Letters

Beware the Health Fairies
I want to thank you for writing about the issue of opening the baths back up in San Francisco ("Private Places," Bay View, April 28). I think this is a very important issue.

Beneath all the smoke, mirrors, and rhetoric from either Mitch Katz's office of wanting to play parent to adult men, or ACT UP/S.F.'s reasoning for more intimacy, there lie constitutional rights that are being violated and totally ignored. These are the rights of freedom of speech, to organize, and of expression without interference from government.

I don't appreciate Katz, the CDC, Robert Perez (Stop AIDS Project), Gustavo Suarez (SFAF), or Dana Van Gorder being the health fairies and dictating to me my rights as a human being. This includes being able to make love with someone behind closed doors at a bathhouse.

This is not a "sideshow" as Suarez would like your readers to believe, and the bathhouse issue is just as important and real as any other issue that is out there. And I don't appreciate being relegated to the background just because Suarez's heart isn't big enough to accept the bathhouse issue as being an important part of the whole gay community.

The concern of unprotected sex is a valid one for those who share that opinion. What it comes down to is quite simple: If consenting adults wish to express their feelings of love between one another in a bathhouse setting, with or without a condom, that is their business and strictly between them. Who am I, we, you to put our foot in the doorjamb with a flashlight and say otherwise? I just don't understand this invasion of privacy and dictatorship within San Francisco's gay community.

I question what is behind Katz, Perez, and Suarez's notion that locked doors will increase the rate of HIV infections, especially since there is no scientific proof. If this were true, why is there no correlation between HIV infections and baths in other major cities? Could it be that all three gentlemen receive federal funds from the government to run the Health Department, Stop AIDS Project, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation? If true, is keeping the baths closed a condition for receiving federally funded dollars from the various government organizations and/or pharmaceutical companies?

As a consenting adult, I deserve the right to make my own decisions and share intimacy behind closed doors at a bathhouse within my home city of San Francisco without the interference of the Health Department, SFAF, or Stop AIDS Project looking over my shoulder.

Steven Keller
The Castro

Politics and Public Health
Joel Engardio's report on the current effort to reopen "traditional bathhouses" in San Francisco ("Private Places") misrepresents an important fact: The 1984 court order did not actually close gay bathhouses; rather it eliminated patron privacy by requiring the removal of doors from cubicles and periodic monitoring of patron behavior for conformity with AIDS Foundation guidelines. Rather than operate under these restrictions, most bathhouses closed except the Mission District's 21st Street Baths, which remained open until 1987.

It's now clear the court order was more about politics than public health. Current data indicate the rate of seroconversion peaked in 1982, but the fallout from depriving gay men of privacy in bathhouses continued into 1986 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided against the privacy rights of homosexuals in Bowers vs. Hardwick. Ironically, although the Georgia law which enabled that decision has been struck down, the S.F. Health Department's AIDS office keeps Bowers vs. Hardwick alive in San Francisco.

As long as San Francisco alone continues to deprive gay men of privacy rights in bathhouses, it is not bathhouse advocates who are providing the sideshow, but rather the city Health Department and its aides in nonprofits. If the AIDS Foundation's Gustavo Suarez can't see the difference between having sex behind a locked door vs. a dark corner, he should trade his job for one with an openly homophobic, right-wing foundation.

Reid Condit
The Castro

Ever Seen a Sheriff Pedal Backward?
Your usually accurate and award-winning writer George Cothran incorrectly stated that I offered to endorse attorney Sean Connolly should he elect to oppose District Attorney Terence Hallinan ("The Problem With Grampa Politics," Cothran, April 28).

While I have high regard for Sean, his background, and his legal skills, I was not asked to, nor did I offer, to endorse him.

I fully expect Hallinan to be re-elected this year, and I support his re-election. Whether one likes Hallinan personally, or likes his political style, the fact is that Hallinan has introduced progressive changes in the Office of the District Attorney. He has supported drug treatment in lieu of incarceration; he has sponsored Mentor Court for minor drug offenders; he has supported expanded pretrial release options for nonviolent offenders; he continues to support the decriminalization of prostitution; and he refuses to resort to the type of criminal justice demagoguery that so often is heard coming from a county district attorney's office.

All in all, I believe Hallinan has brought a fresh perspective to the Office of the District Attorney and has instituted criminal justice policies worthy of re-election.

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