Wiggsy Sivertsen has always been quick as a whip, figuratively speaking. But the lesbian activist—known for championing LGBTQ causes in Silicon Valley—spent at least a couple years moving quite fast, literally. In her early 30s, before she found her calling in social justice, Sivertsen spent much of her free time behind the wheel of a race car.
Though she no longer spends her days whipping around the track, Sivertsen still relies on her high-octane wit to put bigots in the rear-view mirror. For more than 50 years, Sivertsen has confronted discrimination head-on, deploying a mix of humor and unshakeable resolve to dismantle anti-gay policies and push back against bias.
In 1978, for example, she and others like Harvey Milk worked to oppose the Briggs Initiative, which would’ve banned gay and lesbian employees from California public schools. Sivertsen debated John Briggs on TV and radio—and told him his mother didn’t teach him good manners, because he couldn’t stop interrupting.
“One of the things about people’s prejudices,” Sivertsen says, “I think they take their brain and lock it in a vault, because they can no longer think intellectually. And so, they come out with the damndest things.”
This Monday, the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee’s Community Foundation will host “An Evening with Wiggsy and Pals” at Cafe Stritch.
There, Sivertsen and those who have fought alongside her will share personal stories from the front lines of the ongoing battle for equal rights. She’ll be joined by her longtime friend Ken Yeager, the first openly gay elected official in Santa Clara County.
Yeager started BAYMEC with Wiggsy in 1984 to advocate for gay rights and to educate politicians and the public. He says this event is about publicly recognizing all the work Sivertsen has done, and raising money for BAYMEC.
“A lot of younger people just don’t know who Wiggsy is,” Yeager says. “She is such an icon in the gay community, and for a whole new generation not to know who she is, I think, is a real loss for them. We need to do better to record LGBTQ history, particularly the leaders who were doing the fight before it was even popular.”
Now, even in 2019, the battle continues.
Just this month, the LGBTQ Youth Space in downtown San Jose was vandalized. In response to the abuse queer people continually endure, Sivertsen says she is still speeding toward the finish line. “We’ve just got to keep working.”
An Evening with Wiggsy and Pals takes place at 5:30pm Monday at Cafe Stritch. Tickets: $100. More info: baymecfoundation.org.