SF City Hall to be lit up for Lesbian Visibility Week

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Tuesday April 18, 2023
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The colors of the lesbian flag will light up San Francisco City Hall Friday, April 28, to mark a global event raising visibility about lesbians. Photo: AdobeStock/Maxim
The colors of the lesbian flag will light up San Francisco City Hall Friday, April 28, to mark a global event raising visibility about lesbians. Photo: AdobeStock/Maxim

San Francisco City Hall will join a handful of cities around the world lighting up select buildings for Lesbian Visibility Week from April 24-30.

For the first time, according to Victor Ruiz-Cornejo in Mayor London Breed's office, City Hall will be awash in red, orange, white, and shades of pink (the colors of the lesbian flag) Friday, April 28.

San Francisco joins London's OVO Arena Wembley and Glasgow's OVO Hydro Arena, which will also be lit up in the flag's colors for the week recognizing lesbians.

The Bay Area Reporter reached out to Linda Riley, publisher of the U.K.-based lesbian magazine, Diva, and initiator of the modern Lesbian Visibility Week campaign, for comment and a list of other cities.

Riley did not respond by press time.

Lesbian Visibility Day is formally observed Wednesday, April 26.

"I think it's ironic that a lot of people don't know the colors of the lesbian flag," said Frances "Franco" Stevens (), a lesbian who is co-founder of The Curve Foundation. Stevens was the subject of the documentary, "Ahead of the Curve," about the groundbreaking lesbian magazine she founded in San Francisco in 1990. The magazine is now a quarterly project of the foundation.

Steven's wife, Jen Rainin, co-produced and co-directed the film with Rivkah Beth Medow.

Stevens noted the prevalence of the rainbow flag and similar banners like the Progress flag, but not the lesbian flag or the visibility week. Additionally, she said lesbian visibility is getting lost as the world becomes more inclusive and the ways queer people identify become more diverse.

Throughout the film she asked, "Is the term 'lesbian' still relevant?" she told the B.A.R.

"Overwhelmingly, the response was, 'Yes,'" Stevens said, adding that she will be out in front of San Francisco City Hall when it is lit up in the colors of the lesbian flag. "We are still here, and we need recognition."

"We need to be recognized for our contributions to the community, to our culture, [and] to our city," she said.

Lesbian Visibility Week was launched in 1990 by a group of Los Angeles lesbians to champion better representation for queer women within the LGBTQ community, reported Pink News. That same year, Curve hit newsstands across the country. Three years later, New York City lesbians launched the activist group the Lesbian Avengers, which started at the Dyke March at the 1993 LGBTQ March on Washington.

However, celebrating lesbian visibility beyond the annual Dyke March waned over the years. In 2008, Lesbian Visibility Day was launched to revive recognition of the contributions of lesbians to the LGBTQ community. Riley wasn't satisfied with a single day. She started campaigning with Stonewall U.K. for a week in 2020. In 2021, the lesbian flag was first flown above London's City Hall.

Stevens then joined Riley in her quest to light up buildings to recognize lesbians for the visibility week. She approached gay San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman to light up San Francisco City Hall.

Mandelman expressed he was honored to work with Stevens to make the lighting up of the "gay mecca's" city hall in orange, red, white, and pink for lesbians happen.

"San Francisco's gay and lesbian communities have a long history of supporting each other's fights for human rights in the face of rampant hate," Mandelman stated to the B.A.R. "The lights will serve as a visual reminder of our commitment to supporting lesbians here and across the country."

"I'm so glad that the supervisor took steps to make sure that happens," Stevens said. "Honestly, I hope next year they can get it in the calendar so that city hall is illuminated for the entire week.

"I really hope that other cities will see this [and] will be inspired to illuminate their city hall," she added.

Sophia Andary, who is co-founder of the San Francisco Women's March and who is a commissioner on the city's Commission on the Status of Women, told the B.A.R. that the city's lesbian community needs more than a visual or one day of recognition.

"We need actual representation on the Board of Supervisors and leadership through[out] the city," Andary, a lesbian, wrote in a text to the B.A.R.

Long drought at City Hall

There hasn't been a lesbian supervisor in San Francisco since January 2001, when Leslie Katz stepped down after not running for reelection the year prior when the supervisors reverted to being elected by district. Since then the lone out female member of the board has been Christina Olague, who became the city's first bisexual supervisor after being appointed to a vacancy in 2012 but lost her race for the District 5 seat that fall to now-mayor London Breed.

So far no lesbian is being mentioned as a supervisorial candidate for any of the odd-numbered seats that will be on the city's 2024 fall ballot. As the B.A.R.'s Political Notebook column reported this week, Trevor Chandler launched his bid for the District 9 seat, and if elected, would be the fourth gay male member of the board.

A host of events celebrating lesbians around the world this year is listed on the Lesbian Visibility Week website. Some events will be livestreamed. The visibility week is supported by the U.K.-based Diversity Umbrella Foundation.

To find more lesbian communities around the world and virtually, join The Curve Foundation's Facebook community for free and special events.

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