San Francisco Magazine: Theresa Sparks, me and Margaret Cho

omg! I'm in San Francisco Magazine!

Above is a quick snapshot of the picture in November’s San Francisco Magazine of Theresa Sparks, myself and Margret Cho from the amazing article “The life and times of Theresa Sparks – A former oilman, CEO, police commissioner, and butt of Jay Leno’s jokes, the groundbreaking activist is now San Francisco’s most electrifying political candidate since Harvey Milk.


Yes, I’m in it; close friends with Margaret and as you’ll read in the story, I’m Theresa’s errant adopted daughter, making family for both of us when we previously had none. It’s a riveting article, and I’m thrilled to be part of San Francisco’s — and the LGBT human rights movement in America’s — rich political history. I’m officially now one of the “lost girls,” referring to my past as a runaway homeless adolescent on the streets of San Francisco. What’s happening here in The City for politics, women, sexuality and human rights is groundbreaking. Don’t miss this fascinating piece by Nathaniel Johnson. Snip:

As I watched Theresa Sparks during Pride weekend this past June, it was clear to me that something had changed. The soon-to-be-ex–Police Commission president seemed more restrained than when I’d followed her during the same events in 2008. Then, she had shouted through the microphone with an activist’s recklessness (“Fuck the Human Rights Campaign!”—a reference to the LGBT group’s futile attempt to win congressional votes for a federal antidiscrimination bill by agreeing to cut transgender people out of it). But this year, Sparks kept it short and sunny. The most controversial thing she did all weekend was introduce departing police chief Heather Fong, and Sparks’ rhetorical bouquet—“Every now and then, an individual comes along who is the right person at the right time in history”—stirred things up only in that it brought the room to a five-minute standing ovation. Never mind that she could have been talking about herself.

Sparks is tall, with a Julia Child–like solidity and tousled, shortish hair that shifts through various shades of red. She dresses conservatively—for Pride, she chose blue jeans and a black cardigan, with designer sunglasses—and moves with deliberate grace, though sometimes she forgets herself and chops at the air with her hands. You would never guess that she used to be male until you hear her voice—the baritone drawl of the blunt-spoken Kansas oilman she once was. Usually, she wouldn’t have cared who was listening, which made her a reporter’s best friend (and a handler’s nightmare). On Pride weekend, however, she expertly buttonholed politicians—supervisors Bevan Dufty and David Campos, state senator Mark Leno—for conversations out of earshot. Sparks, it turned out, had made a momentous decision: to run for San Francisco supervisor in November 2010, perhaps the most high-profile bid for power ever attempted by a transgender person in the United States. And the way these elected officials were treating her—their body language showed respect, even deference.(…read more,

It’s not mentioned but I was also at the tranny bar night described in detail in the section after these two intro grafs; I wrote about the evening for my San Francisco Chronicle column Margaret Cho, a bottle of whiskey and a long night. Oh, the dirty details. And there is more about the day we three spent in the convertible, plus more photos and Obama’s statements to the LGBT democratic brunch in this post.

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  1. Hi Violet,
    I was just doing a web crawl, looking for people who use my photos without consent, or those who do with consent, so I can add legal publications to my photo resume, and I came across your photo of the above mentioned San Francisco magazine image.

    I just wanted you to know that I am the photographer of that photojournalistic image, Paula Steele (aka Paula Craig), my “photo credit” hidden in the “gutter” of the magazine, just as yours was. I posted that photo, and many others, on my Flickr page (user name “Pixieclipx”) shortly after attending PRIDE that year.

    Little did I know then, that I would a) be contacted to publish that photo in SF Magazine, nor b) find out a year later, that my own son, Patrick, was / is gay, and androgynous, and mostly choses to go around in life looking like and dressing as a female, or c) that my life would take such a serious turn for the worse, as it has since then.

    Patrick is currently my Photo Assistant and Make-up Artist for my Boutique Portrait Studio in Pleasanton. I support him 100% since Day One.

