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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lech Walesa Street Hosts Transgender Clinic

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 10:45 AM

click to enlarge What's in a name? - JIM HERD

David Campos: "We're not foreclosing" on possibility of changing title of street named for "one of my heroes."

Blink and you'll miss it -- Lech Walesa Street is a small, gritty alley a generous heave from City Hall. For those with no desire to loiter here, it provides a brief glimpse into a painful paradox of San Francisco life most would prefer not to dwell upon. Bleary-eyed men and women in house slippers squat on the fetid pavement in full view of the golden dome of City Hall, the lavish center of our lavish city.

In addition to being heartbreaking, Lech Walesa Street is now bitterly ironic. In recent days Walesa, the democratic leader and union organizer who toppled Poland's communist regime, has transformed into the world's most notorious homophobe. And, on the San Francisco street named in his honor, sits a transgender clinic.

This is an odd situation for a city which is seriously considering renaming its airport after Harvey Milk to ostensibly provide a symbol of hope for LGBT individuals worldwide. Supervisor David Campos, the major proponent of renaming the airport, said he's potentially open to expunging Walesa from the city's streets.

click to enlarge lech_walesa_time_mag.jpg

Walesa ignited a firestorm over the weekend

when he stated during a television interview that "no minority should

climb all over the majority." Referring to gay officials in parliament,

he continued, "homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not

somewhere at the front." This was not Walesa's first foray into bigoted

commentary; he previously stated that homosexuals require "medical treatment."

"I have really mixed feelings," said Campos. "On the one hand, what he said is just horrible. For someone who is a Nobel Laureate to make those kinds of hateful statements about entire groups of people is just disappointing; you want to push back and send a message. At the same time, Lech Walesa has been recognized for what he did in Poland."

Campos noted that, growing up, Walesa was "one of my heroes" -- but added that "we're not foreclosing" on the possibility of changing the name of the thoroughfare formerly known as Ivy Street.

The mood was lighter on Oct. 5, 1986, when San Francisco, literally, put Lech Walesa on the map. Joan Baez and "100 members of the Polish community" joined "civic, union, and human rights figures" to show their solidarity with the Solidarity leader.

Finally, it warrants mentioning that travelers departing San Francisco via the potential future Harvey Milk Airport and jetting to Gdansk will deplane at Lech Walesa Airport.

There is, likely, no transgender clinic there.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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