Friday, May 31, 2013

20th Anniversary: Conviction in Gay Sailor Schindler's Murder 

It was twenty-years ago this week, on May 27, that Terry Helvey was convicted for the murder of fellow U.S. sailor Allen Schindler, pictured, by a military court in Japan. Schindler was brutally murdered by Helvey and the accomplice Charles Vins, who received a sweetheart deal from Navy prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Helvey, who was sentenced to life in a military prison.

In 1992, Schindler came to terms with being gay and in the armed forces when open homosexuals were barred from service, and he went public on his ship the USS Belleau Wood about his same-sex orientation. Helvey had a hatred for Schindler and harassed on the ship and in the Sasebo, Japan, port where they were stationed.

Schindler's pleas for help from the captain of the ship, Douglas J. Bradt, were ignored and he was never held to account for failing to rein in Helvey's loathing and bullying of Schindler.

That bullying eventually led Helvey to stomp Schindler to death in October 1992 in a public restroom in Sasebo.

The Vins sweetheart deal and the case up to that point had been covered up by the Navy, and the story eventually became news when U.S. Stars and Stripes reporter Rick Rogers broke the story.

I advocated for justice on behalf of Schindler, a young gay man who had his whole life ahead of him, and traveled to Japan twice thanks to the support and generosity of many friends and strangers. All of the folks who demanded justice, including Schindler's mother Dorothy Hadjys, banded together to go up against the Department of Defense and made sure that Schindler would rest in peace.

Sometimes, I think that had he not been senselessly murdered Schindler would have received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy as he wanted and become an activist. The courage he showed in coming out in such a hostile military environment leads me to think of his potential to be an activist was cut short.

Allen Schindler is remembered for being a hero and martyr, and good kid.
NJ Bill Would Allow Ill 2-Year-Old Access to Medical Pot

(Credit: John O'Boyle, The Star Ledger.)

I was checking out the news today from the Jersey Shore, where I spent my summers as a kid, in the Newark Star Ledger and came across a series of stories about the parents of an ill young girl named Vivian Wilson, pictured, who could benefit from medical marijuana in a number of ways.

Reporter Susan K. Livio writes about the many hurdles Vivian parents have had to jump over to gain access to medical marijuana in the Garden State:

“The state says the (medical marijuana) program is active, but it’s really not,” [mother Meghan Wilson] said, noting only about 130 of 900 registered patients have been called in to buy marijuana from the one operating dispensary because supply is scarce.

“When someone with cancer can’t even get what the state has said they need, then Vivian is probably five years away from getting what she needs.” [...]

The law requires three physicians — a pediatrician, a prescribing physician and a psychiatrist — to recommend a child for the program. The Wilsons are still looking for a psychiatrist.

The Star Ledger further notes that the state's chief executive opposes helping the Wilson aid their ill youngster:

New Jersey's medical marijuana law states the program is open to minors, but Gov. Chris Christie said today he is "not inclined to allow" children to participate [...] "But I will tell you — I've said this all along and I'll say it again — I want New Jersey to be a compassionate state" [said Christie who went on the say] "But I am not going to allow New Jersey to become a California or a Colorado where someone can fake a headache and get a bag of pot on every corner."

Methinks the governor is overreacting and projecting a lot of unfounded fears that are very unlikely to happen if he finds some compassion for Vivian in his heart. Luckily, a brave state senator is coming to the aid of the Wilson and families with seriously ill kids who could benefit from medical marijuana with fewer restrictions on its use, according to this story from yesterday:

A Union County senator introduced a bill today that would make it easier for sick children who qualify for New Jersey's medical marijuana program to use it.

The bill was inspired by the plight of 2-year-old Vivian Wilson of Scotch Plains, who is diagnosed with a rare and potentially deadly form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. Because traditional medications have been unable to control her seizures, her parents, Meghan and Brian Wilson, signed her up for the program. They say they have been encouraged by reports of Colorado children diagnosed with Dravet who have ingested the drug made from a strain that is high in the active ingredient cannabidiol, but low in the psychoactive components that make a person feel high.
“It was never our intent for the state’s medical marijuana program to be so restrictive that a child who is suffering and in desperate need of relief from a debilitating condition could not get access to care,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who sponsored the original medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. 

Thank you, Sen. Scutari, for your political advocacy that may soon do much good for Vivian and other ill young children in my home state. And may Gov. Christie put smart medical policy above needless fear-mongering about drugs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Packed S.F. Gay Suicide Forum Had Sound Problems

Tonight's very well-attended town hall on suicide in the gay community was held on the second floor in a small warehouse South of Market, in a large room that is a sexual play space that I had no idea existed. It seemed quite well-suited for kink sex scenes, but from where I was sitting in the back on the right side it was very difficult to hear all that was being said.

