Friday, June 29, 2012

Gay Honduran Rallies:
Protesters: LA: 60, SF: 50, Chicago: 15 

The San Francisco rally marking the third anniversary of the coup in Honduras that derailed the country's democracy and unleashed a wave of attacks and killings, including the murders of more than seventy lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, attracted a core crowd of fifty supporters over the course of the two-hour event. It took place on Thursday from 5 pm to 7 pm.

We gathered at the BART station plaza located in the heart of the Latino community at Mission and 24th Street, at the height of rush hour, guaranteeing that hundreds of commuters heard our messages. Several Honduran flags, comprised of two blue bars with a white stripe and five blue stars in the center, were displayed along with flags and banners from a handful of Latin-American and Bay Area activist groups.

Speaking in Spanish and English, activists from Honduras called for a restoration of democracy in their homeland and other speakers said democratic practices and protections must be strengthened throughout the Americas. Two singers lead us in sing-alongs between the speeches. Flyers were distributed explaining the current situation in Honduras for LGBTI persons, progressive advocates and journalists or bloggers.

The rally was sponsored primarily by the Bay Area Latin American Solidarity Coalition and endorsed by the ANSWER Coalition, CISPES, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, FMLN of Northern California, Gays Without Borders, Haiti Action Committee,the Marin Task Force on the Americas and the San Francisco School of the Americas Watch.

Charlie Hinton, pictured on the left, and I were there and spoke about the unsolved and unprosecuted murders of two gay Honduran men and activists, Walter Trochez and Eddie Martinez.

In Chicago, members of the  La Voz de los de Abajo organization brought a casket to the consulate of Honduras on West Fullerton Street, and on it were photos of people killed fighting for democracy.

Chicago activist Vicky Cervantes shared this report: "Neither the Consul General or Vice Consul were at the consulate (they always seem to have left as soon as we get there) and the consulate staff would not allow any of us, even Hondurans, to enter.

"Finally, a female consulate employee came out and Gary Cozette of CRLN read to her the recent Congressional letter to Secretary of State Clinton on violence against the GBLT community in Honduras. We gave her a copy of the letter with the request that she give it to Honduran President Porfirio Lobo.

"The two-hour action was organized by La Voz de los de Abajo with participation from Milwaukee LASC; Committee against Militarization of the Youth (CAMY); Radios Populares; CRLN; Tierra y Libertad; and with special guest Trinidad Sanchez, a member of Red Comal in Honduras."

Down in Los Angeles sixty straight and LGBTI activists demonstrated in front of the Honduran consulate, generating coverage on the Telemundo TV network. The protest was organized by the Coalicion Latinoamericana Pro Derechos, Comite Solidario Graciela Garcia, Comites de Base del FMLN, Comites de Base del FSLN, ANSWER Los Angeles and Coalicion Translatin.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28 Vigils for Gay Hondurans:
Boston, DC, LA, NY & San Francisco 

Today is the third anniversary of the coup in Honduras and LGBT and progressive activists are staging vigils and protests across the country. Actions are taking place in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Additional events are scheduled for Phoenix tomorrow and in Tuscon on Saturday.

You can find the time and location details for all actions at the Honduras Solidarity Network site.

I want to share the info for tonight's action in my city, and I'm hoping to get to it and show my solidarity with the LGBT people of Honduras and all those fighting for democracy in that country.

The San Francisco action is from 5pm to 7 pm at the BART station plaza located at 24th and Mission Streets. I spoke with one of the organizers, Charlie Hinton, about why this spot was chosen instead of the Honduran consulate in the Flood Building on Market Street.

Hinton said last year's vigil was in front of the consulate and organizers this year opted to reach out to the Latino and LGBT communities in the heart of the Mission district. You can read Hinton's essay urging participation in the vigil here.

Honduran advocates report that at least seventy-seven lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons have been murdered, including many whose deaths were political assassinations. One of the gay dead is Walter Trochez, pictured, and Gays Without Borders in San Francisco have held vigils for him at the Honduran consulate to demand that his killer be brought to justice.

There have been no arrests for the death of Trochez, a bloody stain of outrage and injustice on the Honduran government's hands.

Please attend one of the vigils.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SF Rainbow Flag:
No Lowering for Murdered TX Lesbian

In normal communities, flags are lowered to honor the dead and to help the living mourn, process grief and recommit to fighting for justice and liberation. Such is not the case in the Castro district.

(Mary Christine Chapa, left, and Mary Christine Olgin.)

There will be a vigil at 7 p.m. at San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza to remember lesbian teenager Mollie Judith Olgin who was shot to death in Texas last Friday, and to express hope for a full recovery of her girlfriend Mary Christine Chapa who was also shot and thankfully survived. The Facebook page for the event says nothing about the flag.

Unfortunately, the enormous iconic rainbow flag that flies in the middle of Harvey Milk Plaza, which is public property but under the domain of the control queens in the Merchants of Upper Market Castro group, will not be lowered to half-staff to honor Olgin and all other murdered LGBT teens or those who committed suicide because of bullying.

MUMC's rules simply don't allow for the grassroots community to have equal access to this valuable piece of public real estate:

Consistent with the principles established by the Flag’s creators and with broad community support, the Flag flies almost always at full staff with very rare exceptions. A longstanding agreement to fly the flag of the international Leather community for several days each year has been maintained. The Flag’s full-staff display has otherwise been temporarily modified on very rare occasions, for example, to mark the usually-tragic death of a notable member of the local LGBT community.

Sorry, but Olgin was not a notable member of the San Francisco community so the public flag on city land can't be lowered for even one-hour in her memory. However, MUMC is always happy to use the flag to rake in money when leather folks come to town for the Folsom Street Fair in September.

MUMC also modified the display earlier this year for a bear weekend. The leather and bear flags are allowed to fly at the plaza because MUMC members hope to draw gay wallets to the Castro and increase their profits.

The editor of the Bay Area Reporter, Cynthia Laird, in her blog story yesterday about the upcoming vigil, didn't bother to raise the question of lowering the flag tonight. As far I can recall the BAR, which is dependent on display ads from MUMC members, has never called for the rainbow flag to be returned to the public's control so that it can be used for events like tonight's vigil.

Does Laird, as a lesbian herself, have any problem that the MUMC rules don't allow for our, er, MUMC's flag to be lowered for a dead teenage lesbian in Texas? Would Laird and her paper ever endorse new flexible rules granting grassroots LGBT people the right to use the flag for lowerings, to send a strong visual solidarity message? 

A big reason why MUMC control queens are adamant about prohibiting community use of the flag is because I launched a campaign to change their polices in January 2011, to have the flag lowered for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato. Of course, many other LGBT activists also back the demand for community use, but MUMC is more interested in showing how they won't bend for me, and in the process they harm the wider community.

Cowardly politicians and official leaders including Tom Ammiano, Bevan Dufty, Scott Wiener, Gilbert Baker, Andrea Aiello, David Campos, John Avalos, Cleve Jones, Christina Olague and Mark Leno, along with the weaklings in the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, are afraid to stand up to MUMC's bullshit. Thanks to their "go along, to get along" attitudes, these pols and the club contribute to why the flag won't be lowered for the teenage Texas lesbians.

