Bay Area Reporter: Federal workers mark Pride in San Francisco

June 29, 2017

By Seth Hemmelgarn

Government workers and others gathered at San Francisco's Federal Building to discuss progress for LGBTs and their personal stories at "Federal Pride: The State of Pride 2017."

Although he was barely referred to directly, President Donald Trump and his anti-LGBT administration provided a reality check for those celebrating Pride Month.

Roberta Steele, regional attorney for the San Francisco district of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told the 70 or so people attending the June 22 event, "At times we feel hopeless and fear we are moving backward," but with the efforts of the EEOC and others, "hate will not prevail, ultimately."

After the national anthem was sung, Elizabeth Kristen, an attorney with Legal Aid at Work, said, "We need to come together as the home of the freer and the home of the braver. ... I know that we all can achieve equality and that we all have to continue this fight together."

Gay California Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) provided a legislative update that included several bills he authored or co-authored, including Senate Bill 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, which would allow people to choose "non-binary" as the gender on their birth certificates and other documents.

Although the state "has not always been on the leading edge of LGBTQ equality," that's changed, and "the Legislature at this point is absolutely on the cutting edge," said Wiener.

Some indicated an event such as Federal Pride couldn't have happened when they first started working for the government.

Bertram Fairries, who joined the FBI in 1990, said that he couldn't be out then because of "the possibility of being compromised," and there was "constant fear of being outed."

Among other roles over the years, Fairries served as a sniper, and, "I think I went out of my way to be hard," he said. He eventually came out after being assigned to New York, though.

"It wasn't this big, earth shattering moment. ... It was handled professionally," and, "It took such a lift off me," said Fairries.

He added that the event was the first time he'd openly discussed his personal experiences in a public forum, and "this was a challenge." However, he said, "I have a responsibility to each of you."

Lisa Gentilcore, a lesbian who's also worked for years for the FBI, recalled that when a question came up early on about her "alternative lifestyle," she first thought about how "I had been a vegan in college."

She said she responded that the question about her "lifestyle" was true, but after the experience, "I was very careful about who I told I was gay. ... It colored how I entered the FBI."

Now, however, she said she can "interact authentically with the community we serve."

The event also featured a memorial for transgender women who've been killed in the past couple of years and a list of the names of the people who were fatally shot in Orlando, Florida's gay Pulse nightclub massacre in June 2016.

Kristen noted a study by the national Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition estimated nationally, transgender women are 4.3 times more likely than women in general to be homicide victims.

Read the article on the Bay Area Reporter website