Trans AIDS activist has pushed for inclusion

  • by Cynthia Laird
  • Tuesday June 25, 2013
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Longtime transgender and HIV activist Veronika Fimbres is one of several community grand marshals in this year's LGBT Pride parade and has long advocated for those who are disenfranchised.

A licensed vocational nurse for 30 years, Fimbres, 60, has held several jobs in the medical profession, including staff nurse at Hospice By the Bay and safety nurse at San Quentin State Prison, where she was the first transgender woman to work in that capacity.

Fimbres came to San Francisco in 1996. Over the years, she has been involved in public service as a member of the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council and the San Francisco Veterans' Affairs Commission.

She is a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor of 26 years.

The planning council is tasked with prioritizing funds granted to San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties under the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. During her time on the council in the late 1990s, Fimbres pushed for the allocation of $80,000 for the first educational symposium to train providers on how to work with trans HIV patients. According to her biography, she also advised the health department AIDS office's epidemiology and surveillance unit to develop data and statistics on transgender people. Until that time, she noted, health officials were "lumping trans individuals with men."

"The AIDS office has included 'transgenders' ever since," she wrote.

In her public service post, Fimbres was a veterans' affairs commissioner for 14 years, being appointed by the Board of Supervisors and three mayors. She was the first openly transgender person appointed to a board or commission in the city, she noted. It was while on that body that she advocated for the 38-Geary Muni line to display "VA Hospital" on the bus destination signs so that veterans could find out how to get to the hospital.

Over the years, Fimbres has been an outspoken activist in the transgender community. She was the organizer of last year's efforts to get the Castro merchants group to fly the transgender pride flag for 24 hours around the time of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance observance. The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro initially refused the request, but Fimbres garnered nearly 1,300 signatures on an online petition. The merchants group, which controls the flagpole, ultimately allowed the flag to be flown.

"While we have made many inroads, and been the pioneer in trans studies and research, I find that we are still underserved and marginalized," Fimbres wrote in an opinion piece in the Bay Area Reporter last year during the flag flap.

She has received numerous awards for her community service, including the Fred Skau Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award from the AIDS Emergency Fund and the Bobby Campbell AIDS Hero Award from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Fimbres declined to be interviewed for this article, but earlier this year she said she was proud to have been nominated a grand marshal. She was a choice of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's board.