Queers of a Feather

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Are you an LGBTQ+ person who likes bird watching but normally does it close to home in an urban setting? Or maybe you are an LGBTQ+ person who goes hiking and exploring in beautiful open spaces and regional parks but has never been birding but wanted to?

Then there is a group for you: Queers of a Feather.

Whether you are experienced or completely new to birding, Queers of a Feather, or QoaF, will provide a fun opportunity to get out in nature, gain a bird’s eye view of species found locally, and find your flock.

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Queers of a Feather Facilitators on a bird-watching trek

QoaF is co-hosted by the Peninsula Open Space Trust, or POST, and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. Thanks to their knowledgeable facilitators, their events are the opposite of a wild goose chase. They’ll guide you on a leisurely stroll with many stops to get a gander at local birds. And if you get peckish along the way, never fear! They’ll provide snacks! (Please don’t feed the birds, though).

These will be LGBTQ-centered events led by LGBTQ-identifying facilitators with the purpose of creating a welcoming and inclusive space for queer community members to gather and develop a sense of belonging in the outdoors. While allies are welcome to attend, please be mindful that space is limited.

Scheduled outings usually run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are planned for Aug. 19, Nov. 18, and Feb 3. All will take place in the San Francisco Peninsula or in the South Bay. The August 19 birding is scheduled at the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in Portola Valley. To learn more, visit the event page or subscribe to POST’s monthly newsletter via the form on their homepage.

About POST and Audubon Society:

POST protects and cares for open space, farms, and parkland on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. POST has protected over 86,000 acres in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties.

The Audubon Society promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and protection of birds and other wildlife by engaging people of all ages in birding, education, and conservation. Visit scvas.org to learn more.

Santa Clara County Leather Association

SCCLA patch

When the South Bay Leather Uniform Group (SLUG) disbanded in the mid-1990s, the Santa Clara County Leather Association stepped in to take its place.

The SCCLA is a pansexual social and educational club, where folks can find connection, mentorship and community in leather. Renegades – San Jose’s only leather and bear club – became the group’s hub for weekend nights, Sunday brunches, movie nights and meetings of the San Jose Brotherhood.

Members stitched SCCLA’s triangle patch onto leather vests and jackets, which were often worn to annual formal dinners and leather weekends, where the dress code was, “Leather in uniforms are admired but not required.” These socials attracted people across Northern California, from San Francisco, Sonoma and Sacramento.

“We had fun, did good things, raised money for charity – I had a blast,” said Frank La, who first joined SCCLA in 2012. “I was becoming my leather self, and I was understanding what leather was about: not what’s worn on the outside but kind of inside in the heart. I loved it and took into it like a duck to water.”

The organization also hosted Mr. and Ms. Santa Clara Leather contests, whose title holders become ambassadors for the community, helping connect and educate folks in and outside of the LGBTQ community.

Frank – who earned the title of Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2014 – said being an ambassador was one of the highlights of his life.

“I got to meet and spend some time with leaders in the leather community that, unfortunately, are no longer with us today,” Frank said. “I got the opportunity to sit down one-on-one to discuss history of where they’ve been, where they came from, where they are today and where the leather community is today. The title holding experience is just unbelievable.”

Growing out of the post WWII biker culture, leather promoted images of masculine independence that resonated with men and women who were dissatisfied with mainstream culture, especially dispelling the myth that all homosexual men were effeminate.

Gay leather became a practical way to symbolize open exploration of kink and S&M for some, while others adopted it as an entire lifestyle. In the 1960s, San Francisco became a hub for leather subculture in the gay community, which exploded internationally in the 1970s and 80s.

According to the Leather Archives, the SCCLA was founded in 1997 by Kevin Roche and Miranda von Stockhausen – who were Mr. and Ms. South Bay-San Jose Leather 1996, respectively. SCCLA represented the merger of the South Bay Leather and San Jose Leather groups.

Locally, Gabrielle Antolovich, the DeFrank Center’s president, earned the title of International Ms. Leather and International Ms. Bootblack in 1990, while Lance Moore is known as “Member #1” of the SCCLA. Moore is a Silicon Valley technical writer, Billy DeFrank Center board member and Mr. Santa Clara County Leather in 2000.

The SCCLA was spoiled; master craftsmen Tony and Dave Coronza founded Leather Masters in 1989 from their garage – in true Silicon Valley fashion.

