Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club
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Inside Alice This Month!

  • March Membership Events
  • Assembly Election Debate Next Wednesday, By Melissa Griffen
  • Co-Chair Column: The Continuing Importance of Being Out, By Ron Flynn
  • Homophobia in San Francisco Fire Department? By Joel Engardio
  • California Passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266), By Masen Davis
  • LGBT Russian Refugee Fund, By Stan Sarkisov
  • February Member Profile: Fran Kipnis
  • Alice March Happenings
  • February Member Meeting Recap, Photos

March Membership Events


Assembly Election Debate Next Wednesday!

Melissa Griffin Caen

Term limits have forced Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-17) to stop bogarting the representation of San Francisco in the state assembly. (You’re next Leno!) While no one can truly replace our inimitable Ammiano, two brave men have dared to try: David Campos and David Chiu.

Two, yes two! Despite the similarities that might lead you to think there is only one. They are both Harvard Law graduates. Both are San Francisco transplants. Both are members of the Board of Supervisors. Both are named David and both have extremely understanding spouses. (Did I mention this gig requires working in Sacramento? Sweet Jesus…)

What are the differences? That’s why we’re having a debate! State politics are often for the “Boring but Important” file, but the state legislature is where laws are made that dictate evictions, guns and criminal sentencing. We’ll take a look at where the candidates stand on these and other key issues. Which David will support high-speed rail? Which will look out for foster youth? Which will yell at Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Kiss my gay ass!” (Sadly, probably neither.) 

This year’s race for the Assembly is especially exciting because it features a newly-drawn District 17 and the jungle primary, which means that the Davids will face off once in the June primary and again in November. 

State Senator Mark Leno once said, “The best master class for a seat in the legislature is a term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.” Luckily, we have two graduates to choose from. Let the games begin. 


Co-Chair Column: The Continuing Importance of Being Out

Ron Flynn
Alice Board, Co-Chair

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions along the lines of “now that you have marriage, why do you need protections?” Or, “now that we have such a presence in San Francisco, why do we need a LGBT group?” These are variations on a theme: The LGBT Community has won, so there is no need to be so visible.

I do not agree. There are the very real protections that remain to won all over the world. The newspapers are filled with information about the brutality and state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBT Community in Uganda, Russia, India etc. It is important that San Francisco remains active in those fights. Leading by example, Alice’s own Stan Sarkisov writes this month about what you can do to help Russian refugees.  

And state-sponsored discrimination is not just limited to foreign countries. Yes, in San Francisco we can walk into City Hall and be treated with respect and dignity when seeking a marriage license. But at the same time, in a Federal courtroom in Michigan, so called “experts”, hired by the State, are testifying as to reasons why we should not only be unable to marry, but also not allowed to adopt our partner’s children. San Francisco has an obligation to remain active so that others can join us.  

And as I have written about before, the Transgender Community remains at great risk. The continued employment and housing discrimination, and isolation from our larger community requires that we stand strong as a community.

And as Joel Engardio details in this issue, our own City Fire Department has yet to join other departments (such as the Police Department) in working to actively eradicate discrimination. All this work needs to be done. All of the work requires us to be visible and demanding.

But there remains a critical reason for being out that will never change. LGBT youth depend upon us to be out, to declare safe spaces, and have discussions among everyone, in order to provide them the room to come out.

Two months ago, a college professor in San Francisco told me about a student he has in a design course. There was no requirement that the design work be LGBT related, but LGBT issues were discussed throughout the course and students met with various LGBT groups, including the Queer Cultural Center. At the end of the course, the student came out to his parents. He thanked the professor for bringing the issues out in a real world way which allowed him the courage to come out. It is easy to forget that students, young adults, and even fellow adults who have lived for years in the closet, depend on us.

So even in San Francisco, in 2014 we must be out. There is so much work to be done, but let’s not forget the work we do everyday by being out and raising our issues in a very public way.


Homophobia in San Francisco Fire Department?

Joel Engardio
Alice Board, Program Committee

When your house is on fire, does it matter if those saving your life have diverse backgrounds and accepting attitudes? You’re probably just happy to get help, without questioning what goes on in the firehouse.

That might explain why it took court action – and a decade of monitoring -- to get the San Francisco Fire Department to hire more minorities and women.

Shortly after Alice Board Member Keith Baraka (pictured above) joined the force, in 1997, a federal judge determined there was enough firefighter diversity to let the department handle its own hires. Baraka was counted as African American. But he’s also gay, and that wasn’t part of the court-ordered equation.