A simple turning of a key tonight at the base of the Harvey Milk Plaza flagpole and lowering the rainbow flag is asking too much of the LGBT community in San Francisco.

Let's end with some words from brave longtime social justice queer advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca:

It really is insane! This is exactly the time that the flag should be lowered. Why have that damn flag there if it isn't going to be used to make a statement at times like this. What is it -- just a pretty decoration on a business district? Lower the flag at the vigil!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brinkin's 'Zack3737' Messages 
at Yahoo's 'SlaveNigger' Group?

The San Francisco Chronicle today reports that longtime gay rights advocate and former staffer at the city's Human Rights Commission, Larry Brinkin, was arrested over the weekend by the police, held overnight and charged with felony possession of child porn.

Brinkin is alleged to have used as the addy from where he received and sent the pornographic images.

Like many gay people here who know Brinkin or have worked with him at the commission, I am very surprised and disturbed about the charges and alleged web postings from him.

Searching the web using the addy to see for myself the messages on chatboards posted from that account, I found several troubling posts from 2011 at the Yahoo group SlaveNigger:

(Warning: Graphic racist and pornographic language contained in the screen grab. Click to enlarge.)

I don't know if the posts are from Brinkin or if the addy belongs to him, but to bring attention to them regardless because they are so vile. What I grappled with after reading the messages was a desire to not pile on Brinkin and to keep an open mind that he's not been convicted of anything, but I also didn't to ignore the posts because of the hideous racism expressed in them.

Whoever owns the Zack3737 addy certainly has one twisted mind.
Trans Rally Ruined by Wiener;
Lower Rainbow Flag for Brandy Martell?

(A flock of self-serving politicians on stage at last week's trans concert. Wiener is fourth from the left.)

San Francisco's Dolores Park was the location on Friday afternoon for the latest edition of the annual trans rally and concert, that take place before the march. It was quite the fabulous affair, seeing lots of trans friends and their allies, enjoying the musicians and occasional trans speaker making political points.

In the middle of the event, my enjoyment was ruined when Supervisor Scott Wiener began addressing the crowd. I didn't any vocal cheers or applause for him. Wiener talked about how there are many disagreements in the LGBT community at other times of the year, but Pride time was the season to put those disagreements aside and celebrate our diversity. His words made me want to barf.

Throughout the past year Wiener has worked to undue historic preservation protections, put a ballot measure before the voters to dilute previously passed measured, stigmatized nudists and homeless people in the Castro district, refused to support community control of the city-owned rainbow flagpole on municipal property at Harvey Milk Plaza, worked behind the scenes to eviscerate the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, and generally engaged in behavior indicating he wants to be mayor.

Wiener essentially told us to put all his damaging work aside, so he could look good at the trans rally and shore up votes for his next election. Wiener was not the only self-serving politician to speak from the stage. State Senator Mark Leno and Mayor Ed Lee also were given mike time.

When I asked one trans friend why it was necessary to have Wiener address the rally, she said it was a courtesy to him because the rally was in his district. I recommended that she ask him to place the Harvey Milk Plaza rainbow flagpole under community control, so trans people could use it for occasions such as the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance this November.

Get something of substance in return from Wiener for granting him the privilege of speaking at the rally, starting with lowering the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza this November to honor all the murdered and brutalized trans people in the previous year, I said to my friend. Heck, why not request Wiener lower the flag _now_ to remember Brandy Martell, pictured, the trans woman who was murdered in Oakland in May and call attention to the fact that the cops have made no arrest in the case?

My friend said she would think about it. She asked me to put the idea out there on my blog, which I am happy to do today.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

BBC: Clinic Erected to Circumcise
Zimbabwe Pols, 181 Take HIV Tests

(Member of Parliament Blessing Chebundo. Credit: New Zimbabwe.)
I'm not convinced circumcising men is all that an effective HIV prevention strategy for a number of reasons, among them sperm from an HIV positive man's circumcised cock can still easily transmit the virus vaginally and anally, while newly circumcised HIV positive men may engage in more unsafe sex in the mistaken thinking that lack of foreskin stops HIV.

The British Broadcasting Corporation two-days ago reported on a nascent campaign led by Zimbabwean politicians to make male circumcision a bigger component in stopping HIV:

At least 10 Zimbabwean MP have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and Aids cases. A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare. Blessing Chebundo, [pictured], chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against Aids, said his main objective was to inspire other citizens to follow suit. Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and Aids. A report by UNAids and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the risk of HIV infection among men could be reduced by 60.

Also on the same day of the publicized circumcisions, almost two-hundred lawmakers stepped forward to get tested for HIV. This is one idea from Zimbabwe I'd like to see emulated by members of the U.S. Congress of all races, as one method of promoting HIV testing. Not so sure I want to see circumcisions carried out there though.

These details come from a story at the New Zimbabwe site:

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and the Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo have revealed they are HIV negative as part of a new drive by MPs to encourage people to undergo voluntary HIV testing in a bid to help curb stigmatisation and discrimination. Some 181 Members of Parliament took part in the voluntary public HIV testing and counseling exercise Friday.

Speaking of politicians getting HIV tests, back in March 2010 I blogged about Barack and Michelle Obama taking the tests with reporters and photographers present during their 2006 visit to Kenya when he was still in the U.S. Senate. Here's the AP photo I used in the post:

I'd like to suggest that during the International AIDS Conference next month in Washington is an ideal time for our lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to get a test in front of the press and cameras. Would do a lot to lessen the stigma associated with getting an HIV test.
Zimbabwe Pol: Bald, Smelly Women
Will Prevent HIV Transmissions

Considering that politicians and HIV prevention groups in San Francisco are still unwilling to reopen gay bathhouses because they believe such venues lead to HIV transmission, let's not get too bent out of shape about some wacky prevention ideas coming from a politician in Zimbabwe.

An important reminder: SF sex clubs ban private rooms and are required to have monitors policing sexual liaisons between adult men, while Berkeley and San Jose allow for privacy in their local bathhouses.

For all the radical rhetoric expressed in recent weeks over SF Pride and corporate sponsorship of it and advocacy groups, I've not heard a peep from the OccuPride-slash-Gay Shame crowd about demanding bathhouses and public sex venues free of the sex police. Not sure why that crowd is apathetic about SF's misguided and stigmatizing bathhouse policy.

Last month, reports from Zimbabwe gave details about one Member of Parliament proposing radically stupid ideas for stopping HIV. The local Nahanda Radio news site provides details:

Women should always have bald heads, lose weight and dress shabbily to reduce their attractiveness as part of measures to curb the spread of HIV, Senator for Chikomo, Morgan Femai, pictured, said yesterday. [...]

He said HIV is spreading at an alarming rate because men find it difficult to resist women because they are becoming more attractive. “What I propose is that Government should come up with a law that compels women to have their heads clean-shaven like what the Apostolic sects do. We have never heard that those people (Apostolic sects) are promiscuous so the women should have their heads shaved. They should also not bathe because that is what has caused all these problems (spread of HIV),” Sen Femai said. [...]

