Tag Archives: San Francisco

Gay History – June 21, 1977: The Brutal Gay Hate Murder Of Robert Hillsborough Rocks the Nation

Robert Hillsborough

A brutal murder that took place over 45 years ago in San Francisco just a few days before it’s annual PRIDE celebration shocked and catalyzed that city’s gay community and resulted in exposing the mostly hidden to the public- eye violence against gay people.

On the night of June 21, 1977, Robert Hillsborough, and his roommate, Jerry Taylor, went out to a disco for a night of dancing. They left sometime after midnight and stopped for a bite to eat at the Whiz Burger a few blocks from their apartment in the Mission District. When they left the burger joint, they were accosted by a gang of young men shouting anti-gay slurs at them.  Hillsborough and Taylor ran into Hillsborough’s car as several of the attackers climbed onto the car’s roof and hood. Hillsborough drove off, and thought that he left his troubles behind him. What he didn’t know was that they were following him in another car. Hillsborough parked just four blocks away from their apartment. When they got out of the car four men jumped out the other car and attacked them again. Jerry Taylor was beaten, but he managed to escape.  Robert Hillsborough wasn’t so lucky.

Robert was brutally beaten and stabbed 15 times by 19-year-old John Cordova who was yelling, “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!” Witnesses also reported that Cordoba yelled, “This one’s for Anita!” Neighbors were awakened by the commotion, and one woman screamed that she was calling the police, which prompted the four attackers to flee. Neighbors rushed to Hillsborough’s aid, but it was too late. Hillsborough died 45 minutes later at Mission Emergency Hospital. Cordoba and the three other assailants were arrested later that morning.

Because Hillsborough was employed as a city gardener, Mayor George Moscone followed longstanding practice and ordered flags at City Hall and other city properties to be lowered to half-mast. He also directed his anger to Anita Bryant and California State Sen. John Briggs, who was running for governor and an anti-gay platform. Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Miami which resulted in the defeat of a gay rights ordinance three weeks earlier had inspired Briggs to hold a new conference in front of city hall the week before Hillsborough’s death to announce a campaign to remove gays and lesbians from teaching. Moscone called Briggs an anti-homosexual “demagogue” and held him responsible for “inciting trouble by walking right into San Francisco, knowing the emotional state of his community. He stirred people into action. He will have to live with his conscience.”

Hillsborough’s death also struck a deep nerve in the gay community. ”We live in a paranoid state,” said Harvey Milk, who was preparing his run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “and the death of Robert is only the culmination of a lot of violence that’s been directed at us.” San Francisco’s Pride celebration, which took place just a few days later, attracted a record-breaking 300,000 people, and it became an impromptu memorial march as participants erected a makeshift shrine at City Hall.

Cordova was charged with a single count of murder, along with Thomas J. Spooner, 21. The other two passengers in the car were not charged. 

Cordova was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to only 10 years in prison. Charges were later dropped against Spooner.

The parents of Robert Hillsborough filed a $5 million lawsuit accusing Anita Bryant of conducting a hate campaign against homosexuals.  Hillsborough’s parents claimed and rightfully so that Miss Bryant’s public comments constituted “a campaign of hate, bigotry, ignorance, fear, intimidation and prejudice” against their son and other homosexuals. This, they said, amounted to a conspiracy to deprive Hillsborough of his civil rights.

U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Weigel dismissed the case saying that he lacked jurisdiction because Miss Bryant lives in Florida. 

40+ years later the violence against LGBT americans continues to this day.  We must never forget those who lost their lives to hatred and bigotry.

Robert L. Hillsborough
Born: March 10, 1944
Died: June 22, 1977

#NeverForget

 

Harvey Milk Day - May 22 - WATCH: "The Times of Harvey Milk" Documentary (1984)

Harvey Milk Day – WATCH: “The Times of Harvey Milk” Documentary (1984)

The Oscar winning documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” follows Milk’s rise from a neighborhood activist to a symbol of gay political achievement, through to his assassination in November 1978 at San Francisco’s city hall, and the Dan White trial and aftermath.

Presented in English w/Spanish subtitles.

