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Where we’ve been. Where we are. Where we’re headed.

That, in a gist, is how I perceive San Francisco’s “LGBTQIA central”, Castro District to be. It celebrates where we are now by paying (some) attention to our shared past; but it also highlights the areas where our community needs to act (and act fast) before we can truly say that we have Pride.

Castro District is a neighborhood in Eureka Valley in San Francisco, California. It was named after José Castro (1808–1860), who opposed US rule in California in the 19th century. As one of the very first gay neighborhoods in the US, it actually became LGBTQIA-centric starting only the late 1960s, aided by the hippie and free love movements in neighboring Haight-Ashbury district.

By the 1970s, it was already an upscale gay community (first mitigated by people’s movement here before it became the prime spot that it is now).

Castro’s influences in the (global) LGBTQIA community are numerous.

Harvey Milk was from here; in 1973, he opened a camera store here, Castro Camera, and he also began his political involvement as a gay activist here. So this place sorta helped exemplify LGBTQIA political involvement, particularly at a time when we had even harder times.

Then in the 1980s, the area was hit hard by the HIV and AIDS crisis. This is a defining moment for the LGBTQIA community (with HIV “blamed” on gay people, and with the American government not lifting a hand to do something/anything about this sitch then), so this helped galvanize the (particularly) gay community.

Castro also shows cracks in the rainbow. Perhaps most apparent is the blatant commercialization of Pride. In Castro, everything LGBTQIA-related can be bought.

And then there are some of our stereotypical concepts of “beauty”, which surfaced from Castro. The one that immediately comes to mind is the “Castro clone” that exemplified butchness and masculinity; to date, this idiotic penchant for “straight-acting and straight-looking” continues…

Truly, nowadays, Castro is a “living” reminder of the LGBTQIA community’s history.

But Castro also shows cracks in the rainbow.

Perhaps most apparent is the blatant commercialization of Pride. In Castro, everything LGBTQIA-related can be bought.

This – not surprisingly – highlights the social stratification within the LGBTQIA community. Exactly because the we’re talking moolah, and because not everyone has this, the social classes that divide the community is highlighted. Even the nearby LGBT Center isn’t immune to this, with some LGBTQIA people critical of it (supposedly) for being elitist.

Then there’s the leaving behind of members of the LGBTQIA community. For instance, in San Francisco, the homeless population is approximately 7,499 – 29% of them identify as LGBT; and 11% of them have HIV or AIDS. If you want to see some of them, try waking up early – like 6.00AM or so – and take a walk along Castro Street to see them, living in the midst of the trash from the partying that happened the night before.

Castro has long become a tourist trap that highlights “progressive LGBTQIA community” a la America. And – as such – it can’t be denied how it’s a good reminder that we’ve (well, at least ‘they’ have) made progress.

But it also stresses – for me – that so much more still needs to be done…

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Travel

Thailand could become first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex civil partnerships

Thailand’s Cabinet approved a draft bill that will legally recognize same-sex civil partnerships while giving greater rights to same-sex couples. If/when passed into law, this could be the first for any nation in Southeast Asia; and the second in Asia to allow for the registration of same-sex unions after Taiwan legalized marriage equality in 2019.

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Photo by Sumit Chinchane from Unsplash.com

The rainbow rises in Thailand.

Thailand’s Cabinet approved a draft bill that will legally recognize same-sex civil partnerships while giving greater rights to same-sex couples. If/when passed into law, this could be the first for any nation in Southeast Asia; and the second in Asia to allow for the registration of same-sex unions after Taiwan legalized marriage equality in 2019.

This is a major step, but to clarify, it doesn’t endorse same-sex “marriage(EMPHASIS OURS). Instead, the Civil Partnership Bill allows same-sex couples to legally register their union.

The draft bill defines “civil partners” as “couples born with the same sex”. To register, couples must be at least 17 years old and at least one of the pair must be a Thai citizen; meaning that – similar to Taiwan’s law on this – foreign same-sex couples will not be able register their partnership in Thailand.

Those under the age of 17 must get permission from their parents/legal guardian.

Under the draft bill, same-sex couples will be allowed to adopt children, claim inheritance rights, and jointly manage assets such as property for the first time. However, partners would not be entitled to the same financial benefits that heterosexual couples get from the state.

The bill also covers rules for separations – e.g. unions could be ended by death, voluntary separation or court order.

While the Cabinet’s approval is a major development, process-wise, this is far from over as the draft bill still needs to go through a public hearing and then the House of Representatives (HOR) will debate and vote on it. If HOR passes the bill, it will then will go to the Senate for another vote.

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City in Massachusetts officially recognizes polyamorous relationships

The city of Somerville in Massachusetts in the US passed an ordinance that officially recognizes polyamorous relationships by no longer limiting the number of people included in domestic partnerships.