Let's get honest here about a key factor about men, regardless of their sexual orientations, HIV status or where they're born and raised. Men get horny and are going to engage in sex regardless of the attractiveness or lack thereof of their partners. Femai's proposal ignores many parts of reality.

Femai is not the only Zimbabwe lawmaker putting forward off-the-wall suggestions for control the spread of HIV. However, the other lawmaker does have one valuable idea I wholly support:

Another Senator, Sithembile Mlotshwa, picutred, recently said people should have sex once a month and that men should be injected with drugs that reduce their libido. She also called for prisoners to be given sex toys to quench their sexual needs. 

Just how does Ms. Mlotshwa propose to carry out this mass drug injection program among the male population, and what about the cost of such an large-scale action? Nahanda Radio didn't say if she addressed those points. On the other hand, providing prisoners with dildos could reduce sharing of bodily fluids and sexually satisfy male bottoms. Cheaper to give incarcerated persons plastic sex toys than a lifetime of AIDS cocktail.

A third Zimbabwe lawmaker is miles ahead of our Board of Supervisors regarding sex work:

Another MDC-T legislator Thabitha Khumalo is also at the forefront campaigning for the legalisation of prostitution and has vowed to assist commercial sex workers form a trade union to fight for their rights. 

I can't recall any member of the Board of Supervisors in recent years working for overturning statutes that outlaw consensual sex work, or assisting adult escorts and entertainers in creating a union.

On balance, some good and bad HIV prevention and control proposals and thinking from Zimbabwe's politicians, just like in San Francisco.
Decision on ObamaCare?

The Human Rights Campaign last week garnered a decent amount of press and blogger attention, when their president Chad Griffin released the group's latest Healthcare Equality Index at a news conference last week with Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

HRC rates hospitals and other health care facilities by their Core Four Criteria which are patient non-discrimination policies, visitation policies, employment non-discrimination policies and training in cultural competency by staffers toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

All fine and good IF you're an LGBT individual with health care insurance to know how HRC rates hospitals and clinics, but for the thousands of LGBT individuals who lack such insurance and access to care, or who are under-insured, the HRC index is essentially meaningless. If you can't pay for hospital or clinic care, does it matter to you what their gay policies are?

And criteria four, visitation policies, is all about same-sex couples being able to visit each other or their minor children in health care settings. Another example of HRC creating a special and separate criteria based solely on relationship/marital status. What about single/unpartnered gays who want visits from special friends during hospital stays or emergency room visits? Not part of HRC's index.

I am not aware of HRC ever demanding universal health care and access to services for all LGBT persons, regardless of income level or relationship/marital status. Sure, HRC uses health care access as a benefit for married gay couples as something worth advocating for, but basic health care for all of us has not been integral to the HRC agenda up to now.

Will that change under Griffin? We'll know this week when the Supreme Court renders its decision on President Obama's health care program known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Wouldn't surprise if HRC says nothing about the decision.

Regardless of how SCOTUS rules, I'm not expecting HRC to all of a sudden have an opinion on the act and how it effects LGBT people. HRC was mute when the act was being drafted and working its torturous way through the U.S. Congress, and didn't lift a finger to fight for its passage.

If Griffin issues a statement after the ruling is made public and loudly speaks up for health care insurance and services for every LGBT individual, we'll know he has intentions of changing the core elitism of HRC. On the other hand, if he and HRC are silent about the SCOTUS ruling it will be a clear indication that HRC still sucks.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Blade: 
DC's HIV Rate Continues to Drop

Over at the Washington Blade's site reporter Michael Lavers writes that the District of Columbia's HIV infection rate is still falling, according to new statistics from the city's Department of Health. Lavers reports key positive findings of the latest epidemiology surveillance report for DC:

The report further indicates that the number of new AIDS cases in D.C. decreased 32 percent from 2006 to 2010, and the number of diagnoses among men who have sex with men fell by 25 percent over the same period. DOH noted that roughly 89 percent of the 4,879 people who tested positive for the virus between 2005 and 2009 were connected to HIV-specific care by the end of 2010. HIV-related deaths in D.C. also fell by almost 50 percent from 2006 to 2010. [...]

New HIV cases in D.C. decreased 24 percent among black Washingtonians between 2006 and 2010. Rates of new diagnoses among white D.C. residents dropped 36 percent over the same period.

There is much to be noted and celebrated in this info, and yes, the right word to use in the thirty-first year of the AIDS epidemic in America is celebrated because there are so many good and significant developments regarding control and prevention of HIV, along with an exceptionally high rate of infection persons receiving health care services.

I wanted the hard numbers behind the percentages and found them in the DOH report:

The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the District decreased slightly from 853 cases in 2009 to 835 cases in 2010, however there has been a 24% reduction from 1,103 cases in 2006. 

There have been no children born with HIV in DC since 2009. There was a 72% decrease in the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases attributable to injection drug use from 150 in 2007 – prior to the scale up of DC’s needle exchange program – to 42 in 2010. 

As if all these declines weren't enough fantastic developments, the DC DOH further reports that other sexually transmitted diseases are also continuing to fall. Excellent news all around, as the District of Columbia prepares to host the International AIDS Conference in July.

Kudos to the Blade for bringing the epidemiology to the community's attention, to the gay and bisexual men engaging in safer sexual behaviors, same goes for drug users, and applause for the policies of the local DOH and AIDS service organizations.
'Eminent Outlaws' Error:
Kramer Not Arrested at ACT UP's 1st Action

The pages practically turned themselves when I read Christopher Bram's delicious new book "Eminent Outlaws", which details the careers of many celebrated gay male writers in the post-World War II years. He tells us all about their writing habits, fights and fucks with each other, philosophies regarding gay liberation and the closet and I couldn't get enough of this literary history.

I was surprised to make a cameo appearance, in the section about Larry Kramer creating his landmark play "The Normal Heart" and the formation of ACT UP in the spring of 1987. There a few errors and an omission that need correcting.

Bram oddly doesn't name writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron as the speaker who canceled a chat at the New York City gay community center, which led to Larry speaking in her stead. Bram writes:

"Gay people needed to get more political. He praised the Lavender Hill Mob for what they had done in Atlanta. [Disrupting a CDC conference about mandatory HIV testing and demanding the federal government immediately make promising treatments available to people with AIDS].

"Michael Petrelis of Lavender Hill was in the audience that night. At the end of the speech he jumped up and proposed they do a public action in New York. Kramer agreed. [...]

"Their first action was a demonstration on Wall Street, a few blocks from the stock exchange. The Public Theater provided a dummy of the FDA director to hand in effigy. Traffic was blocked and seventeen people were arrested including Kramer, Petrelis, and a few GMHC [Gay Men's Health Crisis] board members."

My memory didn't recall Larry getting arrested at that breakthrough action, so I asked him if was one of the Wall Street 17 and he said no, he wasn't arrested that day.

The other error Bram makes is saying GMHC board members were arrested. While former GMHC executive director and Larry's ex-boyfriend Rodger McFarlane was arrested, no board members were.