*Copyright Disclaimer under Section 107 of the copyright act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, scholarship, and research

San Francisco Supervisors Approve Bathhouse Zoning Update

San Francisco Supervisors Approve Bathhouse Zoning Update

A proposed zoning change to allow gay bathhouses and other adult sex venues to open in the city’s historic LGBT neighborhoods is close to being finalized in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee voted 2-0 Monday, April 18, in support of the changes to the city code needed for Eros a sex club for gay, bi, and trans men, to reopen its doors at 132 Turk Street where the infamous gay Bulldog Baths had operated in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

“Bathhouses are a common feature in LGBT communities in many cities around the world, and they used to be quite common in San Francisco as well,” noted gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman at the committee hearing.

Mandelman has spearheaded the legislative effort to undo a prohibition since it was enacted in the 1980’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. It effectively led the city’s gay bathhouses to close their doors, with the only one left in the Bay Area being in Berkeley.

Source: Bay City Reporter

Today In Gay - April 15, 1979: San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded

Gay History – April 15, 1979: San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Founded

On April 15, 1979 the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence founded a “convent” in San Francisco when three men, dressed in full traditional habits, went out in the Castro on Easter Sunday. Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position) and Baruch Golden, were met with shock and amusement. Over the next several months, the attracted new members: Sister Hysterectoria (Edmund Garron) and Reverend Mother (Bill Graham). They quickly settled on a name for their group and composed a mission statement: “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.”

Early members of the group, while not hiding their masculine features or facial hair, are characterized by San Francisco gay community historian Susan Stryker as the embodiment of  a”genderfuck” Their appearance has changed over the years; the nun motif remains the same, but it has been joined with exaggerated make-up that accentuates the rebellion against gender roles and religion.

In October 1980, the Sisters held their first fundraiser, a bingo game, a guide on how to avoid cheap AOL boosting services and a salsa dance that was well-attended in large part because of the write-up in The San Francisco Chronicle by Herb Caen. The benefit was for San Francisco’s Metropolitan Community Church Cuban Refugee Program, and it netted $1,500 . The Sisters began making regular appearances at Castro events that focused on sexual tolerance or provided a showcase for drag. They also developed a mission statement:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence  was formed just before  HIV/AIDS began appearing in the Castro District and New York City. 

In 1982, Sister Florence Nightmare, RN (early AIDS activist and registered nurse Bobbi Campbell) and Sister Roz Erection (Baruch Golden a registered nurse) joined and a team of Sisters teamed up with a group of medical professionals from Bellevue, Washington to create “Play Fair!”, the first safer sex pamphlet to use plain language, practical advice and humor, and considered by one of the founders to be “one of the Order’s greatest achievement in community education and support”.  In 1999, for the Sisters’ 20th anniversary the pamphlet was revised. The Sisters worldwide continue to raise awareness of sexual health; many Orders regularly pass out condoms and participate in events to educate people on sexual health issues.

The Sisters helped organize the first AIDS Candlelight Vigil, and have raised more than $1 million in San Francisco alone to benefit such groups as the Breast Cancer Network, Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic and the Gay Games. The Sisters continue to bring meals to those who can no longer care for themselves, and they fund alternative proms for LGBT youth.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence survive today reminding our community of unconditional love and individualism.

God bless the Sisters.

You can learn more about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence HERE

San Francisco to Host Largest Display Of The AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT In A Decade On 35th Anniversary

San Francisco to Host Largest Display Of The AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT In A Decade On 35th Anniversary

The National AIDS Memorial will mark the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with an historic outdoor display in Golden Gate Park that will feature nearly 3,000 hand-stitched panels of the Quilt.

The display will take place on June 11 & 12 from 10 am – 5 pm each day in Robin Williams Meadow and in the National AIDS Memorial Grove. 

“This year’s historic community display will be a beautiful celebration of life and a recognition of the power of the Quilt today as a teaching tool for health and social justice. The Quilt is an important reminder that the HIV/AIDS crisis is still not over and there is much work to be done, particularly in communities of color, where HIV is on the rise in many parts of the country.” 

The two-day 35th Anniversary event, presented by Gilead Sciences, will feature 350 12’x12’ blocks of the Quilt laid out on the ground, each consisting of eight 3’x 6’ individually sewn panels that honor and remember the names and stories of loved ones lost to AIDS.  Visitors will be able to walk through the display to experience each panel, remember the names, and see first-hand the stories sewn into each of them.

