Tag Archives: LGBTQ

#BeSeen in the Streets: Photos from Pride 2017

We’d like to express our gratitude to everyone who marched with us in San Francisco Pride on Sunday. Our contingent added up to more than 100 people. It was an empowering and joyful day and we’ve got the photos to show for it!

Serena Olsen wears a Rosie the Riveter headscarf and raises her hand proudly above her head as she marches with her white cane. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Renae Davidson, Jordan Castor, and Ashley Butala smile and  laugh as they march together. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Volunteers Rochelle Quinney and her friends and family hold the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired banner. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Kate Williams smiles and high-fives spectators along the parade route.
Vanessa Brash and Philip Berg march together. Vanessa holds a large with sign that says “Love” in text and braille. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Melissa Hadiyanto and Robert Alminana walk arm in arm. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Robert Alminana smiles and holds a sign that says “The first Pride was a riot”.
A black lab guide dog sits at the feet of his owner, who wears neon rainbow knee-high socks.
A girl wearing a Pikachu hat jumps into the air in front of the LightHouse banner while bubbles float around her.
Lisamaria Martinez carries her infant daughter while holding a “Blind and Proud” sign in one hand and her white cane in the other. Her husband Joe Bakker pushes a stroller in the background.
The LightHouse group marches down Market Street holding rainbow signs that say “Blind and Proud”.
Serena Garcia and Gaby Leal walk together down Market Street. Serena holds her hand high.
Joshua York and Laura Millar smile while marching alongside the LightHouse van. Laura holds a sign that reads “Blind and Proud”.

A Blind Poet in the LightHouse Studio: Watch “Vision” by Leah Gardner

“I’m a woman who’s a blind, depressed lesbian,” says Leah Gardner, with a good-humored chuckle. “That’s who I am. That’s my reality and I’m okay with it.”

Leah is also a part-time tech trainer at LightHouse and a slam poet. She will be marching with our San Francisco Pride Contingent this Sunday, June 25 to #BeSeen.

Leah hasn’t participated in Pride in about 15 years — since she was a young poet in New Hampshire and Vermont — but when she heard about our blind and visually impaired contingent from our weekly newsletter, she decided it was time to march again. In her late 20s, marching in Pride offered her a lot of hope, along with a sense acceptance and celebration in who she was and what she offered to a community. After a tough couple of years, Leah is ready to feel that hope again.

“There’s a lot of excitement building for me, just in terms of being part of this,” she says. “Every time that I participated in the New Hampshire and Vermont marches, it was with wonderful friends but they were all sighted. It was not part of a visually impaired community, as key to me as that was in my life. This year carries this newness to it. It will be a completely original experience of sharing this day with people who are also blind and GLBTQ. So I’m really energized.”

We’re asking folks to use the hashtag #BeSeen and think about what that means in the context of Pride.

“I think a lot of people are very comfortable with talking about sexuality but the vision loss and the reality of that creates a lot of shame,” says Leah. “And in my case I also deal with severe depression and seasonal affective disorder but I fixed with the Best Light Therapy Lamp from SadLampsUSA, which adds some challenges in finding a way to form bonds with other people. We all have some shame about something, some facet of our personality. This ‘Being Seen’ concept to me has become about saying no to that shame.”

And Leah is no stranger to thinking about the intersection of blindness and sexuality. One of the poems she has performed most over the years is a poem called “Vision” about a gay friend who was losing his sight. The poem unpacks the shame and fear that often accompanies both sexuality and disability, and is a testament to the courage it takes to go through a world that isn’t always kind to people it deems outside of the norm. In advance of San Francisco Pride, we asked Leah to perform “Vision” in the LightHouse studio. Watch the video below.

Leah will present this poem live at our “All Eyes on Allies: Pride Training and Community Building” on June 22 where she also discuss what it means to show up to Pride as an ally for people with multiple marginalized identities. This training will also teach volunteers how to be effective human guides.

We hope you’ll volunteer to be part of our contingent. Sign up to march with us on June 25 at our Eventbrite page.

#BeSeen: March in PRIDE with LightHouse, Get a Free T-Shirt

It’s Pride month, and here at LightHouse, our staff, students and allies are walking around the city, exploring exciting new ideas, and continuing to build the confidence and self-esteem of those in our community. We’re also thinking, from a blindness perspective, more than ever about what it really means to “be seen.”

At its heart, Pride is about proudly and publicly claiming an identity that society has consistently stigmatized or disregarded. We’re marching on June 25 in celebration of our LGBTQ community members, and to honor our many intersecting identities. People with disabilities are often either stripped of sexuality, or fetishized. This year we’re grabbing our canes, our guide dogs and our rainbow swag and taking to the streets to let the world know we’re blind, proud and sexual to boot.

You can learn more about what we’re doing for Pride month here, and if you are one of the first 35 to sign up for the festivities on Eventbrite, you’ll get a free “Be Seen” t-shirt (pictured below). These t-shirts can also be purchased for $15 in our Adaptations Store.