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Photo by Mark Boss from Unsplash.com

#LoveisLove

The city of Somerville in Massachusetts in the US passed an ordinance that officially recognizes polyamorous relationships by no longer limiting the number of people included in domestic partnerships.

With this, Somerville becomes one of the first cities in the US to officially recognize polyamorous relationships.

This move was actually a result of a few subtle language shifts – e.g. instead of defining a relationship as an “entity formed by two persons,” the ordinance now defines it as an “entity formed by people”; replaces “he and she” with “they”; and replaces “both” with “all.”

The City Council passed the ordinance on June 25; and on June 29, Mayor Joe Curtatone signed it into municipal law.

Polyamory is usually defined as the practice of having multiple consensual intimate relationships, and is often described as consensual non-monogamy. Relationships can be sexual or romantic, and are not gender-specific. Polyamorous relationships are diverse and can look different depending on the family. Sometimes it means having a primary relationship and seeking casual intimacy, and sometimes it means involving a third or fourth (and so on) person in building a family structure.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo from Pexels.com

This is important: It is illegal in all 50 American states to be married to more than one person, which is known as polygamy, not polyamory. Polygamy is tied to marriage (and is also gendered); and does not reference romance, intimacy or even consent.

Polyamory, meanwhile, refers to different kinds of arrangements — e.g. when a married couple has regular outside partners. Prior to this ordinance, there was no legal framework in Somerville for polyamorous families to share finances, custody of children or the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

Somerville is now in the process of changing the application to include space for more than two partners.

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Travel

Montenegro legalizes same-sex civil partnerships

Montenegro legalized same-sex civil partnerships, in a 42-5 vote among the country’s lawmakers. With this move, it becomes the first European country outside of Western Europe and the European Union to legally recognize same-sex couples.

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Photo by roemi62 at Pixabay.com

Montenegro legalized same-sex civil partnerships, in a 42-5 vote among the country’s lawmakers. With this move, it becomes the first European country outside of Western Europe and the European Union to legally recognize same-sex couples.

This is not a complete win, by any means.

While the new law will give same-sex couples the same legal rights as mixed-sex couples, same-sex couples will not have the right to adopt.

The country’s president, Milo Đukanović, tweeted that they were now “one step closer to joining the most developed world democracies.”

The law will come into effect next year, with details yet to be finalized, as well as government clerks needing to undergo training.

Montenegro’s pro-LGBTQIA move is only one of the country’s moves largely driven by its attempt to join the European Union. Another move includes anti-discrimination training for police services and health workers.

Photo by falco at Pixabay.com

Still in the Balkans, parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina are also set to start a consultation that could mean the government starts recognizing same-sex relationships. Now this is worth highlighting: The country is divided into two self-governing entities, and only the Federation is considering the move. The conservative Republika Srpska, which covers less than the Federation, is not considering it.

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Technology

Know thy history; revisit the first 10 years of San Francisco’s Pride

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

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Third World Gay Caucus contingent, San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, 1977; photograph by Marie Ueda, Marie Ueda Collection (2006-12), GLBT Historical Society.

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? Should events highlight the not-that-pretty/sexy yet still ongoing struggles, or just focus on the glamour (and while at it, earn organizers big bucks)? And part of this confusion stems from the lack of awareness, if not appreciation of Pride’s history.

A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

Organized by the GLBT Historical Society, with the support of San Francisco Pride, “Labor of Love: The Birth of San Francisco Pride, 1970–1980” showcases how San Francisco’s LGBTQIA community in the 1970s forged the annual celebration that would come to be known as the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade.

On June 27, 1970, a small group marched down Polk Street, and the following day staged a “gay-in” picnic in Golden Gate Park. Over the course of the decade, Pride became an annual San Francisco event, growing by leaps and bounds. Initially referred to as Christopher Street West — to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riot on that street in New York City — and then as Gay Freedom Day, Pride drew some 250,000 participants and spectators in 1980. 

“Labor of Love” revisits the first 10 years of San Francisco Pride using historic photographs, ephemera, artifacts, and film and sound recordings from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society and from community members. The exhibition explores the goals, the controversies, the hard work, the desires and the sometimes-competing spirits of struggle and celebration that laid the foundation for one of the city’s best-known public festivals. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Gerard Koskovich, a public historian and rare book dealer; Don Romesburg, professor of gender and women’s studies at Sonoma State University; and Amy Sueyoshi, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. They emphasize that Pride has traditionally deployed both frivolity and protest to promote a positive cultural shift in how society views LGBTQ people. 

The exhibition is organized around four themes.

“Why Pride?” considers how organizers and community members explained the purpose of the annual gathering.

“The Work of Pride” explores the ever-increasing commitment to planning, fundraising, volunteer support and governance that the event required.

“Pride Fights” grapples with the debates over what Pride should be, who should be included, who should make the decisions and how they should be made.

