LGBT Center is an Antidote to Hate

Rebecca Rolfe and Roberto Ordeñana are the executive director and deputy executive director, respectively, of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. 

A version of this article originally published in the Bay Area Reporter

People of color, queer people, women, and people with disabilities know that bigotry is deeply rooted in this country's DNA. Our differences have always been used as a weapon to divide us.

Yet today, we are experiencing vitriol, hate, and bigotry that is more open, more championed and - worst of all - more actively enforced by our government than we have experienced in decades.

We are seeing many of the gains we have made eroded and renewed efforts to curtail our lives through things like religious exclusions, narrowing of voting rights, and taking away the very right of transgender and gender nonconforming people - including children - to use a bathroom in safety.

We are overwhelmed by the repeated physical and emotional attacks on so many of us and the near-constant anxiety and fear that informs so many of our lives - Dreamers unsure of their legal status, young people sleeping in parks, and transgender women living in fear of violence. This is happening right here in San Francisco. 

We are exhausted by the Bay Area's affordability crisis and the daily struggle to survive.

But we have the antidote to hate.

We are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied community. When faced with challenges, we rise up! We are not powerless. We have a voice, and a vote. We are not without assets - and we know how to give generously of our time, our resources, and our hearts. We find inspiration in each other and in our many allies; inspiration in how violence and injustice are being called out: #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and the teenagers from Florida speaking out so courageously and powerfully about gun violence.

We find hope in how our votes in places like Alabama and Pennsylvania - traditionally conservative strongholds - make clear that we will not tolerate hate and bigotry from our elected leaders. When faced with the worst moments of the AIDS crisis, we opened our homes to those who were stricken. We took to the streets to say this epidemic must end. And we commit now that we will get to zero new HIV infections.

And while the challenges we face are overwhelming, at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center we work to address these issues every single day. On this, our 16th anniversary, we are proud of what we have created. Tens of thousands of people rely on our direct services - we support some of the most vulnerable members of our community - and we are a community hub that has grown and evolved as the needs of our community have shifted. We innovate by bringing community together to find solutions, even for problems as intractable as homelessness.

Just last week we learned that our youth program qualifies for an expansion of its services. Later this year we will launch San Francisco's first Host Homes program for LGBTQ homeless youth, pairing youth without shelter to community members who will open their hearts and homes to them. We value and honor our youth who are too often disrespected or seen as disposable by creating community and a place they call home. We recently expanded the hours of our drop-in youth space and increased mental health services for them. We care deeply about the many people facing violence or deportation or hunger. Our information and referral program connects thousands of community members to critical services like shelter, medical care, and legal support.

Instead of allowing our differences to divide us, we celebrate our culture, shared histories, and lives. Hundreds of emerging artists have exhibited their works at the center, sharing their experiences and posing critical questions about our community's future. We address the affordability crisis in the Bay Area and help thousands of people struggling to survive. Our first-in-the-nation LGBT economic development program helps community members find employment, start and grow their small businesses, and find affordable housing.

And our volunteers and donors, through their investment in the center, fuel our movement striving to ensure that no one - particularly the most marginalized in our community - is left behind on our path to full equality. We have so much gratitude to every founder, public and private partner, individual and family that have invested in the center since before we even opened our doors 16 years ago.

These times call for all of us to leverage our collective histories of resilience and creativity to fight against injustice. Together, we will get through these difficult days with grace, compassion and generosity, and we are confident we will come out even stronger. We are sure of that.

Together we are building a stronger and healthier community. Click here to donate

If you would prefer to mail your donation, send it to: SF LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Your gift provides incredible opportunities to tens of thousands of community members each year. Together, we stand proud knowing that we are making a difference. The Center could not be what it is without your support.

 



Photo: Rebecca Rolfe and Roberto Ordeñana greeted attendees at the LGBT center's Soiree benefit April 14 by Trish Tunney

Contact Person: 
Judi Baker

Soiree 15

15th Anniversary Soirée
 
April 8, 2017
 
5:00 PM Dinner

Ariel Koren

Associate Product Marketing Manager, Google & Founder, ACTION (Active Cross-cultural Training In Our Neighborhoods) (Leave of Absence) 

SF LGBT Center Statement on Pulse Nightclub Massacre

(San Francisco, CA, June 12, 2016)—This morning a gunman opened fire at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He murdered 50 people and injured 53, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. History. Statement from SF LGBT Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe: “Our hearts are with the LGBTQ and entire Orlando community. Any violence is unacceptable in our society. And while our community has made historic strides in acceptance and equality, this tragedy is a painful reminder of the dangers LGBTQ people continue to face every day.”