It was the age of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, but Baraka imagined San Francisco’s firehouses were different -- especially in the Castro, where Station 6 is located.

Although Baraka left his family in Ohio for an easier gay life, he said nothing was tougher than the decade he spent being a gay firefighter in Station 6.

“It’s a long day when you work with people who won’t talk to you,” said Baraka, recalling the mornings when he would enter the firehouse kitchen, greet his colleagues and watch them get up from the table and move to another room.

At first, he wasn’t sure what the cold shoulder was for. Maybe it was because African Americans tended to work in other stations. Perhaps word had spread about his recovery from a past drug addiction. Or was it the rainbow sticker on his helmet?

When 7x7 magazine came to Station 6 to photograph firefighters, the rainbow sticker on Baraka’s helmet was visible in the published photo. A copy didn’t survive long on the firehouse wall. Baraka found it on the floor, its frame broken and glass cracked. “We don’t want that picture in here,” he said he was told.

The word “fag” allegedly was thrown causally around Baraka in the firehouse. So was talk about penis size. He says items went missing from his locker, his name was repeatedly erased from the assignment chalkboard and his car was keyed.

The Department of Human Resources dismissed the alleged incidents last year, ruling they didn’t meet the standard of harassment or weren’t reported within a required 180 days.

“It’s hard to prove discrimination because people are a lot smarter about it now,” Baraka said.

We won’t know if Baraka’s Station 6 colleagues isolated and ostracized him because he was gay. But here’s what we do know: the Fire Department has no recruitment program for gay hires, no support group for gay employees, no gay members on the Fire Commission and few openly gay firefighters.

“The gay community deserves better,” Baraka said. “Especially from the Castro firehouse.”

Baraka is well known for his volunteer work in local politics, and he even serves as the proxy for state Sen. Mark Leno at meetings of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. Still, when Baraka transferred out of Station 6 last year, he says that a parting note in his locker said, “Good Bye, Good Riddance Bitch!!”

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club sent a letter last fall to Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

“This segregated station exists in the heart of the LGBT community,” wrote the co-chairs of Alice at the time, Ron Flynn and Martha Knutzen. “Worse, the station is hostile to our community.”

The letter was personal because Baraka serves on the group’s board of directors (I am also a board member, but had no role in the letter).

Most of the letter’s recipients had sought the group’s political endorsement, so the club wasn’t shy with its demands: department-wide LGBT sensitivity training, recruitment of LGBT firefighters and a LGBT member on the Fire Commission.

The club highlighted the example of the San Francisco Police Department, which has become so gay friendly some might forget it had a rocky history with the gay community.

The fire chief’s response letter acknowledged the club’s concerns without offering any action. But Baraka and the group won’t give up. The newest co-chair of the club is retired Navy Cmdr. Zoe Dunning, who successfully fought the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“We’re asking for very reasonable goals,” said Baraka, who now happily works for Station 21 near Alamo Square. “It only makes for a better Fire Department when the firefighters reflect the people they serve.”

-- Previously published in the San Francisco Examiner

California Passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266)

Masen Davis
Executive Director, Transgender Law Center

I am so proud to be a Californian because the good people of this state consistently err on the side of fairness for all. As a transgender man, I am especially proud that California passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266) - an unequivocal affirmation that all students, including transgender students, can fully participate in school programs and facilities as their authentic selves.

The law is already having a positive impact. School Districts are updating their policies to comply. And, at Transgender Law Center we’ve heard from students like Zoe, a 12 year old transgender girl in Los Angeles, whose school was previously not recognizing her as a girl. Zoe’s mom tells us that now, thanks to this new law, Zoe is thriving.

Recently, opposition efforts failed to gather enough signatures to place a repeal of AB1266 on November’s ballot. Thank goodness - none of us want to go through another campaign like Prop 8. However, the other side is threatening lawsuits and continues to fan the flames of fear.

We need your help to continue creating a culture wherein every student is able to be happy and do well in school. Please, talk to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues about why supporting transgender students is important to you. On social media, share the stories of transgender youth, available at
And, keep doing what you’re doing at Alice B. Toklas Club to advance policies that promote fairness for all. Thank you for your support.

LGBT Russian Refugee Fund

Stan Sarkisov
Alice Board, Communications Committee

For 17 days this February, the world’s attention intensified on Russia’s discriminatory ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law and the subsequent rise in violence against LGBT people.  LGBT athletes medaled (even cuddled with Putin), and allies “protested” with colorful helmets.  And then they left.

