Making History

 

GLBT History Museum Hosts First New Exhibit

 

 

The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender History Museum is one of San Francisco’s little-known treasures, nestled in the Castro on 18th near Collingwood. Although its outdoor facade is unassuming next to Badlands bar, its halls share the history of the neighborhood’s most flamboyant citizens in the only museum of its kind in the country.

 

Now, for the first time since its inception in 2011, the museum is hosting its first new exhibit in the main gallery, titled Queer Past Becomes Present, an apt title for an exhibit in a museum that curates the history of LGBT struggles and successes. The exhibit, which will have its grand opening reception on May 15 at 7 p.m., is curated by a collection of academics and authorities on gay culture, many of whom are based in the Bay Area. Dr. Amy Sueyoshi is the author of Queer Compulsions and is the Associate Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at SF State in addition to curating many of the works currently present at the museum. The co-curator is Jim Van Buskirk, co-author of Gay By The Bay. Both of these thought leaders, well versed in the histories of marginalized groups, are ready to work with queer materials in order to present a fully thought-out history and present-day snapshot of the community, both here in the Castro and in the surrounding world.

 

The exhibit will feature eight sections, highlighting some of the most important moments in queer history, some of which occurred right here in our Castro neighborhood backyard! The sections range from the trauma of the Harvey Milk assassination to outlining historically queer neighborhoods in San Francisco to stories from San Francisco queer youth.

 

One of the most exciting elements of this new exhibit is showing San Francisco’s own history, one that many consider to be lost as the city grows into its adulthood and continues to change with the rise of big tech. If there is something that San Franciscans like, it’s a glimpse of the city’s past to see how our ‘ancestors’ used to live on these seven hills. The exhibit will show nightlife venues from a time when the whole city was filled with vibrant queer communities. Although the entire city could now be considered a safe, open, and fun place for this populace, the exhibit will lurk back to a time when celebration was a specialty rather than the norm.

 

Although many San Franciscan’s might feel as though they know the stories and histories of the city’s queer inhabitants, the exhibit promises to reveal something new to each visitor, with stories ranging from the words of activists, onlookers, students, and those who truly experienced the subject matter first hand.

 

A visit to the museum is almost like a history book in a concise, convenient and fun package. No matter how much you think you know, your eyes can be opened by this thoughtful exhibition.

 

Remember, May 15th is the opening party. The museum is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

 

The GLBT History Museum is located at 4127 18th St.

 

 

Photo: Bill Sywak

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Changes May Come for Formula Retail Control

 

 

The San Francisco Planning Commission heard the results of a study on formula retail at City Hall last month along with testimony of residents citing multiple reasons for changing the City’s current restrictions on big chains. The Planning Department commissioned the study.

 

“I’d be supportive of tweaks to the process,” said Planning Commissioner Rich Hillis.

 

Residents said chain stores hire more people, pay better than some independent businesses, follow regulations, easily fill larger storefronts, provide less mobile residents with a place to get needed goods and services and save residents time and money, among other reasons.

 

“It’s about people,” said Meka Brown, an employee of California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. IHSS pays for services so people over 65 years or age, the disabled and the blind can stay in their homes. Brown said seniors need to have local access to goods and services.

 

Current formula retail controls are working, the report says, while at the same time suggesting controls would still work if the City changed the definition of formula retail to businesses with 20 or 50 locations nationwide. That suggestion excited both the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Association of Realtors.

 

“We don’t want to punish success,” said Dee Dee Workman, director of public policy at San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, arguing that the current limit of 11 nationwide stores would punish a business ready to open its twelfth.

 

“I think the bar has to be higher,” said Commissioner Michael Antonini, agreeing with Workman.

 

“Changing the definition of formula retail to businesses with at least 20 or 50 other establishments (rather than the current 11) would exempt some local, fast-growing companies, while still capturing the vast majority of national chains,” the report concludes.

 

Counting international locations also drew criticism from the Chamber. Workman said the City would be discouraging international companies from opening a U.S. flagship store in San Francisco if the City counted international locations in the formula retail definition.

 

“We really want them to come to San Francisco first,” Workman said, adding that a flagship store draws people to the City. Jay Chang, San Francisco Association of Realtors, agreed.