Institute On Aging

Institute on Aging is a San Francisco, CA-based non-profit dedicated to preserving the dignity, independence, and well-being of aging adults and people living with disabilities.
 

Tips for Fab! Come Toast the Center

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:00PM - 9:00PM - Soda Popinski's at 1548 California St, San Francisco, CA 94109.  Join SF LGBT Community Center Board members, volunteers, and supporters for a night of toasting to fabulous. We'll be guest bartending at Soda Popinski's, which means all the tips we earn will be donated to the Center.

Exposition

Telling our stories on our own terms. Queer, Trans, & Ally Youth Art Showcase

Homeless LGBTQ Youth

Nearly Half of SF's Homeless Youth are LGBTQ


According to an article in The California Sunday Magazine, nearly half of San Francisco’s homeless youth are members of the LGBTQ community. While this statistic is partially due to a “decades older pilgrimage of gay and transgender youth” to San Francisco, a city known as a haven to queer folk seeking equality, the numbers are bleak throughout the country: Lambda Legal reports that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of all homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ. Considering that the National Alliance to End Homeless estimates that “550,000 unaccompanied youth and young adults up to age 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week” every year, these are staggering numbers.

Many of these youth have been disowned by their families or are escaping abuse based on their gender or sexuality. Many sleep on the streets, and many others seek shelter at homeless shelters—an arduous experience for any person, but particularly sensitive for transgender people who are often jeopardized by being assigned to beds according to their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity.

Sophie, a trans woman interviewed by Rolling Stone, described her unlivable conditions at home, where her father would “beat me in the shower with a belt and punch me in the face, calling me a f-----.” Unable to deal with these circumstances, she became homeless at 16. She tried to attend school but struggled because, without the ability to sleep and shower, she found “you can’t go to school smelly and drawing attention.”

Her friend Justice, also interviewed for the article, found shelters almost as unsafe as home. Staying at a men’s shelter, she faced the danger of sexual assault from residents as well as staff members, and only found safety when she located an LGBT shelter. In fact, Rolling Stone wrote that “seventy percent of [trans teens] report being harassed or physically and sexually assaulted in a shelter,” meaning that almost nowhere is free from violence.

In San Francisco, many of these young adults end up at the Center’s Youth Drop-In Space, a space open during the daytime to give LGBTQ youth a safe place to stay and a hot meal during the daytime, when shelters are closed. 

Jamie Wiles, who began living on the streets at 16, found solace at the Center while walking through San Francisco. “I walked in that day and walked in every day…. for the next few years,” she said, and she “relaxed, regrouped, and took a break from the stress of being homeless.” She just moved into her own apartment. At her job, she tells other youth about her story.  

“I am a role model for the young people I work with,” she said. “They can look at me and see someone who has overcome obstacles and followed their dreams.”

Josephine Yurcaba’s article in Bustle magazine has some suggestions for adults looking to help out this criminally underserved population: 

  1. Don’t tolerate bigotry or hate speech. If you notice someone facing discrimination or hateful behavior in public, stand up for them. The bystander effect is real.
  2. Donate to organizations that support LGBTQ youth. This includes The Center (link to donate), of course, but also organizations like The Ali Forney Center, the National Coalition for the Homeless, the Homeless Youth Alliance, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and many more.
  3. Volunteer at a local LGBTQ youth shelter. In the Bay Area, this would include Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco, Covenant House’s YEAH! Shelter in Berkeley, Our House in East Oakland, DreamCatcher in West Oakland, and Calli House Youth Shelter in Richmond.
  4. Raise awareness about this issue. Share resources for LGBTQ youth with coworkers and friends and encourage others to keep an eye out for the queer youth around them. “The more people you can inform,” Yurcaba writes, “the closer we can be to a world where young people won't have to be afraid of losing their beds because of who they are.”

 

(Photo of Jamie Wiles by the SF LGBT Center)

Contact Person: 
Judi Baker

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