(The New York Times' coverage of the first ACT UP action. The paper had to print a correction about who was hauled off by the NYPD. Those arrested were gay and straight, and at the time the paper adamantly wouldn't use the word gay when writing about same-sexers.)

Who was among the Wall Street 17? Here's a partial list I drew up with assistance from ACT UP's Bill Dobbs. If you know the other ten names, please share them with me:

1) Neil Broome 
2) Frank Dowd 
3) Prema Lee 
4) Rodger McFarlane
5) Michael Petrelis 
6) Charles Stimson 
7) David Tuller

When the Wall Street 17 appeared before a judge a few weeks later, where the charges of disorderly conduct were dismissed, the judge was the late Richard Failla. He was a trailblazing jurist and at the time we went before him he was on the board of directors of GMHC. How's that for interesting homo history trivia?

A final point about what Bram wrote. The Lavender Hill Mob, named after the brilliant Alex Guiness film comedy, was not known as the Lavender Hill for short. We were referred to as the Mob, and damn proud of it!

I hope Bram and his publisher make the necessary corrections in future editions of "Eminent Outlaws".

Friday, June 22, 2012

SUNY Silence on Socarides'
Higher Education Qualifications

It's a simple question, one that I expected the communications department at the State University of New York to answer with speed. What exactly are the higher education qualifications of Richard Socarides to give him a seat on the SUNY Board of Trustees?

After several emails and phones calls to the communications department since yesterday, I don't have an answer. The department promised to get back to me, without specifying when.

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Socarides to the state's public university's Board of Trustees and the release congratulating him and the other appointees does not list one higher education qualification for Socarides.

It says he's "a New York attorney who has held senior positions in the media and entertainment sector, and government and law, as a media relations and communications executive, presidential adviser at the White House, and partner in a New York City law firm." Nary a mention about public education.

Over at his Twitter account, Socarides has remained silent about the SUNY position.

I asked two longtime Big Apple gay advocates for comments about the appointment, and here's what they had to say. First up is Allen Roskoff, head of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club:

I'm not at all surprised that the Republican controlled New York State Senate approved Socarides' appointment, after all, except for the fact that he hasn't changed his party registration he is a Republican. Socarides has done a great deal of harm to the LGBT community by providing the talking points in favor of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act when working in the Clinton White House. He's bashed President Obama for not acting fast enough to undo the damage of DADT and DOMA, and this must not go unnoticed.

Also weighing in is Andy Humm, commentator for Gay USA:

The governor appoints people who will not rock the boat and who will toady to his center-right, starve-the-system position. No one rises up when any of these appointments are made by Cuomo. The last time anyone paid attention to the rightwing composition of these colleges boards was when they voted to deny Tony Kushner an honorary degree that Lehman College wanted to give him. That set off a firestorm of liberal indignation. But these same "liberals" could give two shits about all the other votes taken by the board which has been fucking the youth of color in the system for decades.

Why has Cuomo appointed Socarides, an ambitious political hack who's number one agenda item is always expanding his prestige and resume, to a position of great influence at SUNY when he lacks obvious qualifications? Both the governor and SUNY need to answer this question.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

'Nixon' Gets My Vote:
Magnificent SF Opera Production

My introduction to the John Adams opera "Nixon in China" was at a dress rehearsal at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1987. Before the rehearsal began, the director Peter Sellars from the orchestra addressed the small audience in the mezzanine. He asked for our indulgence with any glitches, and there were a few, and promised us a fantastic musical journey full of discovery and pleasure.

Twenty-five years later after Sellars more than delivered on his promises, I'm happy to say after seeing the new production last week at the San Francisco Opera that "Nixon in China" is still giving me deep pleasures.

The most enjoyable part of the production was hearing the captivating music performed with verve by the San Francisco Opera company's orchestra. It will be impossible for me to listen to the CD recording in the future without thinking how much better the score and lyrics sounded live at the War Memorial Opera House.

All of singers sounded wonderful belting out Alice Goodman's libretto, but two deserve special attention, Brian Mulligan as Richard Nixon and Hye Jung Lee as Madame Mao Tse-Tung. Mulligan's handling of the "News Has a Kind of Mystery" song was impressive, while Lee had me cheering after she brilliantly terrified and thrilled the audience delivering the "I Am the Wife of Chairman Mao" aria, pictured.

The production is magnificent and heightens the history and grandeur of every scene unfolding on the stage, but never overwhelms the lead singers or chorus and supers. I'm so full of awe and enjoyment from this "Nixon in China" that I hope to see once more before performances end.

My friend Todd Swindell saw the show with me and was equally bowled over by every aspect of the production. He too is a big fan of the opera and thought the highlight was Lee with her aria.

Click here for info on the four remaining performances this season and how to purchase tickets.

(Photos courtesy of SF Opera. Credit: Cory Weaver.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SF's Faerie Pride Poster:
'Not Every Boy Wants to be a Soldier'

For more years than I care to count, official Pride events from coast-to-coast have put gay soldiers on pedestals as they either willing exited the closet or were tossed from service by military brass. We've had a steady stream of instant heroes and heroines wearing uniforms and waving more-patriotic-than-thou rhetoric in the faces of queer peaceniks.

Did any of these military homos ever offer up criticism of U.S. wars, the Pentagon's budget and how it sucks trillions of dollars out of the federal cash register, money that could go toward affordable housing, education and health care services and so much more for millions of LGBT Americans who aren't in the armed forces? If they did, I missed their comments.

Generally, what I recall was a narrow focus exclusively on allowing gays to openly serve in the army. Period. End. Of. Story.

Now, with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta touting the military's first-ever Pride event and singing the praises of diversity and equality as America's greatest strengths, and an influx of open gay servicemembers at Pride parades with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I want to look back to 1993.

I first want to say that I'm not interested in Panetta using the buzzwords diversity and equality, because it's co-opting the community in effect and ignores the two recent U.S. wars that have led to such domestic devastation. Don't try and sell me gay military equality as key to the nation's agenda. Talk to me about cutting DoD's budget.

I fear the day when we see the first DoD poster include a rainbow flag, or on a drone or missile. Sure, laugh at such an image of rainbow flags on U.S. bombs, just as we all once chuckled about the homo military ban ever being lifted.

Back in the spring of 1993 and the few months of Bill Clinton's White House tenure, there was a gay March on Washington and one of the central items on the gay agenda was the military ban on homosexuals.

Amid all the patriotic chest-beating by Gay Inc a beautiful counter-message was seen on the streets of the capitol, with no group name or credits attached to the project. It was the poster at top, of the bearded man in a pink gown behaving like a queen and holding a sign saying "Not every boy wants to be a soldier". A timely message for today.

Tonight I took the photo of the poster that hangs at the Faerie Village on Market Street in the Castro District, when I stopped by to see the Radical Faeries temporary home during Pride Week. I heard a rumor that the poster may make an appearance during the Pride parade on Sunday.

We can only hope it happens.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Schmatta Sisters Baker & Jones
to Perform Mutual Analingus Tonight

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

The winner of the SF Pride committee's newly-created Gilbert Baker Pride Founders Award, none other than Gilbert Baker, will be chatting tonight at the GLBT Historical Society's museum on 18th Street in the Castro.

