City and County of San FranciscoHuman Rights Commission

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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee

Minutes of the March 18, 2008 Meeting



Committee Members Present: Commissioner Cecilia Chung, Commissioner Mark Dunlop, Jane Aceituno, Rene Astudillo, Saurabh Bajaj, Dora Balcazar, Alex Baty, Samer Danfoura, Bill Doggett, Ted Guggenheim, Justin Jones, Poonam, Paul Klees, Allison Laureano, Mark Murphy, Yvette Pannell, Ren Phoenix, Martin Rawlings-Fein, Greg Shaw, Alic Shook, Kim Shuck, Lindasusan Ulrich, Brad Vanderbilt.


Committee Members Absent: Blue Buddha (excused), Winston Dong, Jr. (excused)


Staff Present: Nadia Babella, Larry Brinkin, Cynthia Goldstein, natoyiniinastumiik, Domenic Viterbo.


Guests Present: Judith Banister, Heather Cassell, Emily Drennen, Yoseñio Lewis, Pepper Mint, Sadie Rawlings-Fein, Shelli Rawlings-Fein.


1.      Call to Order and Roll Call:


Ms. Laureano called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.


2.      Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda:


No public comments were made.


3.      Approval of February 19, 2008 minutes (Action Item):


Mr. Astudillo moved to approve the minutes as written. Mr. Jones seconded. The motion passed unanimously.


4.      LGBTAC Member Introductions:


Because tonight’s meeting was the first meeting of the new term, all Committee members present introduced themselves.


5.      Panel Discussion: Bisexual Invisibility:


Ms. Ulrich, moderator of the panel, introduced the co-panelists: Shelli Rawlings-Fein, Yoseñio Lewis, Pepper Mint.


Ms. Ulrich said that “bi-invisibility” refers to the lack of acknowledgement that bisexuals exist. Data from the 2002 national survey of family growth found that of the 8.8 million people in theU.S. who don’t consider themselves heterosexual, more than half of them are bisexual. When looking at sexual behavior, which is distinct from identity, 13% of women and 6% of men are attracted to both sexes. Interestingly, 4% of both men and women identify as “something else” over bisexual, lesbian, gay, or heterosexual. Bi-invisibility also impacts a bisexual person’s health. Published research by the Policy Institute shows that bisexual people experience greater health disparities than the broader population. The majority of research tends to lump data on bisexuals with that of lesbians and gay men making it difficult to draw any conclusions on bisexuals and skews the data on lesbians and gay men. Most HIV/STD programs don’t adequately address the health needs of bisexuals. Biphobia affects how much bisexuals earn in the workplace: data from a California study showed that compared to wages earned by heterosexual men, gay men earned 2-3% less, and lesbians, 3% less; bisexual men earned 10-15% less and bisexual women earned 11% less. Funding for bisexual concerns is pitiful: a 2006 national report on queer grants shows that funding for bisexual organizations and programs was the lowest of all the demographic groups tracked. Ms. Ulrich recommendations include educating the public and City departments on using inclusive language (e.g. “LGBT bias” rather than “homophobia”), to urge DPH to adopt brochure models created by Fenway Community Health in Boston and to continue a survey started by interns at the Bay Area Bisexual Network of local nonprofits to see what bi-specific programs are available, and to hold a Public Hearing before the full Commission to address these issues.


Shelli Rawlings-Fein is a full-time working mother and is married to Mr. Rawlings-Fein. She has identified as bisexual for over 10 years. After moving to San Francisco in 1999, she became a guest columnist for Anything That Moves magazine. She learned that many readers of the magazine were afraid to come out as bisexual and were living as gay or lesbian or in heterosexual relationships and coming to them for community. On her healthcare experience, medical professionals never asked her about her sexual orientation or behavior because she is married. The asking is the biggest aspect affecting bisexual health; by not being asked about their sexual behavior, bisexuals are put at risk. Since becoming a parent, the visibility has dropped even lower because it is perceived that she meets heterosexual norms since she’s married and has a child. Bisexual invisibility extends beyond the greater LGT communities and into the heterosexual community where coming out doesn’t feel safe. She recommends that the Committee hold a Pubic Hearing to the full Commission, to make the public aware of bisexuals.


Yoseñio Lewis, a Latino of African descent, is a female-to-male transsexual who has been a social justice activist since he was 13 years old and served on the Committee for six years. He spoke as an ally for bisexuals. He said that the “B” denoting bisexuals was added to the Committee’s name in 1990 followed by “T” in 1994 through the efforts of bisexual activists and open minded gay and lesbian activists. He provided numerous historical accounts of how bisexuals and bi-allies were instrumental in forging the LGBT movement and asked the Committee to not be afraid to stand up and be an ally, to be willing to say “…and bisexual and transgender” in and out of the meeting room when they are continually left out of the discussion.


Pepper Mint is a bisexual and polyamorous organizer, activist, and social theorist and was instrumental in organizing the Bay Area Bisexual Network Pride Parade contingent for the last five years. He said that half of the bisexual community in San Francisco consists of monogamous bisexuals and the other half are non-monogamous. There are social reasons for this: among non-monogamous bisexuals, polyamory is common, having romantic relationships with multiple people in which all involved have an understanding on what’s going on. Statistically, 30%-40% of bisexuals identify as polyamorous. Generally, because of bi-invisibility, it’s hard for the larger queer community to understand that bisexuals are organizing in ways not connected to LGBT organizing nor see polyamory as resource.


