Fred Ferrer

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Fred Ferrer – former CEO of The Health Trust and now CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley – talks about how he dealt with homophobia with his family, Santa Clara University and his career.

Frederick Ferrer grew up in Marin County, just twenty minutes outside of San Francisco, but to him the gay world felt “millions of miles away.” He knew he was gay as early as kindergarten, but it was the era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t even think about it.’

Although Ferrer was unable to fully be himself growing up, he felt surrounded by love. “I learned to love from my family, from my church and from my government, but I also learned how to hate from those three places as well. I experienced this notion that it wasn’t even okay to think you were going to be gay.”

In 1976, Ferrer left his Catholic Mexican family home life for a Catholic institution to pursue an undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University. He partied hard and studied harder to fit in, but noticed other queer men were missing from the social gatherings he frequented. They spent their days off making secret trips to San Francisco; their classmates oblivious as to what they were doing. Ferrer remained in the closet.

He went on to grad school at San Jose State to study to be a therapist. There, he worked with students who were coming out. But Ferrer felt emotionally unequipped to guide others on the journey he himself had not yet taken, and ultimately switched career paths. “I didn’t stay as a therapist because there was just too much internal pain, and I really wasn’t going to be a good therapist to somebody else if I couldn’t deal with this stuff myself.”

Instead, he entered the nonprofit world and began working with low-income Latino families in the early childhood care system, drawing on his education in child development.  Though he was still not out at the time, colleagues often assumed Ferrer was gay, but he did not confirm it. Still, the support from those around him, which included out gay executives, made him feel welcome in the valley as an advocate and leader who served on nonprofit boards. 

While he was growing more comfortable with this identity in his professional life, it wasn’t until tragedy struck in his early thirties that Ferrer began to reckon with his struggle to come out to his family. When his mother died of cancer at age 54, he knew it was time to come out, and he entered therapy to help him do so. “It really helped me come to grips with who I was, what I wanted to do, and what I was doing that wasn’t helpful to my personal and spiritual growth as a gay man.” 

Ferrer’s father’s reaction to his being gay was as he always expected: He immediately began seeing his son through the lens of demonizing stereotypes.  With his family situation rocky, Ferrer missed a few years of family events and tried to make up for lost time by socializing in the bars of San Francisco and San Jose. “It was like I was celebrating my twenties all over again.”

Coming out in the nineties brought its own challenge. Ferrer lost many high school and college friends to HIV. “I was going through all kinds of turmoil with dealing with the death of my mom, the aftermath of dealing with my father, and then dealing with this incredibly sad pain of losing high school and college gay friends to HIV and not having anyone to share that with.”

Despite that trauma and isolation, after he came out, he began advocating for LGBTQ-inclusion in early childhood settings. He taught a curriculum called: Makng Room in the Circle to help involve LGBTQ+ parents.  Ferrer pushed on with his LGBTQ advocacy. As vice chair of the Santa Clara County United Way board in 1992, he led efforts to defund the Boy Scouts because the local chapter would not sign a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation. This debate led to conducting a needs assessment of the LGBTQ community and the ultimate funding of programs like the Billy DeFrank Center.

His work with the United Way showed him the power of putting money where your mouth is and walking the talk when it comes to fighting discrimination.

When Ferrer entered his new role of CEO of The Health Trust 1987, he was upfront about being gay from the start.  He ensured HIV services were a top priority, and transformed and expanded the programs based on the best practices and highest standards of care. He upgraded the food baskets that HIV-positive clients were given, allowing them to choose products themselves from stores like they would if they ahopped at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. “I was able to have Michelin star chefs come in and do cooking projects with us. It was great.”  Later he would co-chair a county-wide LGBTQ+ Health Assessment that would also lead to funding LGBTQ programs. 

Ferrer’s identity remains deeply intertwined with his work in the nonprofit sector, being it was the first safe community he found after experiencing a homophobic culture in college.

