OPEN LETTER TO THE SAN FRANCISCO PRIDE BOARD

Dear San Francisco Pride Board Members,

As the co-Presidents of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, we write to express our disappointment in your recent vote to allow Facebook to sponsor and march in the San Francisco Pride parade this year.

The Harvey Milk Club and our members have been actively involved with the #MyNameIs coalition since the Facebook name change policy first went into effect last fall. There is no doubt in our mind that this policy directly discriminates against and impacts members of the LGBT and drag community, as well as survivors of violence, undocumented immigrants, teachers, doctors, and others who are transitioning identities or are in need of privacy for a myriad of social, professional, or personal reasons.

Not allowing Facebook to sponsor or march in Pride would have sent a strong message that Facebook needs to be held accountable for this discriminatory policy that promotes surveillance of bodies, gender, and individual identity and undermines the individual right to privacy. Instead, by allowing Facebook to not only march, but sponsor Pride, you are forsaking the community you seek to serve.

We are also deeply troubled to see that San Francisco Pride has chosen to allow Airbnb, a company that is contributing to San Francisco’s unaffordability crisis, to serve as a Grand Sponsor and “Alternative Accommodation Partner” for Pride in 2015. The Harvey Milk Club has fought for greater regulation of Airbnb’s practices and is concerned about the impacts that unfettered “home sharing” is having on our neighborhoods and housing costs. Given that San Francisco is a union town, with so many great union hotel options, it seems overly gratuitous to name Airbnb the official “Alternative Accommodation Partner” and also ill-considered given the current policy battles underway in San Francisco (and many other cities) to better regulate use of Airbnb.

We have real reasons to be concerned by the corporate cooptation of Pride generally, but these companies in particular are bullying and buying their way into our community’s good graces. Meanwhile, we know very well that they are not acting in our best interest. They are profiting off of our homes, our names, and our identities.

We understand that Pride requires significant funding, but we do not understand why Pride would take money from companies that are so incredibly divisive and polarizing. Would Pride have taken money from Coors in Harvey Milk's time? No, and Pride should not now sell out to companies that are doing great damage to our communities. Our dignity is not for sale. 

We acknowledge that there are challenges to organizing an event of this size and scale. There are political pressures and financial realities to contend with. However, we expect a Board that is accountable to the community that it seeks to serve and represent. That community is San Francisco and many of us would like to see greater steps taken to secure additional funding for Pride from alternative sources (e.g. the City) in order to rely less on the need for branding by large corporations.

While we are disappointed by your recent actions, we ask that you create a dialogue with us on the conditions that facilitated these decisions. The Harvey Milk Club would like to create a space for that dialogue to occur, and we call upon members of this Board to attend any of our upcoming General Membership meetings on the following dates: June 16th, July 21st, or August 18th, to speak directly with us, answer our questions, and brainstorm solutions. 

Our meetings are at 7pm at the Women’s Building in the Mission and we can add you to our agenda. We welcome you to join us and will be following up on this invitation to attend to emphasize the importance of your participation.

Thank you for the work that you have and continue to put into this event. We want a better Pride for San Francisco, and we hope to work with you to ensure a more inclusive and community focused celebration in the future.

Signed,

Peter Gallotta and Laura Thomas
Co-Presidents of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club

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