LightHouse staff member Esmeralda Soto and Ethan Meigs cross the street wearing LightHouse's 'Be Seen' Pride Tshirts. The shirts say 'be seen' in orange uppercase letters and 'SF Pride 2017', with a braille 'L' and 'H' in rainbow.
Two people cross the street wearing LightHouse’s ‘Be Seen’ Pride Tshirts. The black shirts say ‘be seen’ in orange uppercase letters and ‘SF Pride 2017’, with a braille ‘L’ and ‘H’ in rainbow.
Ethan and his guide dog Gershwin show off their LightHouse Pride t-shirts across from the UN Plaza, with a rainbow flag billowing in the background.
A man and his guide dog show off their LightHouse Pride t-shirts across from the UN Plaza, with a rainbow flag billowing in the background.

We introduced the #BeSeenSF hashtag exactly one year ago when preparing for our big grand opening at 1155 Market Street. On June 10th, 2016 more than a thousand people took over the streets of downtown San Francisco and marched into our new building – people with all levels of vision, from all walks of life. It was a spectacle in the best way possible: a display of joy and unity around a state of being that most people identify as a disability.

We didn’t stop there. Over the course of the year, we released several bold statements about what it means to be seen. Standing six feet tall and spread throughout the Civic Center BART station, each ad is a vivid, illuminated burnt orange with artistic rendering of a blind person going about their business – cooking, exercising, or moving through the streets with a cane or a dog. These tasks may seem mundane, but by putting the blind individual front and center, occupying the focus of the scene and popping boldly out of the brightly colored ad, we send a clear message to the public of San Francisco: blindness is just another way of being – and worth looking at in a different light.

Below, you can peruse all of the artwork for our ads, which were designed by J. Renae Davidson for LightHouse from July 2016 to March 2017. Pictured in them are some of the treasured staff, mentors and role models who you’ll regularly see strolling Market Street on any given day.

Bart Ad Compilation Image. Descriptions below.
Bart Ad Compilation Image. Descriptions below.

This compilation of all our Bart Ads features an orange background with the words (in white) “The Best Place to Be Seen”. A tile of six black and white stylized drawings are as follows.

Top left: A man crosses the street in downtown San Francisco with his white cane. White words below the image read “Learning to use a White Cane”.

Top right: A woman stands at a bus stop with her guide dog, reading a tactile map. Words below the image say “Reading maps”.

Middle left: A man uses an Arduino continuity tester in the LightHouse Toyota Innovation STEM lab on the 11th floor. Text reads “Building Electronics: No Eyes Necessary”.

Middle right: A man chops juicy vegetables in the LightHouse Teaching Kitchen. Text reads “Cookin’ Without Lookin’: Now, That’s Delicious!”

Bottom left: A woman in the LightHouse Adaptations Store holds a magnifying glass up to her eye. Text reads, “Adapting Your Vision. White canes, talking watches, magnifiers & more”.

Bottom right: A woman runs alongside her fitness partner using a lead. The Golden Gate Bridge stands out behind them. Text reads, “Taking Strides Together. Find Your Fitness Partner Today!”

A mockup of our cooking bart ad hangs in an underground station with orange, yellow, red, and grey tile in the background.
A mockup of our cooking bart ad hangs in an underground station with orange, yellow, red, and grey tile in the background.

Last year, SF PRIDE had its first ever blind grand marshal, Belo Cipriani, a welcome reminder that not only are our journeys often parallel, but our identities have significant overlap. This year, Sexual Health Services Program Coordinator Laura Millar is taking our PRIDE participation to the next level, and she wants you to join her. For more information, RSVP on Eventbrite or email Laura at lmillar@lighthouse-sf.org.

SF Pride Announces First-Ever Blind Grand Marshal

Belo Cipriani

We’re very excited to share the news that our friend Belo Cipriani has just been named as a Grand Marshal for this year’s LGBTQ Pride Parade in San Francisco! Pride is set to take over the city once again June 27-28, and for the first time, one of its eleven Grand Marshals will be totally blind. A past student of the LightHouse, freelance journalist and accomplished memoirist, Cipriani is an exemplary figure for both the LGBTQ community and the Blindness Community. After losing his sight several years ago after being brutally beaten in the Castro, Cipriani (now 34) emerged as not only an incredibly resilient character, but one willing to share his most personal experiences both in print and in person.

“This is one of the best things that has happened in my life and I’ll always treasure this moment,” said Cipriani, beaming from the front page of this week’s Bay Area Reporter, where he also writes a column called “Seeing in the Dark.” Cipriani has been attending Pride for going on twenty years now, and one can only imagine his “pride” at becoming the celebration’s first-ever blind Grand Marshal. Cipriani said he is brainstorming how to incorporate this into the theme for his parade contingent, adding, “the only thing that is certain is that my guide dog, Oslo, will ride with me in the convertible. I am sure he’ll have a blast.”

This year’s Pride Parade will march from Embarcadero to right near our headquarters at 214 Van Ness Ave., and we’ll be there cheering along. Read more about the 2015 theme, “Equality Without Exception,” over at the Bay Area Reporter. You can read more about Belo at his website, and hear him talk about himself and his book in the YouTube video below. Recently Cipriani also wrote a great article about beauty and dating for Huffington Post.

Have a cool story for us? Email tips to wbutler@lighthouse-sf.org.