In 1995, Santa Clara University graduates wanted to form an LGBTQ alumni group, but the school prohibited it, thinking it would somehow be approving of homosexuality. It brought back memories of the pit Ferrer had in his stomach during his four years of undergraduate enrollment. “It brought back all of the homophobia that existed when I was a student and why it wouldn’t have made sense for me to come out. It also inspired me to make a difference and to work in the world of nonprofits.”

In 2014, then president Father Michael Engh invited Ferrer to chair a Presidential Blue Ribbon Task force on Diversity and Inclusion at the school.  “To have a gay latino man come back as the chair of the presidential commission, I think it showed how far the university has come.”

In 2010, the university established the Rainbow Resource Center. Ferrer now serves as a mentor at the Rainbow Center, working with young gay undergrads who share similar backgrounds. “I see the power of mentorship and the power of having the university recognizing you, and giving you a place to fit in and find like-minded people so that you can continue to develop in ways that may not be normative but in ways that you become more authentic.”

Today, in his role as CEO of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, Ferrer advocates for the LGBTQ+ children in the foster care system, who make up a disproportionate part of the population. He is grateful for the opportunities he has had to work with children, given that one of the biggest arguments against gay marriage concerned children and their development.

Over his lifetime, Ferrer has seen Santa Clara University grow from a place where he had to remain closeted to an institution that seeks out his queer leadership. In 2014, Ferrer was granted an honorary degree from Santa Clara University for Public Service, the first gay man to ever receive this prestigous award.  He saw HIV begin as a death sentence that ostracized the gay community further, and later become a chronic health condition that has lost much of the heavy stigma it used to carry.

“I keep thinking what are the ways that we, as a community, can come together to end the kind of discrimination, homophobia, and now transphobia that exists and then work to change it. I know we will have a better community when those things no longer exist it.”

Judge Jessica Delgado

Delgado 2022 profile

In the third of a series, read about Santa Clara County’s newest LGBTQ member of the bench, Judge Jessica Delgado.

One of six LGBTQ+ judges in Santa Clara County, Jessica Delgado draws from her experience of being on her own at a young age and her intersectional identity as a queer Latina to handle cases with a nuanced and empathetic perspective.

Outed in high school in central Texas in the mid-eighties and rendered homeless, Delgado said she came into her queerness the only way that existed back then: through bars and soccer teams. In 1991, she and her girlfriend at the time decided they wanted to move to a place where they could be safe and out. They chose Santa Cruz.

With the encouragement of teacher and mentor Sam Marian, Delgado eventually went to Berkeley to study law after completing her bachelor’s degree through Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz.
Although Delgado swore she would never be in criminal defense, she became a public defender in Monterey County. In 2001, she joined Santa Clara County, where she worked as a deputy public defender for twenty years.

Former Santa Clara County Public Defender and now State Appellate Court Justice Mary Greenwood had told her that it is always important to re-examine your career, so in 2019 she thought it was time to think about a new thing. “I was deeply invested in public service, so being a judge seemed like another way in which I could continue to serve the community,” Delgado said.

As fate would have it, it was Governor Gavin Newsom who appointed her a judge in April 2021. Though they have never met, Delgado and Newsom have a connection that made his appointment of her that much more meaningful. When Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, he defiantly allowed gay marriages on February 12, 2004. It happened to be a court holiday, so she and her partner, along with other lesbian couples, rushed around and drove up to San Francisco to get married.

“Newsom’s action had a tremendous impact on us personally,” she said, “because we felt a sense of hope that our family finally might be recognized.”

Delgado’s marriage, along with all the others, was ruled invalid by the California Supreme Court, but Newsom’s bold move had given her hope. She and Diana, a public defender, have remained domestic partners and have a 16-year-old son.

