SF leather district board member resigns over tweets

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Thursday July 20, 2023
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JConr B. Ortega stands by San Francisco Mayor London Breed's Pride float June 25. Photo: From Ortega's Twitter feed
JConr B. Ortega stands by San Francisco Mayor London Breed's Pride float June 25. Photo: From Ortega's Twitter feed

A member of the San Francisco Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District board resigned Thursday, a couple of weeks after he posted tweets that some viewed as racist and anti-trans. It comes as the city's fetish and leather communities ready for the annual Up Your Alley street fair being held on July 30.

JConr B. Ortega, the organization's diversity and membership committee chair, posted a statement on Twitter July 20, stating that he has left the cultural district's board.

"It was brought to my attention that political activist(s) in our community have taken issue with my personal stance on various political issues and instead of conducting civil discourse in an entirely separate forum, they, in turn, have pressured members of our leadership to remove a democratically elected board member of a cultural district nonprofit board," Ortega wrote. "As a board member of the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, I am resigning my position immediately."

Ortega also wrote that had he not resigned, it was likely the district's board would have "forced me out by a politically motivated vote to appease the activist(s)." He stated that he did not violate the bylaws of the leather district.

Ortega was likely referring, in part, to retweets of his July 3 post by Lito Sandoval, a former president of the San Francisco Latino Democrats and former board chair of the GLBT Historical Society. In one of those, Sandoval retweeted Ortega's tweet in which Ortega wrote. "Wrong lane. This is the Pride lane - trans lane over to the right."

"Uhhh, So this dood is on the board of @SFleatherDist and @sfyd? With his anti-affirmative action stance and LGB not T attitude? Que lastima! [what a pity]" Sandoval tweeted, referring to the leather district and the San Francisco Young Democrats.

Regarding affirmative action, Ortega had written July 2, "Call me an old fashioned Democrat, I do not support the idea of race being a factor in an admission to a school. I reject the premise that one's acceptance should be based on the color of their skin and not the contents of their character, as Dr. King would say." He was referring to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the late civil rights leader.

The tweet was an apparent reference to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that struck down affirmative action in college admissions.

In a direct message to the Bay Area Reporter July 20, Ortega blamed a Twitter troll but did not specifically name anyone.

"So there is a Twitter troll who has a habit of going around posting their distaste for Tom Wolf and Senator Scott Wiener," Ortega wrote, referring to a formerly homeless recovering heroin addict who is director of West Coast initiatives for the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions and the gay state legislator from San Francisco. "Previously, the same troll decided to bring up trans issues in a conversation about fentanyl. To which I replied to them: 'This is the Fentanyl lane, not the trans lane.' To the post, I post a picture of me and mayor breed at pride parade, to which this troll posted a picture of Senator Wiener and Tom Wolf. And I replied: 'this is the pride lane the trans lane is over there.'"

A search of Ortega's Twitter feed shows that @eyesontransphobesSF did post a comment June 23 and included a tweet from Wolf, who wrote about meeting with Wiener to discuss the fentanyl epidemic.

Wiener declined to comment.

Wolf could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sandoval said he was glad Ortega stepped down.

"I'm happy to hear JConr B. Ortega has taken the correct action of stepping down as diversity and membership committee chair of the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District," Sandoval wrote in a Twitter direct message to the B.A.R. "However, I'm disheartened that his statement shows he just doesn't get it. Being called out for statements made is not being bullied, it is called being held accountable for one's actions. No threats were ever made, just questions raised as to how one could be anti-affirmative action, make an anti-trans statement and be in a leadership position in both a cultural district and Democratic club."

As for the leather district, Executive Director Bob Goldfarb, a gay man, confirmed that the district received Ortega's letter.

"We received JConr Ortega's letter of resignation, which the board has discussed and accepted," Goldfarb wrote in an email.

The cultural district's July 15 newsletter includes a statement on its communication policy.

"Only statements made through official District communication channels represent our organization," the statement reads. "Individual board members using their personal social media are not speaking on behalf of the District.

"We are fully inclusive and supportive of the BIPOC, trans, nonbinary, and queer communities," the statement continues, referring to Black, Indigenous people of color. "We have been and will remain steadfast in that support as well as creating events that are a safe and welcoming environment for all."

Goldfarb said that the policy has been adhered to by the district.

"While it has always been our internal policy, we felt stating our communication policy would help clarify for the public that only statements coming from the District's own channels are representing official District positions," he wrote.

In his statement, Ortega said he would continue to stand by his personal beliefs.

"Even though this decision did not come lightly, I will continue to serve the leather community itself and now have a clear avenue to publicly state my positions without fear of retaliation from my fellow Leather & LGBTQ board leadership," he wrote. "Knowing the activists who made the complaint, I have no ill will toward those who seek to undermine me, but as stated above, I will not apologize for the positions I have taken."

Updated, 7/20/24: This article has been updated with comments from leather district Executive Director Bob Goldfarb.

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