“We would go into Mr. S (Leather in San Francisco) and some other stores and say, ‘Oh, I can make that,’ and ‘I can do that much cheaper,’” Carranza told the Dallas Voice in 2020. “I was a stockbroker at the time, and I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie to work. I said, ‘Hey, let’s go into business.’ And then we bought a sewing machine.”

Leather Masters emphasized providing correct, accessible information for people interested in the lifestyle, on top of providing the local LGBT and straight communities with high-quality leather products during the rise in popularity of the subculture’s style.

Their storefront on Park Avenue opened in 1991 in San Jose’s St Leo’s neighborhood, an emerging LGBT hub, where they not only sold custom leather jackets, vests, boots, chaps and harnesses, but also tailored garments specifically to customers’ bodies.

“To have that in San Jose – whatever you wanted – they had or would make for you, that was just priceless,” Frank La said. “It takes a true craftsmen to make those things.”

The store eventually closed in 2016, a few years after Tony Coronza passed away from complications of a stroke. Dave Coronza moved down to Dallas. The South Bay’s nearest leather shops remain in San Francisco, which can vary in price and quality.

The number of events held by the SCCLA started declining in 2019, as core members were busy with life, moving out of the Bay Area or even passing away. The SCCLA isn’t intending to shut down, but the Covid-19 pandemic really pumped the breaks on gatherings and events in 2020.

Freewheelers Car Club

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Founded in 1978, the Freewheelers Car Club enjoys the distinction of being the nation’s oldest gay and lesbian car club.  The club’s origins can be traced to Sunnyvale, CA., when a small group of gay car collectors met to exchange information and socialize based on a shared interest in collector automobiles.  As word of this informal group spread, it soon became clear that a significant number of people within the LGBTQ community shared this same interest in the art, culture, and technology of the automobile.  From this chance beginning, the Freewheelers Car Club was formed and has since become an integral part of the local LGBTQ community, as well as set the standard for other LGBTQ car clubs throughout the nation.

When we aren’t in a pandemic, the Freewheelers hosts monthly events throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley with at least one or two in the South Bay each year.  Some of these events have included our pool party in the East Foothills, historic tours of downtown San Jose and country drives around the south county reservoirs.  We also co-host with our sister club in LA the annual “West Coast Meet” along the central coast of California, which is attended by members of LGBTQ clubs throughout the country.  Between the cars, the themes, the costumes and the performances, the West Coast Meet is arguably the most entertaining car show in existence!

The Freewheelers has always enjoyed a diverse membership, embracing all genders, orientations and identifications, including straight people who know how much fun we have.  Membership stands at approximately 300, with most members based in Northern California, while others are scattered around the globe.  The 1,200 automobiles listed in the club roster are as diverse as the membership.  There are no restrictions on make, model, year or condition, so whether you’re into Acura or Amphicar, Lincoln or Land Rover, Packard or Porsche, there’s something for everyone.  You don’t even need to own a car, as long as you share an appreciation of the many aspects of the vintage and collector auto.

For more information on this exciting and unique club, please visit the Freewheelers website at www.thefreewheelers.net

Stanford’s Old Firehouse

Photo Cole Griffiths The Stanford Daily

Stanford’s Old Fire Truck House became a hub for LGBTQ students and community members alike – one of the first campus organizations of its kind nationally. 

Built in 1904, the aptly named structure transitioned in the 1970s from housing fire trucks to community meetings for those who were queer, questioning or allies to connect and politically organize. Despite a history of name changes – from the original Gay People’s Union to today’s QSpot – students have walked up the Firehouse’s steep outdoor steps to find a community of their own on the second floor. 

Stanford has a piecemeal history with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people, dating back to the first documented relationship in 1911. 

However, organization started coming to a head in the 1960s, when folks began creating forums and discussion groups dedicated to the exploration of sexual rights, including civil rights for homosexuals. By November 1970, a Stanford Gay Students Union was formed off-campus by students and community members.

This idea stuck. The Gay People’s Union officially began in December 1971 with a desk in the Old Union Clubhouse. Founded by Maud Hanson Nerman and Fred Oakford, the movement started with the intent to be accessible to the entire Palo Alto community. 

Its members began efforts to provide personal outreach, mentorship, mental health counseling and support groups geared to gay students, especially through smaller groups like the Women’s Collective and the Gay and Lesbian Speakers Bureau. 