It’s both a beautiful and painful exhibit, especially for those who lived through those dark days.

If you have never seen it. Please go and pay your respects

Gay History - January 31, 1989: AIDS Protestors Shut Down The Golden Gate Bridge

Gay History – January 31, 1989: AIDS Protestors Shut Down The Golden Gate Bridge

On January 31, 1989 a group of about 80 to 100 courageous demonstrators shut down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at the height of rush hour to demand faster government action in stopping the spread of AIDS.

The CDC’s reported a cumulative total of 117,781 cases since AIDS reporting began in 1981. 

Below is the original AP wire service article about the protest:

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*January 31, 1989: From Los Angeles Times wire services

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of about 80 demonstrators shut down the Golden Gate Bridge at the height of rush hour this morning to demand faster government action in stopping the spread of AIDS.

The bridge remained closed for about half an hour until police arrived and made 20 to 30 arrests, authorities reported. The group, which called itself “Stop AIDS Now Or Else,” spread a banner across the width of the heavily traveled span and handed out leaflets to blocked motorists. Bridge Officer Lou Garcia said the demonstrators started blocking lanes about 7:30 a.m. and quickly succeeded in stopping traffic in both directions. The closure snarled traffic heading into San Francisco from Marin County on U.S. 101. Frustrated motorists shut off their engines and got out of their cars in an effort to see what was going on.

A spokeswoman for the group said they chose the bridge for the protest because it would be ″the most disruptive to people.″

″AIDS is disrupting our lives and until people’s lives are disrupted, they don’t pay attention,″ said Darla Rucker, spokeswoman for the group of AIDS victims and friends of AIDS patients.

″We don’t have the time to wait. My friends are dying all around me.″

The demonstrators closed all the traffic lanes by spreading a banner that read: ″AIDS Genocide; Silence Death; Fight Back,″ according to Highway Patrol officers, who called for police vans to cart off those arrested.

Some motorists stuck along U.S. 101 north and south of the bridge expressed anger at the demonstration and traffic tie-up.

Ruth Wheeler, of Larkspur, said she veered off the highway in Marin County, parked at a Safeway store and queued up with some 20 people to use five public telephones.

″People at Safeway were very upset. They said it was going to defeat their (the protesters’) cause,″ said Wheeler, who finally arrived at her destination about 9:30 a.m. ″The people said, ’Hey, if they think I’m going to be for them, doing something like this, forget it.‴

You can read the entire article about the event by clicking HERE

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San Francisco "Safe Space" Restaurant Backtracks and Apologizes After Refusing To Serve Armed Police Officers In Uniform

San Francisco “Safe Space” Restaurant Backtracks and Apologizes After Refusing To Serve Armed Police Officers In Uniform

San Francisco restaurant Hilda and Jesse has apologized for removal and non-service to serve three uniformed and armed San Francisco police officers on Friday due to “their multiple weapons.” and the fact that the restaurant is a meeting place for BPOC and it made their staff feel “uneasy”. This comes after a huge backlash by LGBT and straight customers.

 Co-owner of Hilda and Jesse’s Rachel Sillcocks took to Instagram to apologize:.

We made a mistake and apologize for the unfortunate incident on Friday when we asked members of the San Francisco Police Department to leave our restaurant, We are grateful to all members of the force who work hard to keep us safe, especially during these challenging times.

SFGate

Hilda and Jesse’s currently has one star and over 400 reviews on Yelp

Read Miss B.‘s review of Hilda and Jesse on Yelp

In Memoriam: November 27, 1978: Harvey Milk Assassinated In San Francisco

43 years ago today at 11 am on a beautiful Monday morning in 1978,  San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and gay civil rights leader and  SF Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed in cold blood by disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White.

White was disappointed that Moscone had refused to reappoint him to his seat on the Board of Supervisors, from which White had just resigned, and that Milk had lobbied heavily against his reappointment.

On Monday, November 27, 1978, the day Moscone was set to formally appoint another Supervisor to White’s now vacant seat, White had a friend drive him to San Francisco City Hall. He was carrying a five-round .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special loaded with hollow-point bullets in his service revolver from his work as a police officer, with ten extra rounds of ammunition in his coat pocket. White slipped into City Hall through a first floor window to avoid the metal detectors at the front entrance.