Part of the sound problem was the whir of a ventilation system and there was no mike for either the panelists or the audience to use.

The moderator Tim Vollmer stood and facilitated with enough projection to be heard. All panelists remained seated when they made their introductory remarks but only one fully projected, Veronika Fimbres, and most of what Race Bannon said could be clearly heard. Veronika was great in asking all members of the audience who wanted to speak to stand up. Vollmet asked folks to also introduce themselves.

(From the left: Veronika, Jorge Vieto, Michael Brandon, Race Bannon and Blue Buddha.)

I made comments about needing ad campaigns congratulating me and all gay men and gays with AIDS of a certain age, for surviving the darkest days of the plague years. Vollmer interrupted me and said they were only taking comments about personal experiences at that point, so I ended my remarks and went back to my seat.

Were ground rules or a firm agenda laid out at the start? If so, it would have been nice for that to be explained for latecomers like me. Maybe post that info on a large post-it on a wall for all to see?

Feeling like it was enough to have said my piece, and seeing a few approving looks from men in the audience, I took my leave.

Seth Hemmelgarn of the Bay Area Reporter was there, so I'll find out what was said from the paper's coverage next week. 

(The note-taker next to the big post-its.)

On my way home, peddling past the newly opened Eagle bar, I saw my friend John Silverman on the street so we chatted for a bit. He's worried about the fiscal and academic woes of his employer, City College of San Francisco. Things are not looking good for school's employees (or students), and John is fearful of his shaky job situation and potentially losing his currently affordable housing.

Being a big bear friend, he wrapped his arms and paws around me and gave me several hugs before encouraging me keep putting my idea out there for a social marketing campaign that says a few positive things about gay men over fifty.

If there's a follow up forum about suicide among gays, maybe the organizers will make sure everyone can hear the panelists and audience members and that the agenda is clear to all, even folks who arrive late.

Do Stigmatizing HIV Ads Contribute to Gay Suicides?

A forum about suicide in the gay community takes places tonight, Wednesday, May 29 starting at 7:30 pm in the meeting room located at 385-A 8th Street near Harrison next door to the Mr S Leather store in San Francisco. Titled "When the Rainbow Flag Isn't Enough", the forum promises a lively discussion with a panel of diverse activists. It's sponsored by the SF Gay Men's Community Initiative.

(SF DPH ad equating men with syphilis as walking, ticking time-bombs.)

One factor I hope is on the agenda is the damaging impact of the stigmatizing, fear-driven and distrust-sowing social marketing campaigns that have targeted gay men for the past 15 or so years. I have long criticized the needlessly provocative and offensive ads, largely because they are all based on the assumption that gays are selfish, uncaring and sexually reckless.

There has not been a single social marketing effort congratulating HIV positive and negative gay men of a certain age for having survived the worst years of the AIDS plague, and for creating countless methods of prevention, caring for ourselves and our brothers, and a few service agencies.

(An ad from the Philadelphia health department.)

We've be subjected to numerous ads flooding our media, public bus shelters, web sites and sexual gathering spaces with one message: there's something wrong with gays. Or gun imagery used to make a point to start a dialogue about health and wellness.

Ever seen a campaign lauding gay men for practicing safe sex, regular STD testing or driving HIV numbers down? If you have, share it with me please.

As if the stigma of the ads weren't enough, we've had an endless parade of AIDS Inc executives and San Francisco Department of Public Health officials manipulating data and stats supposedly showing gays don't give a damn about our wellness or each other.

(SF AIDS Foundation ad where the point was to make gays distrust their sexual partners.)
We've endured public health authorities bemoaning fewer AIDS deaths thanks to protease inhibitor cocktails, because a reduction of funerals makes HIV prevention harder without the fear factor. At times, it's seemed like the authorities wanted more gay men to die.

There's also the matter of the gay bathhouse ban in San Francisco, created because of the myth that we can't be trusted with private spaces behind closed doors for sexual liaisons. We are currently subjected to sexual monitoring in the sex clubs and it was easier to lift the ban on gays in the military than it is to lift the gay bathhouse ban in San Francisco.

I'm saying all of these factors should be taken into account when debating what societal elements may contribute to gay men feeling their lives are worthless and leads them to kill themselves.

Let me close with a few comments made in 2005 by the late gay thinker Eric Rofes about some of these concerns that I believe should be part of the discussion tonight, with bolding added:

I think more than anything we need a few years of “time out” from directive AIDS prevention work for gay men. We need to get away from all the messaging, all the marketing, all the “crises of the week” used to terrify gay men into sexual sterility [...] Frankly, many of us have forged our own “time out” from all of the violence sent down to us by AIDS prevention. Many gay men do their very best to avoid the messaging, avoid the social marketing, avoid getting caught up in the drama of crisis about our sex [...] What effects does the colonization of bodies and desires have on a people when it is allowed to go on for 25 years? [...] The use of social marketing as the primary tool in HIV education and prevention has been a disaster with consequences we never imagined.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

KQED on Their Reporter Moderating SF Pride/Manning Forum 

(Scott Shafer. Credit: The California Report.)

