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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the May 21, 2002 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Commissioner Martha Knutzen, Commissioner Theresa Sparks, Kirsten Boyd, Sally Buchmann, Chris Caldeira, Scott Campbell, Chris Carnes, James DeVinny, Jay Dwyer, Erin Farrell, Julie Frank, Ted Guggenheim, Jordy Jones, Danny Kirchoff, Nancy Lawlor, Johnnie Pratt, Jorge Romero-Lozano, Stephen Schwichow, Morningstar Vancil

Committee Members Absent: Jason Alley (excused) Virginia Benavidez (excused), Melchor Bustamante, YoseƱio Lewis, Kristine Oreskovich (excused), Lisa Scheff (excused), Gary Virginia

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Yong Lee

Guests Present: Ally Cannon, Robert Hopcke, Ashley Moore, Len Phoenix

1. Call to Order and Roll Call

Commissioner Knutzen called the meeting to order at 5:37 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

2. Approval of Minutes of April 16, 2002

Ms. Boyd moved to approve the minutes as written. Ms. Buchmann seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

3. Public Comments for Items Not on the Agenda

There were no comments from members of the public.

4. Panel on LGBT Spirituality Issues

Mr. Schwichow began by making some introductory comments. He explained that spirituality is the basis of how we live and defines our interactions with others. Mr. Schwichow made the connection between spirituality and economic empowerment by discussing how the lack of support and resulting low self-image affects the economic decisions that LGBT people make.

The first panelist, Ms. Ashley Moore, was introduced by Mr. Jones as a transsexual woman and a woman of faith. Ms. Moore began by discussing the difficult childhood experiences that she went through and the abuse that she suffered in her family. She also talked about her growing awareness of her gender identity. Ms. Moore initially felt depression and begged God not to feel this way.

To deal with the difficult feelings that she was having, Ms. Moore began to study different religions to try to have a closer relationship to God. When Ms. Moore began transitioning, she read the bible and felt God comforting her. Ms. Moore also began to become more involved in the transgender community. She saw other transgender individuals who felt they had been abandoned by God. She decided to use her experience and opportunities to start a ministry that, with the encouragement of the City of Refuge, became a music ministry. Ms. Moore founded the Transcendent Gospel Choir a year ago. The choir is comprised of transgender individuals.

The next panelist, Dr. Robert Hopcke is a member of Most Holy Redeemer Church, and is an expert on spirituality issues, and a psychotherapist. Dr. Hopcke discussed the issue of homophobia and the distinction between religious and what he calls regular homophobia. Regular homophobia is based on a lack of knowledge and experience with LGBT people. This type of homophobia can give way as the individual has personal contact with LGBT people. Religious homophobia according to Dr. Hopcke is different in two ways. Firstly, it is more intractable since it is based on religious insights and matters of faith beyond empirical study. Because religious homophobia is derived from more than reason, it is harder to disprove and notoriously resistant to change even on a personal level. Secondly, church officials claim the authority to speak on these issues and they speak on behalf of denominations and groups. Their statements have much greater force than a normal individual's.

Dr. Hopcke noted two mistakes that activists make when trying to deal with religious homophobia. Activists waste too much time trying to convince religious homophobes with reason and research. He also felt that activists in their attempts to deal with religious homophobia deligitimize the authority of the church. Dr. Hopcke believes these lapses into religious intolerance are ineffective. Dr. Hopcke believes that the primary method of change is internal reforms driven by church members. He argued that church members have knowledge of the doctrine and authority of the church and can deal with the church on its own terms.

Dr. Hopcke explained that the HRC's role could be to communicate with the LGBT activists who are working within their religions. He noted that, of the five major world religions in San Francisco, three that he knew of have LGBT internal reformers. He said that many of these reformers are embattled and that they need the support of the HRC. Dr. Hopcke suggested that the HRC bring members of these different religions together to meet and discuss various issues. Citing a personal example, Dr. Hopcke explained that, while he was a student at Georgetown University, the LGBT students sued the university with the assistance of the ACLU when it attempted to rescind its recognition of the LGBT student group. He acknowledged that religious groups also need to avail themselves of legal and secular solutions as well. Dr. Hopcke concluded his comments by stating that following one's spiritual path is a human right and that extending assistance to LGBT individuals in religious groups is both affirming and part of the HRC's mandate.

The next speaker, Morningstar Vancil, discussed her involvement in Bay Area Indian Two Spirit Group. Ms. Vancil has participated in the group for thirteen years. She explained how the group came to be founded by two Native American lesbians and how their practices such as the sundance differ from their heterosexual counterparts. Ms. Vancil spoke about how she feels her two spirit identity is unifying rather than dividing. Her role in the two spirit group is that of ghostkeeper. She helps people make decisions and transitions toward death. Ms. Vancil also is involved in teaching and educating youth about two spirit history.

The final speaker was Ally Cannon, a member of Sha'har Zahav, an LGBT Jewish synagogue. Mr. Cannon discussed the need for queer Jews to have their needs met in the larger Jewish community. He also discussed the difference between reformed, conservative, and orthodox Jews in relation to their openness and acceptance of LGBT people.

After the panelists spoke, the discussion was opened for questions and comments. Mr. Brinkin noted that the HRC had sponsored a religious service providers taskforce about seven years ago. In its report, one of its chief recommendations was to hold a forum and invite different religious groups and individuals to discuss relevant issues. Mr. Brinkin will be happy to make the report available to anyone who is interested.

