Current, former LGBTQ+ Berkeley City Council members reflect on Pride

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With 25 years of LGBTQ+ representation in Berkeley City Council, former and current council members reflect on the importance of Pride to them.

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Terry Taplin, District 2 City Council member

“I want queer culture to take up more space.”

When Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin and his partner lost their apartment in the Southside neighborhood and lived with Taplin’s mother for a few weeks, he came out to his mom. She kicked them out, making them temporarily homeless.

On National Coming Out Day last year during his campaign, Taplin posted his housing journey to social media.

“One person was like, ‘Too bad you’re not running to keep Black households in their homes,’ ” Taplin said. “I was like, ‘First of all, there are people like me. Several who I represent are both gay and Black.’ But a lot of folks don’t see me as a real Black person or as enough of a Black person because I’m gay.”

Through his experiences, Taplin said he is more aware of intersectionality, his privileges and the needs of a diverse community.

After being elected to City Council in November 2020, Taplin helped pass the grocery worker hazard pay ordinance. He and Councilmember Lori Droste passed a resolution to end exclusionary zoning, and Taplin is currently working on a 100% affordable housing zoning overlay and social housing program.

He emphasized that Pride, while a reminder of the advocates he is grateful for, is also a reminder of what still needs to be done.

“The first Pride was a riot — it wasn’t a party,” Taplin said. “That’s always been the spirit of Pride. It is great that we have gained so much, but there are still folks who are too afraid to be themselves. Black trans women are still being murdered at extremely high rates. Queer and trans people are still being kicked out of their homes.”

When he was younger, Taplin said he did not have reflective examples of leadership. He hopes to show every kid that being on City Council is possible.

Taplin added that he would love to see a big Pride festival in Berkeley showcasing queer artists, drag performers and a film festival.

“I want queer culture to take up more space,” Taplin said. “There’s no one way to be queer. There’s no right way or wrong way … I want to see our culture really highlight queer kinship and queer masculinities and queer femininities. I want there to be more options in representations for all the nuances of our cultures.”

Lori Droste, District 8 City Council member

“It’s not all roses.”

June 1 is Droste’s son’s birthday. The Drostes wear rainbow patterned clothes, put a rainbow collar on their dog and feel like it’s their month. To Droste, Pride means her family.

She also believes Pride reflects how far society has progressed. Droste remembered when she first ran in 2014, someone told her, “Thank God you have a wife because that way she can stay home with the kids when you’re gone.”

A year later, Droste helped pass legislation divesting from states discriminating against LGBTQ+ individuals. In 2019, Droste and Councilmember Rigel Robinson passed an ordinance to use gender-neutral language in municipal code. Droste also remembered the council meeting on the night of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, where many tears were shed.

She said these events shaped her memory of Pride on the council. As the first openly lesbian City Council member, Droste is glad that Berkeley celebrates queer people but also recognizes a lot of work has to be done.

“In many ways, the gay and lesbian community have made great strides, but we’re still seeing a lot of disparities with our trans siblings,” Droste said. “That’s still something that is tragic and that we need to pay attention to. It’s not all roses.”

Darryl Moore, former District 2 City Council member

“I don’t have to fear or live in fear.”

Darryl Moore became the first openly gay Black council member in Berkeley in 2004. Seven years later, he was the first Berkeley council member to pass legislation funding city employees’ sexual reassignment surgery.

After leaving City Council in 2016, Moore now serves as a council member for the governing body of Manassas Park, Virginia. At the governing body’s first meeting this June, Moore got the first nondiscrimination policy, including gender identity and sexual orientation, passed unanimously. He also sponsored the city’s resolution in honoring June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

In Berkeley, he and former Councilmember Kriss Worthington sponsored recognition of Pride Month. Moore was also a chair for the National Black Justice Coalition in Washington, D.C., for six years. He hosted forums training LGBTQ+ youth in lobbying.

Moore worked as Worthington’s council aid for two and a half years. In 2000, he was elected to the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees, replacing Tom Brougham, the first openly gay elected official in the East Bay.

In Manassas Park, Moore said he hopes to start flying the rainbow flag.

“(Pride) means acceptance,” Moore said. “It means being me, that I don’t have to be concerned about employment or housing discrimination. … I don’t have to fear or live in fear.”

Kriss Worthington, former District 7 City Council member

“When they’re given a chance, they can do amazing things.”

It took until 1996, the year Worthington ran, to have someone LGBTQ+ run and win for elected office in Berkeley.

Despite some older people claiming students were unable to deal with his sexuality, according to Worthington, he won most student precincts by a two-to-one margin and by 87% in the precinct where he lived.

As a council member, he proposed marriage equality in Berkeley but had to delay the vote for more conversation. Eventually, eight of nine votes made Berkeley the first American city to endorse marriage equality.

Worthington recalled one of his reelection campaigns. One of the workers for the mayor’s campaign said to him, “If you’re not careful, we’re going to make you more like Harvey Milk than you’d ever want to be.”

The homophobia he dealt with as a council member was not as blatant as when he was a teenager, Worthington added. His adoptive father threatened to disown him for coming out, and Worthington said he ran away after being whipped and beaten.

“If I hadn’t experienced prejudice, discrimination and homophobia when I was young, I don’t know if I would have felt so passionately about fighting against racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia,” Worthington said. “Because I experienced it myself and I knew and felt how wrong it was, it made me feel so emotional when other people were being discriminated against because of their race or gender.”

Worthington noted that while everyone in Berkeley says they are against racism and sexism, both left- and right-wing groups often leave out people of color. He said he “proved the stereotypes wrong” by actively including people of color and LGBTQ+ people in important positions.

Before they were in their current roles, Worthington hired Moore, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, former Berkeley Police Review Commission chair Sahana Matthews and East Bay Municipal Utilities District Director Andy Katz.

“By including a diverse range of people in who you hire and who you appoint, it gives them a chance to then move up to higher office,” Worthington said. “That’s why it’s so important to appoint and hire young people to give them a chance to show what they can do. Because when they’re given a chance, they can do amazing things.”

Contact Andie Liu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @andiemliu.