After reading SF Pride's announcement about their Friday, May 31 forum over their Bradley Manning mess of rescinding the honor of being a Grand Marshal, and that out gay reporter Scott Shafer of KQED would be the moderator, I read the station's code of ethics then sent off questions to the executive director Raul Ramirez.

FYI, Shafer before joining KQED worked for Democrats Controller Gray Davis (chief of staff), San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos (spokesperson) and Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (campaign manager).

However, my main concern was that the station's impartiality for covering SF Pride and the Manning controversy were jeopardized with Shafer playing a key role in the May 31 forum at the Castro's Metropolitan Community Church. Ramirez replied:

KQED encourages its hosts, reporters and editors to help facilitate community conversations on a wide range of topics, some of which are highly controversial. We do this on air, and occasionally we do this at community sites. 

Moderating a forum that is open to the public, such as the one that you write about, is not tantamount with endorsing any one viewpoint voiced by participants. I am confident that moderating this panel will not affect negatively our ability to cover the surrounding controversy. If anything, the comments from participants may provide helpful insights. 

I must disagree that moderating a panel is the same as actively participating in a rally or demonstration. We cover demonstrations and rallies. We act as moderators in discussions of important community issues. That is what public media journalists do.

My preference would be for all news outlets to refrain from facilitating community conversations and stick to reporting the news, but KQED believes otherwise. I asked my friend and gay activist Patrick Connors, whose Twitter feed Uppity Fag is something to check out, for his reaction to KQED's statement:

Well, it's not clear to me how the forum will be moderated: Who will get to ask questions (Shafer and the public? Just Shafer? Vetted questions from the public? Who will sort and choose questions? Open mic?) 

Without knowing what role Shafer will play it's difficult to know the extent of his partiality. I can totally see how deference will be given to the established organization (not that I agree with that) so it's smart to ask in advance what we can expect / prepare for. 

Shafer could do a fine job as long as he knows what he is talking about....and I don't know that he does. Why was he chosen? Who chose him? Who is negotiating / setting up the format of this event? 

Those are good questions that may not get answered before Friday. I don't supposed the Pride Board / FB page will offer any insight between now and then...which means we should be prepared for all possibilities - including a complete dry fuck from Pride since that's been what they've been doing since this all started.

Patrick raises some of the same concerns I expressed in my unanswered questions to the SF Pride leaders about the format of the May 31 forum and how public comment will be handled. Let's hope between SF Pride's executive director Earl Plante, board president Lisa Williams and Shafer that they communicate with everyone well in advance of the forum about the format and questions from the community members present.

And we need to know if the forum will be live streamed and Tweeted for the many folks who won't be able to attend in person. Utilizing social media will go far to clear the air about this SF Pride mess over rescinding the Grand Marshal honor to Manning.

Monday, May 27, 2013

10 Questions About SF Pride's Bradley Manning Forum on Friday

After the SF Pride board late last week announced it was holding a town hall meeting on May 31 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm at the Metropolitan Community Church in the Castro district, the paltry number of details begged that questions be asked.

One huge problem with their mess of an open meeting on May 7 at their office on Market Street, after the board refused to secure a larger facility to hold the expected hundred or so activists wishing to participate, was the failure to provide everyone with info about how the meeting would be conducted.

Unfortunately, the board again is not sharing necessary info that will get everyone on the same page regarding the May 31 forum. I've submitted these questions to SF Pride's leaders and hope to receive a responsive, while also naively expecting the board will share answers on their blog and Facebook page:

1. What are the structure, agenda and time allotted for each item for the forum? 

2. Will there be a panel of invited presenters and if yes, what are their names? 

3. How much time will be reserved for public comments? 

4. How many minutes will each speaker be allotted?

5. Are two mikes going to be set up for public comments, from what is probably going to be a very large crowd? 

6. What is the capacity for number of attendees at the MCC meeting hall without violating fire and safety codes? 

7. Will the board be taking a vote on any matters? 

8. How will you use social media - live streaming, Tweeting, etc - to engage San Francisco/Bay Area/national/global folks who can't physically be present? 

9. If live streaming happens, and many hope it does, will Pride also archive the footage online? 

10. Will Spanish translation and signing for the deaf be available?
Number of Lesbian Public Memorials in SF is How Low?

A person can hardly walk a few blocks in San Francisco without tripping over a public memorial for a gay man, especially honoring Harvey Milk, but the same surely cannot be said about plaques and such for our lesbian sisters. The total number lesbian public memorials in the City comes to a measly four.

