Lech Walesa | News | San Francisco | Tom Waddell

SF Supervisor Wants to Rename City's 'Lech Walesa Street' After Founder of the Gay Games Tom Waddell

WaddellA San Francisco Supervisor angry at Nobel Prize Winner Lech Walesa's homophobic remarks earlier this month says she wants to rename the street that bears his name, the Mercury News reports:

Supervisor Jane Kim said she is seeking to rename Lech Walesa Street, a small alleyway located between Grove and Hayes streets and Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street.

Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 after co-founding the Solidarity independent trade union movement in Poland, made controversial comments in a TV interview on March 1, saying gay people should not be allowed to hold prominent political posts.

Kim, whose district includes Lech Walesa Street, said she is considering renaming the street after Tom Waddell, a gay activist, or reverting back to the alleyway's previous name of Ivy Street. The Tom Waddell Health Center, which includes a transgender clinic, is located on Lech Walesa Street. Waddell worked at the clinic and also created the Gay Olympics, later renamed the Gay Games, Kim said.

Waddell died in 1987 of AIDS-related causes in 1987.

Kim says she will do LGBT outreach on the issue and make her decision.

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  1. Good idea! I like it when streets are renamed after stuff and people. Just don't replace a drag that has a colloquial name. Ala 6th ave being called "Ave of the americas", yeah... no.

    Posted by: Fensox | Mar 13, 2013 10:24:00 AM

  2. Yes, rename it after Tom Waddell or revert to the original street name, but under no circumstances should it remain named after that Polish homophobic bigot. I sure hope Supervisor Kim makes this happen and the sooner the better.

    Posted by: Bob R | Mar 13, 2013 10:24:33 AM

  3. Any student of Polish history knows that Walesa was regarded as, for lack of better terms, a jerk and a bully by many. His rhetorical style is rude and antagonistic. And obviously his views on LGBT rights--and I'm sure on rights for many other groups--are backwards and offensive.

    But consider that it was his force of personality that brought democracy and workers' rights to Poland and started that conversation in other Soviet Bloc countries. Maybe it would have happened eventually, but who knows how long the process would have taken without Walesa and others like him. Who knows where we would be today. In Poland, a deeply conservative country, free elections would eventually lead to LGBT political leaders, and to much broader civil rights for all minority groups than would ever have attained under Soviet era communism.

    Instead of focusing just on his personal views or rhetoric, which are obviously awful, why not consider that he was the force behind creating a free market for goods, politics, and ideas? Not a perfect structure, but certainly a much better atmosphere for LGBT advocacy and rights than the alternative. As a gay man I appreciate democracy and the chances it affords minority communities more than a bunch of pleasant words and sentiments.

    Posted by: Thomas | Mar 13, 2013 10:50:13 AM

  4. lech... he had the '70s clone look down.

    Posted by: matt | Mar 13, 2013 11:12:14 AM

  5. This is why you should never name things for living people; they are going to say/do something horrible or stupid or awful. Just wait 20 years and then see if you still want to name something after them.

    Posted by: E. Thor Carlson | Mar 13, 2013 11:13:15 AM

  6. My first reaction was to want the street renamed, preferably to something innocuous like Elm Street. I actually dislike naming anything after people these days, because if we name a street "Tom Waddell" then some jackass is going to want to name a street after Jerry Falwell or Eldridge Cleaver.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 13, 2013 12:00:10 PM

  7. or the sewage plant after GWB

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Mar 13, 2013 12:48:26 PM

  8. "Waddell died in 1987 of AIDS-related causes in 1987."

    Um... Andy, it might be time to hire an intern to proofread some of these stories.

    Posted by: Matt in NYC | Mar 13, 2013 1:41:38 PM

  9. Lech Walesa St. is actually a sad little alley. It's greatest use is as an open air urinal. I say we keep the name...

    Posted by: BobN | Mar 13, 2013 1:57:19 PM

  10. @Grover Underwood: they voted down the name change for the sewage plant. One reason was the cost of changing the large sign outside of it. Another was that it had as little environmental impact as technically possible at present, which would argue against naming it after GWB.

    The idea of naming a sewage plant after GWB was funny, but it turned out not to be such a good idea in this case.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 13, 2013 1:57:30 PM

  11. Thomas is right, no one's perfect. But Lech Walesa has been a major force for good.

    Posted by: Alan | Mar 13, 2013 2:09:20 PM

  12. I agree with Thomas and Bobn. When somebody who accomplishes a great deal of good but is nonetheless a jerk, we have to accept that it's possible for both things to exist together. Jesus got pissy with a fig tree.

    Overall, I think a stinking little alley is just right with its current name.

    Posted by: gregorybrown | Mar 13, 2013 2:22:18 PM

  13. This is why public places should not be named after prominent people until after the people die.

    Posted by: DB | Mar 13, 2013 2:52:55 PM

  14. Great idea now that Walesa has revealed his homophobic feelings.

    Posted by: jaragon | Mar 13, 2013 5:21:11 PM

  15. Alan - So you're saying that there are things more important than gay marriage? You blasphemer!

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 13, 2013 6:20:37 PM

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