Town Hall Addresses Suicide, Solutions
About 50 people recently gathered in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood to discuss suicide and what can be done to help those in need.
The town hall, "When the Rainbow Isn't Enough," which was held in a room near Mr. S Leather, 385 8th Street, originated after the recent suicides of several gay men, including Castro travel agent Jonathan Klein, 61, who is believed to have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in April. The Community Initiative hosted the town hall.
Panelists included porn star Michael Brandon and transgender activist Veronika Fimbres, among others. Those in attendance were mostly men in their 40s and over, and struggles with growing older and isolation were recurring themes.
Moderator Tim Vollmer said the goal was to "get the word out and start talking about this issue in a sensitive, safe way." He said he didn't "want this to be a bitchfest ... about how bitchy gay men are."
Brandon spoke of some of the struggles he's had, including depression and drugs. He encouraged people to check in with each other and "create community."
"Look around you," he said. "All the people here are of the same vein."
Panelist Race Bannon, 58, talked about "Race's Bar," his Facebook group that brings people together both online and off.
Social media "has tremendous power to bring us together," Bannon said.
At one point, Fimbres, 60, asked how many in the room had ever thought about suicide. Almost everyone raised their hand.
Lewis Nightingale, 63, talked about the challenges of aging with HIV, including financial concerns, with a lack of support.
"This is not my beautiful life," he said.
Like others at the forum, another man talked about how difficult it can be to reach out.
"You try to talk to somebody in a bar, and they're all looking at their phones," he said.
Attendee Billie Cooper, a transgender woman, asked about what could be done to get people to be open.
"We can assume what they're going through, but we don't know," Cooper said.
Video of the May 29 forum is available at http://tinyurl.com/klpcpn2