He will be interviewed by Cleve "The Widow Milk" Jones, creator of the AIDS quilt, in what I predict will be mutual analingus galore.

What's the subject up for discussion, other than the enormous egos of the Schmatta Sisters? The birth of the rainbow flag in San Francisco during the tumultuous year 1978.

Before Baker was against equal grassroots community access to the iconic rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, or flying any other flag from the large pole, he was all in favor of using the flagpole for political purposes. In July 2003, Baker was happy to fly the American flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, in place of his creation.

Last October, Baker opposed other activists being able to use the pole and flag in a letter to the Bay Area Reporter:

This was never a community flagpole; it is there for one reason, to fly the rainbow flag. [...] One day it's Elizabeth Taylor the next day it's Ruth Brinker, perfectly nice heroes, but the flag should not be lowered for them or anyone else. It is a beacon of hope and symbol of liberation that should always be flown full staff 24/7, 365.

The rainbow flag should always be flown, unless the Gilbert Baker Pride Founders Award winner decides otherwise. Jones also opposes shared grassroots control and responsibility of the flag and pole, which are public property and stand on city real estate. 

So much for the Schmatta Sisters having a clue about democratic engagement or standing up for keeping public space in the domain of the LGBT public, and not controlled only by the Merchants of Upper Market Castro.

Monday, June 18, 2012

SF Global LGBT Pride Video
Canceled Due to Medical Concern

With a large degree of disappointment, Gays Without Borders has canceled our San Francisco Global LGBT Pride Video project and the taping that was scheduled for June 21. We received endorsements from various foreign gay groups, the enthusiastic support of local folks to show up for the taping and raised money to fund the project, which will be returned to donors.

Last week, I had very positive results from my pulmonary tests and over all felt quite good, until a painful problem developed on my tush. Between the powerful painkillers and the procedure to remove the growth, I don't possess the physical stamina or mental clarity to carryout the video project.

Apologies for this untimely medical concern that needs addressing this week, but best wishes to everyone for a fabulous Pride Week in San Francisco!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pro Death Penalty 
Drag Queen Sarria Honored by SF Govt

(Supervisors David Campos, Scott Wiener, Christina Olague and Jose Sarria left to right, in more ways than one. Credit: Campos' Facebook page.)

California voters in November will cast ballots on SAFE, the Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement Act which would end the death penalty in the state replacing it with life in prison without parole for the hundreds of people on death row. As a gay man opposed to state-sanctioned executions, I'll be voting yes on that ballot proposition.

The campaign manager for the prop is out bisexual Natasha Minsker, who is the ACLU's Northern California anti death penalty project director. Check out her fabulous Twitter feed for the latest info about SAFE. I worked with her last year when the IDAHO coordinating committee issued a formal statement as global LGBT leaders, opposing the death penalty, in part, because of how it's been used against gay people.

I won't be counting longtime gay rights advocate and drag queen Jose Sarria among the champions of SAFE, because he proudly and actively favors capital punishment. In 2009, I blogged about Sarria sitting on a jury and his pivotal role that convicted Clifford Bolden of murdering a gay man, Michael Pederson, in the Castro District in 1986, sending him to death row.

Sarria reconfirmed his staunch hunger to see Bolden executed in a chat with the SF Examiner last July, regarding Bolden's latest appeal based on whether Sarria knew the victim and tainted the jury's deliberations:

In a phone interview from his Palm Springs home, the 88-year-old Sarria expressed shock at the idea [the prisoner] is legally able to appeal again. “Think of the money they’ve spent keeping him alive,” Sarria said. “That’s not justice. The death penalty was my charge because of what was presented. There was no doubt in my mind that he committed the crime and that he should pay for it.”

As for banning the death penalty, Sarria said the system should be reformed, not dumped.“You should have one appeal and that’s it. He has had appeal after appeal after appeal,” Sarria said. “It was a waste of my time to sit on that jury.”

Sarria's one-appeal-and-if-they-lose-hang-'em thinking is in sync with rabid conservatives and is the central reason why I have so little respect for him today. Sure, this gay icon decades ago courageously stepped forward during hostile times to demand tolerance and respect toward the gays, but his decades of pushing to see a man executed is deplorable.

And none of this nasty death penalty advocacy by Sarria came up last month when he was honored unanimously by the Board of Supervisors who designated a day for him, and feted by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and received their Harry Britt Lifetime Achievement Award, according to a story by Matthew Bajko in the Bay Area Reporter.

It troubles me that this LGBT icon's comments to the SF Examiner drip with vengeance and lust for death. Sarria's commitment to social justice excludes opposing executions, which is a damn shame.

Friday, June 15, 2012

LA Weekly:
EQCA Still Looking for an ED

Down at the Los Angeles Weekly, reporter Patrick Range McDonald continues to keep a watchful eye on Equality California and its troubles. You may recall he wrote an excellent critical look at the group back in 2011, "Mission Drift at Gay Inc", about the myriad problems at EQCA and how some critics believe the group is too interested in empire building.

Today in a blog post, McDonald used my Wednesday post about EQCA being without an executive director for eight-months, and that very few LGBT Californians have noticed this lack of an official statewide leader, as a reason to get an update from the group. The spokeswoman for the organization does her usual lame job of spinning a rosy "everything's fine, move along" picture.

If you know of a single setback or problem for our statewide community without an ED at this group, please let me know. From the LA Weekly:
San Francisco blogger Michael Petrelis recently reminded us that Equality California, one of the state's largest gay rights groups, is still looking for a full-time executive director.
"In the eight-months since [former executive director Roland] Palencia left EQCA," Petrelis opines, "no harm has come to the California LGBT community, and the group has basically been in simple survival mode, not doing much more than keeping the lights on."

Ouch! His criticism may not be totally fair, but eight months is certainly a long time for such a major organization to go without a leader. So we called up EQCA to find out what was happening.

Equality California communications director Rebekah Orr says the board actually hired an interim executive director, Laurie Hasencamp, in late February, and a search for a full-time executive director has been underway for the past six or eight weeks. [...]

Orr says the eight months has been used by the board as a time to "reevaluate" the organization. [...]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

ArciGay, Chilean Embassy Create Plaque
in Rome for Youth Martyr Daniel Zamudio

In late March, Chilean gay youth Daniel Zamudio was brutally and fatally assaulted, including branding with a swastika by neo-Nazis, and despite extensive medical care died from the attack. Around the globe, LGBT people and our allies mourned the tragic loss of this young man.

This week, my friend Stefano Bolognini who is the spokesman for Italy's ArciGay group sent a report and photos from Rome about the plaque they created in memory of Zamudio. The plaque is now permanently on display on at the ArciGay offices on Via San Giovanni. Here is an explanation of this public remembrance:

The plaque reads, in Italian and Spanish, "In memory of Daniel Zamudio Mauricio Vera (3.VIII.1987 - 27.III.2012), tortured and killed in Santiago de Chile because of his sexual orientation" and shows the logos of ArciGay, Agedo, which is the association of parents of gays, and the Embassy of Chile in Italy. 

The plaque initiative is intended as a reminder of the collective memory of the barbarities of homophobia and transphobia and a warning to Italian institutions on the urgency of practical responses to violence and discrimination of homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals. 

