Gabrielle Antolovich: minority rights activist

“The LGBTQ+ community is the one minority that encompasses all minorities,” said activist Gabrielle Antolovich, board chair of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center in San Jose.

“We are African American, Aboriginal, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, immigrant, undocumented,” Antolovich said. “We come from everywhere. We are the unifying community that supports our sister organizations fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

Antolovich, who identifies as a non-binary genderqueer person, uses the pronouns they/them. They are well known in Silicon Valley as LGBTQ+ rights activists who believe minorities are stronger when they stand up to fight discrimination.

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Antolovich points to another distinction of the LGBTQ+ community, a personal experience.

“We are the only minority who are often shunned by our own family, which makes an LGBTQ+ community space like the Billy DeFrank Center a crucial place for our people and allies to thrive,” Antolovich said.

Antolovich has a long history as an activist. They were born in Australia in 1950, the only child of immigrants recruited to Australia from Yugoslavia. When they were five years old, they saw their parents being attacked by white men because they “looked foreign” and didn’t speak English. Fearing for their parents, they attacked the men and swore at them in Yugoslav.

“And so, activist Gabrielle was born,” Antolovich said. “Since, [I] became an activist on many issues, all as a strong emotional first reaction to the world around me.

In high school, when first supporting women’s issues, Antolovich protested against girls who felt social pressure to show off in skimpy bikinis. They organized a sewing bee to make 1920s-style swimsuits that covered one from neck to knee and marched on beaches with classmates in silent protest.

Protesting against capitalism, Antolovich lived in communes where households shared resources. They protested against nuclear energy and defended the land rights of their native friends. Meeting a 19-year-old crying to be drafted, afraid to shoot anyone, prompted them to join the anti-Vietnam war movement.

In 1969, after seeing gay men beaten in alleyways and helping heal their wounds, they joined the first LGBTQ+ community center in Sydney.

Antolovich, who worked as an alcohol and drug counselor, moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and then to San Jose in 1990. They ran Voices United, a nonprofit aimed at protecting teens from easy access to alcohol, tobacco and substances, before assuming leadership. of the Billy DeFrank Center.

Under the leadership of Antolovich and other volunteers, the center becomes a growing force for equal rights.

“The Personal Reward [of being an activist] always found my passion, which always helped me to be creative and problem-solving,” Antolovich said. “It has often cost me my romantic relationships because activism takes a lot of time and energy.”

Antolovich and other LGBTQ+ people joined thousands of people at the Bans Off Our Bodies rally at San Jose City Hall on June 25 to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 annulment June of Roe v. Wade.

In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should also reconsider rulings that protect contraception, same-sex relationships and marriage equality.

“If that happens, those rights — just like abortion — will be left to state legislatures to decide,” Antolovich said. “It makes it even more urgent that we come together now to invest in organizing, messaging and mobilizing work across all communities – women, LGBTQ+ and all racial and ethnic communities.”

Unlike the movies Antolovich likes to watch to unwind, their journey as an activist never ends.

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