Michael Goldstein, 1953-2011

Longtime activist sought to rally people around a progressive agenda for San Francisco

Michael Goldstein portrait by Debra Walker


San Francisco lost a valued champion of progressive causes on Dec. 2 when Michael Goldstein lost his battle with stage 4 lymphoma after surviving nearly 20 years living with HIV, a disease that helped awaken his political activism.

Michael was born in 1953 in New Mexico, where he was raised. His grandparents had come to New Mexico after surviving the Holocaust, and Michael came to the San Francisco in the early 1980s. Like many gay men of his generation, Michael came here to find community, to create family, and to be welcomed when much of the country was still hostile to the LGBT community.

He worked at Neiman Marcus, dressing "the San Francisco A list," as he used to say. He studied at City College towards a paralegal certificate and was heavily involved in student politics. He landed a job at AIDS Legal Research Panel, where he worked when he was diagnosed HIV-positive in the mid-'80s.

The news hit hard, and the treatment he began took its toll. The HIV drugs were harsh then and there were many horrible side-effects with these early drugs. At that time, there was very little information or education about HIV/AIDS and there was even less support, from families and from the public.

Our San Francisco political community became Michael's family. He was also blessed with an amazing friend in Lorae Lauritch. They worked together at NM, became roommates, and lived together with some incredible cats that were dear to him, including Paloma, Huey, Cadeau, and Missy.

Michael was a proud feminist who valued the women in his life and community, leading him to endorse a pair of successive female candidates for the Castro's District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors: Eileen Hansen in 2002 and Alix Rosenthal in 2006.

Over the years, Michael served as an elected member of the Democratic County Central Committee (serving as vice president), served as President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and was appointed to a San Francisco City College citizen oversight board, where his questioning helped bring attention to mishandling of funds at that institution.

Michael was determined, opinionated, persistent, intolerant of bullshit, prickly, always questioning. He challenged us all to move a common agenda, come together beyond our own personal ambitions, but to also never back down out of convenience or feigned civility. "Civility doesn't make change," he often said.

I came to know Michael as many came to know him. Michael always showed up in support of every one of our causes. He not only showed up, he advised, opined, debated, argued, protested, got arrested, drafted policy, and so much more. Campaign after campaign, issue after issue — our friendships grew around our passion for politics, our deep concerns about everything, and a strong and unwavering belief that anyone can help make change.

Michael believed that and Michael lived that.

In the past few years, many of us noticed that Michael wasn't feeling well. We pushed him to go to the doctor. This is a man who spent hours fighting to push through HIV/AIDS policy and funding, healthcare reform, Healthy SF — and he did not have healthcare, had not seen a doctor in nearly 10 years, and was not treating his HIV.

As many know, Michael and I were like brother and sister...often bickering back and forth on whatever was going on. We "debated" like the dear friends we had become. His lack of healthcare was one of the more important issues I would bring up often. As a long term survivor of this condition, Michael knew the score.

As the symptoms of this disease ravaged his body, he retreated from us and attempted to make sense of the unimaginable alone.


Great obituary. Thank you.

Posted by David Elliott Lewis on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

Thanks for the background information on Michael's life. His passing is a sad loss for many in the city. On December 2nd, the day of his passing, I spent a day manually searching through tens of thousands of unlabeled and unindexed photos in search of images of him. I found these 26 photos which I posted in a facebook photo album titled:
Michael Goldstein, 1953 - 2011: A life of Activism and Service.

Posted by David Elliott Lewis on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 5:38 am

Gone but not to be forgotten.
Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodisvaha.
Blessings on Debra, Lorae and their Band of Angels.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 11:30 am

Very beautiful words, dearest sister Debra. As beautiful as your transcendental art! I have spent time with you in the past 2 months, and saw first-hand your unwavering commitment of service to your friend, Michael Goldstein. He was blessed to have you in his corner.

I am so proud to have you for a sister.

Posted by Susan Walker on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

I didn't Michael Goldstein, but I honor him and his work. However, I am left feeling extremely sad that he did not access health care in a more timely manner. Forgive me, but I must ask this question, How does one explain a lack of health care for a HIV/AIDS diagnosis in San Francisco? I know he is not unique, but I am ... stunned....

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

Human beings are so much more complex than we realize. Especially around emotions which always seem to be able to evade and outmaneuver logic. I'm not speaking for Michael personally, but in general, there are so many reasons why people are not in care. Some that I have experienced personally and some that I have witnessed in my 8 years serving people with HIV/AIDS. Perhaps the easiest to understand is that people can get tired of living every moment of one's life with a disease. After a decade or two, that can wear you down. This can be exacerbated by the struggle for basic dignity disabled folks experience, especially in high cost SF, where we are in last place in the nation in terms of meeting the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS -- and forget about providing safe, decent, and affordable housing. The power of denial is amazing. I understand why we hear about women who are completely in denial of being pregnant all the way up to the start of labor. Sometimes people just don't want to be 'sick' and so they go into denial as a way of avoiding these very uncomfortable feelings. This is what I've been trying to explain to the people who don't have AIDS who are in charge of our health care system, especially around their passion for the latest fad of 'Test & Treat'. They seem to think that if they push all of the nonprofits to push people to get tested, then those folks will miraculously enroll in treatment and everything will be great. It's a lot more complicated than that. Anyway, I feel a soapbox coming on so I will step down now....

Posted by Brian Basinger on Dec. 10, 2011 @ 7:19 am

I think the last time I saw Michael in person was during your campaign... at your house, at the headquarters, on the street with you...

He was part of so many campaigns that I worked on over the years...

I will miss his dedication, his energy, his sense of humor, his ideas and most of all, his spirit.

Posted by Guest Brad Paul on Dec. 10, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

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