    Back to the Studio, please hear me out. We do Lifestyle Photography, which is just fine, but now I want to really focus on Boudoir. I believe this is where my talent lies. Just like when I was a San Jose cop, and about 5 years in, I said, OK, I know what I want to do now. I didn’t want to promote, I knew my talent was with gang members and working informants. So, after one hugely successful bust that I did using one informant and bringing down the largest Vietnamese gang and theft ring in San Jose history back in 1992, I was promoted to Gangs / Violent Crime Team, first female in the department to make it in the “boys only” club. And I did some phenomenal work in that unit, before I left the force altogether (at that time, I no longer believed in prostitution or marijuana laws, and refused to enforce them. It was 1994. I was charged with alleged possession of a joint 6 months later. I resigned under duress.) So, that’s how I know it’s time for me to start working my intended niche, Boudoir. I want to empower woman! Boudoir is not just about looking hot and sexy, it’s about how that makes a woman feel, from 18 to 88, every woman deserves this photo shoot, once in their lives, for themselves, their partner, whomever.

    I am working with a great model who has amazing talent, so with my camera skills, her Boudoir background and modeling expertise, we hope to be up and running with our Hotel Boudoir sessions by November. I work with ALL clients, all races, all genders, all sexual orientation. The sessions will be set on a schedule, and I am imagining we can realistically do 6 to 8 per day, so up to 16 a weekend. I don’t want to overbook, as I have fibromyalgia, and I don’t want to poop out, or start to do sloppy work, no way. Also, limiting the booking means, we just have more dates to schedule for!!

    I just came out out of Hell –> a near fatal marriage of 15 years, and Patrick and I are moving into a beautiful new apartment this weekend. My ex , who makes the big 6-figure salary, and always had the police on his side (he’s a sociopath, very manipulative) sabotaged my business as best he could, and I am doing everything I can to hold on to it.

    As a disabled woman, I was able to get into a self-sufficiency program over a year ago, and after my uninsured Canon 5D Mark II camera and 5 Canon lenses were stolen, the SSDI program got me a grant and purchased me a new camera, lenses and a studio lighting kit. I have worked my ass off to get this business off the ground, but still have not made a profit. While I make A LOT of people very happy with my photography, I just can’t seem to break that threshold into black, and make a profit. They would be happy if I even make $1K a month. My overheard is $720/mo., just rent and Uverse.

    Violet, when I first found your page, I never had any intention of writing to you. But once I saw your comment box, and the words started coming out, I just felt I had to put this out there. I am a woman. I am a small business owner. I am being screwed over royally by a male dominated system, law enforcement, and my ex gets to stay in the house, keep his great job, his Mercedes, everything goes on for him, while I have slept on a couch for the past 3 weeks, not been able to have my dogs with me at all (yes, I had to leave them with him!!), he shut down my business email ( and won’t give me access to my own business domain name ( so, I had to pay $100 to have it “re-hosted” by another company, and go back to using a gmail account until I can get my real business email back up and running. I was in the middle of having my website re-designed, put 50% down, don’t have the other 50% to pay it off, but as it is, the website Creative Soda built (, does not appear to be any better than the template website I built on my own ( UGH!!

    So, finally, what am I asking for? Nothing but to put my name out there. I am a Photographer that anyone can come to, no fear. I have already worked with gay couples, including a gay couple who was deaf. I remember when they contacted me, so sweet, yet nervous. One wrote, “will you work with us, we are gay?” I wanted to cry. How very sad that she had to ask me this, in 2012! I immediately wrote back, Of course, I will work with you. I wanted to scream I DON’T CARE IF YOU ARE GAY, YOU ARE A CLIENT!! I was just so thankful they chose me, which I did tell them. And that my parents raised me right. I also shared that my own teenager is gay, and that seemed to settle it with them. We had a great connection from the first minute we met at the park. Which makes for a great photo session, of course. Their engagement photo shoot came out perfect!!

    I just want to get my name out to the LGBT Community that Paula Steele Photography, whether I can keep the Studio, or not, is open for business to All. I travel anywhere, and I especially love weddings at San Francisco City Hall, but I know so many great places to have weddings and receptions (having researched so many when I was planning my own). Basically, while I have certain niche photography, and am now developing my Boudoir, I dabble in it all, from Families to Weddings to Engagements to House Parties to Grand Opening events, you name it, I will shoot it. Some people just come to me to have their tattoos photographed. Some maternity sessions, the mommy only wants her belly photographer, no face pictures at all. Others want them totally nude. I do whatever people ask, pretty much. Nothing bothers me, at least not so far. I guess 10 years on the job, and growing up as the 5th of 6 girls in a house of 9 children, you just don’t care about bodies, like you don’t trip on them. For me, I’m just a professional doing my job, and I do it well. I aim to please :) You have my info. I hope I didn’t bother you too much… but I probably did. Paula

    PS: If you want a better copy of that image, let me know.

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