Political Notebook: Out Catholics vie for SF supervisor seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022
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Honey Mahogany spoke to supporters at her kick-off event for the District 6 supervisor seat June 2. Photo: Courtesy Mahogany campaign<br>
Honey Mahogany spoke to supporters at her kick-off event for the District 6 supervisor seat June 2. Photo: Courtesy Mahogany campaign

Purged from their home country of Ethiopia following a Marxist takeover of the east African country in 1974, the parents of Honey Mahogany found refuge in San Francisco. Unable to continue his medical school studies, her father became a taxi driver to make ends meet and afford sending Mahogany and her siblings to local Catholic schools.

The St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School and St. Ignatius College Preparatory alumna grew up in the Outer Sunset and attended mass at St. Gabriel Church a few blocks from her family's apartment. It was where her parents married and where she and her siblings were baptized.

"Fun fact, my family is devoutly Catholic; pre-Vatican II Catholic," noted Mahogany. "We were brought up to be very, very, very good Catholics."

Mahogany made a point to discuss her family's religious leanings at her June 2 kickoff of her campaign to be elected in November to the District 6 seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors because those roots and the lessons her father imparted onto her at an early age are behind why she is now seeking the elected office.

"I am still a good Catholic girl at heart. I say that as only a transgender, pro-choice, drag queen can," Mahogany, 39, told the several hundred people who had joined her to officially launch her supervisorial bid.

If elected Mahogany, the current chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, would be the city's first transgender supervisor and first out Black supervisor. Mahogany would also be the first queer and nonbinary supervisor in San Francisco and the first drag queen elected as a supervisor.

She credits her Catholic upbringing for leading her to first pursue a career in social work. Mahogany earned a master's in social work from UC Berkeley and spent two decades working in the field here in the Bay Area.

"I've spent decades working to get homeless folks off the streets and into care, getting people struggling with addiction into recovery, and getting people who have committed crimes on a path to accountability," said Mahogany.

For the last four years Mahogany had worked for former District 6 supervisor Matt Haney, serving as his chief of staff this past year. He resigned from the seat after being elected in April to the city's 17th Assembly District seat.

Although Mahogany had sought to be appointed to fill the vacancy, Mayor London Breed instead chose Matt Dorsey to serve out the remainder of Haney's term through the end of the year. Dorsey, 57, a gay man living with HIV, had been serving as chief spokesman for San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.

He is now seeking to be elected to a full four-year term on the November ballot. Like Mahogany, Dorsey grew up one of three siblings in a Catholic household.

Raised in Massachusetts by his Irish and Italian parents, Dorsey is a practicing Catholic to this day. He is a longtime parishioner at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the LGBTQ Castro district.

He asked Father Donal Godfrey, the author of the 2007 book "Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish," to do the invocation at his supervisorial swearing-in ceremony last month that doubled as an unofficial kickoff for his own supervisorial campaign.

"I think spirituality is part of my recovery journey," Dorsey, who is in recovery for alcohol and drug addictions, told the Bay Area Reporter in May. "I have quarreled with the Catholic Church since childhood. I have accepted I am going to have quarrels with any religious tradition I seek to be a part of."

Despite the ongoing division over LGBTQ issues within the larger Catholic Church, Dorsey told the B.A.R. he has felt embraced at Most Holy Redeemer since he started regularly attending mass there in 2004. For three years he served on its parish council.

"I am really lucky to be part of a spiritual community at Most Holy Redeemer that has an incredible history with our community going back to the AIDS epidemic," said Dorsey, noting that members of the church early on began an AIDS ministry.

Unlike Dorsey, Mahogany is an infrequent church attendee these days.

"I consider myself a black sheep Catholic," Mahogany told the B.A.R., adding that she will also describe herself as a recovered Catholic. "I say that too. It's a toss up. I still practice — not often."

Not since gay former supervisor Tom Ammiano served on the board in the 1990s and 2000s has there been an out member of the board who's Catholic upbringing and faith has been so entwined with their political career. Over the years Ammiano has engaged in headline-grabbing feuds with local Catholic Church leaders, while more recently he generated global news attention when he finally received his varsity letter in track that his Catholic high school in New Jersey had denied giving to him 64 years ago.

Ammiano's successor to his District 9 seat, gay former supervisor David Campos, was also raised Catholic but was only a practicing member of the church "to some extent," as he told the B.A.R. in 2012. Appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, a bisexual Latina raised Catholic, ended up only serving a year. She lost her bid for a full term in 2012.

This Friday is the filing deadline for candidates wanting to seek the District 6 seat or any of the other even-numbered supervisor seats that will also be on the November 8 ballot. The city's other current gay member of the board, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is Jewish, is seeking a second four-year term this fall.

Also mounting a campaign for the District 6 supervisor seat is Ms. Billie Cooper, a longtime transgender advocate in the city. But with either Mahogany or Dorsey expected to win the contest, it is near guaranteed that an out Catholic will be serving inside City Hall for years to come.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on Congressmember Anna Eshoo's (D-Palo Alto) first ever campaign ads that feature her support for federal LGBTQ legislation.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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