Delgado felt it was very rewarding to have Newsom evaluate her as a judicial candidate. “To be fully out from the very beginning of the application process all the way through the interview—I felt like a whole person in the process,” she said. “I felt like all of the parts of me and all of the work that I had done over the years was all valued in a way I don’t think any official process had ever felt before. It was special for me to have someone appoint me who had given my family dignity.”
In her work as an out Latina judge, Delgado witnesses the impact of representation on a daily basis. “Just my being up there and who I am means something to the people who are in front of me. I see it all of the time. I see it in the Latinx community when I pronounce someone’s name correctly.”

Despite the neutrality required of judges, joining the bench has been an extremely personal process for Delgado.

“It’s a sacred relationship you have with the public. You should really be asked challenging questions about who you are and who you will be in that position. It’s like an autopsy of the soul, while you’re still awake and alive.”
The experiences of her youth-built resilience and a strong work ethic, and at the same time, gave her high expectations for herself and everyone around her. Delgado has had to learn to manage those expectations when sentencing young people in her courtroom.

“I remember what it was like to be that age and be completely on your own, and there’s a way in which bringing that perspective and that empathy is very powerful from now sitting in this position of deciding what is your sentence going to be, what discretion might I exercise? How can I include this context?”
Delgado brings that same understanding when it comes to racial equity and LGBTQ issues in the system, but she wasn’t always out at work. During her first ten years as a public defender, she worried her identity might harm a client’s case.

Although it has been over a decade since then, the landscape is still far from ideal. “It’s still a very heteronormative criminal justice system and justice system at large.”
Delgado also said she sees students of color struggle with the same challenges she faced as a law student almost thirty years ago.

Delgado works to foster inclusivity by using her intersectional identity to bridge worlds. “I like to bring a little queerness to the table when I’m in the Latinx world. And I like to bring a little bit of a discussion of race and equity when I’m in the LGBTQ world. I try to remind both of those groups that trans women of color should be our priority. They are the most vulnerable in our community and I believe that to be true in Santa Clara County as well.”

In the courtroom, Delgado announces her pronouns and uses gender-neutral phrasing in standard scripts. Outside of court, she has a special focus on mentoring transgender applicants. Currently, there is only one trans judge on the bench in California, and Delgado wants that to change.

“I have my own work to do around being affirming to my trans brothers and sisters. We have to have the capacity to have empathy and compassion for people who are different to be a good ally.”

Dr. George Kent

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Read and listen to longtime HIV/AIDS physician Dr. George Kent as he discusses his 32 years of work at the Santa Clara County PACE Clinic and what he sees as the new challenges ahead for treating patients with HIV.

Dr. George Kent has been caring for people at the Santa Clara County’s AIDS clinic for over 32 years. He started in 1989 when he began splitting his time between working with HIV patients and being a primary care physician with his own clinic.

“I’m not making this up,” the longtime ally said. “I would deliver a baby in the morning, then go to my private practice, and then to the HIV clinic. After work, I would go to the house of someone who was dying of AIDS and help his caregiver and partner with hospice. The circle of life was amazing to me.”

He has seen the disease evolve from one that was untreatable and incurable to what is now a chronic condition.

 As someone who has treated patients since the early days of the epidemic, he remembers how difficult it was. “People my age were dying in the prime of their lives. Many were gay and estranged from their families. There was social stigma. It was a terrible time.”

The Stanford and Case Western Reserve graduate came to the HIV field after a residency at the UCSF-affiliated program in Santa Rosa, followed by training at the CDC as a medical epidemiologist, then returning to San Jose and completing an HIV mini-residency with the AIDS Education and Training Center at UCSF.

Afterwards, he looked around San Jose to see who was caring for HIV patients. One day he went to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“The clinic was in this little corner in the outpatient department; there were a few exam rooms. A person I met there was Dr. Ira Greene, a dermatologist and wonderful guy. We hit it off. After he got to know me and checked me out a bit, I said, ‘Ira, do you need some help?’ He said, ‘sure, you can join us.’ That was in 1989, and I’ve been there ever since.”

