Hotties, homos, drag queens and local politicians all ended up at El Rio Sunday night with hundreds of others to raise money for Lyon-Martin Health Services. The clinic announced last week that it needed $250,000 to stay alive.
“There is no point in being the queerest city in the world if we can’t save Lyon-Martin,” said former supervisor Bevan Dufty.
State Senator Mark Leno, from San Francisco, said with defiance, “The client base is unique and we must keep those doors open…. Lyon-Martin, we will survive.”
Burlesque and drag shows entertained past patients and friends of Lyon-Martin, who came to support a clinic known for its services to the LBGTQ community. Good Vibrations, Kink.com, Vixen Creations and others provided raffle prizes.
Within the first hour, more than $4,000 was collected at the door and from raffle sales. The “Hotties 4 Homo Health Care” also raised money through sliding-scale entrance donations, and 10 percent of the bar tab went to Lyon-Martin.
“I’m always amazed at how much money you can raise by raffling dildos and porn,” said emcee of the night and former District 6 candidate Anna Conda, underneath a large blond wig and single-strap dress. “I’ve always believed community is where the power is, and here is the proof, people.”
She was right. The patio was packed, and a line trailing down the street persisted through the night. Many had been patients of the clinic.
“I was broke and the Lyon-Martin clinic helped me,” said Marguerite Brown, a volunteer selling T-shirts inside. “[Their services are] not just for the gay community.”
A businesswoman 20 years ago, Brown confronted some hard times, filed for bankruptcy, and found herself turning to the clinic to get the health care she needed but could not afford. She said she would never forget Lyon-Martin’s warm and efficient services.
“I was lying in bed listening to NPR a couple days ago and I heard they were shutting down, so I immediately jumped out of bed, called them and said, ‘What can I do?’”
“I felt really heard when I was there,” said Isis Starr, who was a clinic patient in the early 90s. “At the time I was a working girl, and I had working girl needs, and they listened to me.”
Danny Resnick, who trained as a student nurse practitioner at Lyon-Martin, came to the fundraiser to volunteer as well.
“It signifies something special, that past patients are willing to come back even though they don’t use their services anymore,” said Resnick.
Leno joined fellow politicians, including newly elected supervisors Scott Wiener, Jane Kim and Malia Cohen, in praising Lyon-Martin for its contribution to the LBGTQ community and for the health care it provides to the city.
Founded in 1979, Lyon-Martin Health Services aimed to provide nonjudgmental health care for lesbians. The clinic has provided programs for low-income and uninsured women with HIV, and implemented a sliding-scale mental health service for its patients.
According to its website, Lyon-Martin offers its services to more than 2,000 patients, 14 percent of whom are transgender; 41 percent self-identify as lesbian or bisexual, and 84 percent live below the federal poverty level.
“It was the lesbians in my life who saved me,” said Brian Basinger, executive director of AIDS Housing Alliance/SF, as he held back tears on stage. “I’m here because of them.”
Basinger, a friend of the clinic who told the crowd he turned towards the LBGTQ community for support years ago when doctors gave him a week to live, donated an additional $1,000 to support Lyon-Martin.
Since the January 25 announcement that the clinic was in danger of closing, more than $100,000 has been raised. The clinic has given itself until the end of the week to raise the remaining $150,000. It’s unclear how much was raised Sunday night.
“I’ve never heard of an organization [that] raised over $100,000 and more in such a short amount of time,” said State Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco before handing over a check for $2,500.
By the end of the night, $28,382 was made from the door, raffle tickets and random donations (the bar tab is still being tallied). An announcement met with cheers from the crowd, but the reality of the looming debt is still pressing down as Lyon-Martin fights back with another fundraiser, on February 13 at Heart.