So What DO They Mean by San Francisco Values?
Is it really just that our queers can come out without persecution and our mayor wants everybody to be able to get married? How ironic that *getting married* is the issue that has right-wing panties so in a bunch: in my youth, conservatives moaned that we *didn’t* want to get married, and indeed I still haven’t (Robert and I are on the Alternatives to Marriage website along with Sartre and de Beauvoir, but that’s not a San Francisco thing; I think it started in Rhode island).
Is it that when women find themselves pregnant and not in a position to have a child that they can still find a doctor to perform an abortion? (Though choice is under attack on our ballot today just as it is in so many other states, at least the pro-“life” guys who murder physicians pretty much stay out of our town.)
Is it that transsexuals are taken seriously in San Francisco more than in most other places? At Good Vibrations we’re proud to be one of the private companies employing a significant number of transfolk. And we certainly live in one of the least bigoted cities in the US regarding this issue, though even here there remains much to accomplish before transphobia is truly a thing of the past.
Is it the salacious pics the world gets to see from the Folsom Street Fair? I suppose you think we dress in black leather all the time here. It’s not true, and I personally prefer rubber; it’s clingier.
Is it our feisty sex workers? Can it be that the (anti-)SF Values fulminators are still tweaked that Margo St. James ran for supervisor? (I just saw the great Margo, founder of COYOTE, or Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, last week; young sex workers whom she inspired gave her an ward of appreciation. You can usually find her here around Hallowe’en, a national holiday for hookers as well as queers.)
Old Tired Ethics, in fact, seem to be at the heart of this war of words. If the Republicans can’t think of anything fresh, and they can’t, they recycle a few things from a playbook that must really be dog-eared by now: Bash San Francisco: sex, drugs, Summer of Love, fruits and nuts… they’ve been at this for forty years, people! Freak people out with homophobic slurs (which mostly require a large glop of untruth even to stick; accusations of pedophilia work the best). Erotophobia works too, in all its many variations, with points if you can work in a nasty racist undertone (“Harold! Call me!”) — even though sexual varition aplenty can be found in towns all across America, even or maybe especially Washington DC and wherever the leaders of megachurches go to relax. Calling out San Francisco values just makes the callers seem like Harper Valley hypocrites.
Look, if the vaunted notion of freedom means anything at all, it means that people can, as long as they’re not hurting other people, make lives that suit them. How is it that the culture-warmongers on the right can’t find a way to respect what’s good about diversity, sexual and cultural as well as all the other kinds they periodically have spasms of bigotry about? (“…Harold!…”) What part of “pursuit of happiness” don’t these sourpusses understand?
I’ve spent more time in the heartland that the average queer left-coast sex activist, and I can tell you that many people there, living right next to neighbors who seem to buy this load of crap uncritically, do not buy it at all. We have cultural and sexual and gender diversity in every corner of this great country, just as we have queer-bashing and transphobia and cops who won’t help if a hooker gets attacked. We have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot, a LOT of work to do to make sure everyone here has a chance at a good life, and I’m not just talking about a living wage (an issue on which, nyah nyah, San Francisco’s also leading the country).
So start by voting today. Follow up by communicating about the issues that have meaning for you: to each other, your neighbors, the politicians, the op-ed page of whatever new or old media you consume. I used to kind of like the old anarchist quip “Don’t vote, it only encourages them” — funny, huh? But then I got older and saw what happens when fewer and fewer folks vote. And THAT, people, REALLY encourages them.