LGBTQ Pride Month: SRJC Moving From Belief to Action

Photo of 2015 SF Pride Parade: Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide
Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Photo credit: Simona R. Stefanescu

The recent Supreme Court decision supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry marked a watershed moment, not only for the LGBT community, but for all humankind, to recognize that love is love. We’ve come a long way to reach this point.

In the 1980s, when I started working as Special Assistant to Willie Brown, then Speaker of the California Assembly, I was first introduced to openly gay people. William Brandy Moore was a beautiful African-American man who was the Mayor’s point person on HIV prevention. Brandy had a tremendous impact on my life. Before I met him, I didn’t feel comfortable around gay issues and he took the time to educate me.

He showed me that gayness is like ethnicity - something that can make you proud, rather than ashamed. His humor and passion for advocating for his community ultimately had significant influence on policies affecting the gay community. This was all so cool to me, being in San Francisco, a naïve straight Chinese kid exposed to LGBT people.

Willie Brown was one of the first authors of the Consenting Adult Act, which said that adults could do whatever they wanted in the privacy of their own homes. That was a groundbreaking act, an important mark of progress toward personal freedom for all.

When I joined City College of San Francisco as Dean of Student Affairs, several of our Trustees, as well as staff members, were openly gay. It was the height of the AIDS crisis, and working together, we made a difference. We shared common values and goals: that all people should be treated with decency, respect, fairness and equity.

Since joining SRJC, I’ve welcomed working with many LGBT people here. So in 2014 I was surprised, as were many others, that the College was rated poorly by the LGBT Campus Climate Report in six out of eight areas. I knew that, as a College, we believed in fairness and social justice for LGBTQ students and employees. But beliefs are not enough: there must be action, visibility and true institutional support.

By Fall 2014, LGBTQ staff members already had made over 22 recommendations, based on the Climate Report, and various managers stepped up to help implement them. Since then, we’ve started making important changes to support a welcoming and safe environment for LGBTQ students, including creating gender-neutral bathrooms and safe space placards, providing a preferred name option on class rosters and offering our first LGBT course this coming fall. These, and countless other similar changes, are also being implemented at colleges and universities nationwide.*

We have also created the LGBTQ Presidential Advisory Committee, which this spring began its work advising me on ways we can better support LGBTQ students and staff.

Welcoming diverse voices is part of how we will shape the future of our college, community and country. It’s important that we create safe places for conversation and culture, that we pursue equality and equity in curriculum. I’m committed to keeping SRJC moving forward, so that all students, during their education, learn to accept and understand others who are different from themselves. And I’m so proud of our students, faculty and staff who are already dedicated to this kind of education.

*Gender-neutral bathrooms promotes a safe and accommodating environment for everyone, including gender-nonconforming students. The preferred name option enables transgender students to use a preferred name without pursuing a legal name change. These are among many similar initiatives in place throughout the UC system.

Frank Chong




Also read this month's faculty profile of Susana Ackerman.


SRJC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Resources