(Credit: Ricky Montalvo.)

There's Alice B. Toklas Place, a three-block long side street between O'Farrell and Geary Streets and bordered by Franklin and Larkin Streets, honoring the San Francisco native. In September 1998, the Board of Supervisors renamed Myrtle Street for Toklas and her extraordinary life as an out lesbian and companion to Gertrude Stein.

On the grounds of the Eureka Valley Recreation Center in Castro district is the Rikki Streicher Field and sign designating it so. She was a longtime bar owner, political activist and big supporter of lesbian sports. There's also a plaque near the field that provides more details about Streicher's life and legacy.

Also is the Castro area is Jane Warner Plaza located at the intersection of 17th, Market and Castro Streets. Warner was an out lesbian police officer who died of cancer. A plaque at foot-level that is difficult to read was installed at the plaza in 2010, to educate locals and visitor as to why the semi-public plaza was named for her.

The last public sign honoring a lesbian, this time one is who very much alive, is the plaque for politician Carole Migden in the bowl of Harvey Milk Plaza above a metal bench and almost impossible to notice.

That's all, folks, for public memorials or plaques in San Francisco for individual lesbians. I'm excluding the plaque at Pink Triangle Park and the one at the base of the semi-public MUMC-controlled rainbow flag located in the City's gayborhood, even though the former says the word lesbian and the latter includes names of lesbian politicians at the time the flag pole was erected, because they're too vague and no one thinks of them as lesbian-specific.

Since the Lyon Martin Health Services agency is a private non-profit, named to honor the late Del Martin and still-living Phyllis Lyon, it does not qualify as a public space memorial.

Compare these four examples with the almost-innumerable public spaces and things named for Harvey Milk, the plaques for Leonard Matlovich and Mark Bingham, the Tom Waddell Health Center, the quarter-block stretch of 16th Street in front of the Harvey Milk Public Library honoring Jose Sarria, the James C. Hormel Center at the main library, and many a few other public places memorializing specific gay men.

Let's not forget the plaques and places gay male related such as the Pink Triangle Park, the Names Project AIDS Quilt plaque at its former location on Market Street, and the Bulldog Baths. There is also the historical marker embedded in the sidewalk in front of what once was the Compton Cafeteria in the Tenderloin, site of the transgender and gay riot in August 1966.

Anyone know of a marker or plaque in the City commemorating a out bisexual? Lemme know if you do. Same goes for other examples of lesbian specific public memorials.

The paucity of lesbian memorials is not yet of concern to the Board of Supervisors. Recently, Supervisor David Campos generated much attention for himself and a whole lotta divisiveness over wanting to name yet another public facility for Harvey Milk, this time the airport. Supervisor Jane Kim in March made noise about renaming Lech Walsea Street for Tom Waddell because of the Polish bigot's latest homo-hating outburst and the fact that the Waddell health center abuts that street.

Isn't about time our lesbian sisters received the public memorializing in San Francisco somewhat close to that done for gay men?

(Credit for bottom three photos: The Petrelis Files.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend Woof #40: Sexy Shaved Heads and Friends

Mike and I are having a very relaxing and jokey Memorial Day Weekend. I've been snapping away all week, capturing attractive men on the streets and various other San Francisco locations. As I looked over the images, it was clear a number of sexy dudes with shaved heads caught my queer eye. I'm tossing in pix of friends and hope you enjoy the pix. 

The top two guys with sexy bald heads were seen out-and-about and the bottom photo shows the handsome James who works in the vitamin department at Rainbow Grocery.

What a fab bear couple these guys are. Our friends Sam, on the left, with his longtime partner Tom. They used to own a music store in our neighborhood but had to close up the shop due to an unaffordable rent brought on by the gentrification happening in the Mission.

Here's Kirk shopping at Rainbow Grocery for three-dozen men who are at a queer men's gathering this weekend in the North Bay. It was a pleasure to hear him share his political insights and weigh in on the spate of queer men who have ended their lives recently, including our mutual friend Jonathan Klein who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

My good pal Dennis, the Pope of Pot, strikes a flexing pose for me in his garden's mural. It's illustrated with images of his friend Harvey Milk, above his fist on the left, from 1978 when they passed San Francisco's Prop W that directed the DA to make prosecutions of pot possession the lowest priority. To the right in her kitchen is the late Brown Mary preparing to cook medicinal brownies for people with AIDS and other illnesses.

One the sweetest straight boys in town is Andrew, who always has a tight hug and a full smile to share with me.

