By Joanie Juster
As the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine grows monumentally with each day of the Russian invasion, so does the need for us all to step up and help. In our last issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, I listed a number of organizations that are helping all Ukrainians, as well as LGBTQ+ Ukrainians, in particular. Since then, more have come to light, and benefit concerts, protests, and events are popping up all over the Bay Area. Please do what you can to support these efforts. Every dollar counts. Here’s one place to help: https://tinyurl.com/mr4yd2zd
stop the hate
While the state legislatures in Texas and Florida have grabbed most of the media attention for their hateful bills targeting trans kids, other states seem to be trying to outdo each other in a race to see who can pass the most gratuitously cruel and damaging legislation. It’s a torturous game of whack-a-mole: every time we think we have alleviated the situation in one state, two more pop up with ever-more-destructive laws. Alabama, Idaho (which may win this month’s Most Hateful State award), and now Alaska are trying to erase and punish trans people, and—just to add another level of evil—to punish anyone who loves or tries to help them.
My friend Ruth in Alaska is one of the smartest and most compassionate allies and activists I know. This week she penned a letter to the Alaska Senate Education Committee, strongly opposing a bill that would force students to play on teams that aligned with the gender assigned to them at birth. Ruth was having none of it:
“Dear Senate Education Committee,
I strongly oppose Senate Bill 140: ‘The Even Playing Field Act.’
Trans kids deserve to live honestly, and if they want to play games, let ’em. Sports are supposed to be for fun and personal achievement and teamwork, not a zero-sum gladiatorial trial for scarce resources to determine who can continue their education. If that’s what school sports are about then we have bigger problems to address, and forcing trans kids to play on a different team isn’t going to fix that.
What this will definitely achieve is making life harder for trans students by painting them as a threat to their classmates’ success, when they’re already struggling for acceptance. I’m not convinced that trans girls possibly winning a trophy now and then is all that big a threat to anyone, especially not when compared to the very real threat of losing more LGBTQ kids to hopelessness when they don’t see a place for themselves in their school or in their home state. The danger of trans athletes sounds like the latest incarnation of the trans bathroom bogeyman, or the argument that letting gay people get married will ruin marriage for everyone else. Those were bad-faith concern-trolling hogwash to rile up a political base, and this is too … this is national politics using us, and using other state legislatures, to generate a lot of sound and fury around an emotional wedge issue as we head into midterms. Focusing negative political attention on trans kids will hurt those kids, it will hurt all LGBTQ Alaskans by sending the message that they are not welcome to be themselves here … .”
There’s more, but you catch her drift. We all need to speak up against this kind of legislation. Thanks to Ruth for setting an example for allies everywhere.
Mental Health Resources from Juanita MORE!
Spring may be in the air, with more sunshine and flowers blooming everywhere, but we are still living through particularly stressful times, and many are struggling to maintain their emotional and mental health. Juanita MORE!, who just completed her successful reign as Empress of San Francisco, keeps her finger on the pulse of the community, and responded to the despair she was seeing by publishing a compassionate and thought-provoking article that includes a valuable list of mental health resources compiled by Queer Life Space, a local nonprofit that provides long-term, low-fee mental health and substance abuse therapy for the Queer community.
MORE! candidly shares that she has at times struggled with some mental health issues herself, and addresses the challenges head on: “Queer people often struggle with suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, trauma, abandonment, and loss of family. As if any of these issues weren’t problematic enough, government funding for nonprofits dealing with mental health issues has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. And their model doesn’t address long-term-based services, as well.” She adds that the past two years of COVID-induced isolation have been particularly challenging.
The comprehensive list of mental health resources, compiled by Queer LifeSpace, is available on MORE!’s web site: https://tinyurl.com/4j5d8sm8
And while you’re at it, mark your calendar for Queer LifeSpace’s 10th anniversary gala, coming up on May 7. More info coming soon.
Save Easter Weekend for the Sisters
And now for some truly joyful news. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be filling up our dance cards on the weekend of April 16 & 17 for two celebratory events, only in San Francisco.
First, on Saturday April 16, a modest little one-block street near Dolores Park will be undergoing a high-profile name change, when Alert Alley receives the commemorative designation “Sister Vish-Knew Way, in honor of Kenneth Bunch, aka Sister Vish -Knew, one of the original founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. For almost five decades Sister Vish has been a pioneering human rights activist who has devoted their life to serving the community. Congratulations sister!
Then on Easter Sunday, April 17, the Sisters are bringing back, live and in person, one of San Francisco’s favorite traditions: Easter in Dolores Park. Promising live entertainment, drag, and miracles, fans are excited about the return of the Foxy Mary and Hunky Jesus contests.
Rainbow World Fund heads back to Cuba
When Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, Rainbow World Fund jumped into action, creating an emergency fund to aid vulnerable LGBTQ+ Ukrainians who were at risk of being marginalized and scapegoated.
An all-volunteer LGBTQ-based organization, Rainbow World Fund did this on top of their ongoing work of providing humanitarian aid to countries around the world, including planning their ninth annual humanitarian visit to Cuba on May 12-22. Annual visits have helped build relationships and community, as they meet with human rights activists, members of the LGBTQ community, politicians, artists, scientists, and leaders in many fields. Past visits have also included visiting schools and medical clinics, delivering medical and educational supplies, attending LGBTQ Pride events in Havana, and marching in solidarity in the Pride parade.
Tickets are available to take part in this journey. For more information:
2nd Annual Weaving Spirits Festival
Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performances is celebrating its second anniversary at Counterpulse Theatre; you can catch their second weekend on March 24-26. The festival brings together local and national Native American artists whose powerful performance offerings range from traditional song to modern dance and drag.
That’s it for this week. Please take time to be kind to others, and to yourself.
Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.
Published on March 24, 2022