Among the honored guests speaking at the unveiling ceremony were Daniel's father Ivan Zamudio, the Chilean ambassador to Italy Francisco Javier Godoy Arcaya Oscar, the president of ArciGay Paolo Patane, the president of Ageda Rita de Santis, and several Italian politicians.

What else has Italy to remember Zamudio? During Bologna's Pride march last weekend, there was a contingent of LGBT Italians who marched with a banner featuring Zamudio smiling face. Nice to know that months after his senseless death, Zamudio is honored in several ways half way around the world from Chile.

Bravo to the Italian LGBT community and allies for their visibility and solidarity respecting the life and legacy of Daniel Zamudio.
SF's Mack Folsom Prison 
Sex Club Closes . . . Temporarily?

(Pedestrians walk past the former location of a Folsom Street sex club for adult males on Wednesday afternoon. Credit: Petrelis Files.)

An acquaintance stopped me while shopping at the Castro farmer's market yesterday afternoon, to tell me the Mack Folsom Prison sex club in the South of Market district closed last month.

If a queer men's sex club in San Francisco shutters, shouldn't this be news? I'm not aware of any gay or straight media or blogger attention to the loss of this venue. Surely the patrons of Mack Prison would raise a peep, right?

The web site for the club reports that a co-owner passed away in March, the landlord terminated the lease and their last day of operations at that location was on May 6. The message says the club will reopen in a new location, and I hope they do for all the horned dudes who frequented the place for sexual liaisons and pleasures.

My acquaintance claimed the sister of the deceased co-owner wanted half of the income from the club, and that the surviving co-owner balked at her demand, decided to cease doing business at 1285 Folsom Street with the old name. Rumor has it the co-owner wants to open under a new name. We'll see if that happens.

Even though I was not a patron of Mack Folsom Prison, I'm sorry to see it stop providing a service to sexually active gay and bisexual men. Let's remember that not every horny homo is happy with cruising the web for sex partner and that bricks-and-mortar (with prison bars and bunk beds and slings) sex venues are still part of gay culture.

I'm also wary of promises to reopen in a different spot, because the same commitment came from the owners of the Eagle Tavern and Bar last year when it faced landlord hassles. As we all know, the Eagle owners have yet to keep that commitment they made to the community.

There are now only two gay sex clubs in San Francisco, Blow Buddies and Eros. Here's the message from Mack Folsom Prison site:

Gay Ugandans Endorse June 21
SF Global LGBT Pride Video Project

I received an email early this morning from Julian Pepe Onziema, a leader with the Sexual Minorities Uganda group. He informed me that they have endorsed the San Francisco Global LGBT Pride Video project, which will happen on Thursday, June 21 at 4 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza.

More info about the project is here and to donate money to help Gays Without Border create the video, click here.

We welcome more groups endorsing the video project, and sending us their logos and short statements of support. We also plan to print the logos of many foreign LGBT groups as colorful posters, and will use the logos from their web sites. 

Thank you, brave LGBTI people of Uganda for your incredibly courage and advocacy fighting for dignity and respect!

Here's the text of the message that will be read in San Francisco's Milk Plaza on June 21:

Sexual Minorities Uganda [SMUG]: We've existed since 2004, advocating for the liberation of sexual and gender minorities by fighting discriminatory laws like the pending Anti Homosexuality Bill - 2009. SMUG stands in solidarity with all LGBTI persons and groups in San Francisco and globally. Loud Love and Pride from Kampala, Uganda.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

'Milk's' Dustin Black Donates 
to SF Global LGBT Pride Video

(The Oscar-winner for the "Milk" screenplay with yours truly. Credit: Danny Nicoletta.)

On Sunday morning, I schlepped up to the Human Rights Campaign store on Castro Street to schmooze with the new executive director Chad Griffin and before I could do that, his good buddy Dustin Lance Black approached me with a smile and a hug.

Dustin was the first person that day, and certainly not the last, to suggest in a friendly manner, that I wait until Chad officially starts his new job before getting all demanding and lodging complaints. (Pushy me, wait to kvetch? Not in my gay DNA!)

I told Dustin about the San Francisco Global LGBT Pride Video in the works with Gays Without Borders, and asked him to contribute to the project. After reviewing the proposal, he agreed to chip in some money and today he gave $100, along with this quote: I am a big supporter of taking our movement's ideals international. Thank you for doing it.

The SF Global LGBT Pride Video, which will be taped on Thursday, June 21 at Harvey Milk Plaza starting at 4 p.m., is now only using RocketHub as our crowd funding mechanism.If you're in town on that date, come join the taping.

Please follow Dustin's great example and contribute some bucks - small or large - to the video project via our RocketHub page. All contributions are much appreciated.
RocketHub Launch for
SF Global LGBT Video Project

At Gays Without Borders, we're on a learning curve about using crowd funding sites to assist us in making the San Francisco Global LGBT Pride Video project a reality. Ken Hodnett, Michael Merrigan and I are getting a valuable lesson in crowd funding.

Click here for details on the video effort.

In a previous post, I pushed our proposal at Kickstarter which has an all-or-nothing funding mechanism. If you reach your monetary goal, the funds are released but if you miss it then the pledges are returned to donors.

Not so with RocketHub and their crowd funding rules. They are more flexible and released all pledges regardless of whether you meet your funding goal. For this reason, we've posted our proposal at RocketHub and you can read it, and donate to the project, here.

We've received a $25 donation via our RocketHub page and hope it's the beginning of more contributions - small and large. Our Kickstarter proposal has been canceled and we're now only using RocketHub to help underwrite the video.
8-Months No ED at EQCA;
No Harm to the LGBT People

My, how time has flown by since the last executive director of Equality California resigned and whose final day heading the group was October 14.

Wanna bet the majority of lesbians and gays and queers and bisexuals and transgenders in the Golden State can't recall the ED's name or know the group has been leaderless for eight-months?

Roland Palencia barely had time to redecorate the ED's office before departing. He lasted about three-months at EQCA before fading back into the woodwork in Los Angeles.

That's shorter than the very limited tenure of Torie Osborn in 1993 serving as ED at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Writer Karen Ocamb thought it was a six-month stint, but Osborn claims it was for ten-months.

In the eight-months since Palencia left EQCA no harm has come to the California LGBT community and the group has basically been in simple survival mode, not doing much more than keeping the lights on.

Another day without an ED at EQCA and the group teetering on total irrelevancy, is a good day for our community.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Goddess Divine Inspires Video 
Promoting Kick-Ass Queer Non-Conformity

One Saturday afternoon, before I graduated from high school in 1977 in New Jersey, I was in the East Village of Manhattan and came upon the theater where Goddess Divine was performing in Tom Eyen's camp play "Women Behind Bars".

I went into the lobby and asked the manager if I could say hello to Divine, and soon found myself inside the theater's orchestra section with Divine out of drag on the stage towering over me. She couldn't have been more friendly to this fan, who paid her a few compliments and got her to autograph a program.

That's my Divine tale, small and short as it is, and wish I knew what happened to that damn precious showbill!