A little bit of warm weather and the dudes with muscles and ink are showing off their bodies on Mission Street. Not sure what the heck is on his t-shirt, but with arms like that, who cares?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

'My Fab Disease' Vlog: Who Speaks for People With AIDS?

One of these days I hope to meet Mark S. King in person, because he's a longtime survivor and thriver living with AIDS who uses his wicked sense of humor to keep himself healthy and can teach even old PWA dogs like myself new tricks.

Mark was at the recent Federal HIV Town Hall in Washington hosted by the National Minority AIDS Council, that was riddled with technical glitches and ethical questions. Go here to read my critique of the meeting.

At his My Fabulous Disease vlog, Mark offers a written and video response to the town hall and really zings it to NAPWA's former executive director. He writes:

With the demise of The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) earlier this year, it’s an important conversation to have. The forum, sponsored by the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership, a coalition of AIDS-related organizations and interests, didn’t bear much fruit in terms of hearing the feedback of people living with the disease. 

The event was lightly attended in person, with most of those living with HIV present representing some organization or another, and the online viewers had technical problems and, presumably as a result, contributed very little. 

The most compelling minutes of the event, to me at least, were courtesy of the sheer audacity of former administrators from NAPWA (like Frank Oldham, pictured above), who made a pitch for their new HIV advocacy venture. After bankrupting a multi-million dollar agency and charges of financial malfeasance, you’d think they would opt for a lower profile.

Don't delay and hit the play button to watch Mark's serious and comedic video. Then do yourself a special favor, regardless of your HIV sero status, and read his feature essay in the new POZ magazine, all about the stigma PWAs face and the myriad complicating issues helping or hurting us.

His essay, "The Sound of Stigma", is here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Queen Tells Me I Have an 'Unattractive Poz Face' 

[UPDATE: Bruce Beaudette and I finally had the chance to meet up and chat about this episode. He told me he was speaking about attractive and unattractive faces in a queer brotherly way, and it was after I made remarks about his young friend Jose's handsome face. There was no harm intended in his campy comment and he's granted me forgiveness for mishearing and wrongly interpreting his words.

As fate would have it, we chatted while my face was in its most droopy stage from the Bell's palsy. We shared our feelings, poked fun at each other and life, and made peace. To mark the occasion of clearing the queer air, we snapped a photo of us homo-hamming it up.Bruce requested that I say my eye was swollen because he has a really huge penis and when it was hard, and he was trying to get me to blow him, his cock missed my mouth and hit me in the eye!]

The queen on the left said something totally rude to me yesterday at Books Inc after the panel about Harvey Milk concluded their talk. Don't know her name and see him at lots of protests, but his younger friend is named Jose. I snapped this photo before the celebration of Harvey's birthday. Good thing because I wouldn't have been able to after hearing his remark.

Schmoozing after the formal portion of the program ended, I told Jose how delighted and impressed I was that a young queer person came to the book reading and spoke up to tell us movement elders that he was educating himself about homo history. Told him it would be easy to remember his name having heard him talk during the discussion portion of the program.

Then the queen in a camp tone said, "I remember Michael's name because he's got an unattractive poz face." She chuckled at her rude comment.

"Well, the important thing is I'm alive and I like my face," was all I said before standing up and walking away. The jolt of having the stigma of living with AIDS and going through bodily adaptions thrown in my face, pardon the expression, was a reminder of how people with HIV disease are not, ahem, immune from stigma from within our own Castro community.

As if the goddess felt my pain and understood I needed some faith restored in queer humanity, Danny Nicoletta's friend Peter, pictured, stopped me on my way out to say how much he appreciated the anger of ACT UP, what it accomplished and everything he'd read by Larry Kramer. Peter made me smile and I left the event feeling upbeat and the anguish hearing the queen's words about my began to diminish.

To manage the stress from the episode, I yesterday went to the Immune Enhancement Project and had a wellness-restoring acupuncture treatment during their drop-in clinic for people with AIDS. There were others PWAs with poz face or other outward signs of body changes, and I went out of my way to make a joke and smile for them.

I stopped at Bike Dog Bikes on my way home to see my friends and one of them, Emily, took this picture of my smiling queer poz face.

Let me close with some wise words and advice from Mark S. King, a PWA who blogs at My Fabulous Disease, from his cover article in the latest issue of POZ magazine:

Today, our attitudes about HIV and other gay men range from self-righteousness to outright contempt. From whatever our vantage point, we have shamed and stigmatized everyone else into a corner, and the result is a community in revolt against itself [...]

It might be easy to doubt this gloomy view of the gay community. None of us like to believe ourselves guilty of treating “the other” badly. The only thing we admit for sure is that we have been mistreated and misunderstood. Our self-interest is telling.  

Maybe the problem is that, beyond the convenient anonymity of online  hookup sites or mobile apps, you don’t usually see HIV stigma in all of its black-and-white ugliness. You don’t hear its voice.