Kent reflected on some of the difficulties in the early days. “We felt a little like a M.A.S.H Unit. At one point we were in a flimsy little trailer in a parking lot. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It made us more cohesive because we really did feel like it was us against the world.”

The PACE Clinic, or Partners in AIDS Care and Education, assembled an interdisciplinary team from the beginning. “You had oncologists, you had infectious disease, you had primary care, and you had dermatology because a lot of these conditions manifested with skin problems.”

Working with HIV was the ultimate medical education for Kent. The virus was a multifaceted issue that impacted family relationships, societal attitudes, and the whole of the LGBTQ+ community when it first hit the United States. There were concerns over confidentiality and end-of-life planning that just did not exist when it came to other terminal illnesses.

“It certainly has made me a better doctor,” Kent said of caring for his patients.

In the PACE Clinic, the staff kept a whiteboard where they recorded the names of the people that died each month. “At the end of the month, we’d have a service. We would all get in a circle and say something about each person that died. We light a candle and have a memorial service, and then we’d have to erase the whiteboard and start over the next month.”

Witnessing the deaths of so many young people took a toll on Kent, and he needed time to cope with the stress and burnout. “I took two months off during the height of it,” he said.

Things started looking up for HIV patients in the early nineties, more than a decade after the first cases were discovered in the United States. With protease inhibitors and other medical therapies, the virus no longer claimed the lives of the majority of people in Kent’s care. “People just came back to life.”

Some of those individuals are still alive today. “I have these 25-year relationships with these patients who were basically at death’s door.”

Although Kent recognizes the magnitude of his work back in the early years of the AIDS crisis, he doesn’t want to glorify it. “We were all there on the front lines, and we felt like we were doing something important and meaningful.”

Today, HIV is no longer a death sentence. It is a chronic condition that can be managed with medications and even prevented with treatments like pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  Kent is hopeful some of his patients might see a cure for HIV in their lifetime.

He believes more primary care physicians need to be trained to work with HIV to expand access to treatment and help normalize the condition. By giving patients the option to see their regular doctor, the medical community can make living with HIV part of mainstream medical care. 

“I see HIV as a primary care condition,” Kent said. “I don’t think you have to go to a specialty clinic just because you have HIV.”

Advances in HIV treatment have only been part of the battle; the other is getting people into care and keeping them in care.

Today, healthcare disparities among those affected by HIV complicate the “Getting to Zero” mission, which aims for zero new HIV infections, zero deaths, and zero stigma.

In particular, he highlighted the importance of reaching vulnerable and underserved communities like the homeless and people of color living in the South. Two barriers that keep Black HIV patients from getting the care they need are medical racism and mistrust of doctors.

“We definitely need more outreach into those communities with culturally-competent clinicians who can establish trust, because our biggest challenge right now is accessing these communities.” 

In Santa Clara County, medical teams serve homeless encampments and bilingual Latinx community outreach workers manage care for Latino HIV patients. “The outreach workers will go to someone’s house. If we have a patient that missed their appointments, or didn’t refill their medication, they’ll go to their house. They’ll meet them where they work.”

Translators of every known language are available at the PACE Clinic, which offers additional services like counseling, psychiatry, nutrition guidance, and a treatment adherence program.

“We have world-class institutions here in Santa Clara County with the expertise that you don’t see hardly anywhere else in the world, much less, our country or our state.”

Kent grew up admiring his father’s impact on people as an obstetrician. Working at the PACE Clinic has helped him to fulfill the societal benefit of the medical career he always wanted. 

Working in Family Medicine at Stanford Health Care and the PACE Clinic has proven beneficial to him and his patients.

“If one of my Stanford HIV patients loses their insurance, then I can see them at PACE Clinic. I love that because then I don’t have to lose them. So, I have one foot in both worlds—enabling that continuity of care that I think is really helpful. I feel very fortunate.”

Judge Julie Emede

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In the second of a series, read about Julie Emede, an openly lesbian judge who has served on the bench since February 2010. 

