Rafael Mandelman, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland and Chair of the Board of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center writes about the history of the LGBT Center and the latest renovation.
We are all in this together. I believe that deeply, and that belief motivates my politics and my civic engagement. I think it’s what makes me a Democrat, and it’s what makes me believe that each of us has an obligation to “give back” or “pay it forward.” It also animates my understanding of my place in the queer community.
I came out just about a quarter-century ago, and I was so lucky. I had grown up in San Francisco, knew gay teachers at my high school, had seen gay characters in movies and on TV, and had even, late at night with the sound turned way down on the television in the downstairs kitchen, snuck a few peaks at the naughty gay public access television shows. I was at the time studying at Yale College, the gayest of the Ivies, where John Boswell and others had done groundbreaking work in gay and lesbian studies, where several active LGBT organizations were busy making the campus a welcoming one for queer folk, and where everyone—gay and straight—agreed that the LGBT Co-op hosted the best dances.
Coming out was not hard for me. There was no familial rejection, and no sense that my career aspirations would be forever stunted. There were, however, a few awkward conversations with friends and family, and the shadow of AIDS loomed particularly large back then when “treatments” were medieval and a diagnosis was understood to be a death sentence. But, all in all, going gay was pretty darned easy: I read a bunch of queer-themed books, started going to Co-op meetings, made new friends, and started working out more.