Commissioner Sparks asked Dr. Hopcke about the dialogue in the Catholic Church about the current scandal and what its impact will be on LGBT people. Dr. Hopcke believes that this is an issue of authority and an opportunity to lay bare the deep homophobia and intolerance in the church.

5. Follow-up from Retreat - Planning for the Coming Year

The Committeee discussed the work plan memo Mr. Brinkin had e-mailed to members. The memo covered the activities that the Committee had discussed and voted on at the retreat on May 18, 2002. Mr. Brinkin requested that the Committee vote on the workplan tonight in order to comply with the Sunshine Ordinance. He then went through the various activities discussed by the Committee and pointed out the work involved and the challenges and features of each activity.

Mr. Brinkin stated that the Committee had agreed at the retreat to conduct a public hearing on older LGBT people. The date of the hearing will be determined later by the Commissioners. A taskforce will need to be formed that will be comprised of members of the Committee and members of the public. The taskforce will determine the structure of the hearing, how to divide up the issues, what speakers to invite, and the media and outreach plan. The Committee also decided to ask the Commission to hold the hearing jointly with the Commission on Aging.

In the area of public forums, Mr. Brinkin explained that these events are very challenging given the amount of work and time commitment. He suggested that the Committee may only have time to work on one public hearing this year.

Mr. Brinkin explained that the Committee could approve the workplan as a whole or just start working on activities immediately and see how far they get. Mr. Brinkin suggested that the Committee begin planning immediately for the LGBT seniors public hearing and form a couple different work groups on other issues. Committee members voiced their preference to begin working on activities and not to be bound by the workplan.

Ms. Farrell asked if the Committee was going to continue its work in the area of economic empowerment. Commissioner Knutzen explained that this issue is now going out to the community. She will be meeting with staff at the LGBT Community Center to discuss this issue. The Commission has also continued to work with other City departments to urge them to provide more services to the LGBT community.

Commissioner Sparks suggested that the Committee pass Mr. Brinkin's work plan as a framework and that people can contact Mr. Brinkin to volunteer for particular activities. This would allow the Committee to also get a better sense of what activities are a priority for members. Ms. Knutzen and Ms. Sparks will see who's interested in the various activities and make the necessary work assignments. Mr. Brinkin will send an e-mail to members detailing the different activities and workgroups people can volunteer for. Mr. Schwichow moved to approve and Mr. Jones seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

6. Discussion of the Racial Privacy Initiative

Virginia Harmon, Director of the HRC, has created a taskforce made up of a staff member from each Committee to study the impact this initiative will have on City services. The LGBTAC will examine particularly the impact the initiative will have on health services and HIV services provided by the City. The LGBTAC's representative is Ellise Nicholson.

At the June Committee meeting, a representative from the Department of Public Health will discuss the impact of the RPI on their services. Each HRC Committee will devote time in their June meeting to hearing from a different City Department about the effects of the RPI on that particular department. Taskforce members will present a written and oral report to the Commissioners who will then decide on the overall report to present to the community.

7. Planning for Pride Day

Mr. Brinkin passed around a sign up sheet for volunteers to staff the HRC booth at Pride Day. Ms. Farrell asked about the possibility of passing out information on the Racial Privacy Initiative and telling people where they could go to learn more. Mr. Brinkin noted that only HRC information on possible impacts of the RPI can be distributed. He also noted that so far there are very few booth shifts filled, and that more members need to volunteer.

8. Commissioner Report

Commissioner Knutzen reported that Mr. Brinkin is this year's recipient of the Pride Freedom Award. A reception will be held on June 30, 2002 to honor award recipients. The event is free but invitation only. Ms. Boyd will try to get some invitations for the Committee. Ms. Knutzen also reported on the Commission's various activities which include: a letter to Abercrombie & Fitch protesting their practice of racial profiling and stereotyping; a letter encouraging the police to thoroughly investigate a fire at a church attended primarily by Arab-Americans; and a resolution honoring a deceased former Commissioner. Commissioner Knutzen informed the Committee that the Commission had approved a set of Rules of Procedure for the handling of complaints of discrimination.

9. Staff Report

Mr. Brinkin reported that the Transgender Community / Police Department Task Force has met three times so far and that a smaller working group is drafting protocols and guidelines to be approved by the taskforce. He also informed the Committee that there will be three interns with the LGBT & HIV Division this summer. Dino Duazo and Alex Freeman will be working directly with the division and the third intern, Claire Eustace, is an intern for the National Lawyers Guild but will be housed at the HRC. She will continue to work on protocols for the Sheriff's Office on the housing of transgender prisoners.

Mr. Brinkin told the Committee that June 1, 2002 will be the five year anniversary of the Equal Benefits Ordinance. The Committee will receive more information on the five-year report once it is released. Mr. Brinkin then stated that the Rules of Procedure had been approved by the Commissioners but that, due to a new California Supreme Court ruling forbidding the City from hiring Hearing Officers to hear appeals of a Director's finding, the Rules would possibly have to be amended. He also informed the Committee that a complaint handling manual for staff is almost completed and that the Committee Guidelines are in the process of being revised and approved by the Commission. Finally, the entire HRC staff participated in a weight sensitivity training conducted by Ms. Sondra Solovay.

Commissioner Sparks requested that the agenda for the next meeting schedule time to receive a report on the status of economic empowerment. Mr. Campbell also requested that the agenda leave time to have a follow-up discussion on the spirituality panel.

10. Old/New Business

No old or new business.

11. Announcements

Ms. Frank announced that there is going to be a protest in front of City Hall at 11:30 a.m. on May 22 to protest potential budget cuts to City services.

12. Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.