 

Some young people have expressed support for formula retail because they have found jobs at chain stores, keeping themselves out of trouble.

 

Owen O’Donnell, an Alamo Square resident, said restricting formula retail would encourage people to drive to buy what they needed, if what they needed came from formula retail only, an incentive at odds with the City’s transit first policy. “I’m in favor of no restriction on formula retail.”

 

Others said restrictions on formula retail results in long-term vacancies among larger storefronts. Chang said vacancies discourage business activity in retail districts and formula retail is suited for these larger storefronts. Commissioner Antonini heard the abundance of concern about vacancies.

 

“And it’s very important to me,” he said, suggesting that a discretionary review, rather than a conditional use authorization, may be more appropriate for larger spaces.

 

Tailoring controls to each neighborhood also drew support. Workman said we can’t have a one-size-fits-all policy for the whole city. Commissioner Kathrin Moore and Commission President Cindy Wu agreed.

 

Said Moore, “It’s about balance and flexibility.”

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Supervisor Wiener Seeks To Pull City Investments Out of Russia

 

Employee Retirement Fund Targeted

 

Jay Huish stood respectfully at the podium. “I’m not saying you’re in the queue,” Huish told District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. “I do repeat the request,” Wiener said.

 

Huish, executive director of San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS), was nearly finished with his testimony last month before the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee. Wiener was repeating his request for an analysis by Huish’s agency, which would determine whether the retirement system can safely divest of Russian securities.

 

Because of Russia’s extreme legal persecution of the LGBT community since before the Sochi Winter Olympics, the supervisor wants to send a message to the country, but only if SFERS can divest without threatening the income of San Francisco retirees.

 

“We will be following up with the retirement system,” Wiener said. He said he thought the City could safely divest Russian securities because its investment is less than one percent of the system’s $19 billion in investments.

 

“That’s a pretty tiny percentage,” he told attendees of the hearing.

 

“It’s still a big deal,” added District 5 Supervisor London Breed, chair of the committee. She said San Francisco shouldn’t be doing business with Russia. “It should be zero,” she said. As of last month, SFERS had about $26 million in Russian securities.

 

The agency can not honor Wiener’s request, Huish said, because the system’s Board must request the analysis. Board member and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen said she will be making that request, but she didn’t say when. The Board meets again May 14 at 30 Van Ness Avenue. Meetings are open to the public.

 

“Yes, the supervisor plans to make this request,” said Andrea Bruss, a Cohen legislative aide.

 

After Wiener’s September 3rd letter to the agency, it took more than month for SFERS to respond. The agency’s slow response is the other reason the supervisor called last month’s hearing. SFERS didn’t get back to the supervisor until October 11. In response to the allegation, Huish said his agency has a strong track record of responding.

 

The supervisor’s September 3rd request also asked City Administrator Naomi Kelly whether San Francisco buys goods and services from Russian companies. The answer is no.

 

Wiener’s letter made some strong statements.

 

“As you know, Russia recently adopted extreme, homophobic legislation criminalizing the LGBT community. This repulsive law is reminiscent of anti-Jewish measures passed in Germany in the 1930s. In addition to the legislation, Russia has tolerated a disturbing atmosphere of violence toward LGBT people, particularly LGBT youth.”

 

“Terrifying” is the life of Russia’s LGBT citizens, said Amy Whelan, senior staff attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Among the examples of the terror are the kidnapping and torturing of gays by a Russian vigilante group called Occupy Pedophilia, which seeks to link gays with pedophilia.

 

The group publishes videos of its torture sessions on Russia’s most popular social media site to out the victims. One clip shows the group forcing a gay Russian man at gunpoint to sodomize himself with a bottle.

 

Russian law bans gay people from adopting children, and Russian police have okayed attacks on gays. Whelan added that every pro-LGBT demonstration last year met with violence.

 

“There are many reasons to divest from Russia,” said Julie Dorf, a senior advisor, Council for Global Equality, a group seeking to advance American foreign policy inclusive of LGBT rights. One example is a Russian law removing children from LGBT families. The “fear and terror” among LGBT families is high. The campaign against gays is being done for political gain. And she said our country must stand up for what’s right with our actions and our words.