White had requested a meeting that morning with Mayor Moscone and requested again to be reappointed to his former seat on the Board of Supervisors. Moscone refused, and their conversation turned into a heated argument.

Wishing to avoid a public scene, Moscone suggested they retreat to a private lounge adjacent to the mayor’s office, so they would not be overheard by those waiting outside.  As Moscone lit a cigarette and proceeded to pour two drinks, White pulled out  his revolver. He then fired shots at the mayor’s shoulder and chest, tearing his lung open. Moscone fell to the floor and White approached Moscone, poised his gun 6 inches from the mayor’s head, and fired two additional bullets into Moscone’s head, killing him instantly.

Dan White then calmly walked out of the mayor’s office

Diane Feinstein who was then President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, saw White exit Mayor Moscone’s office from a side door and called after him. White sharply responded with “I have something to do first.”

White proceeded to his former office, when he met Harvey Milk on the way, asking him to step inside for a moment. Milk agreed to join him. Once the door to the office was closed, White positioned himself between the doorway and Milk, pulled out his revolver and opened fire on Milk. The first bullet hit Milk’s right wrist as he tried to protect himself. White continued firing rapidly, hitting Milk twice more in the chest, then fired a fourth bullet at Milk’s head, killing him instantly. White then coldly shot a fifth shot round into Harvey Milk’s skull at close range.

White fled the scene as Feinstein entered the office where Milk lay dead. She felt Milk’s neck for a pulse, her finger entering a bullet wound. Horrified, Feinstein was shaking so badly she required support from the police chief after identifying both bodies. Feinstein then announced the murders to a stunned public, stating: “As President of the Board of Supervisors, it’s my duty to make this announcement. Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed. The suspect is Supervisor Dan White.”

Dan White eventually turned himself in to San Francisco Police detective Frank Falzon, a former co-workers at his precinct. He then recorded a statement in which he acknowledged shooting Moscone and Milk, but denied premeditation despite the fact that he entered City Hall secretly and came prepared with the pistol and extra ammunition.

That day the city of San Francisco ground to a halt. Many offices and businesses closed. and people wept openly in the streets. Strangers hugged each other, trying to offer comfort. But there was no comfort to be had.

40 years later and there is still no comfort today.

Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community worldwide. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.

Harvey Milks martyrdom is a painful reminder of the length and difficulty of the journey to freedom. A journey we still take today and must continue fighting until we achieve full equality.

Harvey Milk a true LGBT hero and legend. His actions and words must never be forgotten. To this day we must listen to them, learn from them and follow them.

This is Harvey’s legacy to us.

You see there is a major difference–and it remains a vital difference–between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide. We’ve been tarred and we’ve been brushed with the picture of pornography. In Dade County, we were accused of child molestation. It’s not enough anymore just to have friends represent us. No matter how good that friend may be.

The black community made up its mind to that a long time ago. That the myths against blacks can only be dispelled by electing black leaders, so the black community could be judged by the leaders and not by the myths or black criminals. The Spanish community must not be judged by Latin criminals or myths. The Asian community must not be judged by Asian criminals or myths. The Italian community should not be judged by the mafia myths. And the time has come when the gay community must not be judged by our criminals and myths.

Like every other group, we must be judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo–a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment. A tenth of a nation supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children–and no offense meant to the stereotypes. But today, the black community is not judged by its friends, but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators. A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect not only from the larger community, but from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope.

The first gay people we elect must be strong. They must not be content to sit in the back of the bus. They must not be content to accept pablum. They must be above wheeling and dealing. They must be–for the good of all of us–independent, unbought. The anger and the frustrations that some of us feel is because we are misunderstood, and friends can’t feel that anger and frustration. They can sense it in us, but they can’t feel it. Because a friend has never gone through what is known as coming out. I will never forget what it was like coming out and having nobody to look up toward. I remember the lack of hope–and our friends can’t fulfill that.