Being an alt dresser and out gay in my teens, I knew what it was like to be bullied and picked on for a number of reasons. Hungry for role models, even though I didn't know that term then, Divine, who I read had lots of trouble from contemporaries in school, gave me hope to stay being different and accept myself.

If there was room in this world for Goddess Divine, then the universe had extra space for me too.

Yesterday, Noah Brodie of the I Am Divine Foundation alerted me to a public service announcement educating folks about what Divine faced growing up in suburban America, and her fabulousness all these years after leaving this mortal world. Here's a little payback to Goddess Divine and the spark of hope she gave this queer boy many moons ago. Bravo to the foundation for their cool definition of what spells divinity:

Divine was born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore, Maryland on October 19, 1945. At the age of 12, Divine's family moved to Lutherville, a suburb of Baltimore. It was during this time he became friends with director John Waters. Before becoming the star of Waters' films, Divine was a shy young man who was bullied in school. He attended middle and high school in neighboring Towson. Classmates and faculty relentlessly bullied Divine. Being effeminate and overweight made him an easy target. "My heart bleeds for you" one of his teachers sneered at him when he asked them for help. The bullying got so bad that Divine's parents had to have a police escort arranged to and from school, as they feared for his personal safety. [...]

I Am Divine Foundation helps to broaden people's view of what is considered "normal" in society. DIVINE RULES!

D - DIVERSITY Fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, straight, gay. Nobody EVER looks bad if they feel good about themselves! 

I - IDENTITY Express the beauty inside of you, or get lost! Sometimes the in-crowd is NOT where you want to be. 

V - VALOR Don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe. Kick ass politically, not physically. 

I - INSPIRATION Inspire yourself and others. Be your own filth god or goddess and be proud! 

N - NONCONFORMITY Create your own path. High school is NOT the end of the world. 

E - EVOLVE Educate yourself. Get smart and reject ignorance. There’s nothing cool about being stupid!

'Blow, Blow, Blow':
Pulmonary Tests or Sex Club?

After my bout with pneumonia in April that put me in Davies Hospital for three-days, and completing a long regimen of antibiotics and inhalants, the time has arrived for follow up tests.

I now have a pulmonologist among my stable of specialists, Dr. Frank Delen, to advise me. My first consultation with him lasted just over an hour, because he was so thorough in getting my medical history. During the exam, he took notes on a laptop while I used a paper pad, and he was pleased I showed up with questions for him written down.

Last week, I went through a two-hour battery of pulmonary tests with a friendly youngish technician named Nicole. For the tests measuring my lung volume, she had me sitting in a metal and glass booth with a plastic mouthpiece in-between my lips, moist with lip balm. After making me pant heavily, she instructed me to exhale as hard as possible repeatedly urging, "Blow! Blow! Blow!"

The second time Nichole gave me those instructions, I cracked wised about how there commonalities between the pulmonary clinic and the Blow Buddies sex club. She confessed that as a straight girl, she didn't know about such places and would take my word for it. We got along fine with lots of laughs, which eased my usual nervousness having any medical tests performed.

The photo shows me during oxygen diagnostics, wearing the same kind of rubber medical mask I used during my hospitalization when the nurses had to administer a mega-dose of albuterol. In the hospital, the mask had the vial of albuterol attached at the bottom, not a plastic pouch as in the picture.

Today I head back to the Davies campus for lung X-rays and a blood draw. Nice to feed two birds with one seed. Next week is when I consult with my pulmonologist and regular medical doctor at Castro Mission Health Center, Fred Strauss.

Please, dear Lord, let me have test results as good and as fabulous as I feel on this beautiful San Francisco day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

S.F. Global LGBT Pride Video;
Endorsers & Funds Needed

Gays Without Borders wants to bring visibility to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups and people from across the planet, from San Francisco on June 21 by displaying logos from dozens of groups, printed up as signs to be held up by activists in Harvey Milk Plaza - and filmed for a fabulous solidarity video.

We need your financial assistance to turn the San Francisco Global LGBT Pride Video 2012 idea into reality with $500 budget. Contributions be made at our RocketHub page.

On Thursday, June 21 starting at 4 p.m., we'll assemble friends and allies at Harvey Milk Plaza, for a rally about global LGBT Pride and everyone will be holding posters featuring logos of LGBT organizations from beyond America's borders, and a crew will tape it all. The photo of my husbear and I in the video above illustrates what we'll do with the logos during the taping.

Let's expand this list of supporters. So far we have secured the endorsements of and logos from these terrific organizations, representative of a geographically diverse coalition:

Albania: Pink Embassy
Australia: Rainbow Labor and the Gay & Lesbian Equality of Western Australia  
Burma: Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
France: Comite IDAHO France
Greece: Athens Pride
Haiti: Kouraj
Kenya: Identity Kenya and the Gay & Lesbian Coalition of Kenya
Poland: Equality Parade Committee of Warsaw
Thailand: Lesla and the Bangkok Rainbow Organization
United Kingdom: OutRage!

As more groups from other countries climb on board, we'll share the details in updates. The key team members are longtime gay, HIV/AIDS and human rights advocates Ken Hodnett, Michael Merrigan and myself, who shot and edited this terrific nine-minute video of our IDAHO action in May at United Nations Plaza:

If you like this video, imagine how beautiful and empowering our new video will be with your donation. Now is the time to contribute and play a role supporting the SF Global LGBT Pride Video. Our goal is to raise $500.

Please don't delay making a donation via our RocketHub proposal page. Contributions small and large are greatly appreciated.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

HRC: No Trans, Youth or 
POC S.F. Speakers & No Regional Meetings

There may be a new executive director at the Human Rights Campaign, but there's no evidence I can see indicating a change in the group's inadequate democratic engagement with the LGBT community beyond their donors and supporters. Here's an indication of how regime stability and continuation is the HRC agenda.

At tomorrow's 10 a.m. homage to Harvey Milk at his old camera store on Castro Street, the following gay and straight white men over thirty will be the only official speakers according to HRC's release: Chad Griffin; Cleve Jones; Dustin Lance Black; Danny Niccoletta; Frank Robinson; Alan Baird; and Wayne Friday.

Not a single gay youth, trans person or person of color among them. Do we really need to hear Jones for the 2,304,569th time speak about Milk? And why such a focus on Milk? No disrespect to the man and his legacy, but it should be a given that Griffin reveres Milk and need not put on a photo-op to prove it.

HRC's coronation tour for its new president, and de facto Official National Gay Leader, clearly is not about engaging beyond HRC's friends nor are their substantive events planned for community dialogue. All photo-ops, glad-handing and receptions that say change is not coming to HRC.

Over at the Bay Area Reporter blog, Seth Hemmelgarn writes about his conversation with HRC pit bull and ward boss Fred Sainz regarding my complaints about their extremely limited promotion of Sunday morning's photo ops in the Castro and any chance Griffin will soon hold town halls:

[Sainz] also said the group won’t be holding regional forums. Sainz said that it’s typical for news releases to be sent out shortly before events. Invitations to the gatherings “went out a long, long time ago,” he said. The event at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy “is in essence a public forum,” Sainz said. He added that Griffin wanted to come to San Francisco immediately “because that’s how important Harvey Milk’s legacy is to him.”

