Cover Story

The Honorable Christine Kehoe

A Casual Conversation with the Community Trailblazer


I guess the thing I’ll be known for is in 1993 we ran a successful campaign to finally elect an openly gay person in the city council and that was me, it was a very exciting race. Prior to that Neil Good and Al Bess had run for election but never made it out of the primary. So here we are in 1993 and there was a huge groundswell of support from the gay community, we were just loaded with volunteers, we walked every precinct in the district twice, we raised money for mailers, and it just became a real “people’s campaign.” I won that election, and I was on the city council for seven years and then I went up to the assembly.


Mentoring a colleague is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Now I admit when you get to mentor somebody like Toni Atkins, you’re at another level because from the very beginning Toni was a dedicated activist. She was intelligent, well educated, and compassionate so there was a tremendous amount to work with. In mentoring I always try to remember it’s not a one-way street. I got as much working with Toni as Toni got from me, it was a mutual assistance relationship, and we grew a lot professionally and we also became friends over the years, it was very rewarding.


Supporting women’s causes is essential. We all have to work from our own experiences. Whether you’re lesbian or a young non-binary person, whether you identify as a queer male, whatever that identity is whether it’s racial, whether it’s physical capabilities, we have to understand that core part of us first. To me being a feminist proceeded coming out as a lesbian, it made sense to me the minute I figured it out so to speak that if you look around women are not treated equally whether it’s working wages or sexual violence or child care I could see the inequities all over the place and I got very involved in the women’s center downtown even before I identified as a lesbian, gradually over a couple years I came out but it was the foundation for my lesbian identity and still is so I think it’s very important.


You won’t know what hit you, it’s gonna be good for you and it’s gonna be good for the community. It’s so rewarding, some of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had as a gay activist, (although I love being in an elected office, certainly it’s good to win elections) volunteering at gay pride, volunteering at CWSS (a long time ago), when you’re working side-by-side with people that are committed to the project is, as I keep saying, rewarding because that is what it is, it’s meaningful, it helps you grow, you connect with others, it builds your personal strength, and it strengthens the community. You won’t know how good you’ll feel until you get involved with the community.


Going all the way back to city council when we moved to get domestic partner benefits for gay employees, that really helped equalize, there were a lot of gay employees at the city that were not able to protect their spouses with health insurance and other benefits, that was great. But really running for office or even being an elected official on the local level you’re always rushing off to a meeting in City Heights or North Park or downtown, or you have to get to a lunch in Mission Valley so it’s very hectic but also an exciting way to work. I was never one to sit at a desk. I like to be out and talking to people and consequently a lot of different incidences came up, but I enjoyed it all the time. We’d be out in City Heights and there would be a new year celebration with the kids doing the dragon dance, sometimes it’s spontaneous, you go there to visit a school and they’re doing different plays inside or plays on our history as Americans or celebrating Presidents’ Day or that kind of thing, I loved it. Toni and I have been able to visit some very exciting places over the years and it helps me grow, it helps me understand my district and the people that live in it. I find that my political work was very fulfilling for me.


The word is love. I’ve been trying to figure this out for years and I’m starting to get it. Whether it’s Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, the word is love.