I can’t forget the looks on faces of people who’ve lost hope. Be they gay, be they seniors, be they black looking for an almost-impossible job, be they Latins trying to explain their problems and aspirations in a tongue that’s foreign to them. I personally will never forget that people are more important than buildings. I use the word “I” because I’m proud. I stand here tonight in front of my gay sisters, brothers and friends because I’m proud of you. I think it’s time that we have many legislators who are gay and proud of that fact and do not have to remain in the closet. I think that a gay person, up-front, will not walk away from a responsibility and be afraid of being tossed out of office. After Dade County, I walked among the angry and the frustrated night after night and I looked at their faces. And in San Francisco, three days before Gay Pride Day, a person was killed just because he was gay. And that night, I walked among the sad and the frustrated at City Hall in San Francisco and later that night as they lit candles on Castro Street and stood in silence, reaching out for some symbolic thing that would give them hope. These were strong people, people whose faces I knew from the shop, the streets, meetings and people who I never saw before but I knew. They were strong, but even they needed hope.

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and more offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.

So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I’ve found one overriding thing about my personal election, it’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you, you have to give people hope.

In a controversial verdict that led to the coining of the legal slang “Twinkie defense,” White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder and served only five years of a seven-year prison sentence.

Two years after his release Dan White would return to San Francisco where he taped a garden hose to the tailpipe of his car , stuck the other end through a car window, and turned on the ignition.  In his hands, he clutched photographs of his three children and his wife.

Dan White did not kill himself out of guilt.  He did it because his killing Harvey Milk was going to follow him for the rest of his life.

Harvey Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

November 8, 1977: Harvey Milk Is Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Gay History – November 8, 1977: Harvey Milk Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors [Video]

November 8, 1977 – Harvey Milk is elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him the first openly gay man to be elected in a major U.S. city.  Although he was the most pro-gay politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not his early interests; he was neither open about his sexuality nor civically active until he was 40, after his experiences in the counterculture movement of the 1960’s.

Despite being a newcomer to the Castro District, Harvey Milk had shown leadership in the small community. He was starting to be taken seriously as a candidate and decided to run again for supervisor in 1975. He reconsidered his approach and cut his long hair, swore off marijuana, and vowed never to visit another gay bathhouse again. Milk’s campaigning earned the support of the teamsters, firefighters, and construction unions. Castro Camera became the center of activity in the neighborhood.

Milk favored support for small businesses and the growth of neighborhoods. Since 1968, Mayor Alioto had been luring large corporations to the city despite what critics labeled “the Manhattanization of San Francisco”. As blue-collar jobs were replaced by the service industry, Alioto’s weakened political base allowed for new leadership to be voted into office in the city. George Moscone was elected mayor. Moscone had been instrumental in repealing the sodomy law earlier that year in the California State Legislature. He acknowledged Milk’s influence in his election by visiting Milk’s election night headquarters, thanking Milk personally, and offering him a position as a city commissioner. Milk came in seventh place in the election, only one position away from earning a supervisor seat.  

Moscone appointed him to the Board of Permit Appeals in 1976, making him the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States. Milk, however, considered seeking a position in the California State Assembly. The district was weighted heavily in his favor, as much of it was based in neighborhoods surrounding Castro Street, where Milk’s sympathizers voted. In the previous race for supervisor, Milk received more votes than the currently seated assemblyman. However, Moscone had made a deal with the assembly speaker that another candidate should run—Art Agnos. Furthermore, by order of the mayor, neither appointed nor elected officials were allowed to run a campaign while performing their duties.

By the time of Milk’s 1975 campaign, he had decided to cut his hair and wear suits. Here, Milk (far right) is campaigning with longshoremen in San Francisco during his 1976 race for the California State Assembly.
 

Milk spent five weeks on the Board of Permit Appeals before Moscone was forced to fire him when he announced he would run for the California State Assembly. Rick Stokes replaced him. Milk’s firing, and the backroom deal made between Moscone, the assembly speaker, and Agnos, fueled his campaign as he took on the identity of a political underdog.

Milk’s continuing campaign, run from the storefront of Castro Camera, was a study in disorganization. Although the older Irish grandmothers and gay men who volunteered were plentiful and happy to send out mass mailings, Milk’s notes and volunteer lists were kept on scrap papers. Any time the campaign required funds, the money came from the cash register without any consideration for accounting.

