Emeryville OKs last step for Dain street renaming

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday January 20, 2021
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Former high school gym instructor Steve Dain. Photo: Mariette Pathy Allen
Former high school gym instructor Steve Dain. Photo: Mariette Pathy Allen

In a unanimous 5-0 decision at its January 19 meeting, the Emeryville City Council approved the final step necessary to rename a street in front of Emery High School after a late instructor who had been fired for receiving gender confirmation surgery.

In May 2020, the council voted unanimously to name the block of 47th Street between San Pablo Avenue and Doyle Street after Steve Dain, a trans man who taught gym at Emery High between 1966 and 1976.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, the Emeryville Tattler published a scathing post last November noting that while the street name change had been approved last May, the new signs were not yet up.

City officials clarified to the B.A.R. that the city had several legal and logistical requirements to fulfill before new street signs can go up. The Tuesday vote was for the final authorization now that those steps have been completed, gay councilman John Bauters told the B.A.R. earlier in the day.

"It's a technicality," Bauters said. "When we decided to do the renaming, one thing we had to make sure to do was to go through technical hoops with the county and the post office to successfully rename the street."

This involved notifying addressees and allowing for a period of transition, Bauters said.

"Tonight is the authorization," Bauters said. "I expect 5-0 passage."

After the vote, Bauters told the B.A.R. that Emeryville is trying to right a historic wrong.

"Even though we didn't know Steve Dain personally, we all understand the importance of making things right and making our community a model for how to be better," Bauters said.

Mayor Dianne Martinez said the action was a formality and that the entire council supported it.

"I personally think that Mr. Dain's life was irreparably damaged by the indignities he suffered while working at Emery Unified School District," Martinez wrote in an email. "I am thrilled that as a city, we can move to repair that damage and give Mr. Dain the respect that he deserved in his lifetime. Trans people will not be erased in Emeryville — not under the watch of this City Council."

Christian Patz, who served as the mayor of Emeryville last year, had introduced the resolution to change the name.

"I am excited that this is finally happening," he wrote in a brief email. "I think the appointment of Rachel Levine speaks to where we have come since I first proposed renaming the gym after Mr. Dain five years ago."

He was referring to President Joe Biden's nominee to be assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, making Levine, a physician, the first openly trans person to be appointed to a position requiring Senate confirmation and the highest level openly trans person in the history of the U.S. executive branch.

Patz had been a supporter for years of renaming the gym at Emery High after Dain. The proposal was defeated at a school board meeting on June 26, 2019 — the Wednesday before Pride was celebrated in San Francisco and many other major cities.

Barbara Inch, Patz's wife, had been school board president and resigned two days after that vote.

Patz had attributed that decision to bigotry, and the street name change was proposed as another way to honor Dain.

Dain had been fired after his gender confirmation surgery. He won a lawsuit and was awarded $19,000 after the termination, but was unable to return to teaching. He died in 2007 at age 68.

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