This was risky business at a time when students and faculty feared facing retribution for being gay from Stanford, including expulsion or termination. Non-campus locations were originally considered for safety concerns. 

The Gay People’s Union found a permanent home in the Old Firehouse in the fall of 1974, growing from a small office to claiming the entire second floor of the building along Santa Teresa Street. 

Within its early years, GPU’s work catalyzed the formation of state-funded mental health programs for the Bay Area gay community, the first gay and lesbian awareness week held on campus, hiring of openly gay faculty and an unsuccessful campaign to exclude discriminatory employers from Stanford’s Career Planning and Placement Center.

Four members carried a GPU banner within the first National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights by October 1979.

Despite growing recognition of the LGBTQ community in the Bay Area and beyond, progress wasn’t entirely met with open arms. Notably, the campus’ “Gay Liberation” statues were repeatedly vandalized with hammers and spray paint. 

As tensions heightened in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis, the Firehouse’s community worked to provide practical and emotional supporters for people with AIDS, increase visibility with Gay Family Days and simply educate others that queer people spanned the entire campus, including students living in dorms, teachers and entertainers.

Known as the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community Center by 1989, students continued political activism throughout the 1990s, planning “Queer Be-Ins” at local coffee houses, establishing student orientation celebrations and hosting queer graduation events. 

Despite the Old Firehouse’s consistent, decades-long presence, all of its opportunities and events were solely student-driven and supported by staff because it remained unrecognized as an official community center by Stanford. 

Stanford eventually provided a full-time director for the LGBCC in 1999, after student requests and task force studies, which allowed for increased access to resources and targeted programming. 

The organization was renamed the LGBT Community Resources Center in 2001 to increase transgender representation, and later morphed into the Queer Student Resource Center, or QSpot, by 2017. 

Digital Queers

If the South Bay was home to changing internal policies, San Francisco became the hub for disseminating those ideas beyond Silicon Valley. Larger conventions and gatherings emerged in the early 1990s, including the first Out and Equal workplace conference in October 1991. From there, collectives like the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force (NLGTF) emerged from this community in 1992.

The need to communicate en-mass grew as the inter-corporate networks grew.

That year, software marketer Tom Reilly and writer and editor Karen Wickre co-founded Digital Queers—a Castro-based activist group that worked to bring gay-oriented nonprofits up-to-speed online through modems, PowerMacs, AOL software discs and email tutorials.

Named as a funny, more modern evolution from High Tech Gays, they worked tech show floors such art the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, talking to friends, colleagues and strangers who would agree to donate equipment, time and money to organizations across the United States.

The idea easily struck a chord with developers, with Tom and Karen at one point collecting $75,000 in software, $75,000 in consulting services and $50,000 in cash, which was later presented at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

As the technology grew, the need to stay up-to-date continued. Three years into business, DQ had 1,000 members and served 30 nonprofits, including the NLGTF and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which boasted speakers bureau members like Bennet and Kim in the South Bay.

This fortunately happened at the same time personal computers became cheaper and more ubiquitous, so the gay and lesbian employee events grew more active. Recruiters for Microsoft and Apple had started posting jobs throughout the organization.

In the years after the first party in January 1993, word of mouth eventually led to these Digital Queers benefits became a socially hot ticket, bringing thousands of gay, lesbian and allies together in one social network.

“(Looking) at how many people were there could be very empowering,” Karen said, adding that people were often generous with trading email addresses and in-person introductions.

One of these connections was Tom talking to Apple CEO John Sculley about domestic partner benefits, which lagged seven years behind its nondiscrimination policy implementation, in part due to an incrementalist approach from its employees.

Tom told the Los Angeles Times he briefed the issue with the top Apple executive, who later breezily welcomed the idea at a meeting with Apple Lambda in 1993, eliciting tears and a standing ovation from staff.

The need for gay employee groups started to dwindle as newer organizations came on the scene with nondiscrimination policies and domestic partner benefits already in place. And as nonprofits became more digitally self-sufficient, Digital Queers and its email address book effectively dissolved into GLAAD by 1998.

Read more here.

LGBTQ Youth Space

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The San Jose LGBTQ Youth Space is a community drop-in center and mental health program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally youth and young adults ages 13-25 who live in Santa Clara County. The center is committed to running a participant-driven program focused on youth empowerment strategies.

