LGBTQ Jewish leaders step up to combat monkeypox, stigmatization J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on August 6, 2022

With San Francisco having emerged as the epicenter of Californias monkeypox outbreak with nearly 400 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, the day after the citys state of emergency went into effect local LGBTQ Jewish leaders are stepping to the forefront.

One prominent gay San Franciscan, state Sen. Scott Wiener, began urging city leaders early on to declare the state of emergency, saying it would create significant flexibility around testing, contracting for services and administration of vaccinations.

The window is rapidly closing to contain the monkeypox outbreak & avoid it becoming a permanent fixture.

The public health failure around monkeypox has been profound. We need to move faster to get people vaccinated & need far more vaccines ASAP.

Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) August 1, 2022

Wieners quick call to action was applauded by Martin Rawlings-Fein, the head of the trans and nonbinary committee at Congregation Shaar Zahav, San Franciscos historic gay and lesbian synagogue. Rawlings-Fein, 44, a trans man who lives in San Francisco, is working with his committee to develop resources and education concerning the virus, and to offer information and support for congregants seeking a monkeypox vaccine.

Were kind of the canaries in the coal mine, Rawlings-Fein said. Were the people, [40] years ago, people didnt want to touch us, he added, recalling the stigma that the gay community faced during the AIDS crisis.

Our synagogue has this tradition of linking arms and singing Hinei ma tov, because were all together, he continued. That tradition began in the 80s in response to [stigmatization]. People needed to be touched, they needed to be held on to, to let us know we matter.

Now its the monkeypox virus, which is transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, thats putting the tradition on hold and keeping people apart. Having a public health crisis on top of a public health crisis, its a big deal, Rawlings-Fein said.

We cant and wont leave the LGBTQ community out to dry.

Saul Sugarman, 35, a gay Jewish writer and fashion designer in San Francisco, waited in line for four hours on a recent morning to get the monkeypox vaccine. He knew San Francisco General Hospital had run out of vaccines the previous day, so he made his way to Steamworks, a gay bath house and sex venue in Berkeley that hed heard would be administering a few hundred doses.

I do feel grateful to have gotten it, Sugarman said of the vaccine.

One of Sugarmans colleagues in the fashion world contracted monkeypox last month and has been quarantining for weeks. He texted Sugarman a photo of a lesion on his finger.

All of that made me very nervous, Sugarman said. It also made him want to get vaccinated right off. The people waiting in line for vaccines at Steamworks were all men, said Sugarman, who is worried about the public discourse around the virus stigmatizing gay men.

I worry about creating any stigma associated with the gay community, especially when, to my eyes, we are doing everything we can to remain safe and vaccinated, Sugarman said.

Rawlings-Fein has been helping his friends and neighbors get the vaccine, though he himself is still on a waitlist. After being closed for several days due to a lack of vaccines, the vaccine clinic at San Francisco General Hospital reopened Monday, and the citys health department received 4,220 additional monkeypox vaccines, according to a tweet from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

We have been informed that SF will receive 4220 monkeypox vax doses this week. It is still unclear when these doses will arrive. We will keep the everyone informed of when the @ZSFGCare clinic will open for walk ins. For more info about appointments go to

SFDPH (@SF_DPH) July 27, 2022

Rawlings-Fein said its up to the entire San Francisco community to break down the stigma and to understand monkeypox is not exclusive to the LGBTQ community. But it does affect the LGBTQ community first.

Wiener, a member of Californias Legislative Jewish Caucus and its Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, noted that San Francisco was at the forefront of the public health responses to HIV and Covid-19, and we will be at the forefront when it comes to monkeypox. We cant and wont leave the LGBTQ community out to dry.

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LGBTQ Jewish leaders step up to combat monkeypox, stigmatization J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

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