Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday April 25, 2018
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Leno criticized by women

When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to remove London Breed as acting mayor and replace her with Supervisor Mark Farrell, the most obvious beneficiary was Mark Leno. Two of his key endorsers for mayor were behind the move to replace an African-American woman from the mayor's office with a venture capitalist. Supervisor Aaron Peskin orchestrated the maneuver, and Supervisor Norman Yee made the motion.

Significantly, women and African-Americans were particularly upset about the move and many people were surprised by the vote. More startling were the comments from Leno, who called the women defending Breed "disgusting" and sent out an email to his supporters on February 6 saying "they should be ashamed" of their support for the City's first female mayor in 30 years!

But anyone familiar with Leno's history with women would not have been surprised.

After being appointed by then-mayor Willie L. Brown, Leno ran a negative campaign against Eileen Hansen, a progressive stalwart who later served on the city's Ethics Commission. Leno and supporters relentlessly attacked Hansen for being a pro-Palestinian extremist who associated with left-wing fringe Jewish groups. It worked.

He now says he wants to make history as the city's first LGBTQ chief executive, but he refused to support Roberta Achtenberg, an out lesbian, when she ran for mayor in 1995, declining to even take her calls to discuss the race.

After being elected to the state Assembly, Leno decided to take on and demonize incumbent state Senator Carole Migden, who had successfully passed major HIV/AIDS legislation and helped set the table for marriage equality by masterminding a series of legislative victories around domestic partnerships with her lesbian colleagues Sheila Kuehl, Christine Kehoe, and Jackie Goldberg. Leno and his campaign team relentlessly attacked Migden in what became one of San Francisco's most negative races. It worked.

More recently, Leno sent out a campaign video touting that he was the "first gay man" elected to the California state Senate, conveniently ignoring the pioneering women who came before him, the aforementioned Migden, Kehoe, and Kuehl. Rendering women to invisibility in politics is just another version of "women should be seen, but not heard."

We will be heard in this election. We of all genders and sexualities must turn out in droves and ensure that we return a woman to Room 200 at San Francisco City Hall.

Roma Guy

Debra Walker, Past President, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club

San Francisco

Rainbow flags for Cuba

In Havana, people celebrate LGBT Pride on May 17, which is International Day Against Homophobia and a big deal in this country. For 11 years, Cubans have marked IDAHO and next month I will be in Havana to distribute thousands of rainbow flags and trinkets to queer folks and their allies at no cost. Funds and gently used rainbow jewelry are needed to make sure my baggage is fully stuffed with as many rainbow items as possible.

During my visit to Cuba in March for over two weeks, the number of times I saw the rainbow flag, in any form, on display was less than a literal handful - only four occasions. That needs to change. Whenever I donned my gay apparel, a large rainbow cape that was stylishly draped over my shoulders, it attracted much attention from bemused adults and giggling kids and allowed me opportunities to explain in broken Spanish the gayness of my garb.

At every LGBT-friendly club or venue, or walking the streets of Havana or peddling around town on a rental bike, proudly and happily sharing the highly visible queer rainbow of love, I regretted not having rainbow stickers, at the very least, to share with people and exchange friendship and solidarity.

Upon returning home to the queer mecca, I thought of a Gays Without Borders project - Rainbows for Cuba/Arcoiris para Cuba. I am returning to Havana a week before May 17, to widely share rainbow flags in various forms in the days leading up to IDAHO: cloth flags, silicone wristbands, bandanas and necklaces, crack-and-peel stickers, and other trinkets in different sizes, put into the hands of Cuban queers and their many allies.

My friend and Bay Area Reporter and freelance photographer Rick Gerharter, who's visited the island many times, is joining me on this adventure and will document how I share the rainbows. We have two enormous pieces of luggage just for rainbow flags.

Can you donate money or unused Pride jewelry? If your answer is yes, don't delay, please.

To contribute financially, visit my crowdfunding page at https://www.youcaring.com/michaelpetrelis-1165106, and to give costume jewelry email me at [email protected] to make arrangements for me to get things from you. And to see reports and photos of how I delivered rainbow flag awareness during my first visit to Cuba, check out my Facebook page.

Thanks in advance to all potential donors and supporters of Rainbows for Cuba/Arcoiris para Cuba!

Michael Petrelis

San Francisco

Death of female impersonator

It was unfortunate that the LGBT media did not report the news of the recent death of Lavern Paul Cummings. The world-renowned Cummings, 90, was killed in a crosswalk last month in Las Vegas.

Cummings was a legendary female impersonator who had performed for many years at the famous Finocchio's revue in San Francisco's North Beach.

Most of all, Cummings will always be remembered as a forerunner in the beginnings of LGBT history in San Francisco.

Cummings will be truly missed as a "rare gem" in the female impressionist as an art form.

Many thanks goes out to historian Ron Ross (San Francisco History Association), who was quick to alert the community of the loss of this remarkable person.

Mel Domingo

Honolulu, Hawaii