Finally, “Big Gay Family” highlights how the creation of San Francisco Pride brought diverse people into a collective, yet often contested kinship. 

POSTER 1: “Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In,” offset flyer, 1970; Charles Thorpe Papers (1987-02), GLBT Historical Society.
POSTER 2: San Francisco Gay Pride program, 1972; Ephemera Collection, GLBT Historical Society.

The interactive final section of the show, “Pride: From Past to Future,” invites visitors to reflect on the history, then look ahead by submitting their responses to two questions: “How will the future of Pride be shaped? How should it be shaped?” The answers will be posted in the online gallery to spark an ongoing dialog about the heritage of Pride.

“Labor of Love” will also be installed as a physical exhibition at the GLBT Historical Society Museum at 4127 18th Street in San Francisco’s Castro district at a future date.

For more information, visit the GLBT Historical Society website at www.glbthistory.org.

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Travel

Taiwan to host world’s only physical LGBTQIA Pride at the time of Covid-19

On June 28, Taiwan will hold the world’s only physical LGBTQIA Pride parade for 2020’s Pride month of June.

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All rainbow roads lead to Taipei. That is: If you’re allowed to head there at all due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

On June 28, Taiwan will hold the world’s only physical LGBTQIA Pride parade for 2020’s Pride month of June.

This year marks the 50th year since the first LGBTQIA Pride march was held in Chicago in the US in 1970. But celebrations are on hold because of the need to be physically distant to other people to curb the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes Covid-19. Already, 475 Pride events across the world have been canceled and/or delayed. 

In a statement, Taiwan Gay Sport Association (TSGA) – the organizer of Taipei’s event – stated that “all is not lost” since “Taiwan is fortunate to (be) one of the very few countries in the world that never needed a lockdown, and has not had a single local case in over two months.” And so “to celebrate that fact and to honor our global (LGBTQIA) family… we will host the world’s only physical LGBTQIA Pride parade during Pride month 2020.”

Themed “Taiwan Pride March for the World!”, the event will be streamed live on TSGA’s Facebook event page

Taiwan’s numerous pro-LGBTQIA moves have been making the news. It is the first in Asia, for instance, to legalize marriage equality. Its law, however, only: 1. allows same-sex marriages between Taiwanese, or 2. with foreigners whose countries recognize same-sex marriage.

Taiwan also permits adoption of children biologically related to at least one of the same-sex pair.

Related to this, it eyes to profit from the pro-LGBTQIA efforts – e.g. by “selling” mementos to foreign LGBTQIA couples, even if it does not necessarily legally recognize some of these relationships.

There are also members of its LGBTQIA community who lament the direction of Pride there – e.g. in 2015, during Taiwan’s Pride, some members of Taiwan’s LGBTQIA community lamented the “hijacking” of an LGBTQI event because of the lack of opportunity to highlight “non-mainstream LGBTQI issues.”

LGBTQIA activist 徐豪謙, for one, noted at that time that “people only talk about the politically correct and popular issue of same-sex marriage, as if we don’t have other issues to face.”

Beyond the June parade, Taiwan is also slated to host Taiwan Pride 2020 on October 31, and people may join… again, pending travel restrictions. 

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Travel

To check while in U.S.: Key West installs permanent rainbow crosswalks

When in Florida and looking for a photo op: Key West City in Florida installed four permanent rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the island’s LGBTQIA entertainment district.

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Key West City in Florida installed four permanent rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the island’s LGBTQIA entertainment district. Spanning all four corners of the intersection, the crosswalks feature long bands of all six colors of the rainbow flag, an internationally recognized symbol of the LGBTQIA community.

Spearheaded by the city and the Key West Business Guild, the crosswalks are composed of pre-formed thermoplastic color stripes. After the stripes were laid on the street by city workers, they were heat-treated with propane torches to affix the colors permanently on the pavement.

“The rainbow crosswalks, to us in the City of Key West, mean that everybody is welcome, everybody is equal, everybody is recognized and that we do really abide by the ‘One Human Family’ spirit,” said Key West Mayor Teri Johnston. “Everybody is a part of Key West.”

“One Human Family” was adopted as the city’s official philosophy in 2000, proclaiming equality and acceptance for all. Key West is known for targeting LGBTQIA vacationers.

It is worth noting though that Florida, as a whole, still has issues with discrimination of minority sectors. As reported by FlKeysNews, citing a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida has 63 active hate groups, ranking second in the whole of US among states with the biggest number of hate groups (California is first, with 79). Four of these are in Miami-Dade County.

The crosswalks’ installation was the final step in a project to repave and re-stripe Key West’s historic Duval Street from the 100 block to Truman Avenue.

Rainbow crosswalks were originally installed on Duval in 2015, becoming a city landmark and popular photo stop. Their replacement, necessitated by the repaving project, also allowed for a redesign that makes the rainbow colors stand out more vividly against the asphalt.

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