Normally, the opening of a new queer hot spot is in a diverse city is cause for excitement. But recently announced plans for an LGBTQ “headquarters and hangout” in San Francisco are having the opposite effect.
Slated to open early next year in San Francisco’s Mission District, Yass is being touted as a LGBTQ social club with monthly dues of about $150. Benefits of membership include access to “hangout spots” and “get togethers,” as well as “library workspaces,” according to the club’s official website.
“Bars, clubs, and apps can be a sugar rush. We love them too, but sometimes we’re looking for more,” Yass’ site reads. “Imagine instead, walking into a room filled with the queer role models you never had. Yass is this space.”
News of the club’s opening quickly rankled a number of local LGBTQ advocates. Many say they are angered by the club’s apparent ties to PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.
Thiel, who is openly gay, donated $1.25 million to Trump’s election campaign, and praised the president as “very good on gay rights” in a January interview with The New York Times. The 50-year-old also reportedly bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker. (The now-defunct website settled with Hogan to the tune of $31 million.) At present, a venture capital firm that the tech billionaire co-founded is the sole investor behind Yass, The Guardian reports.
Among those to blast the club’s connection to Thiel was David Campos, a former election supervisor who represented the Mission District and who is openly gay. Acknowledging that San Francisco’s LGBTQ community “needs a space,” he specified, “We don’t need a space that is tainted by the hate of Donald Trump.”
“This is a president who has tried to disenfranchise members of the LGBT community,” Campos told The Guardian in a Thursday interview. “When a gay man essentially becomes a tool of someone who is prosecuting people, that gay man needs to be called out.”
Other LGBTQ rights advocates and allies were similarly incensed by the news.
Yass’s founder and CEO Brian Tran downplayed the club’s connection to Thiel, telling The Guardian that his primary commitment was to “serving the queer community and their needs.”
Though Tran acknowledged that Thiel was a “controversial figure” for LGBTQ people, he said, “I don’t know what his real intentions are, and it’s hard to make a judgment.”
“Undeniably, he has made a huge impact in our economy,” he added.