Even when members of the LGBTQ community feel comfortable in their own identity, fears can still seep in about being accepted and respected in daily life. 

Stemming in part from her experiences finding acceptance as an out lesbian from Michigan to California, Emede prides herself on trying to have a greater understanding of people’s circumstances when they become before a judge.

“I think coming to court for anybody is scary, but I think it’s additionally scary if you feel like you’re different and have something else that you have to think or worry about than anybody else,” Emede says. “It’s really important to me as a judge that when people come into my courtroom, they feel like they can say whatever they need to say about their circumstances and not be afraid that they’re going to tell me something that will cause me to treat them with any less respect or any less dignity and they’re entitled to it in my courtroom. I work really hard at that.”

Emede had a “classic Midwest life,” growing up in a medium-sized town in Michigan. But after graduating from Michigan State in 1984, she began coming out and questioning whether the Midwest would be a place she could find happiness and acceptance. 

“So, I moved to California,” Emede says. “I definitely believe that the way my life is now and the things I’ve been able to do professionally, I could not have done if I’d stayed in Michigan.”

That’s when she acquired a job at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, where she worked for seven years in a range of positions, eventually managing the production scheduling for product lines from Malaysia and Singapore. Eventually, she took a voluntary severance from HP, which ended up paying for the first year of law school at UC Hastings College of the Law, commuting from San Jose to San Francisco. 

Despite worries her sexuality would impact her success in the profession—particularly in passing the “moral application” required of all law students—Emede graduated and passed the bar in 1995. She worked for nearly two years in a “boutique” civil law firm in Tiburon, before ultimately ending up at a San Jose firm, where she eventually became a partner.

She says she was drawn to family law because she wanted to do a practice in an area that dealt with people with their real everyday lives, and was able to get her start from connections she made playing softball, of all things. 

The idea of a judgeship had never really crossed Emede’s mind, since only a few lesbians had ever donned those robes when she started off as a lawyer. But by the late 2000s, she started giving real consideration to the idea of becoming a judge, from not only coworkers but also fellow LGBTQ lawyers who successfully were appointed. Despite being a Democrat when then-Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office, Emede submitted her application in early 2008 and was appointed to the bench by the end of 2009.

However, the application for judgeship brought back the same anxieties and questions she felt when applying for the bar: would being a lesbian threaten her chances at this career?

“It’s sort of a black box, it’s very behind the scenes,” Emede says. “But I knew I did really want to do something different that I felt was more public service.”

Emede and her partner, Marci Garcia, have been together for 31 years. After registering as domestic partners in 2001, they married in October 2008—hoping to tie the knot before the Prop 8 election would possibly take that right away. The couple were involved in different aspects of the LGBTQ community; she was on a clogging team that performed at Pride and was elected co-president of the political organization Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, or BAYMEC, while her wife was a contestant in gay rodeos. 

“If I hadn’t been involved with BAYMEC, I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to seek appointment,” Emede says. “I recognize that I’ve benefited from all the hard work and groundbreaking that happened long before I was here. Without having people like Ken Yeager and Wiggy Sivertsen’s influence, I just don’t think that my path would be the same.”

However, Emede had to tone down that open involvement in LGBTQ community politics and events once she was appointed to the bench. While it was a sacrifice she had to make, she says it was worth it to be able to make a different kind of impact.

“Judges all understand that when we take our oath that we can’t be involved politically in the same way that we were before,” Emede says, even though she does still openly mention her wife in various settings, like at Bar Association meetings and when teaching lawyers and judges.

“I do look forward to someday being able to participate in a way again, but it’s been very different inside the system—working on cases one at a time as opposed to trying to work on broader change.”

Emede prides herself on her work as a judge, from broadening recognition of people’s pronouns in courtrooms and managing cases of name and gender changes on her court calendar. 

“I think it’s important that there are people on our bench that reflect what people in our community look like, and I feel like it mattered for there to be an open lesbian on the bench,” Emede says. “I don’t think we’re probably out in the world enough for people to see that it does matter that we have judges on our bench that are LGBTQ. I think that that is a really powerful thing for the community to know.”

