June 28, 2019 at 1:10 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
From the Black Cat to Sacramento

L-R Daniel Zingale; Justin Knighten; Vito Imbasciani; Joey Freeman; Jesse Melgar; Nathan Click; Matthew Tabarangao; JP Petrucione; Gavin Newsom; Julie Li; John Spangler; Ana Matosantos; Kelly Huston; Kelli Evans; Kris Perry. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Newsom’s office)

The 2018 elections will be largely remembered as the midterms that won back the US House of Representatives for the Democrats, reinstating San Francisco queen Nancy Pelosi as Speaker to lead the resistance against Donald Trump. In California, there was little drama in Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s victory over Republican John Cox to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.

But largely overlooked was how Newsom immediately appointed LGBT people to positions of power in his new administration. The contrast was sharp. When the Los Angeles Blade asked how many LGBT people served in the Brown administration, the press office said they did not keep data on LGBT staffers. 

Newsom, however, recognized the significance of visible diverse representation in the nation’s most populous state. Born five months after the gay protests against police raids at the Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake in 1967, Newsom grasps the historical arc from gays being despised by society to his being despised by many in the Democratic Party when, as mayor of San Francisco in 2004, he issued marriage licenses to same sex couples — to today, when both he as governor and his LGBT staff symbolize California’s commitment to progressive values.    

“Progress is built on the shoulders of others,” Newsom tells the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s people’s conviction. Their courage and their actions created this history. [LGBT] people took that horrific experience and rather than giving up, rather than rolling over – they stepped up and they leaned in and they demanded something more.  It’s a reminder that things happen only when people make them happen and that even in the ashes of violence and riots, that great things can still emerge from that darkness.”

Newsom believes in the old North Star adage that “if you believe in something, damn the critics.” Just do the right thing, including giving LGBT people a shot at power. 

“Not only am I proud to have LGBTQ members of my staff, but I’m more proud of this: [they are] in some of the most powerful positions in government,” Newsom says. “This is not just having staffers at low levels.  Ana Matosantos is day-to-day running this administration. Daniel Zingale and the incredible work he does organizing our communications and framing the debate here in Sacramento.  I could go down a list.

Gov. Gavin Newsom with LGBT Legislative Caucus members Assemblymember Evan Low, Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblymembers Susan Eggman and Todd Gloria. (Photo courtesy Newsom’s office)

“I’m just so proud. I mean my legal team—some of the best and the brightest in the country and they happen to be members of the LGBTQ community,” he continues. “And each one of them comes with an extraordinary story of their own heroism and their own lives, their own journey and their own struggles, their own identity. JP – a transgender member of our staff who worked for me in the mayor’s office and is now working here in the Governor’s Office.”

And then the governor gets personal. “It enriches not only the administration and the state—but it’s been enriching to me, personally, because their journey – their life story is so connected to Stonewall, to the Black Cat, to the history of the movement. We’re all here because of those previous contributions. And they’re countless, but obviously those are two among the most notable. But beyond that, it’s a compliment to so many people that have done so much and given so much to this movement that we’re all here,” Newsom says. “We’ve got an All Star team up here. I’m really blessed. It’s really great.” 

Here are a few LGBT members of Newsom’s “All Star” team.

JP Petrucione (Photo courtesy of Gov. Newsom’s office)

JP Petrucione

Director of Digital Media, Communications

What do the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions mean to you and why should we care anymore?

This is a very scary moment to be transgender. They’re trying to ban trans soldiers. The word itself has been banned. Trans people are being turned into a wedge issue, a “thing’ to be banned or erased. I can’t decide if I’m being paranoid but don’t we have to wonder “what’s next?” The Black Cat, Stonewall, and I’d add Compton’s Cafeteria, remind us that we queers are powerful. And that when we stand up to power, we are perfectly capable, thank you, of making damn sure we’re not erased.

Of all the employment opportunities open to LGBT people today, why did you choose government/public service?

When you work in government, especially when you work for a guy like Gavin Newsom, you have the opportunity to make history by making substantive change happen especially for queers – like in 2004 with gay marriage or this past March with the moratorium on the death penalty.

How old are you? Where do you live? What’s your relationship status?

I’m 46. Born and raised in San Francisco, where I also spent my early queer years hanging out at the Lexington Club, Dolores Park, Hot Pants, the Cat Club and, a few places in between, transitioning from a baby dyke to a trans-masculine queerdo. I moved up to Portland eight years ago to live the urban country life and rescue Chihuahuas. I love pickling and gardening – I’m particularly proud of my peonies.

Is there something important you want to convey?

Don’t give up. Resist. Fight. Have hope. I’m telling myself this as much as anything.

Joey Freeman (Photo courtesy of Gov. Newsom’s office)

Joey Freeman

Chief Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary for Policy

What do the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions mean to you and why should we care anymore?  

For me, the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions represent the people whose shoulders I stand on, who afforded me the opportunity to live my life out loud and to be uniquely me.

