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Editorial: Let's name Oakland airport after Stein

by BAR Editorial Board

Oakland International Airport. Photo: Turner Construction
Oakland International Airport. Photo: Turner Construction  

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved naming Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport after slain gay supervisor Harvey Milk. It was, as we have reported, a 2013 compromise between the late mayor Ed Lee and then-supervisor David Campos. After years of delay, Tuesday's board action is much appreciated. Terminal 1, which is in the midst of a $2.4 billion renovation that will be unveiled in stages through 2024, will welcome visitors and residents with the message of inclusiveness that Milk stood for and symbolizies.

Now is the time for Oakland International Airport to follow suit, and we think it should be named after lesbian novelist, poet, playwright, and critic Gertrude Stein. She, of course, famously quipped of her childhood home in Oakland, in "Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography" (1937), "There is no there there."

Oakland's airport has increased flights in recent years, with new airlines and new destinations, including nonstop flights to London, Norway, Hawaii, and Mexico. A vibrant airport is a key component in the city's efforts to attract new residents and businesses.

Stein became a famous intellectual in Paris, where she lived for years, and met her life partner, Alice B. Toklas, on Toklas' first day in the City of Lights in 1907.

It's important that municipalities begin naming buildings and other civic areas after LGBT people. And by that, we don't just mean Milk, though he is deserving, especially in San Francisco, where he made history. Stein's connection to Oakland is not as well-known, and that's the point: if Oakland's airport is named after her, the public would be reminded of her life and legacy merely by seeing her name on signs. On a "CBS Sunday Morning" program timed to Women's History Month, commentator Faith Salie pointed out that no U.S. airport is named after a woman. In California, there are Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, the Charles Schulz Airport in Sonoma, and John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

The Port of Oakland, which oversees Oakland airport, should immediately begin studying the idea of naming the airport. The city's LGBT officials, Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno and City Council members Abel Guillen and Rebecca Kaplan should present this bold idea to Mayor Libby Schaaf, a strong ally. Memorializing historic LGBT figures, as our guest columnist writes below, will allow LGBTs and allies to see our contributions, and offer a beacon of hope.

Grindr's data problem
Grindr, the popular hook-up app for gay men, is facing a backlash after BuzzFeed News reported the site has been sharing its users' information - including their HIV status and "last tested data" - with Apptimize and Localytics, two companies that optimize apps. BuzzFeed reported that since the HIV information is sent together with users' GPS data, phone ID, and email, specific users and their HIV status could be identified.

This is outrageous.

By Tuesday, Grindr had agreed to stop sharing users' HIV data, but not before some gay activists called the breach a betrayal and serious violation.

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation raised alarms. "Grindr's action with its clients' data appears to be unprecedented and is a serious violation of laws protecting the confidentiality of clients' personal information, particularly sensitive health information that may result in stigma and discrimination targeting these individuals," AHF President Michael Weinstein said in a news release.

Last year, Grindr started letting users share their HIV status. Just last week, before the BuzzFeed story broke, the app announced that it was allowing users to receive reminders to get tested for HIV every three to six months.

Another issue is that since Grindr was bought by a Chinese technology company earlier this year, the Chinese government potentially could gain access to users' information. According to a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, China experts and former intelligence officials are raising concerns about user privacy.

These developments - along with the recent Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica improperly accessing the information of millions of the social network's users without their permission for questionable purposes - serve as a reminder of the erosion of privacy as we once knew it. Users of social, hookup, and other apps shouldn't expect any information to be kept confidential.

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