Milk spent long hours registering voters and shaking hands at bus stops and movie theater lines. He took whatever opportunity came along to promote himself. He thoroughly enjoyed campaigning, and his success was evident. With the large numbers of volunteers, he had dozens at a time stand along the busy thoroughfare of Market Street as human billboards, holding “Milk for Assembly” signs while commuters drove into the heart of the city to work.

In the end Harvey Milk lost the Assembly seat by fewer than 4,000 votes.

Anita Bryant’s public campaign opposing homosexuality and the multiple challenges to gay rights ordinances across the United States fueled gay politics in San Francisco. Seventeen candidates from the Castro District entered the next race for supervisor; more than half of them were gay. The New York Times ran an exposé on the veritable invasion of gay people into San Francisco, estimating that the city’s gay population was between 100,000 and 200,000 out of a total 750,000.

Milk’s most successful opponent was the quiet and thoughtful lawyer Rick Stokes, who was backed by the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club. Stokes had been open about his homosexuality long before Milk had, and had experienced more severe treatment, once hospitalized and forced to endure electroshock therapy to ‘cure’ him.  Milk, however, was more expressive about the role of gay people and their issues in San Francisco politics. Stokes was quoted saying, “I’m just a businessman who happens to be gay,” and expressed the view that any normal person could also be homosexual. Milk’s contrasting populist philosophy was relayed to The New York Times: “We don’t want sympathetic liberals, we want gays to represent gays … I represent the gay street people—the 14-year-old runaway from San Antonio. We have to make up for hundreds of years of persecution. We have to give hope to that poor runaway kid from San Antonio. They go to the bars because churches are hostile. They need hope! They need a piece of the pie!”

On election day, November 8, 1977, he won by 30% against sixteen other candidates, and after his victory became apparent, he arrived on Castro Street on the back of his campaign manager’s motorcycle—escorted by Sheriff Richard Hongisto—to what a newspaper story described as a “tumultuous and moving welcome”.

Since the race for the California State Assembly, Milk had been receiving increasingly violent death threats. Concerned that his raised profile marked him as a target for assassination, he recorded on tape his thoughts, and whom he wanted to succeed him if he were killed, adding: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door”.

Sadly, we all know how this story ends.

GAY HISTORY – September 23, 1984: The First Folsom Street Fair Takes Place in San Francisco

San Francisco has always had a large gay leather community.  By the late 1970’s, they had created ‘Miracle Mile’, a stretch of Folsom street that featured over 30 gay leather bars and bathhouses.  But Miracle Mile as it was called. was a bothersome eyesore to City Hall, but the leather community defended their sanctuary and fought back against City Hall’s ambitious redevelopment program for the South of Market development already underway on Rincon Hill.

In the early 1980’s as HIV and AIDS tore through San Francisco severely weakening the leather community. City Hall took this opportunity to push through a series of redevelopment plans that together with AIDS, spelled the end of Miracle Mile as a leather sanctuary.

But in 1984 a coalition of leather community organizers and hosing advocates got together and decided to start a street fair. The fair would enhance the visibility of the leather community, provide a means for much-needed fundraising, and create opportunities for members of the leather community to connect to services and vital information that the bathhouses and bars might otherwise have been situated to distribute.

And thus the Folsom Street Fair was born.

Now the Folsom Street Fair after 35 years has become California’s third-largest single-day, outdoor spectator event attracting a whopping 400,000 slaves, masters, mummies, ponies, puppies, pigs, nudists, fairies, boot boys, jocks and people-with-such-crazy-sexual-interests-that-there-are-no-noun-for-them-yet, all crammed into 13 overcrowded street blocks of fun. It has also grown as a non-profit charity, with local and national non-profits benefiting from the proceeds from numerous fundraising booths within the festival including games, beverage and even spanking booths. (And a helluva lot more that is definitely NSWF).

Similar events also take place in Canada and Germany.   And in San Francisco FSF also manage “Up Your Alley”  street fair and special events like the “Folsom Street Fair Formal Leather Gala”

Folsom Street Fair Trivia:  The first Folsom Street Fair date was chosen to coincide with the autumnal equinox which it did through 1992.  Thereafter the Fair became more associated with one of the last two Sunday in September. 

*Photo: Gene Dermody and Carl Martin at the 1984 Folsom St. Fair. Carl served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970’s with gay activist Leonard Matlovich.

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