Listen closely to the ugly words of stigma.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

150 Pack Milk Day Book Reading in the Castro

A grand time was had by all of the 150-plus people who stopped by at some point at Books Inc in the Castro district yesterday, Wednesday, May 22, Harvey Milk's birthday, for a reading from "An Archive of Hope", edited by Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris III. It was also a ninety-minute celebration of Harvey's life and legacy and the larger LGBT community.

This photo was snapped before the reading officially began. As the evening progressed, folks squeezed in behind the racks of books or sat on the floor. Some standees stayed only a short while, which allowed for other shoppers to listen in and the aisle leading to the back room was packed with folks craning their necks to see the panel of speakers.

More than twenty members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus were traveling around the Castro, spreading love and magic with their voices and smiles. At the start of the evening, we were entertained with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Harvey. There we so many adorable chorus boys, I couldn't squeeze them into one photo, and for the top photo, when I asked for volunteers to get down on their knees to fit more of them into the shot, cries of "Me! Me! Me!" rang out.

Difficult as it was to single one furry fella as my fave from the boys, this adorable dude and those backroom-eyes of his makes him my favorite.

On the left is Gerard Koskosvich, archivist for the GLBT Historical Society, who made a plug for folks to check out their museum storefront on 18th Street and support the organization. Looking down at notes is Books Inc manager Ken White. The evening was a joint production between the society and the book store.

The panel of presenters, from the left. Editors Black and Morris, Frank Robinson who was Harvey's speechwriter, and Dan Nicoletta who worked at ye olde Castro Camera for Harvey.

When the floor was opened to comments from the audience, I spoke about the over-abundance of public memorial sites and plaques in San Francisco for Harvey and other late gay male leaders, and the dearth of public space memorials for our lesbian sisters. Said I could think of only two. The plaque for the late bar owner Rikki Streicher at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center and Jane Warner Plaza, named for the police officer who died of cancer.

My plea for more memorializing of lesbians met with some applause and an endorsement from Morris, seen holding the mike.

The top photo shows Danny, and his friends Peter and Garrett. On the bottom is Jay Blotcher with Danny.

Here's Rene Puliatti, who introduced himself to me as an ACT UP/New York member for a short time back when several ACT UPpers staged a protest at Hoffman-La Roche's old headquarters in Nutley, New Jersey.

Jerry The Faerie made an appearance and we chatted about building a large crowd for the Marching 4 Manning contingent on June 30 for the SF Pride Parade up Market Street. We'll be assembling at 10 am that Sunday at Howard and Beale Streets. Come out and join us!

Thanks to everyone for making the night an only-in-San-Francisco experience and so memorable.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

HRC Omits SF Pride/Manning Mess From 5/23 Agenda But . . .

Attorney David Waggoner and a group of gay human rights advocates recently filed a formal complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, over SF Pride's naming Bradley Manning a grand marshal at the Parade this year and then rescinding the honor. Waggoner is former co-chair of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.

The HRC's executive director is Theresa Sparks, who is a member of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club's board of directors and former chair of the group. Also on the board are Lisa Williams and Lou Fischer who are the chair and secretary respectively of the SF Pride board of directors.

I digress to provide some LGBT political club context that may be a factor or two in how Sparks and the HRC process the Waggoner, et al, complaint.

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 23, the HRC will hold its regular monthly meeting out in the community and not at City Hall. The meeting will be at the Bessie Carmichael Elementary School located at 375 - 7th Street, near Harrison, and it starts at 6:30 pm. Public comment comes at the beginning of the meeting for items not on the agenda.

Since Item 5 is Sparks' director report and only mentions her speaking about an award to be given by the HRC, I asked Tanareh Moayed of the commission if the report would include anything about the complaint. Moayed said:

Regarding your second question, the Manning matter relates to a complaint filed with HRC last week. HRC is currently reviewing the complaint with each of the relevant parties to the complaint. As such, HRC is not at liberty to comment on this matter publicly at this time.

Since the matter is omitted from the agenda, that means members of the public are free to comment about the complaint.

Color me skeptical that Sparks will conduct a fair and even investigation into the complaint because I saw how she mishandled the complaint filed in October by transgender leader Veronika Fimbres over being denied equal access by MUMC to use the public flag pole at Harvey Milk Plaza to raise the Trans Pride flag on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Bay Area Reporter's Matthew Bajko wrote in November:

[Sparks] said her agency had been working with the City Attorney’s office to review the legalities around the flagpole. Sparks advised MUMC that it was unclear what would happen should the city be asked to take over the flagpole [...] “It is not an easy issue to deal with,” said Sparks, citing complications that could arise over freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment. “I am not sure what could happen to opening it to other flags.”

