Will the driver be cool? Will the driver be homophobic? Will the driver try to kill me? These are questions that pass through the minds of many kings and queens nightly as they make their way to and from nightclubs.
Buses, taxis, ride-hailing, and subways have proven unsafe modes of transportation for out queer people living in the city, especially come nightfall. For many LGBTIQ ilk, Muni and BART are ripe for ignorance after the bars close. Meanwhile, hailing an Uber or cab dressed in full drag is never a sure bet.
Whether it's discrimination based on appearance, gender identity, or regalia, queer riders (especially females) face bigger challengers when taking traditional forms of transportation.
Which is why, prior to the advent of Uber or Lyft, Lynnee Breedlove conceived Homobiles, a nonprofit providing safe transit to San Francisco’s LGBTIQ community. She founded it in 2010 after she drove lesbian friends to a conference. (The outfit also caters to black people living in Bayview and Hunters Point, who are often stranded by taxis and ride-hailing services.)
"All of a sudden the butches and trans guys who saw me wanted to drive, and all the babes and drag queens wanted rides, and then I realized that this was a serious need that had to be filled,” Breedlove told Buzzfeed in 2014.
My ride with the pre-Kalanick service started via text. Giving them my name, address, drop off, and time of pick up was all I needed.
Janet, a New York native living in San Francisco for 20 years, picked me at home in SoMa, whisking me to the Marina.
Friendly, informative, and—above all—an excellent driver, Janet told me how the service works, payment-wise: The suggested amount is $1 per minute, but no one is refused service due to lack of funds. The amount to SFO from the city is a suggested $35.
“But if you don’t have any money, we usually just give you a free ride,” says Janet.
During our ride, we talked about the city and how much it has changed over the last few years. Many more cars on the road than ever before. A different population than a decade ago. Out of control rents pushing dispossessed people out of the city.
We even discussed Bette Midler (Janet’s favorite artist of all time) and her recent Tony win. In a perfect world, talk of the Divine Miss M and Tonys would be mandatory in all cab rides.
From Janet’s windshield hung a wooden peace sign and a set of pride rings, fruit loops, as they were called back in the day.
“These rings are older than most of my riders now,” she says.
Arriving at my destination, I gladly handed over some cash. (Passengers can also use a credit card to pay.) It was the perfect ride, at least for me. In a city rife with driverless cars using city streets as testing grounds or Uber drivers threatening passengers with rape, it warms the heart to know that at least one company is trying to take care of San Franciscans.