(EDGE) The openly gay technology billionaire Peter Thiel, who donated $1.25 million to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, co-founded what is being called a "queer co-working space and social club" for LGBTQ people in San Francisco's Mission District called "Yass," according to a new report from The Guardian. Thiel is the sole backer.
Announced last month, Yass is set to open in the spring and "will provide LGBTQ people who pay membership dues access to events and co-working space and social club, according to founder and CEO Brian Tran," the newspaper's Sam Levin writes.
The ties to Thiel and Silicon Valley and the decision to open in the Mission, a historically Latino neighborhood that has rapidly gentrified amid the tech boom, means Yass is sure to be controversial. Even before its physical launch, the project is already inspiring backlash in San Francisco, a city that is known internationally as a gay mecca, but has the most expensive real estate market in the country, leading to the rapid displacement of cultural spaces, LGBT nightlife and longtime queer residents.
"Conservatives like Thiel are at the center of a movement that really doesn't support queer communities. There's some irony from trying to then profit from queer communities," Andrew Jolivette, a San Francisco state professor of Native American studies, who is gay and grew up in the city, told The Guardian.
Jolivette also took issue with the project's name, Yass - a phrase borrowed from drag ball culture and connected to black and Latino queer communities in New York City's Harlem. As the term was popularized (like on "Broad City"), some people claimed it was a form of cultural appropriation.
"This is Gay Inc 2.0 where now we're not only sort of commercializing gay community and spaces, now we ... take their expressions and their terminology," Jolivette said.
San Fransisco-based drag queen and "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Honey Mahogany also had a problem with Thiel's project.
"Queer people and people of color are constantly being pushed out. It seems like giving people who already have a leg up, more of a leg up," Mahogany told The Guardian.