Lech Walesa Street Hosts Transgender Clinic
|What's in a name?|
Blink and you'll miss it -- Lech Walesa Street is a small, gritty alley a generous heave from City Hall. For those with no desire to loiter here, it provides a brief glimpse into a painful paradox of San Francisco life most would prefer not to dwell upon. Bleary-eyed men and women in house slippers squat on the fetid pavement in full view of the golden dome of City Hall, the lavish center of our lavish city.
In addition to being heartbreaking, Lech Walesa Street is now bitterly ironic. In recent days Walesa, the democratic leader and union organizer who toppled Poland's communist regime, has transformed into the world's most notorious homophobe. And, on the San Francisco street named in his honor, sits a transgender clinic.
This is an odd situation for a city which is seriously considering renaming its airport after Harvey Milk to ostensibly provide a symbol of hope for LGBT individuals worldwide. Supervisor David Campos, the major proponent of renaming the airport, said he's potentially open to expunging Walesa from the city's streets.
"I have really mixed feelings," said Campos. "On the one hand, what he said is just horrible. For someone who is a Nobel Laureate to make those kinds of hateful statements about entire groups of people is just disappointing; you want to push back and send a message. At the same time, Lech Walesa has been recognized for what he did in Poland."
Campos noted that, growing up, Walesa was "one of my heroes" -- but added that "we're not foreclosing" on the possibility of changing the name of the thoroughfare formerly known as Ivy Street.
The mood was lighter on Oct. 5, 1986, when San Francisco, literally, put Lech Walesa on the map. Joan Baez and "100 members of the Polish community" joined "civic, union, and human rights figures" to show their solidarity with the Solidarity leader.
Finally, it warrants mentioning that travelers departing San Francisco via the potential future Harvey Milk Airport and jetting to Gdansk will deplane at Lech Walesa Airport.
There is, likely, no transgender clinic there.