We Must Keep Our Queer Families in San Francisco Safe From Violence

And I’ll continue shouting at the top of my lungs until we all feel secure.

This past year, multiple verbal, physical, and sexual attacks, vandalism, robberies, and druggings have occurred on members of our LGBTQIA+ community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even in what’s widely understood as the queer mecca of the world, we do not live in a safe, little queer bubble. 

It reminds me of when I first came to the city, traveling back and forth from the East Bay to San Francisco on BART and noticing a change in comfort in my young queer self. We are statistically more likely to be victims of hate crimes than non-LGBTQIA+ people. We are all aware of the extreme rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and the record number of bills introduced into state legislative bodies across the country; hate crimes targeting queer folk have spiked in the SF Bay Area — a 29% increase between 2021 and 2022. Largely in response to the rise in hate crimes targeted at queer folk, California Attorney General Rob Bonta unveiled the first-ever State of Pride Report, shedding light on the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent endeavors to advocate for and uplift LGBTQIA+ communities across California and beyond.

For thirty years, I have asked someone to escort me to and from my apartment when I am in drag — as evident in my “Out with the Trash” photo series. When I return home, I ask drivers to wait outside my apartment until I have entered my building. I’ve asked myself where that feeling of unsafety came from… but I can attribute it to the fears that society has put on me since I was a young queer kid

Looking back at the time when I lived in New York, there was a civilian vigil group called the Pink Panthers, a neighborhood watch group that would patrol areas populated by our LGBTQIA+ community. There was a rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, and we were physically under attack on a daily basis. But the presence of the Pink Panthers made me feel safe knowing they were patrolling our streets and actively keeping us safe. My boyfriend and I lived just a block from Christopher Street and the Piers. We once heard the alarm of the Pink Panther’s whistles blowing outside the apartment. We jumped up and threw eggs from our third-floor window at the perpetrator running away from the Pink Panthers on our block.

I am shouting at the top of my lungs  — we must keep each other safe. It’s a line I continue shouting to this day, and I will continue screaming it at the top of my lungs until we can all feel safe in our own skin, inside our own neighborhoods.

These are things that I think of all the time: How to keep each other safe in a world that isn’t organized around us. Here are some of the most important safety tips I believe every queer person should heed:

    1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. 
    2. When leaving a party or a bar, travel in groups and walk in well-lit areas with other people.
    3. Don’t worry about politeness if someone makes you uncomfortable — LEAVE!
    4. You can do a few things if you suspect you or someone else near you has had their drink spiked: Alert a trusted person, such as a friend, venue staff, or event host what has happened. If you think you’ve been drugged, go to a safe place – and have a trusted person both guide you and stay with you.
    5. Call a cab, sober friend, or family member to take you home.
    6. If confronted by someone, try not to engage with them verbally. Drugs, alcohol, or mental illness may drive their behaviors, so your safest course of action is disengaging and not escalating the situation.
    7. If anyone attempts to rob you, either by threats or with a weapon, do not resist. It is not worth risking your life or physical injury for the monetary items you will lose.

*PLEASE NOTE: Being called a derogatory name is not a crime. It is constitutionally protected free speech. However, if the comments are accompanied by threats, threatening behavior, or physical harm, they become a crime.

It’s up to us to take care of each other. We’re inherently our best allies to one another. And it’s our responsibility to safeguard our queer families from harm.

Loads of Love, Juanita

FYI: Reports to the CA vs. Hate hotline can be made anonymously by calling (833) 866-4283 or 833-8-NO-HATE, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or online at any time.

1 Comment

  • Paul C

    Might I suggest that the community revive the idea to carry — and use — a whistle at all times? And if you hear a whistle, gather others and go to it!

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