Time to move on

  • by Theresa Sparks
  • Wednesday November 16, 2016
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For the last 10 days San Francisco and its LGBTQ community have been paralyzed. Our sense of reality has been suspended. How could this be? How did it happen? How did this country put into its highest elected office �" make the most powerful leader in the free world �" an individual whose sense of self is gauged by ratings, self-adoration, and a tenuous grip on reality? How did we elect, by popular vote, a woman who is one of the most qualified candidates for president in modern times and, through our quirky colonial institution of the Electoral College, make president an individual who is possibly the least qualified candidate in our history �" a racist, bigot, self-proclaimed misogynist who stands against every value upon which this country was founded?

We've seen people express those feelings in peaceful protests here in San Francisco and across the country. Right now it seems hard to believe that after so many months of ugliness that our country will find a way to come together and move forward. Every journalist, media personality, blogger, intellectual, academic, and most people in this country and around the world have their own opinion on how this happened. But at this point, the how really doesn't matter. It's time to just get over it and move on.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has been speaking to groups around the city over the last few days, helping them cope and addressing their fears. His message is very clear, and I quote:

"We must remember, San Francisco will always be San Francisco.

"We will continue to fight for what we believe is right, we will continue to lead on the tough issues that many shy away from, and we will continue to be a beacon of light for anyone who is in search of acceptance, a safe haven, and community.

"We will always be a city to find refuge. We will always be a sanctuary city. It is in our DNA.

"Nothing will ever change this.

"I am confident that we will come together bound by the values we cherish and are known for across the nation, values of inclusiveness, tolerance and compassion for one another and other communities.

"We will not compromise these values. These values are what will carry us forward and we will move forward.

"San Francisco has been on the forefront of so many issues �" immigrant rights, anti-racism, LGBTQ rights, affordable health care for all, environmental stewardship, and more.

"We know that strong cities can help inspire the future. Together, let us push San Francisco to be that strong city for this nation and for all people around the world.

"We are stronger together and together we can show the nation and the world what we have always known, anything is possible when we are united for the common good."

San Francisco is a minority-majority city, speaking more than 100 languages and dialects. San Francisco's elected and appointed leadership is comprised of an Asian-American mayor; supervisors of many backgrounds, including Asian-American, African-American, and Latino; a Cuban-American district attorney; a Japanese-American public defender; a Latino city attorney; a gay Latino treasurer; an African-American city administrator and acting police chief; a female sheriff and fire chief; and LGBTQ people at every level of government. Our diversity is our strength and central to our core identity.

We must stand together, take care of one another, and keep each other safe. The LGBTQ community in San Francisco is strong. We lit the torch of queer freedom at Compton's Cafeteria three years before Stonewall. We created the internationally recognized symbol of LGBTQ Pride with the rainbow flag. We sent a message to the world of the human cost of AIDS with the AIDS quilt. We showed the world how to respectfully mourn the relentless violence against trans people of color by creating the Transgender Day of Remembrance. We displayed our pride through music by founding of the first gay men's chorus in the world. We created programs for LGBTQ equality that are now a reality for millions of queer people around the world. 

We married same-sex couples over a Valentine's Day weekend as the world looked on in amazement. 

We survived "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We survived one of the greatest pandemics of our time. We survived marriage discrimination. We survived health care inequality. We survived violence and police brutality. We survived Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W Bush. We can survive Donald Trump.

The time for mourning is over �" enough already. It's now time to look to the future, plan, strategize, and work together to plan our defense and continue to push for progress. Over the next weeks and months, every day is going to be LGBTQ Pride Day. Raise the flag, show our colors, and support one another. 

Be a catalyst to bring all of our diverse San Francisco communities together, queer and straight, documented or not, all nationalities, races, colors, and creed. Put aside our differences and acknowledge that everyone is in this together and we are stronger together.

Remember, once there was a gay boy in Altoona, Pennsylvania, who looked to San Francisco for hope. He is now married and has children of his own and is once again looking to us for strength and leadership. Like it or not, San Francisco has to demonstrate again. And always that hope is alive.

I was reminded of this Monday at the mayor's unity rally when the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus sang, "We are gentle and loving people and we are singing, singing for our lives. ..." and those of queer people everywhere.


Theresa Sparks is San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's senior adviser for transgender initiatives.

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