online discussion group, where discussions are conducted in English and membership is open to Russians and their friends from other countries.

Polina is traveling through America this month visiting friends and family, and when longtime lesbian advocate Gloria Nieto heard she was coming to the Bay Area, reached out and invited her to hold a public forum.

She said yes, and before you knew it, Gloria, in coordination with Kate Kendell at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is sponsoring the talk, and Rebecca Rolfe at the SF LGBT Community Center, arranged for the March 30 forum to take place.

I'm planning to be at the event to hear Polina speak about lesbian life in Russia, the current state of the gay movement and how American activists can work in solidarity with our Russian counterparts. One idea I've proposed to her is the establishment of a sister city agreement and relationship between San Francisco and St. Petersburg. More on that idea later.

Many thanks to all the lovely lesbians involved in making the forum with Polina happen, and in such a short time, too. Come out on March 30 for what will be a very informative and educational meeting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japanese Lesbian, HIV Pozzie Reports;
Gay Jamaicans & 'Homo' Killer Updates

(Azusa Yamashita, co-founder and editor of GayJapanNews who lives in Iwate, Japan. Credit:

I have reports from Jamaica and Japan to share, and instead of writing a post for each country, this post contains snippets of news with a number of links back to the sources.

The gay Asian news and social networking site Fridae contacted Japanese lesbian, gay and HIV poz persons, soliciting reports of how the tsunami and earthquake affected them. The comments from the Japanese activists were published on March 18. Here are two:

Though I have not talked to many PLHIV after the earthquake, privacy and medication compliance will be the biggest challenges among them. I am worried about access to treatment.

- Toma Nemoto, member of Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS - Nagasaki

We usually have some earthquakes in Iwate so I don't usually get scared. But the tremours on 11 March were horrifying. One of the TV programmes told us that they lasted for about five minutes. There are still many aftershocks day and night. My family and I still put clothes and socks on when we go to bed. I've spent my time looking at the survivors' list and listening to a local radio to find out whether my relatives, friends, friends' families and friends' friends are alive.

My experience is still ongoing and I'm afraid I can't still describe them well. I don't watch TV now because it's more than what I can handle to see heartbreaking news in towns where I have relatives and friends and also where I used to live (I used to live Miyako.) Towns I know are completely gone in the coastal areas in Iwate. I don't have words to describe my feelings. I feel as if my feelings are also gone.

- Azusa Yamashita, co-founder and editor of GayJapanNews who lives in Iwate, one of the worst hit areas

From Kingston, where the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays has a glorious new look and fabulous layout for their site, the group issued a declaration to parliament regarding a charter that impacts gays will be debated:

J-FLAG is urging the Jamaican Parliament to make provisions to protect the human rights of all Jamaicans, and provide a framework to reduce discrimination against all persons including lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT); persons with disabilities and persons affected by particular health conditions such as HIV in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

J-FLAG wishes to advise that this Charter should serve as the basis of human rights recognition for all in a society, where its basic laws are based on the concepts of inclusivity and dignity, and on an appreciation of contemporary science on human sexuality, not on prejudice, fear, habit and misinformation.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons continue to be the victims of extortion, physical abuse and harassment by non-state and state actors. In 2010, over 40 incidents of human rights violations were reported to J-FLAG. ...

The biased (and proud of it) Gleaner newspaper carried a story that essentially was the J-FLAG news release. Under the offensive headline "Man before court for killing alleged homo", the paper reported on a gay-related murder case working its way through the courts:

A painter accused of killing a man who made sexual advances towards him was offered $300,000 bail when he appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court Friday.

Kevon Martin, 33, of Spanish Town Road in Kingston, was arrested and charged last November for the stabbing death of 59-year-old Steve Lindo ...

The accused, who is charged for murder, was offered bail by Senior Magistrate Judith Pusey, despite objection from the prosecution on the grounds that Martin had no permanent address.

But the magistrate, after looking at the statement, said that based on the Crown's case, Martin was acting in self-defence. ...

According to the accused, he was coming from the bathroom when Lindo held onto him saying that he must have sex with him. In the ensuing scuffle, he stabbed the deceased. ...

It is reported that a fight ensued in which Martin used a scissors to stab Lindo several times in his chest, back and neck. ...

Another sad situation in which the alleged killer of a gay man, think of David Kato in Uganda, attempts to justify his bloody and deadly behavior using the gay panic defense. Wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn how many times this bogus defense is successful.

As I read this story, my mind was trying to recall a single instance in which the Jamaica criminal justice system had ever convicted and appropriately sentenced anyone in any of the brutal murders against gays and transgender people. Nothing came to mind. If you know of any such conviction and sentencing, kindly let me know.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

WSJ Omits Gay US Insurance
Czar McRaith's $36K Donations to Dems

The openly gay insurance chief for Illinois, Michael McRaith (above), was named last week to be the head of the Federal Insurance Office, a new initiative within the Treasury Department, according to the Wall Street Journal:

McRaith will become the first person to head the office, which has the task of advising the Treasury secretary on insurance issues. He also will serve as a nonvoting member on a new federal panel created to determine which financial firms present a risk to the financial system and be the U.S.'s public face in negotiating international insurance agreements. ...

The WSJ piece curiously omitted mention of McRaith's federal donations totaling $35,896 since 2000, and all his checks went to Democrats and their affiliated PACs, including $1,395 to Barack Obama. Those figures come Open Secrets.

I would expect this financial publication would provide readers with this info, not because I think in any way his donations played a significant role in McRaith getting his appointment, but simply to give as much info as possible about his political donations and fully vet the man.

Regarding the gay angle, none of the mainstream coverage thus far about McRaith's appointment mention his being out of the closet. The Advocate's site mentioned his new federal position and that he served on the board of the Chicago AIDS Foundation, but like their straight media colleagues, the Advocate omitted his political contributions.

A search of the Treasury Department's press office's site turned up no release on McRaith's appointment. Anyone know if it's standard operating procedure for the department to refrain from issuing a release and biographical info on significant appointees?

Here's are a few radical notions. Let's have the mainstream and gay media mention McRaith's qualifications, his almost $36,000 in federal political donations and the fact that he's openly gay. Oh, an official news release from Treasury that references the gay angle. That's not asking too much, is it?