Seen the release of that HRC investigation and the findings of Sparks, or follow up BAR reporting? Of course not, since Sparks has kept mum about the Trans Pride complaint and the larger matter of control of public property at the plaza. 

Additionally, promises by the HRC to hold a simple town hall meeting in the Castro about the flag controversy were thwarted by Sparks, who said an elected official had threatened her agency's budget if the meeting took place, according to HRC minutes.

We'll see if Sparks handles the complaint against SF Pride with the transparency and public accountability we didn't witness over the Trans Pride flag complaint.

NMAC's Online HIV Forum Ill-Served People With AIDS

(The physical component of the forum held at MCC in Washington. Credit: MCC Advocacy.)

This is a classic example of how not to hold a virtual town hall. On Tuesday, May 14, the National Minority AIDS Council held a town hall streamed live promising a discussion regarding advocacy among people with AIDS:

Following the closure of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership and the U.S. PLHIV Caucus will hold a Town Hall Tuesday to discuss how we can ensure that people living with HIV remain meaningfully engaged in making decisions about federal policies that impact their lives.

I had fears about how empowering it would be for PWAs particularly those of us not working for AIDS Inc or who would be at the physical town hall being held simultaneously in Washington, DC, at the Metropolitan Community Church. When no agenda was posted leading up to the event, it was not a good sign.

Once the streaming began, so did the glitches starting with no sound. Hundreds of online PWA participants couldn't hear a word of what was being said in DC, for the first 40-minutes. Despite pleas to pause the meeting until we could listen in, NMAC ignored the pleas from PWAs beyond the Beltway.

The camera was positioned in such a way we either saw the backs or left profiles of speakers at a lectern inside the church's meeting room. When the sound was working, the facilitator was hard to fully hear and understand since he held the mike at chest level.

NMAC staffers tweeted about who was talking, many of whom are people living with HIV, which AIDS Inc group they represented and pleaded for our patience as they worked to solve the tech problems. NMAC said they were using a free streaming service, one that interrupted the stream every 10 or so minutes with video ad pitches for financial services to manage your wealth, prompting me to complain with their $4.6 million budget NMAC could have paid to use an ad-free and glitch-proof streamer.

Heck, NMAC would have been smart to organize a streaming rehearsal a few days in advance and have a modicum of streaming experience to make use of.

Even though questions had been solicited in the days leading up to the town hall, NMAC asked for questions as if none had been submitted and regardless, questions from online folks were never posed.

Practically all of the speakers praised the work their group was doing along with the fabulous national coalitions they belong to, and said PWAs should join the groups or offer them input.

Tweets complaining about these and other problem flowed throughout the proceeding. Being unfamiliar with Twitter's policies for deleting tweets, I'm not sure why the majority of tweets, those full of complaints and others of a more positive, upbeat nature, are no longer at the #FederalHIVTownHall feed.

The title of the event was labeled thus:

Meaningfully Involving People Living with HIV in Federal Policy

In my view, people with AIDS were ill-served by this town hall. Unfortunately, NMAC has posted no minutes, no lessons learned, no report back to the PWA community about follow up and didn't archive the town hall's stream. So much for meaningful engagement.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jay Blotcher's ACT UP & Friends Reunion in San Francisco

We met many moons ago, Jay Blotcher and I, in the 1980s in ACT UP/New York and remain friends. He lives in New York and is out in San Francisco for work related reasons, and on Saturday night he invited his friends to a fantastic dinner party in the Castro.

I had the best time, seeing old pals and making new acquaintances, sharing lots of laffs and a bit of sadness about our late colleagues from ACT UP days, and during the evening felt the thrill of being alive and enjoying the good company of good people. Thanks to Jay and everyone at the dinner for a fabulous evening.

Here six veterans of various ACT UP chapters lining up for a group shot. From the left, yours truly, Greg Scott, David Tuller, David Robinson, Russell Pritchard and Jay.

Just a few of the fab folks pose for another group shot. From the left, Angela Penny, Tom Flinn, Jay, Greg, David Tuller, David Robinson, Claudia Breglia, Russell, Gerard Koskovich, David Glass and me.

I'm almost embarrassed to say I didn't recognize David when I first saw him. Guess it was because he wasn't wearing a tight, black shimmering skirt and sparkling earrings like he used to when facilitating ACT UP meetings. Reminded him that our late friend Harry Weider, who was a dwarf among many other things, used to say that one of the benefits of being so short was being up to look up David's skirt!

Cutie-pies Tom Flinn and David Glass gave me their best smiles for this shot. I think Tom met Jay in college and David is a friend from his high school days.

