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January 5-11, 2017 • BAY AREA REPORTER • 13

The year we fight back

Christine Smith

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

B

y now, the crowds have dispersed from Times Square, leaving behind heaps of confetti, deflated balloons, and the odd, broken pair of “2017” sunglasses. College bowl games and tie-in parades are now a memory. Even my neighbor who seems intent on holding his own backyard fireworks extravaganza has, mercifully, run out of M-80s. We have – at long last – shambled into the new year. By most metrics, 2016 was difficult. Scores of celebrity deaths dominated entertainment news, as we saw the passage of gendertransgressive musicians like David Bowie, Prince, Pete Burns, and

even George Michael among other adored celebrities. We saw the United Kingdom leave the European Union in an embarrassingly close vote, only to do a similar move in the United States, electing reality show star and ethically challenged businessman Donald J. Trump to lead our country for the next four years. I assure you that was about the nicest description I could manage for a man who has brought sexism, racism, and all forms of phobia to the highest office in the land. I can’t help but mention that, yes, 2016 was also the year my father passed away. To paraphrase the movie tag line, this time it was personal. If 2015 was the year when

transgender people found themselves deluged with one bathroom bill after another, 2016 will be recalled as the year when just one single such bill caused months of strife. It was March 22 that the North Carolina Legislature, in a special session, passed House Bill 2. The bill, commonly referred to as an anti-trans bathroom bill, went far beyond simply defining who could use a bathroom. It changes laws related to employment and contracting involving all sorts of discrimination; disallows localities within the state to enact minimum wage standards and other employment protections, such as child welfare of family leave policies; and generally made North Carolina persona non grata for any number of business, sports, and performance artists. HB 2 also helped cause the downfall of North Carolina’s former governor, Pat McCrory, who continues to champion the law. In December insult was added to injury, as North Carolina Republicans brokered a deal with the city of Charlotte, getting it to rescind its LGBT protection ordinance in exchange for the repeal of HB 2. Once Charlotte had done so, the Legislature found itself unable and unwilling to complete the repeal, and HB 2 remains on the books. North Carolina was not alone, with other states, most notably Texas, pushing for similar bills. In the Lone Star State’s version, the law only prevents male-to-female individuals from using women’s rooms: femaleto-male trans folks will be welcome to use the men’s room. Texas also has

Castro Hanukkah celebration draws revelers by David-Elijah Nahmod

administration’s anti-LGBT Cabinet choices – and the similarly antiLGBT Vice President-elect Mike Pence – are leading to more than a little trepidation on behalf of the transgender community as we turn our calendars to the new year. What we see, as we go into 2017, is a future where our rights are likely to be rolled back. Protections that were expected to continue through another Democratic administration are now assumed to be lost, possibly as soon See page 15 >>

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round 100 people gathered in Jane Warner Plaza recently to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights – the second year the holiday was officially celebrated in the gayborhood. For eight days every year – usually in December – Jews, friends, and loved ones light candles and exchange gifts for one of the Jewish calendar’s most joyous holidays. The Castro celebration was held December 28, the fourth night of Hanukkah, hence four candles were lit. A fifth candle, known as the “attendant candle” is used to light the others. The evening was a joint effort between Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco’s LGBT synagogue; Castro Merchants; and the Castro/ Upper Market Community Benefit District. A giant electronic menorah stood before the crowd and was used for the symbolic candle lighting as local dignitaries spoke. Traditional menorahs were placed on a nearby table where people could light candles and say blessings if they chose. Congregation Sha’ar Zahav interim Rabbi Ted Riter was the evening’s host. “Hanukkah is the season of bringing more light into the world,” Riter said. “This year the holiday overlaps with Christmas – so many people are trying to bring more light into the world.” A representative of Castro Merchants welcomed attendees. “We’re excited to be doing this again,” said Brian Springfield, covice president of the merchants group. “We’re pleased to be partnering with Sha’ar Zahav and the benefit district.” Andrea Aiello, executive director of the CBD, was pleased to see the plaza activated.

taken a stab at the Affordable Care Act, fighting against abortion access and transgender inclusion, on “religious freedom” grounds. I hasten to add that such so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are one of the popular ways to chip away at LGBT and other rights in a post marriage-equality era. We can be all-but-assured that we shall see a lot more of this in 2017 and beyond. RFRA bills, coupled with the expected undermining of Obamaera transgender protections, particularly in light of the incoming

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Cantor Sharon Bernstein from Congregation Sha’ar Zahav leads a crowd of nearly 100, including former state Senator Mark Leno, right, in song during Hanukah in the Castro activities.

“I’m so excited to see positive nighttime activity at Jane Warner Plaza,” she said. “Enjoy!” Gay former state Senator Mark Leno, who is Jewish, lit the attendant candle. “It’s been a tough year for us,” Leno said, referring to Presidentelect Donald Trump and anti-gay Vice President-elect Mike Pence who will soon take office. “The spirit and power of this celebration of light brings light over our spirits. Tonight will keep us strong.” Jeff Kositsky, director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, lit the first candle. “Homeless or housed, rich or poor, all deserve compassion and hope,” he said. The second candle was lit by Rafael Mandelman, a gay Jewish man who’s president of the board of trustees at City College of San Francisco. “It’s always a great time to take a class at City College,” he said. Michael Chertok, president of

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, lit the next candle. “This is a holiday which commemorates our struggle for religious freedom,” Chertok said. “Everyone in our community is free to practice their religion and to be themselves.” Sharon Bernstein, cantor for Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, lit the final candle. “This light should enter into our hearts and minds and make us stronger,” she said. After the lighting concluded, coffee and pastries were served. Traditional Hanukkah tunes, including “The Dreidel Song,” were played on a loudspeaker as people danced. Some of the music came from Gay Izmar, Sha’ar Zahav’s in-house Klezmer band. One tune, a recording by Yiddish cover band The Shlomones, drew approving laughs from attendees. The Shlomones were heard singing, “Let’s Light the Candles Again” to the tune of “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”t

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January 5, 2017 Edition of the Bay Area Reporter