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.

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