An LGBT Russian Refugee Fund, created by the Horizons Foundation, supports asylum seekers and refugees relocating to the United States—especially the East Bay, which has been identified by the U.S. State Department as a receiving area.  Upon arrival, the Fund will cover grantees’ housing, health, and legal assistance costs, and other necessary expenses.

“Horizons has a history of getting resources to all parts of the LGBT community, especially the most in need.  Today, we see folks experiencing horrible persecution in Russia, in several African countries, and in different parts of the globe.  The LGBT community has a long history of helping each other; it’s part of who we are as a community,” says Horizons’ Director of Grantmaking and Community Initiatives Francisco Buchting.

The LGBT Russian Refugee Fund raised close to $2,000 at its kick-off fundraiser on the same day as the Sochi Opening Ceremonies.  

“In setting up the LGBT Russian Refugee Fund, we wanted to compliment other efforts that are ongoing, like the Russian Freedom Fund by the Arcus foundation, which sends money to LGBT activists in Russia, the Horizons fund will focus on helping LGBT people once they arrive to the U.S.” Buchting explains. 

With further anti-LGBT laws anticipated after the Olympics, hundreds of Russian same-sex families are ready to flee once an expected bill strips LGBT parents of custodial rights.

“Resources have to get to people as soon as possible once they arrive in the US and have filed their asylum application due to up to a 150 days waiting period before one can apply for permission to work in the US. This means that it takes significant amount of funds to help in the relocation of LGBT people seeking asylum in the U.S.,” Buchting says.  

Alice members are welcome to contribute to this Fund, or the LGBTI Cameroon Fund, which similarly helps relocate and reunite families from the west central African nation that arrests more homosexuals than any other country in the world.  Donations can be made online at, or via checks mailed to the Horizons Foundation located at 550 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, California 94111. Please specify that the donation are for the LGBT Russian Refugee Fund or the LGBTI Cameroon Fund.

February Member Profile

Fran Kipnis
Alice Board, Former Co-Chair

I joined Alice because I love electoral politics.  I was co chair of Alice with Denny Edelman, who is my hero.  I continue to stay involved because I find that the vast majority of Alice members are intelligent, involved, very nice and fun to be with. Alice plays an important role in the San Francisco LGBT community. We are respected and voters look to us in making its decisions on local issues.  I like being a part of making those decisions.  During our campaign for Willie Brown for Mayor, one of our funniest memories was when my wife Martha wore pastel t shirts to the Folsom street Fair -- we were not exactly dressed right for the fair, but Willie Brown was a hit with everyone. 
Alice March Happenings

2014 LGBT Center Soiree
When: Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8 PM - Midnight with a VIP Reception: 6:30 PM - 8 PM
Where: City View at the Metreon, San Francisco

Please join the SF LGBT Center for our annual Soiree on April 5, 2014. Hosted Bar, Gourmet Morsels, Silent Auction, Music, Dancing & Live Entertainment. We are very pleased to extend a special discount to you-- Please use this link to save $10 on regular or VIP tickets. Discount expires 3/11/2014

Cloud Computing Academy’s Scholarship Program
Deadline: March 15, 2014 at 5:00 p.m
More Details: Tekmeca Website

Applications are now open for the Cloud Computing Academy’s 20 full scholarships for unemployed or underemployed San Francisco residents to strengthen their career skills.  The Cloud Computing Academy is run by a local non-profit called Tekmeca, and is launching a learning-training-mentorship program to offer junior-level cloud-computing programming skills and general cloud-computing industry familiarity.  Classes will be scheduled for evenings and weekends, to provide maximum flexibility to students, with day-time hours devoted to real-world projects connecting students to engineers from program partners such as myTAG and The scholarships are open to San Francisco residents who are 18+, unemployed, low-income, underemployed, changing careers, or otherwise not able to access job skills renewal.  Awardees will be notified on March 22, with scholarships funded by San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development as part of the TechSF initiative.  

February Member Meeting Recap
Supervisor Scott Wiener and Nick Panagopoulos presenting opposing arguments on the Sugary Beverage Tax.

Alice Members and guests hear opposing arguments on the Sugary Beverage Tax.

Copyright © 2014 Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, All rights reserved.

Thanks so much for checking out our monthly newsletter. 
-Micah, Thomas and the Communications Team