The price of normal - Page 2

THE QUEER ISSUE: Who, exactly, does gay marriage benefit?
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An early Gay Liberation Front
poster from the 1970s

In San Francisco, the number of queers in the homeless youth population (estimated at 4,000 by the Mayor's Office) is "roughly 44 percent," according to Dr. Mike Toohey of the Homeless Youth Alliance in the Haight.

Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance says that 40 percent of people with HIV/AIDS, in the city once acclaimed for its care of those with the disease, are either "unstably housed or are homeless." In the Castro, Basinger said, there are only "12 dedicated HOPWA beds" for people with the disease. HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) is a federal voucher program for low-income people with AIDS that is similar to federal housing assistance program Section 8.

Certain members of our community don't fare much better in the area of employment. A 2006 survey by the Guardian and the Transgender Law Center reported that 75 percent of transgender people are not employed full-time, and 59 percent make less than $15,299 a year. A mere 4 percent of respondents earned more than $61,200, the then-median income average for San Francisco.

Fifty-seven percent of trangendered people said they suffered employment discrimination, demonstrating the need for the inclusion of "gender identity" in the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act. Human Rights Campaign, a national gay organization, and out Congress member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) cut transgenders out of that legislation the last time it was up before Congress.

It could all get a whole lot worse.

AXING THE FUTURE

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to lop at least $81 million from California's AIDS budget, including money for AIDS drugs, leaving low-income people stranded without their medication. Senior services are also on his cutting block, including $230.8 million from in-home services and $117 million from adult health-care programs. (As we go to press, the state Legislature is working to restore the AIDS money to the budget.)

Mayor Gavin Newsom, in his proposed city budget cuts, is axing $128.4 million from public health and $15.9 million from human services. There's no doubt these cuts in health and human services will severely affect people with AIDS, seniors, youth, the homeless, and others in our community who can least afford to pay for the city's budget shortfall.

The millions spent on gay marriage in the past few years could have gone a long way in these lean times. It could have helped make the proposed queer senior housing project, Open House, a reality. With 88 units in the works at 55 Laguna St., the site of the old UC extension, it will be the only such housing for LGBT seniors in San Francisco.

The money also could have funded housing in the Castro for homeless queer youth or people with AIDS. It could have been used as seed money for a much-needed war against poverty in the LGBT community.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF LIBERATION

The queer movement hasn't always been this obsessed about getting hitched. Forty years ago this week, drag queens and others fought back against the cops who were raiding a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York City's West Village. Three days of protests led to the creation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), a revolutionary group dedicated to the sexual liberation of all people. GLFers weren't looking to walk down the aisle or form binary couples. In a desire to "abolish existing social institutions," as the NYC branch of GLF said in its statement of purpose, some GLFers explored polyamory (more than one relationship at a time).

That's why I edited Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation, just published by City Lights Books, a collection of writings by former GLF members and other gay liberationists. I wanted to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and the birth of GLF with a reminder of who we were and what we did.