Yass, announced last month and set to open in the spring, will provide LGBTQ people who pay membership dues access to events and a co-working space and social club, according to founder and CEO Brian Tran.
The ties to Thiel and Silicon Valley and the decision to open in the Mission, a historically Latino neighborhood that has rapidly gentrified amid the tech boom, means Yass is sure to be controversial. Even before its physical launch, the project is already inspiring backlash in San Francisco, a city that is known internationally as a gay mecca, but has the most expensive real estate market in the country, leading to the rapid displacement of cultural spaces, LGBT nightlife and longtime queer residents.
Critics of the project cite dues which they feel will keep lower-income queers out, the need of existing organizations for financial support, the appropriation of the term “Yass” from drag ball culture, and of course, Thiel:
“The LGBT community in San Francisco, we need a space. But we don't need a space that is tainted by the hate of Donald Trump,” said David Campos, a former elected supervisor who represented the Mission and is gay. He said the neighborhood should reject a project linked with Thiel, who infamously funded a lawsuit that destroyed the news organization Gawker.
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Membership fees will range from $50 to $300 based on income level. Its founder promises Thiel isn't involved and promises diversity and accessibility:
Tran, 25, said Thiel was not involved in the project, which he said was being funded by Cyan Banister, another partner at Thiel's firm Founders Fund. Tran insisted that Yass, financed through FF Angel, the firm's early stage investment vehicle, was dedicated to being inclusive and accessible to a diverse group of queer people, not just tech workers.
“My commitment is to serving the queer community and their needs. And that is separate from what individuals at Founders Fund believe,” he said, adding that although Thiel is a “controversial figure”, “I don't know what his real intentions are, and it's hard to make a judgment … Undeniably, he has made a large impact in our economy.”
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Would you belong to a social club and working space funded by Peter Thiel?