Growing up in a tight-knit Jewish community and attending Jewish day schools through high school, I learned about the various points in history when the Jewish community rallied to combat persecution and injustice. It was a narrative that helped inspire my passion for public service, and shaped my identity – but I was leaving another core part of my identity in the dark. I came out just shy of a year and a half ago – and while I knew about the struggle for LGBTQ rights – it takes on greater personal importance today. Each of us has our own journey, and while coming out was difficult, it pales in comparison to the members of the LGBTQ community who quite literally gave their lives in pursuit of equality. I am here because of them.

 Of all the employment opportunities open to LGBT people today, why did you choose government/public service?

 Since I was a kid, I’ve been drawn to government and public service. I credit my family and teachers who instilled in me the importance of giving back. I credit my late grandfather who shared his love of Los Angeles with me, a passion that I translated into making my city an even better place.

But upon reflection, I also credit something deeper. One of the challenges – and gifts – of being gay is having to wrestle with something so big internally and externally – feeling different in a world where being gay is not the norm. I often think about how it must not be dissimilar from the experiences of many Jews around the world. It took me a long time but I finally decided to accept that I do in fact feel different – and I’m grateful for it because I believe strongly that it’s why I empathize with people, why I’ve always rooted for the underdog, and why I’ve chosen the work I do.

How old are you? Where do you live? What’s your relationship status?

I am twenty-eight years old and moved to Sacramento six months ago to work for Governor Newsom. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, which I call home, and have also lived in Berkeley and San Francisco. I am happily in a relationship – another one of the gifts of having come out!

Is there something important you want to convey?

I’ve worked for Governor Newsom for five years – in his capacities as Lieutenant Governor, candidate for Governor, and now Governor. It’s been such a privilege to work for a bold leader who fights every day to achieve a California for All, and for someone who has been a part of my own personal journey.

I got to march in the San Francisco Pride Parade while closeted with the man who played such a pivotal role in the fight for marriage equality – and who made me feel hopeful, even though I was not yet ready to tell others about my identity. Then I got to come out to this individual who expressed how happy he was for me. Last year, I got to march with him yet again, this time as an openly gay man. And now I get to go to work every day with an incredible team he built, a team where my identity is not only valued, but celebrated.

Kelli Evans (Photo courtesy Gov. Newsom’s office)

Kelli Evans 

Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary for Criminal Justice

What do the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions mean to you and why should we care anymore?

Not only were they critical flash points in the march towards freedom and equality for LGBTQ people, they are important reminders of how important visibility and speaking out against injustice are.  These lessons are just as vital today as they were 50 years ago — whether we’re talking about the fight for humane treatment for immigrant families, for young black and brown men, or for transgender people. 

Of all the employment opportunities open to LGBT people today, why did you choose government/public service?

I became a lawyer to protect and advance civil rights and liberties.  I’ve had the good fortune of being able to do so while working in non-profits, the private sector, and government.  It is an incredible privilege to be part of harnessing the power and authority of government to try and make the California dream a reality for everyone.  This is what Gov. Newsom’s vision of a “California For All” is really all about.  

How old are you? Where do you live? What’s your relationship status?

I live in Oakland and am married to my college sweetheart, Terri Shaw. We have a 16-year-old daughter, Kaden, who will be a high school junior in the fall. She bakes, plays lots of different sports and is a math and science whiz. All talents that she definitely did NOT inherit from me. We have two dogs — a sweet old black lab named Jupiter (aka Joop Doggy Dog) and a clownish little terrier named Rocket.  In my spare time, I love cooking, watching horror movies and whiskey tasting.  

Is there something important you want to convey?

Deep appreciation to my grandmother who raised me and to all those who came before us who made it possible for a queer black girl from the projects to be where I am today. 

Daniel Zingale. (Photo courtesy Gov. Newsom’s office)

Daniel Zingale 

Senior Adviser on Strategy and Communications

What do the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions mean to you and why should we care anymore?

An example of how these pivotal rebellions of our past should inform our present is in the current debate regarding police use of force. The queer community knows how fundamental it is to have confidence that law enforcement is there to protect and respect our safety and our lives without bias. All Californians deserve the same.

Of all the employment opportunities open to LGBT people today, why did you choose government/public service?

I chose public service at a time when public policies, practices and laws had to change in order for queer Americans and those living with HIV to avoid being criminalized, marginalized and denied the most basic of rights. I returned to public service this year for the privilege of working with a governor whose early leadership around marriage equality demonstrated he is willing to take bold and risky action when people’s dignity and human rights are at stake.

How old are you? Where do you live? What’s your relationship status?

I’m 59 years old. I was born and raised in Sacramento where I live now with my partner, our two children, two cats and a German Shepherd named Sparky.

When I was coming of age — and coming out — in 1980, the message was clear. If you were open and honest about being queer, many careers would be off limits to you, like high profile public service, military service or a career in law enforcement. You would never have a lasting relationship. And you would certainly not be allowed to experience parenting.

Contrary to all those negative messages, I’ve had a career in public service and raised two kids within a 39-year relationship with a peace officer. So I know from my own life experience how together we can overcome bigotry and false assumptions about our limits. That applies to our brothers and sisters with disabilities and to those targeted by racial and gender bias, religious discrimination, transphobia, anti-immigrant scapegoating and other forms of hate. Don’t believe the hateful hype.

Is there something important you want to convey?

Please see #3 above.

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