 

Gary Virginia, a member of Gays without Borders and San Francisco Pride, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to solidify his power with his government’s attacks on gays.

 

“It is critical, Wiener said, that San Francisco, as a long time safe haven for LGBT people and a world leader in LGBT civil rights, make[s] a strong statement against these actions.”

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Skating San Francisco

 

David G. Miles, or "D" needs no introduction within the skating community. He is the well-known and well-loved "Godfather of Skate" and has founded or lent his talents to countless skating organizations in and around San Francisco. D is responsible for skating events throughout the city and beyond, including those that are within walking distance to the Castro. Most recently, his Church of 8 Wheels, at 554 Fillmore Street (corner of Fell Street) has added three more days featuring new parties and classes to it's schedule. There is truly something for everyone, from complete beginners to expert skaters.

 

Wendy:

 

First of all - congratulations on your expanded schedule at the Church of 8 Wheels. I understand that you have skating onsite at least four days a week now. Tell me about the events you've got happening there.

 

D:

 

We have Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We try to plan so that we can attract different people: kids, adults, people that wanna dance, people that wanna be fit, and people who just wanna boogie all night long! As it is now, Tuesday is Gay Skate/Rainbow Night. On Wednesdays we call it Rolligion because that was our first - we started on Wednesday night. Thursday we have Guest DJ Night because it's a great opportunity to be able to be there; let's give other people a chance to do their thing. People like a lot of different music. On Saturday nights it's all about Burning Man - Black Rock Roller Disco Night, and we're subject to do just about anything.

 

Wendy:

 

On Saturday nights do you get a lot of people who join you at your Burning Man camp?

 

D:

 

A lot of my Burning Man friends know that they [can] come dressed as we would be on the playa, just with that kind of swagger, come to have that kind of fun. Gay Night is more disco - it's super high energy; Rolligion night is more funk - George Clinton, James Brown; Guest DJ could be anything - it tends to be a mix of all of them with more electronic music mixed in. All of them are pretty much for anybody. You can call it this or that but when you get down to the nitty gritty, it's fun, you bring your friends, and have a good time! It's all about the city; it's really special energy. It's not like [anything] else. It's like the park; I mean, look at this! [I interviewed D. at The Skatin' Place in Golden Gate Park, on JFK Drive, near 6th Avenue]. There's music, there's people, it's fun; you don't have to belong.

 

Wendy:

 

Right, it's quintessential San Francisco.

 

D:

 

The Church [of 8 Wheels] is the same energy. We were calling this [The Skatin' Place] The Church of 8 Wheels for about three years, way before this church actually came along. It's divine guidance! The nucleus of the energy is powered from right here and spreads to these other things that we're able to do.

 

Wendy:

 

You've been doing skating in the park for a long time.

 

D:

 

This is my 35th year. Met my wife Rose - see this sign right here? Met her right there. June 20th, that'll be our 25th "goin' together" anniversary. We got married five years later.

 

Wendy:

 

What made you decide to start doing this?

 

D:

 

See all these people? I am just like them. I walked out here one day and went, "Wow! That's great. I think I'll come out again!" When I first came to San Francisco it was on a Greyhound bus. My mom was married and kept telling me to come out. It was 10, 20 below zero out there in Kansas City. I was a bricklayer and you don't work when it's cold; mortar freezes and all that. I was like, "You know what? Going to California might be pretty good!" When I came out here I knew not one person. I knew nothing about it. I just saw the sign that said Golden Gate Park and said, "Let's go out to their park and see what it's like." I came in at about 4th Avenue. You know what people did out here? They like to lie in the sun. So I lay down in the sun and went, "One, two - okay - that's enough of that!" When I got up I saw three people go by on skates. I said, "Yeah, now that's something cool. I know how to skate." Another person told me that they close the park to car traffic on Sundays, so I said, "Cool, I'm gonna get me a pair of skates. I'm gonna come out here." There were thousands of people. I'd never seen so many people out in the park. Everything's looking so fresh and fantastic.

 

Wendy:

 

How did The Skatin' Place in the park evolve?

