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San Francisco to Still Hold Kink Festival Despite Declaring State of Emergency Over Monkeypox

AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying

As of Monday, August 1, San Francisco has gone into a state of emergency to do with monkeypox, per Mayor London Breed's declaration last week. One would not know it, though, considering the events still going on in the city that has experienced a particularly high amount of cases of a virus predominantly affecting men with other men. 


And yet the Folsom Street Fair, which is also known as Dore Alley, or Up Your Alley, will still take place on September 25. 

Annie Vahnstein claims much went into the decision to not cancel it, though many aren't buying it, judging from some of the replies to her tweet. 

Her headline for the San Francisco Chronicle acknowledges that the "Timing of S.F.’s kink festival Dore Alley sparks worry amid monkeypox emergency." Sure enough, there's a fear that canceling it, thus encouraging people not to participate in what could be a super spreader event, could lead to stigma.

As she writes:

San Francisco health department officials said in a statement that the emergency was not declared in relation to this weekend’s events and that the city’s rich tradition of “social and cultural activities,” which include street fairs, nightlife and the celebrations of the LGBTQ community, are an integral part of the city.

“Monkeypox is not confined to those activities and communities and cannot be contained simply by telling people not to participate in those activities,” agency spokespeople wrote. “And those activities and the communities that host and participate in them must not be stigmatized.”

District Six Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whose area includes SoMa and who is the only openly HIV-positive member of the Board of Supervisors, said he thought the decision to move forward with the events was “true to the San Francisco model of care” developed during the AIDS crisis, which emphasizes a close collaboration with community organizations and services.


Another piece, by Jakob Rodgers and Maggie Angst, this one for The Mercury News, places even more of a focus on the fear of stigma. "Beloved San Francisco fetish festival presses ahead amid anxiety, uncertainty over monkeypox," they declare in their headline. 

As they begin their piece:

SAN FRANCISCO — Amid a burgeoning monkeypox outbreak that has so far disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men, Bay Area public health officials and organizers of one of the region’s most beloved LGBTQ events are walking a difficult line between preventing the spread of the virus, while fighting the stigma of the virus as a disease limited to the LGBTQ community.

Despite San Francisco officials’ declaration of a public health emergency over the monkeypox virus, organizers of Dore Alley — a live-out-loud leather and fetish festival that’s been a favorite among LGBTQ communities in the Bay Area since the 1980s — said Friday they intend to hold the festival this weekend.

The San Francisco event, which is expected to draw 5,000 people, comes amid deep anxieties across the LGBTQ community over the outbreak, which has proliferated amid a shortage of vaccines. Confronting a disease that has primarily affected men who have sex with men, many in the LGBTQ community fear a replay of the failures of the AIDS/HIV crisis. The confluence of issues has raised difficult questions for Dore Alley organizers, public health officials and LGBTQ advocates, even as they press ahead with the festival.


People are actively encouraging people to attend the festival, as well:

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has actively encouraged people to attend the event, while also listing safety advice on its website for prospective attendees, including sticking to less crowded areas and attending fewer events that feature skin-to-skin contact.

“There’s never been a better time to dress from top to bottom in latex or leather,” the organization said on its website. “Keeping your skin covered is a sure-fire way to prevent exposures to monkeypox.”


Organizers of Dore Alley stressed Friday that the festival serves an important purpose for the local LGBTQ and kink communities – especially after two-and-a-half years of living during the coronavirus pandemic. They added that public health officials would be on hand to inform attendees of the risks.

“We are constantly balancing the contrasting needs between physical, public health and mental and emotional public health,” said Angel Adeyoha, executive director of Folsom Street, which is organizing the event. “The effects of isolation have been really brutal on everyone, but definitively so on the LGBTQ+ community.”

Local leaders, like District Six Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who is quoted in Vahnstein's piece, has spoken out about stigmatization. 


As has Sen. Scott Weiner. 


When it comes to "mental and public health" and how "affections of isolation have been really brutal on everyone," to quote Angel Adeyoha, executive director of Folsom Street, it's worth demanding that we remember how others beyond members of "the LGBTQ+ community" suffered from isolation. This includes school children who missed out on formative years of schooling and severely harmed as a result. They were then forcibly masked when they returned to school. 

Further, people were demonized for engaging in everyday activities when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, with houses of worship closed, while people were kept from visiting their dying loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals, and then even kept from giving them a proper funeral.

California has actually been among the worst culprits, with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) facing several losses at the U.S. Supreme Court over his arbitrary rules affecting houses of worship during the pandemic. 

In case there's any question as to what events will be taking place at the festival, a separate piece by the San Francisco Chronicle, by Sam Whiting, informs readers "Want a whipping at S.F.’s kink and fetish fest? Get a monkeypox vaccination first."

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