Watch moving coming out video
of San Diego’s new leader
Newly appointed openly gay San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Click image to enlarge.
AMERICA’S EIGHTH LARGEST CITY today has a new leader who also happens to be gay.
In San Diego, former City Council President Todd Gloria took over as interim mayor at 01:00 GMT on Saturday, when disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner resigned after weeks of turmoil that drew national attention in the U.S.
WATCH GLORIA’S COMING OUT VIDEO BELOW THE FOLD.
GLORIA JOINS A LONG LIST of gay city chief executives in California, stretching three decades back to when Robert Gentry became the state’s first gay mayor, winning election to the office in the upscale seaside town of Laguna Beach, an hour north of San Diego.
But of the now dozens of openly gay mayors in the U.S. Gloria leads by far the largest city, which, according to the San Diego Association of Governments SANDAG, has a population of 1.3 million (the population of San Diego County, in which the city is located, is more than double that.)
Gloria’s new role became effective five hours after I arrived in this bucolic corner of the U.S. which bills itself as “America’s Finest City.”
Interim Mayor Gloria made his first public statements in office a little after 01:00 GMT on Saturday.
“It’s a new day in San Diego,” he told the assembled media. “It’s very clear that there is a lot of work to be done.”
The news conference was reported this way in Interim Mayor Todd Gloria Takes Over by the local ABC affiliate Channel 7.
“At 01:00 GMT sharp on Friday, embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was officially stripped of his title and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria took over as interim mayor.
The iconic image of the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park is seen on Friday just as Interim Mayor Todd Gloria was speaking to the press two miles away in downtown San Diego. I’m wearing the white tank top. Click image to enlarge. Photo by Bjorn Palenius. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
“Gloria and his team moved into the mayor’s office at City Hall right away. Gloria then held a brief press conference.
Gloria said his work as interim mayor will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. “We’re going to move the city forward,” he added.
Gloria, 35, was first elected to the non-partisan City Council in 2008, representing the Third District, home to the city’s largest concentration of gay and lesbian residents in the community of Hillcrest.
He is a former chairman of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.
The tourist mecca he now runs is especially popular with Americans in winter, because of its year-round mild climate.
I lived in San Diego for a decade when I first immigrated to the U.S., not knowing in advance that I had picked the one place in the vast country that most resembles the city of my childhood, Cape Town, South Africa.
I graduated from San Diego State University in 1977 with a Bachelors degree in journalism, then worked as a reporter (my first job in America) for the now defunct biweekly Encinitas Coast Dispatch from summer to winter that year.
A resident of that town, living two blocks from Moonlight Beach, I then professionally moved a little way up the coast to become a reporter on the then-named afternoon daily newspaper the Oceanside Blade-Tribune, now the North County Times.
You can find a smattering of my work from this era buried deep in the archives of this site, and there is more at my archival site The Life and Times of Warren Swil
Bjorn and I enjoy brunch Saturday on the patio at Candelas restaurant on Coronado Island, with the San Diego skyline as our backdrop. Photo by Alejandro Gonzales. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Among my most powerful memories from that period is the mid-air collision of now-defunct Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) Boeing 737 and a light aircraft over the North Park community, which sent both aircraft plummeting to the ground killing every one of the 144 souls aboard. It was then the worst air disaster in the U.S.
I was dispatched to cover the story from Oceanside, 30 miles north.
The stench of burned human flesh that I experienced for the first time that day, Sept. 25, 1978, haunts me right now as, again, I sit in North Park at the home of Bjorn Palenius writing these words. It is something you would rather not experience, ever, but journalists must go where the news is, irrespective of the personal discomfort we may feel. It is our job to bring the story to our readers and viewers.
IN HIS PERSONAL and emotional coming out story, which you can view below, Interim Mayor Gloria relates how life was for him as a youth in this then-highly conservative community.
Titled It Gets Better: San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria was recorded in 2010 when an outbreak of bullying and torment of gay youths swept the U.S. resulting in an unprecedented number of highly publicized suicides – and close calls.
“THE ACT OF COMING OUT has proven to be our most potent weapon against intolerance and hate,” Gloria says.
“It has helped us win the rights and responsibilities that for so long have been denied.
“Today in light of the heartbreaking stories emanating from communities across America the LGBT Community has returned to our tradition of telling stories, this time to our youth.”
Indeed, the more stories we tell, as I do here in this internet space, the better informed everyone is about us. Hate and prejudice derive from ignorance; personal awareness of the LGBT story is the best cure for every bigoted person on the planet.
“These stories are all unique but they share a common message: It gets better!,” Gloria says.
“Growing up in San Diego I was very much aware of my sexual orientation. I was ashamed of who I was. I believed that my feelings [were] something to be suppressed, to be hidden, never discussed.
“I hated who I was. I hid it from my family my friends.
“I internalized messages I heard too often in my school in my neighborhood. That I was a freak. That I would be alone. That I was destined to be unhappy. That I was a faggot.”
Indeed, that could just as well be me speaking.
Thank you, Your Honor, for telling our story to the entire world. It is the best antidote we have to bigotry everywhere.
WATCH HIS STORY AND JUDGE FOR YOURSELF.
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