Judge Charles Adams

charles adams profile

Not much is known about the six LGBTQ+ judges that serve on the bench in Santa Clara County. In the first of a series, read about Charles Adams, an openly gay male judge who has served since 2018.

Judges often lead lives of privacy, as they strive to unbiasedly guide others through the legal system’s stresses and hardships.

For Judge Charles Adams, who serves in Santa Clara County’s family courts, being “out” as a gay man at work means frequently setting that element of his personal life aside.

The 43-year-old is by no means the first LGBTQ judge in California; Judge Stephen Lachs hold that title, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1979.

More than 40 years after that historic ‘first,” Charles proudly serves as one of 73 LGBTQ judges in California in 2021, after he was appointed in 2018—also by Gov. Brown, during his second term.

After growing up as the son of two teachers in Antioch, a relatively small town in the East Bay, Charles went to college at the University of California, Davis, followed by law school at Pepperdine down in Los Angeles, where he started working in civil litigation and family law.

Charles stumbled into a job as a research attorney for the Superior Court in Santa Clara County in 2006, combining his desire to focus on finding solutions with a homecoming back to the Bay Area.

One of Charles’ career highlights began in 2011, when he began working as a permanent staff member under Judge Edward Davila in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, prior to his own 2018 judicial appointment.

Charles says he thrives serving on the bench, as his role in the justice system revolves around being careful, caring and wanting to do the right thing to help people.

After alternating between family and criminal court, Charles became a supervising judge for family court, overseeing cases involving issues like domestic violence, restraining orders, probate and guardianship.

Notably, Charles was not previously openly “out” at work before becoming a judge. That changed in a simple yet meaningful moment: deciding to check a box identifying him as a part of the LGBTQ community on the application to become a judge.

“It’s not a required question, but for me it was going to be sort of the first public acknowledgement of being gay or LGBTQ,” Charles says, adding that he only recently began feeling comfortable and safe bringing his partner of 12 years to work events. “From then, it never came up.”

That may be, in part, because there is often little crossover between the bench and LGBTQ politics, unlike many politicians and other public figures, who often share their personal lives to connect with other residents and build community.

Charles says that judges often live lives outside of the public eye in order to avoid any potential impacts to their perception of impartiality, especially within family courts. While anyone serving on the bench has their own attributes and feelings—consciously or unconsciously—he rejects any idea that personal characteristics should be reason for disqualification, regardless of whether judges are Latino, female or LGBTQ.

“When you’re sitting on the bench, who you are is important, but it’s not necessarily relevant,” Charles says. “Personally, I think it’s smart to not put too much out there so that people don’t have preconceived ideas of how you’re going to be, how you’re going to rule and what your perspective is going to be.”

Fortunately, he has yet to run into any problems.

“Going into every case, I only see what the issues are, what the law says, what the facts are as I find them and I make a decision based on that,” Charles continued, adding the he and his colleagues take the issue seriously. “I think just understanding how people, feelings, and families work translates beyond not being a parent, myself.”

Charles has years of practice, first seeking out privacy of his personal life beginning in law school—an often competitive environment where it’s natural to be careful about what others know and slowly learn who to trust.

“It’s not something I wanted people to really know about or have a reason to think differently of me, just because of that,” he explains. “It really wasn’t until I moved back to the Bay Area that I was a little more willing to have that part of my life shared.”

That’s one reason Charles hopes that the fact that he’s gay provides another example for future lawyers and aspiring judges to know it’s possible to be successful, despite any personal background that is different from the “norm.”

“I remember being a law student and there weren’t really any role models that I knew for what I wanted to be—to see that someone could be successful,” Charles says. “What I hope is that people in the same position I was in can see me doing the things I am, now saying they could do it, too.”