 

D:

 

In '84 Deborah Lerner, she's a park planner, she was working on the concept of reducing cars in the park and reducing the number of streets that we had. They picked out a bunch of streets that [were] gonna be turned into grass. This was one of them, but I met with her and said, "Do the other streets, but this one here - make it an outdoor place to roller skate." She liked that idea; she was behind it 100 percent. I had diagrams of what it was supposed to be like - never came to fruition but this is just fine. They started out with a 30 day trial period - closing it off, which turned into a 60 day trial period, which turned into a 90 day trial period, which is why everybody brings stuff now through a trail period (laughs).

 

Wendy:

 

So that's been since '84.

 

D:

 

There's a girl here, Claire Cooley, she was with the first people that started skating [here] on a regular basis back in the day. She had a dolly, a boombox, and a battery, and she would bring her dolly up to 6th Avenue. This was 1980, '81. This was just a regular street at the time though. It was closed on Sundays but on the [other] days it wasn't, before they started the trial period.

 

Wendy:

 

You still have a night at The Women's Building, which is close to the Castro too. How long have you been doing that?

 

D:

 

I've been working with Jeff Ross. We've been at the Cell Space for years; we've been doing a lot of different events and this is a series that's happening at The Women's Building. It used to be the first Friday of the month; now it's the last Friday of the month, but once a month we have an off-the-hook party - really great. People come off the street; so many people walk by and go,"What? Roller skating?! I've heard about this - I'm coming!" The thing about The Women's Building is you got a full bar. It's so much fun; people can let go of all that stuff that happens during the week. You can just let it go for a few hours and lose yourself in this disco beat; lights are flashing; it's a great place for skating. The floor is wonderful.

 

Wendy:

 

And you have the Friday Night Skate.

 

D:

 

Yup, every Friday at the Ferry Building. We meet at nine o'clock; we do do a 10 mile loop around. It's about to go through some changes because of the Stockton Tunnel - the BART extension underground to Chinatown. I started that in 1989 when the earthquake hit. When the Embarcadero Freeway closed we started skatin' on top of it. It was so much fun. We started doing it on Thursday night but The Simpsons, Living Color - all that stuff was on Thursday night, so we switched to Friday and thus the Friday Night Skate was born.

 

Wendy:

 

Obviously you have a big contingent that heads out to Burning Man.

 

D:

 

Black Rock Roller Disco.

 

Wendy:

 

And you go out there a month in advance to set up the rink and the camp.

 

D:

 

This'll be my 14th year.

 

Wendy:

 

For people who are just starting - can they come to any of these events and feel comfortable?

 

D:

 

We just today certified 12 new instructors with this weekend-long course. It is the most intense course any skater's gonna take that wants to teach because it teaches you how to teach. It specifically breaks down everything involved with getting you to be able to stand up and learn. These 12 instructors - 'The Apostles of the Church' they call themselves, cause there's 12 of them - took a picture looking like The Last Supper (laughs). This is what we intend to do; we want to reach out to everybody - those people who are afraid. Once you get past that fear, then you open up to be able to learn some skating. We're gonna open it up every Saturday; we're doing lessons from 11 - 12. and then 12 - 1. Then we're gonna have line dance fitness [class] that teaches you the moves and is a physical fitness workout as you're learning it. That's gonna be Saturdays from 1 - 2:30. From 3 - 5:30 is open skate for kids and families. Then from 7 - 11 is [Black Rock Roller Disco].

 

Wendy:

 

Do you have any of your other special events coming up in the near future?

 

D:

 

You know, I'm gonna be leading one of the biggest parts of the Pride Parade; our group is called Balloon Magic. We did a thing where we had 60 people in a line of six colors; we've taken these long balloons and make this huge design with it and do the parade, and people love it.

 

Wendy:

 

On skates?

 

D:

 

No, people will be on foot but we will have skaters in the parade, and I'm emceeing for the group. I'll be on the microphone, talkin' to everybody, gettin' them all juiced up, and the skaters will skate up and down and they'll have balloons on their back. We've won first place in the parade at least three times. We've won different categories of first place: Most Fabulous, stuff like that.

 

Wendy:

 

How many years have you been doing the Pride Parade?

 

D:

 

I think my first one was 2005 - I've got a video. I've got a website - skatinplace.com - if you go there you can see that video.

 

Please visit David Miles' additional websites: www.cora.org, www.skategoldengate.com, and www.churchof8wheels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© Castro Courier 2014

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