“The Youth Space has provided me a sense of community and a safe space to be myself. It’s a space to have fun and find friends and also to be politically educated and find resources for help.” —Frank Peña

The LGBTQ Youth Space is directed by Adrienne Keel and staffed by a team of LGBTQ+ and ally community members. Staff members have diverse professional backgrounds including the fields of social justice, youth development, mental health, social work, sexuality and gender studies, community organizing, public health, and arts and culture. The center also employs peer mentors in support of their community.

The Youth Space offers a safe and confidential space equipped with a wide range of resources for LGBTQ+ youth in Santa Clara County including support groups, art workshops, activism and leadership opportunities, movie nights, field trips, volunteer opportunities, free snacks, internet access, and video games. 

The mental health services provided by the center are available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Services include individual counseling, case management and psychiatry.

The Youth Space outreach team also offers gender/sexuality awareness workshops for colleagues or students and consult with those who wish to establish campus-based LGBTQ+ groups.. In addition to this, they also provide LGBTQ+ speakers to share their lived experiences. Off-site services are provided free of charge. 

The LGBTQ Youth Space is a Program of Family & Children Services and Caminar.

Visit their website here.

Song That Radio

Song That

A haven for Vietnamese members of the LGBTQ+ community could be found every Sunday night on Song That Radio, the nation’s first Vietnamese gay and lesbian radio show broadcast out of KSJX in San Jose. Translated as “live truthfully,” the hour-long program was founded in March 1999 by Vuong Nguyen. She was known as the “Eldest Sister” of the ST family, who also founded one of the country’s first Vietnamese gay and lesbian groups in San Jose in the late 1980s.

This wasn’t Nguyen’s first radio gig, previously working as a news writer and reader for American military radio while living in Saigon. Born in 1943, she advocated against Communist Hanoi while a college student early in the Vietnam War. She brought a Vietnamese-style broadcasting mix of news, contemporary music, poetry and letters from readers to Song That Radio, focusing on messages of anti-homophobia and equality in the community and society.

A slogan of the program has been documented online as, “Live true to your biological nature, and live well together, with everyone around and proud of your own. Your natural nature, that of a homosexual, is useful in society.”

The mission of Song That Radio included advocating for acceptance in the Vietnamese community, bridging gaps between heterosexual family members and educating about HIV and AIDS. These goals proved especially vital for closeted LGBTQ folks who weren’t fluent English speakers.

The most recent programs still accessible online date back to August 2013, when discussion topics ranged from a French woman providing breastfeeding services to homosexual parents and Amsterdam’s Gay Pride festival, to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” stance on gay people and ABC Family airing a lesbian wedding on TV – the first after the Supreme Court struck down the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. In addition to radio programming, they hosted in-person shows, where packed audiences would watch nights filled with song, dance, comedy and fashion, sometimes with standing room only. Song That Radio’s location in San Jose wasn’t happenstance.

According to a 2011 report on the Status of Vietnamese Health, Santa Clara County’s Vietnamese population grew from 11,717 in 1980 to 134,525 in 2010 – the second largest of any county in the country. The City of San Jose had the largest Vietnamese population of any U.S. city. At the time, there were no Vietnamese words to clearly, respectfully talk about the LGBTQ+ community. The idea was that by building understanding, that would lead to love, openness and freedom by building a bridge between Vietnamese roots and queer life. This work blended into politics, including marching against Prop 8, which temporarily halted legal same-sex marriages in California. On May 15, 2012, Song That Radio received a commendation from the San Jose City Council.

Visit their website songthat.com in Vietnamese or read their mission in English.

South Bay Leather and Uniform Group


South Bay Leather and Uniform Group (SLUG) had their founders meeting in September of 1988. Don Queen, David Carranza, John Esqueda and his partner Todd, Rafael Montejo and his partner Stan, and Jill and her partner, were the founders. SLUG was started as a social club for the leather community. 

Graylin Thornton was new to the leather community in 1993.  Graylin was about 26 years old when he, along with others, hosted the first Leather Pride Festival in San Jose. Shortly after this, Graylin became the first African American man to win the title of International Mr. Drummer in San Francisco. 

The Drummer contest, now known as International Leather Sir/Boy, spanned a diverse range of fetish communities and included rubber, leather, and cowboys.

Since that early win, Thornton went on to receive the Leather Leadership Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as a Pantheon Award from the Leather Journal.

