By Samya Brohmi
According to the chairman of the Department of LGBT Studies, Dr. Ardel Thomas, the San Francisco LGBTQ + community is hard hit by the potential and actual loss of iconic common spaces and educational programs.
It started when The Stud closed its doors after 33 years in SoMa in May 2020. The famous nightclub was owned by the Stud Collective, a group of friends that included former RuPaul drag race contestant Honey Mahogany. The club was a historic pillar of SoMa’s LGBTQ + community, known for hosting experimental drag parties and fighting back what the collective viewed as growing consumerism that threatened to redefine LGBTQ + culture . The co-owners promised a reincarnation of the club concept in the near future and to help rebuild San Francisco’s once bustling party scene.
Virgil’s Sea Room in the Mission was next to close last February. Owner Lila Thirkield attributed the deal to the impossibility of running a sustainable business
Employee safety in a recent interview with 48Hills. Virgil’s attracted a diverse crowd, where both LGBTQ + and straight party-goers came together for drinks, games, and conversation.
For spaces that managed to stay open, crowdfunding has provided a necessary lifeline. At Oasis, a SoMa-based nightclub and cabaret, tightened restrictions meant that “not only were our bar staff laid off, but our actors, drag performers, DJs, security guards and all lost jobs,” Oasis’ front-of-house said Manager and drag performer Snaxx. “We have turned to online events and shows along with many other queer areas.”
Snaxx admitted that switching to virtual performances “was a whole different beast than being in person. It was also very scary to see other local bars or venues nearby. Not knowing how long it will be before we can “live normally” again has definitely made us so anxious, because what will be left when we can come back? “
Even so, Oasis was able to raise more than $ 250,000 a 12-hour telethon early last month. The event was broadcast on the club’s streaming service OasisTV and hosted by owner and acclaimed actor D’Arcy Dollinger. The money raised will help Dollinger pay the accrued rent and bills until additional funds are available from the city.
Despite the event’s proven success, Snaxx initially had doubts about the event. He was nervous about asking cast members to donate their time, believing viewers would have burned out from donating to previous fundraisers. Snaxx’s concern quickly resolved when she saw donations and emotional support coming from viewers.
“Everything that happened on the Telethon blew me away,” said Snaxx. “It reaffirmed the importance of this place to so many people, locals and around the world. And obviously with all the money we could raise we felt a weight that had been building up for months and months. We now feel like we have a newfound motivation and drive to keep working hard and to be a space for community. “
Illustration by Manon Cadenaule / The Guardsman. Instagram: @cadenaulem
In addition to crowdfunding, Snaxx urged the city to prioritize financial support for small businesses. “I know there is a huge demand for funding, vaccines, and general availability right now, but the delays in funding availability are part of what has forced us to keep this telethon on. There should also be more city officials committed to the safe reopening of businesses, ”she said.
“The rules are always changing and information is not easily accessible or clear and we get so much information about fines and closings when things are done wrong,” she added. Snaxx believes the city should make connections to help vulnerable businesses stay abreast of regulations.
LGBTQ + organizations are also implementing innovative ways to serve their communities in times of crisis. The San Francisco LGBT Center works with other community centers across the country to tackle the homelessness of LGTBQ + youth. LGBTQ + adolescents were particularly at risk from the pandemic due to the restricted access to safe and permanent housing.
The center participates in the Host Homes programHere, eligible candidates ages 18-24 can be temporarily paired with a community host and receive case management services to ensure stable housing. The program is currently in the pilot phase and is additionally supported by Point Source Youth and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing in San Francisco.
The LGBT center has also made its job placement services program, which helps find and retain jobs, available to ongoing and new customers during the pandemic. Program Director Cheryl Lala has had discussions with Thomas and Queer Resource Center Coordinator Juan Fernandez to offer the same resources on campus.
Thomas, using she / she pronouns, said that while employers have a tendency to hire gender abuse students, the LGBT center has started working with companies like Macy’s to create job opportunities for customers and current employees in LGBTQ + – Cultural literacy for the workplace to train.
At City College, most of the campus services are online. “It was incredibly challenging for everyone,” said Thomas. “Students who have been employed are busier than before than a pandemic, and there has been confusion about City College determining what is online and what is on campus.” With extensive training and experience teaching online courses for LGBT studies, Thomas made a conscious decision to keep all courses asynchronous and avoid late penalties.
As a result, Thomas said, the students have succeeded in their courses and appreciated the flexibility while balancing other responsibilities. “The disabled community has benefited from having internet access and no physical barriers,” said Thomas.
Thomas also noted that some of her students may struggle with issues such as housing, food insecurity, and mental health while attending school. “We all try to support the students as best we can,” they said. LGBT degrees will continue to be out of the way this fall, giving instructors time to prepare for face-to-face tuition for future semesters.
However, the LBGT studies department is no stranger to the possibility of layoffs in the faculty as three of the department’s four instructors have received pink receipts. Thomas described how disgusted and upset they felt because “the board of trustees didn’t listen to the local people”.
“If the layoffs continue, multiple queer-identified and / or colored trainers are at risk of losing their positions. This de-legitimizes the college’s promise to continue hiring and supporting careers of educators belonging to these groups, ”said Thomas.
The Queer Resource Center uses Zoom for its regular spring programs and events. Last February the “Queerceañera” took place here, a virtual celebration of the centre’s 15th anniversary. The event included a presentation on accessing student resources, drag performances and an opportunity for LGBTQ + identified students to connect with one another.
T-House, a community area within the Queer Resource Center, has also switched its events to Zoom. The T-House acts as a meeting place for the community and hosts a series of events for students who identify themselves as transmasculine and / or male from the people in the center, regardless of their gender identity or orientation.
Those interested in participating in the series of events can Fill out an interest form and subscribe to the email list. T-House coordinators take into account the diverse needs of attendees, issue warnings about possible triggers during presentations, and work to secure access to live subtitles and / or ASL interpreters for spoken parts of future events.