Gail Reflects on Mac’s Club

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Queer Silicon Valley is proud to present an interview with one of the most influential people in the bar scene — Gail Chandler-Croll

Interview conducted by Ken Yeager

Author’s note: The interview with Gail Chandler-Croll, the owner of Mac’s Club, took place inside the bar on Post St. in the late morning of July 30. I had been wanting to interview her for a year as part of Queer Silicon Valley’s history of the bar scene. Standing behind the bar was longtime bar manager and friend Jim Michl, and off to the side was John Croll, Gail’s husband.

As Gail tells the story of Mac’s, she remarks that she is a straight woman who had never owned a bar, much less a gay one. She was looking for cash flow and the owner was looking for cash, so they struck a deal. That was in 1977. Soon later, she would also own Renegades from 1980 to 2006.

Gail referred to Mac’s as a sanctuary. “Through the years, people would come in to be with their friends, enjoy themselves, and be part of the community. It was a privilege to be part of that,” she said.

Harassment from the police was constant. There were ongoing raids, intimidations, and arrests, all without legitimate reason. Once, there was an undercover agent who pretended to be a patron – who later turn people in. Whenever the police cleared the bar, it had an obvious effect on business.

Then there were the years of AIDS when so many people were dying. She estimates she lost 40 friends to the disease. It got to the point where she could no longer attend funerals.

The drag queens and drag shows were always a highlight. “The outfits were beautiful, the make-up, the wigs. I never looked that good,” she laughed. “When we had the drag shows, everybody came.”

The old Mac’s had to close in 1998 due to changes in building codes from the Loma Prieta earthquake. The adjoining business in the building, Sal and Luigi’s pizza, also had the close. The building was later retrofitted and housed Brix’s gay bar and now the Continental bar.

She found a place for sale on Post St. in a 107-year-old building that she thought was intimate and similar to the old Mac’s. After they had bought the building, John Croll had gone to an auction and had bought the entire bar furnishing for $500. He was the only bidder.

Gail thinks the new location on Post St. has served the community well. She brags that it was there before Splash and before it was known as the Qmunity District. But now the time has come for her to sell the bar and move onto other projects.

Be sure to listen to two other interviews about the old and new Mac’s. One is with longtime bartender Rafael Hussin; the other from longtime manager Jim Michl. Listening to all three interviews will give people a picture of the bar scene that no longer exists today but which played an important role in creating a community for LGBTQ people in Silicon Valley. Much of that world has been lost as the number of gay bars has dwindled to three. Hopefully it doesn’t dwindle to two.

Thank you, Gail, for the interview and for the memories you gave to so many friends and patrons.

Marty Fenstersheib

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You might have heard about Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s testing and vaccine officer who came out of retirement in 2020 to help in the fight against COVID-19. However, you may not know he worked for the county since 1984 and was instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib received his B.S. at Tulane University, M.D. at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, and M.P.H at U.C. Berkeley. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine. He always craved big challenges. He left his first job in private practice because he found it too easy. He entered U.C. Berkeley’s Public Health program and, as a fluent Spanish speaker, was soon working in a Spanish-language clinic in San Francisco’s
Mission District.

In 1984, he joined Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department as director of the immunization program. This was in the early days of the epidemic. “I actually was the first person in the health department that gave results to people that they were HIV positive. The test came out in 1985 and nobody knew what to do, so no one wanted to give the results. So, I did,” Fenstersheib said. “It soon became known that if you got the test and I came in the room—it wasn’t good news. After
that, there was nothing else to tell them.”

Fenstersheib achieved national prominence when he pioneered a then-revolutionary AIDS treatment that meshed medical care with education to keep infected patients from spreading the virus. He helped open a County clinic to provide education, referrals, and support. The approach was profiled in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The HIV Early Intervention Clinical Program he started in 1987 became the model for the State of California. More than two dozen similar clinics were subsequently established and funded across the state. When Congress significantly expanded
the federal funding for AIDS care in 1990 with the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act, Fenstersheib’s program became the national model for AIDS treatment clinics.

