Show Up, Show Out, Show Off — But Safely
Let’s celebrate each other and take care of one another
There has been a toxic brew of hateful LGBTQIA+ rhetoric in our country, along with a new generation of white supremacists involved in hate crimes and bigotry. It’s incredibly upsetting and very worrisome — especially right now.
There was so much fear and confusion swirling around at the beginning of the pandemic, which made it hard to differentiate between real and fake news. Nevertheless, it left me hyper-aware of my own mental and physical health, as well as my surroundings — inside and outside my tiny Tendernob studio apartment.
I’m fortunate to have a big extended chosen family that brought me a lot of joy and a few grateful tears through those difficult times.
My neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last few years, as hotels and businesses shuttered and an influx of homeless encampments took over the alleyways that lined the blocks surrounding my apartment building. The City of San Francisco implemented at least two shelter-in-place hotels in my neighborhood to accommodate and care for my neighbors experiencing homelessness — all of whom are just blocks from my front door.
San Francisco officials also unveiled the city’s first multiservice homeless shelter for transitional age youth a block away, which has become a beckon of light for the LGBTQIA+ identifying youth that make up nearly half of our homeless young adults in the city today. The Granada — a 232-room property on my block that has become a city-funded permanent residence hotel — is now helping our chronic homeless get stable housing.
All this to say: My neighborhood has seen a lot of change over the last two years alone. I’ve made some great new friends — both human and canine, and I’ve been very concerned about many people around the Tenderloin and Tendernob.
We are seeing a significant increase in street drug sales around the corner from me on Larkin Street. These deals are happening blatantly — in broad daylight and in the dead of night. Addiction is a complicated issue, and our government must find better solutions to help those who use substances. San Francisco, as well as the rest of the country, is experiencing record-high overdose rates, with more deaths attributed to overdoses than COVID-19 cases since 2020; we’re losing an estimated 600–700 people per year in S.F. alone, though the actual number is likely much higher.
We are living in a time when our rights to be queer are being quickly chipped away. And our community is already at a higher risk of substance abuse than the general population. I don’t have the magic solution here, and I’m a recreational drug user, so I’m by no means pointing a finger. I’m merely saying that I care about you, and I have big enough tits to call you out when I think you are overdoing it.
I reached out to Kochina Rude — a Bay Area-based drag queen, Harm Redux Advocate, vocalist, and emcee — who has been active in keeping our community safe from drug overdoses over the past few years to find out exactly what they are doing to keep our extended family secure.
“Since last year, I’ve partnered with the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (D.O.P.E.) Project to give away free kits of Narcan to partygoers at Princess (a weekly party at Oasis) and provide a five-minute crash course on recognizing and reversing an overdose,” Rude told me over email. “I also offer fentanyl test strips for people to take home and test their drugs before using them. As a result, the city has started a program paying queer and trans people of color to educate and distribute Narcan among their peers, mostly in bars and clubs, modeled directly after my project.”
Kochina went on to say that they started doing this because, just like in the days of the AIDS crisis, “it has been queer people on the ground taking care of each other first to ensure our survival.”
“I want my community to be educated and prepared about the dangers of drug use without shaming them for using drugs, as drugs have always been a part of our culture,” Rude adds. “I started this entirely independently and am immensely proud that San Francisco Community Behavioral Health Services are using the program. The manager (Tracey Helton of Black Tar Heroin fame) told me it’s ‘the most innovative public health intervention I’ve seen in years.’”
Also: You can now access Narcan directly from Carla Gay at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, Bionka Simone at Beaux; Nicki Jizz at Reparations; and Princess Panocha, who is everywhere and uses it to get into parties for free.
We are fast approaching the biggest day of Pride month, Sunday, June 26. San Francisco is known globally for its queer-free spirit — but even here, we still see a rise in hate-related LGBTQIA+ crimes and a carefree drug-use lifestyle. So when we step out this week, we must band together to protect and keep each other safe.
In simpler terms, I ask everyone to be aware of what’s happening around them. This way, you can take action before anything happens; be as ‘in the moment’ as possible, allowing yourself to understand and engage with your surroundings thoroughly and intently.
Here are some phone numbers that you should save:
- Mobile Crisis Team: (415) 970–4000: Call this number if you observe someone in visible distress and the situation is non-violent and does not necessitate police presence enforcement, i.e. a mental health emergency
- Don’t Call the Police: This website contains additional City resources to contact in response to certain crises that don’t require SFPD to be on site
- 911: If you’re in danger of immediate harm and feel unsafe, call 911 immediately. Don’t forget that California has initiated the Good Samaritan Law, which encourages a witness of a drug-related overdose to call 911 and will not be charged for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.
Staying calm will allow you to think and make good decisions in light of an emergency.
I’m not posting this information to add fear to your Pride weekend festivities — I am posting it because I love and care about you. Nothing is more important than for all of us to show up, show out, and show off. Let’s make San Francisco Pride the most outrageous and colorful celebration yet — while also keeping it safe for all of us.