The panel entertained questions from the Committee.


Heather Cassell, a freelance journalist, suggested several bisexual resources: The Bisexual’s Guide To The Universe: Quips, Tips, and Lists For Those Who Go Both Ways by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski; Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire by Lisa M. Diamond; and her articles on bisexuality in several issues of last year’s Bay Area Reporter.


6.      Discussion on Planning the Annual Retreat:


Mr. Brinkin explained that when planning the annual retreat, the most difficult thing is finding a date when most members can attend since the Committee is so large. In the history of the Committee, there has been no retreat that everyone was able to attend. A chart was circulated with all the possible Saturday and Sunday dates in April for the Committee members to indicate their availability. Once a date is selected, the Committee will be informed of the date, time, and place of the retreat as well as a homework assignment: to think about issues they would like to address during the year. He said that a retreat planning committee will be formed consisting of commissioners, staff, and Committee members and asked that anyone who’s interested in participating contact staff.


Ms. Phoenix asked that a list of the topics that came from last year’s retreat be forwarded to the Committee so as to not duplicate any issues that already have been addressed.


7.      Outreach Work Group Report


Commissioner Chung explained the process of the mentorship program which was implemented to help new Committee members become familiarized with the meeting process. Last year’s mentorship program involved pairing up new members with older members to explain the meeting processes and procedures of the Committee. She explained the requirements being asked by the mentors: 1) one 1-on-1 meeting with their mentee; 2) follow-up conversations with their mentee; 3) sit with their mentee during meetings to help answer questions about the meeting process.


Commissioner Chung reported that some Committee members participated in the annual Chinese New Year Festival Street Fair, a two-day event. She said that it was challenging to be participating at this event because the weather was quite wet and windy. She asked for any input from those members who participated: Mr. Rawlings-Fein suggested engaging the public a bit more by having a wheel to spin to win a free gift. Mr. Astudillo felt the event wasn’t an effective venue for outreach on certain issues such as workplace discrimination or LGBT discrimination. He feels that it would more effective to focus on outreach to advocacy groups that serve the Asian community. Mr. Brinkin said that because there were numerous problems with staffing the booth, in future events where a booth needs staffing, that staff would need to be present to ensure that someone is always there in case volunteers do not show up. Ms. Laureano suggested that in addition to a phone tree, that there is an email blast to send out updates online. Commissioner Chung reported that they are still in the process of determining when and where the Committee can have a community meeting to reach out to the LGBT communities in S.F. Any ideas should be sent to staff.


8.      Commissioner Report:


Commissioner Chung reported that a Transgender Leadership Summit was held last weekend in Berkeley and was quite successful. Also the fourth annual Transgender Job Fair will take place at The Center on Thursday, March 27. The job fair has now folded into the Transgender Economic and Empowerment Initiative. She reported that under the City Administrator’s Office, the Department of Language and Services was created to be an internal provider of language access to all City departments to comply with a new City ordinance requiring language access. She reported that a reception was held with the Immigrant Rights Commission.


9.      Staff Report:


Mr. Brinkin, who’s been involved with the LGBT Senior Community Partnership, a committee looking at issues of aging in the LGBT community and how mainstream senior service providers include/exclude LGBT elders, reported that a reception will be held at On Lok Senior Health Services, 1333 Bush Street, on Thursday, March 20, from 4:30–6:30 p.m. He reported that staff and Commissioners are working on a strategic planning effort by looking at everything going on in the Commission including staff structure, programs, advisory committees, budget, and resources. He reported that last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Equal Benefits Ordinance. Ms. Goldstein will provide a 10-year report to the Commission at one of their meetings. Committee members will be informed of the Commission meeting date when she’ll be making the report. He reported that the HRC’s budget is, again, in trouble and that cuts to services are imminent. He said that the HRC gets money from other departments for their contract compliance work, but it’s money from the general fund that pays for a number of HRC positions that will be affected. He reported that there will be a public campaign informing the public of San Francisco being a sanctuary city. Lastly the LGBTH Division will be hosting three summer interns, law students, from CUNY, USF, and Hastings.


10.  Old/New Business:




11.  Announcements:


Ms. Laureano announced that Transgender San Francisco and the Lou Sullivan Society are merging to better support the transgender community and that a memorandum of understanding is being drafted. Ms. Shuck announced that she is the coordinator of for an art show for people who are legally blind and that there is a call for entries. Mr. Doggett announced that Magnet’s Black Men’s Outreach is sponsoring a beer bust at The Edge bar on Thursday night from 8:00-10:00 p.m. The proceeds will benefit a new ventures seed fund project for black LGBT business professionals.  Mr. Jones announced that Castro Community on Patrol will be patrolling randomly on weeknights. He also announced that the State’s anti-meth campaign has just rolled out and to go to for more information. Mr. Rawlings-Fein announced that the Lou Sullivan Society has been nominated for Organizational Community Grand Marshal for this year’s Pride Parade and encouraged everyone vote. He is also creating a film about individuals who’ve converted to Judaism by choice and asked Committee members to forward his email address to those interested in participating on this project. Ms. Kapoor announced that Trikone is having its annual fundraiser on Saturday, May 2 and to go to www.trikone.orgfor information and to purchase tickets. Ms. Pannell, who is looking for a roommate, asked that Committee members contact her if interested.


12.  Adjournment:


The Committee adjourned in memory of Lawrence King, a 15 year-old who was murdered at school in Oxnard, CA because of sexual orientation and gender expression. The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.