“We don’t do these things for ourselves as leaders, we do them for the community itself,” he said. “And I think that the younger people who are coming up … need to understand that you don’t just go to a beer bust and do one event. You keep going because you’ll always be a part of that community.”

But due to the toll of HIV/AIDS on the leather community over the years, Thornton said, “many younger members aren’t able to look up to as many role models as previous generations have. When I was 25 and 30, I had people there steering me the whole way,” he said. “Unfortunately, they don’t really have that. So those of us who are 50, 55, have to mentor our younger people.”

Mentorship was a key component of Thornton’s entrance to the community, and it still plays an important role.

SLUG disbanded in the mid-1990s, but the group Santa Clara County Leather Association(SCCLA) took its place. SCCLA still hosts leather nights at Renegades.

Read more about Graylin and the Leather Community here: https://www.ebar.com/news/pride//248569

San Jose State University PRIDE Center

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The San José State University (SJSU) PRIDE Center was founded on September 22, 2008, initially as the LGBT Center, to cultivate an inclusive campus climate for LGBTQ+ students.  The center supports student’s identity growth, leadership development, and cultivates a community to support the safety and well-being of all LGBTQ+ community members at SJSU.  The PRIDE Center was initially located in Building BB on the South East side of campus across from the Campus Village residence halls. From there it had a brief stint in Hoover Hall, and a temporary location in a Modular Building B for a few years while the Student Union renovation project was being completed. The PRIDE Center is located in the Student Union and is led by the founding director Bonnie Sugiyama with the support from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors Dr. Stephanie Preston (current); Tova Feldmanstern, LCSW; Dr. Angela Krumm; and many intern counselors and post-doctoral residents.

 One of the larger efforts hosted by the center is the Peers in PRIDE or PIP mentoring program, developed by Dr. Angela Krumm, which connects incoming or continuing students with peer mentors who help them find a sense of community and belonging on campus and ease the transition to a large urban university. The program allows students an opportunity to connect with their peers and create new communities that they can rely upon.

Another initiative the center has successfully implemented is SJSU to Zero, through a grant from the county, which is an advocacy project mirroring the efforts of the county’s Getting to Zero campaign.  SJSU to Zero focuses on reducing the rates of HIV transmission through promoting preventative actions like PrEP, and working to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV testing and diagnosis. The project (the first of its kind on SJSU’s campus) is spearheaded by Matthew Capprioni in partnership with Sugiyama. This advocacy-based effort works by providing spaces for students to discuss HIV openly, thus reducing stigma and removing barriers to testing and treatment. 

Along with these two programs, the SJSU Pride Center also supports six student organizations which function on campus in different spaces, and help students feel a sense of community and visibility among their peers: 

Estudiantes Latin@’s y el Provecto Arco Iris –  A supportive, social and activist group open to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender queer, questioning, intersex, and ally (LGBTQQIA) Latin@s in the San Jose area.

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – a chapter of the national OSTEM society dedicated to educating and fostering leadership for LGBTQQIA communities in the STE(A)M fields.

Queer and Asian (Q&A) –  Q&A originated in fall 2009 and is designed to encourage students to raise positive awareness of queer and pan-Asian communities at the SJSU campus.

Queers Thoughtfully Interrupting Prejudice (QTIP) – QTIP provides a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allies an opportunity to come together in a supportive environment and discuss issues and concerns.

Urban PRIDE – Urban PRIDE is dedicated to dealing with and catering to the social and daily issues of urban GLBTQ individuals in the San Jose area through events, functions, and making our voices heard. 

Trans Talk – Trans Talk is a group for transgender/genderqueer identified people and their active allies.

The center is also home to the LGBTQ+ Faculty and Staff Association, who meet regularly to discuss issues facing LGBTQ+ members of the SJSU campus, as well as the larger San Jose community. LGBTQ+ FSA was formed in 1992 and is open to all SJSU faculty and staff interested in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender topics. 

The center hosts regular events and meetups for LGBTQ+ students, and provides ample resources for services and education on their website. The annual Rainbow Graduation celebration is the pinnacle experience for students who have engaged with the community through the PRIDE Center.  All participants are given rainbow tassels and former PIP mentors are given rainbow honor cords.

During the COVID-19 statewide shutdown, the center has made huge efforts to continue providing reliable support to students through hosting online meetups, and even hosting a virtual Rainbow Graduation ceremony in Spring of 2020.