News :: Politics

Lesbian Councilwoman Target of Constant Hate Speech

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Saturday Aug 9, 2014
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Lesbian councilwoman Jovanka Beckles
Lesbian councilwoman Jovanka Beckles  (Source:towleroad.com)

Richmond, California's Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, the city's first openly lesbian councilwoman, has faced constant hate speech since she was elected to her position four years ago in 2010, reports Towleroad. And it's coming from both the public and her fellow council members.

"I'm going to keep coming up here and tell you how gays have no morality... You're filth. You're dirt. Because I have the constitutional right to say it," said Mark Wassberg during a July council meeting, as reported by the SFGate.

Since she was elected in 2010, Beckles, 51, has endured taunts, rants and ridicule about her sexual orientation and race -- she's from Panama and identifies herself as a black Latina -- during City Council meetings.

Although the councilwoman mostly ignores the taunts, last month, she told heckler Ken Davis, who was taunting her with homophobic slurs, to "get the fuck out of my face."

"I thought that was totally appropriate," Councilman Tom Butt said last week. "They never leave her alone. She puts up with a hell of a lot more than I would."

Butt, a 19-year veteran of the council, described the rancor at City Hall as "the worst I've ever seen. ... They love to taunt her because she's openly lesbian. You'd think in 2014 in the Bay Area this wouldn't happen, but it goes on meeting after meeting."

Some of this ire comes from fellow council members such as Corky Boozé, who engages in shameless victim-blaming and saying that Beckles invites the attacks on herself.

"She's got a short fuse. Some people don't care for her lifestyle," said Boozé, a heckle-worthy name if there ever was one. "I don't care for it myself, but she takes that in a homophobic way. I'm not homophobic -- my ex-wife is a lesbian. She says she's a black Latina. Well, you're either African American or you're not. If she's really black, then why does she throw black people out of City Council chambers for speaking their mind? She just says she's black around election time."

Beckles takes it all in stride and is planning to run for re-election.

"We're making big strides," she said, noting the drop in crime, surge in new jobs, and proliferation of community gardens and renovated parks. "I think things will eventually change for the better in this city, and, in the end, that's a cause I think is worth fighting for. It's worth putting up with all this other stuff."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

Comments

  • Jonathan Willner, 2014-08-12 21:58:41

    This woman has remarkable strength and courage. I have tremendous admiration for her. I couldn’t do it.


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