September 2019 Advocate: AFT 1493 and SMCCD at SF Pride


AFT 1493 and SMCCD stand up for LGBTQ+ rights at 2019 San Francisco Pride

By Evan Kaiser, CSM, English as a Second Language

After waiting restlessly on the sidewalk of Beale street in San Francisco, it was finally time to step off. Hastily grabbing the bullhorn, Skyline Psychology professor Christopher Branco thanked the over one hundred SMCCD students, faculty, and staff for showing up to support LGBTQ+ students and employees. Yet he also issued a warning. “Remember that our rights can be taken away at any time,” he stated with conviction, “so let’s show them that we are here to stand up for our community!” With a holler, our contingent surged forward. Rounding the corner, a student led the crowd in a chant. “Black lives matter!” he yelled hoarsely. “Trans lives matter!” the contingent answered. Behind the barricades, community members and residents smiled and cheered.

part of the SMCCD contingent at 2019 SF Pride

Generations of Pride, Generations of Resistance

The San Francisco Pride event was first held in 1970 and has been held annually since 1972. This year’s theme, “Generations of Resistance,” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969, an uprising against police oppression at a gay bar in New York that galvanized the gay liberation movement. The theme connects generations of activists and allies in reflecting on the history of LGBTQ+ struggles and identifying new priorities for equity work in 2020 and beyond.

Marchers have always responded to political and economic events that have threatened the LGBTQ+ community. CSM counselor Michael Vargas recalls marching for the first time in 1988 as part of an AIDS service organization. At the time, pride meant “making a small difference in the lives of women and men with HIV disease” which “for some of them…meant a few months of dignity before they died of AIDS.” Sadly, he recalls, “many marchers and spectators would not survive long enough to see Pride in 1989.” Thanks in part to the work of grassroots organizations like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), HIV is now a manageable chronic medical condition.

As public discussion shifted to marriage equality in the early 2000s, newlywed couples could be seen celebrating their newly issued marriage licenses in 2004 and then protesting the passage of Proposition 8, which temporarily banned same-sex marriage in California, in 2008.

Since then, as the corporate presence at Pride has grown, it is worth revisiting and renewing this commitment to resistance. While some people celebrate companies’ public commitment to supporting their LGBTQ+ employees, others feel that Pride could respond more directly to the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community, from addressing the LGBT socioeconomic divide to securing federal antidiscrimination protections and ending violence against transgender women of color. The student who chanted “black lives matter” and “trans lives matter” understands the power in forming coalitions among marginalized groups in order to better counter the forces that seek to divide us.

AFT 1493’s contingent at 2019 SF Pride

Creating a More Inclusive Campus

Naturally, these cultural and political tides influence how students experience college. Although a larger and larger percentage of LGBTQ+ students and staff report feeling safe on college campuses, a 2010 report found that significant numbers still face harassment or hide their identity to avoid intimidation.

We marched in order to make college, and U.S. society at large, a place for LGBTQ+ people to live fully and openly. “The closet is still a dark, dangerous and destructive place,” Vargas notes. “It is much easier to embrace and celebrate our place and contributions on our campuses when we do so together rather than as individuals.”

I agree. Marching in the parade for the first time, I felt the walls I had erected between my personal and public “selves” collapse. The message became clear: only by living authentically, without concealing parts of myself, would I be able to fully serve students and my community. And only with support from my community would I be able to effectively convey this message to others. I felt grateful to the people before me who fought to make school – my school – safer, and to show me that, as Vargas says, “you can be out and proud – for a lifetime.”

If you are interested in marching next year or helping with logistics, please reach out to one of the following campus contacts. And stay tuned for the launch of the Skyline Pride Center this fall semester (big thanks to Rika and Skyline students for their organizing work!)

Skyline College: Rika Yonemura-Fabian, Sociology and Social Justice Studies; Christopher Branco, Psychology
College of San Mateo: Evan Kaiser, English as a Second Language; Michael Vargas, Counseling