Would have been great if Griffin could have a larger agenda in San Francisco, beyond giving respect to Milk and taken the time to speak at a more convenient time and day about what he will do about affordable housing and healthcare for LGBT folks regardless of marital status.

Friday, June 08, 2012

HRC Forced to Open Griffin's 
2 SF Events on Sunday Morning

Yesterday I blogged about an anonymous tip I received stating the new head of HRC was coming to San Francisco and that he had no plans to hold open events. I said this sounded like the same old, same old elitist nonsense we got for seven years under Joe Solmonese.

Today Seth Hemmelgarn asked me to opine about a release from HRC, all of a sudden on a late Friday afternoon, the time when bad news or something you don't want to garner much attention, announcing there will be two events with Chad Griffin on Sunday. Seems pretty reactive to me, and while I may feel good about playing a role in bringing this small bit of transparency to bear on Griffin and HRC, I'm not hopeful that he has a genuine understanding of democratic engagement, that is willing entered into.

Let me spank HRC for waiting this late in the game to share the info on the Sunday events, because they're not giving folks nearly enough time to attend, and also the events are no substitute for town hall meetings. I look forward to speaking with Griffin on Sunday.

Here's part of HRC's release:

Chad Griffin, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization – will kick off his tenure with a visit to the HRC Action Center & Store at the site of the historic Castro Camera on Sunday, June 10, 2012 before heading to the Harvey Milk Academy for a community gathering. [...]

The visit and community gathering will raise awareness of issues facing LGBT youth in California and across the country. HRC recently released a new groundbreaking study of LGBT youth and their straight counterparts. 

Visit to HRC Action Center & Store at site of historic Castro Camera Sunday, June 10, 10:00 a.m. HRC Action Center & Store, 575 Castro Street, San Francisco [...] Camera Community Gathering at Harvey Milk Academy Sunday, June 10, 10:15 a.m. Harvey Milk Academy, 4235 19th Street, San Francisco.
PFA Screens Two Greenaway Films;
SF Film Society & 'The Wages of Fear'

The film choices around the Bay Area in the next week include two films by British director and provocateur Peter Greenaway at the Pacific Film Archive on the UC Berkeley campus. From the program notes:

In 2006, he undertook to extend his dialogue between the language of cinema and that of painting through an ambitious project of video installations entitled [...] Greenaway first turned his attention to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642), and, in addition to a video installation, created two films exploring the Dutch master’s most famous painting. You’ll want to take note of Greenaway’s speculative art history lessons. He elucidates the puzzles and mysteries embedded in the painting and its enigmatic iconography with wit and intelligence.

The PFA is showing "Rembrandt's J'Accuse" tonight at 7 p.m. and "Nightwatching" on Saturday at 6 p.m. Having seen a number of his other films and enjoyed them immensely for their visual lushness, and assorted provocations, I'm looking forward to catching these works that are new to me. Regardless of their narratives, they won't be boring and will contain many incredibly composed scenes pleasing to the eye.

When the PFA showed Greenaway's most popular and accessible film "The Draughtsman's Contract" about two-years ago, the screening almost sold-out, so expect a full house at both screenings this weekend. Click here for more info, including how to buy tickets.

Here in the city, the San Francisco Film Society Cinema begins a one-week engagement of the restored print of the 1953 French classic "The Wages of Fear", written and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot that is a fantastic thriller in glorious black and white.

Four male ex-pat adventurers in South American sign on for a well-paying suicide mission, to drive a cargo of nitroglycerine across treacherous roads to douse an oil well explosion. Distrust, greed and lust rear their ugly heads in the course of the adventure and Clouzot keeps the action moving smoothly forward toward a satisfying climax.

I've seen it only once, back in the day at New York's old Thalia Theatre, and the print was decent enough, and the two things I remember the most are the expert editing and the performance by the director's wife Vera Clouzot, playing a local waitress. The restored print showings should not be missed, especially if you've never seen "The Wages of Fear".

You can see it starting today through June 14. Click here for screening times and ticket info.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

HRC's Chad Griffin Visits SF &
No Public Events on his Schedule?
(HRC's new executive director Chad Griffin, receives kisses from Prop 8 lawsuit plaintiffs Sandi Stier and Kris Perry. Photo snapped by Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV, at Griffin's going away party earlier this week.)

This anonymous note hit my in-box today:
I am just am an anonymous friend who would like you to know, if you do not, that Chad Griffin, the new head of the HRC will be in town this weekend and meeting with others on Sunday.  I had pushed for your inclusion as I think it is important for him to have your point of view, but it seems those around him want to keep him locked off and not even tell the press.  Disappointing.  From what I know of the man he would definitely want to hear what you have to say.

Not sure how much stock to put in this note. For what it's worth, HRC's page for California lists no public events with Griffin and the Bay Area Reporter shares nothing about him coming to town this weekend. I believe the note was generated in response to my remarks to the Washington Blade's White House reporter Chris Johnson today about Griffin taking the helm at the Human Rights Campaign:
Michael Petrelis, a gay San Francisco-based blogger who has criticized HRC, was skeptical of any change and remained critical of HRC, calling the organization “an elitist social network known more for opening LGBT checkbooks for Democrats” than being interested in engaging with the larger LGBT community.
Among the goals that Petrelis called on Griffin to pursue at HRC were his plan for regional town halls, transparency over board of directors meetings and decisions, greater engagement with grassroots activists and ordinary LGBT people as well as a “commitment to members of the community who don’t want to get married or join the military.”
“The DNA of HRC is not wired to allow one man to change the institutional culture and I’ve heard nothing from Chad indicating that he wants to reform the organization,” Petrelis said. “All I expect of HRC regardless of who the executive leadership team comprises, is fealty to the Democratic Party and a commitment to keep the community from getting too pushy and uppity in demanding fierce advocacy and lasting change from our friends.”
My interactions with Griffin every time we saw each other in San Francisco, and via email, have always been friendly and respectful, however, I do have to recognize a serious fault in how he engages with the community. I'm not aware of him holding open community forums about the Prop 8 lawsuit and larger accountability concerns during his tenure as leader of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. 
If I'm wrong and he's held such forums, please let me know where and when they occurred, and I'll be happy to run a correction. And if he has, then let's hear how he plans to continue democratic grassroots with LGBT folks who don't attend HRC galas.
Los Angeles reporter Karen Ocamb shared photos this week of a cocktail reception held at director Rob Reiner's Hollywood home, to wish Griffin bon voyage and ain't no use in squawking about the new HRC head marking a new chapter in his life with friends at a private home.
But that shouldn't be the only sort of engagement for Griffin at this stage of the HRC regime change playing out as Joe Solmonese officially moves over to the Obama campaign, and Griffin takes the reigns. 
If all we're going to get from Griffin in terms of community outreach as he exits California for Washington are invitation-only parties or coming to San Francisco during Pride Month and not holding a free public event, it could signal a continuation of the same old, same old from HRC.

[Apologies for the uneven fonts and sizing, but Blogger been acting up on me tonight.]