Throughout the epidemic, Fenstersheib continued to serve as a hands-on clinician, caring for HIV patients for more than 27 years, even after becoming the County’s Public Health Officer and later, after adding the role of the Public Health Department Director.

The epidemic had a profound impact on Fenstersheib personally. His partner was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1984 and died in 1992. In addition, Fenstersheib has sung with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus since 1983, and he reflects on the loss of more than 300 members of the chorus who have died of AIDS since the epidemic began.

Fenstersheib retired from the county in Sept. 2013. In 2020, due to his knowledge of public health and infectious diseases, he was hired back to be the COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer at the county’s Emergency Operation Center.

Kathy Wolfe

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PIONEER OF LGBTQ+ VISIBILITY

Kathy Wolfe, Founder and CEO of Wolfe Video, remembers a time when movies about our LGBTQ lives were not readily available through multiple media outlets. 

Today’s LGBTQ+ younger community may not know that Kathy played a vital role in kickstarting the visibility of our community in media today.

But before the World Wide Web, Netflix, smart phones, Ellen DeGeneres, The L Word, and all the programming we take for granted today, Kathy Wolfe had a vision and took action. 

In 1979, Kathy Wolfe saw the powerful documentary Word is Out at the Frameline Film Festival. “I was completely inspired by seeing that film,” remembers Kathy. “I immediately grasped the importance of bringing our stories to the public.” 

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The iconic Wolfe Video logo

For the next several years, Kathy honed her skills in producing, directing and editing lesbian documentaries, including The Changer and the Changed, an early history of Olivia Records. But she soon realized the need for distribution channels so that these movies could be seen outside of film festivals. 

The technology of the day was VHS, so in 1985 Kathy formed a new company, Wolfe Video. Initially, Wolfe sold tapes directly to lesbians, many of whom were closeted and had no other way to see these movies. 

From the outset, however, Kathy’s ultimate goal was wider than mail order. She wanted to spur acceptance of our community by getting these titles seen by both gay and straight audiences. 

She worked tirelessly to overcome the almost automatic perception by homophobic wholesalers that lesbian and gay movies equal pornography. She made bold moves, such as cold-calling Lily Tomlin and asking to produce and distribute a VHS of The Search for Signs of  Intelligent Life in the Universe. This created a breakthrough into the giant mainstream video rental market. 

Another bold move was acquiring the hit movie Big Eden, getting it rated PG (a first), and producing it as a double DVD (another first). 

A continuing challenge has been keeping up with the very rapidly changing technology, but Kathy has adapted. Besides adding Blu-ray as a format for physical sales, in 2012 she launched WolfeOnDemand.com, the first digital LGBTQ platform. She also licenses Wolfe films to streaming outlets all over the world. 

Ironically, large companies such as Netflix are now both customers and competitors of Wolfe’s for quality LGBTQ films. Kathy is philosophical about this. “These days our films can be streamed all over the world or purchased on DVD for guaranteed rewatching. I take pride in knowing we helped make a difference for our community. We now see ourselves – and are seen – in a much truer light.”

Both the LGBTQ and mainstream community recognize her impact and Kathy has received multiple awards over the years including: Cinequest’s “Maverick Spirit Award;” NCLR’s “Community Partner Award;” the San Francisco Board of Supervisors “Certificate of Honor,” and the National Organization of Women’s “Excellence in Media Award.”

Read more about Kathy’s story here. 

Please visit WolfeVideo.com and WolfeOnDemand.com to see a huge selection of LGBTQ movies. 

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The “Wolfe Pack” in 2002

Whayne Herriford on the South Bay Times

whayne herriford

Whayne was one of four founders of the South Bay Times (SBT) newspaper in 1988. SBT covered all the local LGBT news and covered the local events and social life. Unfortunately due to personal issues and the death of one of the founders, SBT was only published for two years, but was a wonderful community resource during that time.