This our friend David Tuller. Back in 1987 at ACT UP's first demonstration on Wall Street, he was among the arrestees. He asked about my comrade-in-arms at the time Neil Broome, who lives in Massachusetts these days. Here's a partial list of the Wall Street 17 and if you know of other names, share 'em with me:

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

On the left we have Greg Scott sitting next to Russell Pritchard. Greg was part of ACT UP/DC who's a terrific writer and Russell I remember from ACT UP/NYC as one of the sweet smarty-pants guys.

Jay and Claudia during the dinner party at La Mediteranee on Noe Street, where we occupied the center space of the restaurant and enjoy delicious food and great service. Wonderful choice to hold the get-together.

Here's Jay chatting with David Glass as we waited for our tasty desserts and coffees to be served.

There's that David Robinson again, this time mugging for my camera with Lisa Geduldig, putting their heads together.

As the meal was coming to an end, I grabbed a photo of Hank Donat on the left, and Gerard Koskovich.

Our visiting guest of honor and I strike a pose for the camera. We've known each other so long I recall when neither of us had a single gray hair.
SF Pride Delays Release of New IRS 990 till After Parade

With all the political controversy swirling around the SF Pride committee and their confusing recognition of WikiLeaks hero Bradley Manning as a grand marshal, and then the rescission of that honor, my curiosity was piqued about when Pride files its annual IRS 990. Examining the three previous years' of filings, I learned that they filed by mid may.

When I didn't get a reply from executive director Earl Plante seeking info about the filing for fiscal year 2012 (was it filed last week? available for public inspection at their office?), I phoned Pride's accountant Arlene K. Mose. Citing privacy regulations, she wouldn't tell me if Pride had submitted the latest 990 to the feds. Mose confirmed my statement of fact that on the day the 990 is submitted, that is the day when a nonprofit must make the document available to the public, according to federal law.

Since Pride attorney Brooke Oliver has become a de facto spokesperson for the group with her postings at the Bay Area Reporter's comment section on their story last week about the firing of a staffer over the Manning debacle, and at Supervisor David Campos' Facebook page posting about his written request to Pride to hold a public meeting, I reached out to her.

I asked Ms. Oliver when their new filing would be ready for the public to view and why they don't post any 990s on their site, as so many Equality Inc groups do. She replied:

SF Pride's extension was filed, tax return due on August 15th. I said that I will pass your suggestion about putting the Form 990’s onto SF Pride’s website. Thanks for your concern. I have nothing more to say on the topic at this time.

It is my hope that on or very soon after August 15th that the 2012 IRS filing from Pride is posted on their web site, so that anyone with a computer can read it without have to go to the Pride office or wait for 4-5 months for it to be posted on either the Guidestar or Foundation Center web sites.

Plante is both the executive director and the spokesperson for Pride, and it would do the community a lot of good if he communicated more with everyone seeking info and answers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Voice: Non-Quinn NYC Vigil for Murdered Gay Man

This is a textbook example of how an elected official, this time of the LGBT Democratic variety, exploits a tragedy to gain votes in the middle of election.

New York City Council Speaker and out lesbian Christine Quinn and her friends in Equality Inc world are promoting a rally and vigil in Manhattan tonight for slain gay man Mark Carson, who was killed over the weekend in Greenwich Village.

The gay community center's release about the vigil mentions only one participant, Quinn, as does the GLAAD alert, along with the Anti Violence Project's (Quinn former employer) announcement.

Paying attention to Quinn and her minions exploiting Mark Carson's murder for her mayoral campaign is Louis Flores of the Stop Christine Quinn organizing effort, and Flores is not taking the co-opting of the tragic death sitting down. The Village Voice's writer Sydney Brownstone shares the details:

Expressing the LGBTQ community's grief and outrage following the hateful murder of Mark Carson in the West Village on Friday, several LGBTQ groups are co-sponsoring a rally held at the LGBT Community Center tonight. Speaker Christine Quinn jumped on the rally as well--and the Facebook page for the event lists Quinn as the only politician involved. 

Still, not all of New York City's queer community feel that Quinn has her heart in a sincere place. That's why they'll be taking their vigil for Carson outside what was formerly St. Vincent's hospital at 5:30 p.m., when activists and mourners will ask whether Carson could have been saved if the hospital hadn't been shuttered.

"A lot of people are agreeing that Christine Quinn is trying to politicize today's march," said Louis Flores, an organizer with Queers Against Quinn and a St. Vincent's activist group. Flores also wonders whether Carson, who was shot through the cheek, would have survived had he been taken two blocks away from the scene of the crime to St. Vincent's, rather than Beth Israel, which is located across town from where Carson was shot and lacks a Level 1 trauma center.[...]

Glad to see Flores and others holding Quinn accountable, and for reminding everyone about her shameful role in the closing of St Vincent's hospital.