It was late summer of 2010, and the economy was still feeling ripples from the financial crisis. Information began to surface that SF Pride, the nonprofit responsible for managing San Francisco’s iconic annual June LGBT Pride event, was falling behind on its commitments. SF Pride was struggling under a significant amount of debt and had almost no cash reserves left. Vendors were hedging commitments to the 2011 event and neither the City of San Francisco nor the usual philanthropic supporters were stepping up to help. There was a very high likelihood that the 2011 SF Pride event, San Francisco’s largest tourism event, would not occur.
Just when things were looking desperate, a true Superhero of Capitalism stepped in — The Dorian Fund. Reflecting the generosity and vision of Joe Gianelli and Bill Wegele, who bequeathed their estate to create a fund that focused on local LGBT community support, The Dorian Fund helped to drive fiscal sustainability as an Impact Investor alongside the new leadership team at SF Pride. The team crafted a low-interest loan program, including discipline around budgets, financial reports, cash flows, and payoff schedules, paving the way for a tremendously successful 2011 event and for SF Pride to regain its financial sustainability.
Impact investors look for profit and purpose across the breadth of the economy including communities, healthcare, social equity, creativity and the arts, climate action, and beyond. They can be Superheroes, delivering much-needed support for important purposes. While The Dorian Fund may be less well known than the X-Men, the Justice League, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), they saved a systemically important institution when others stood by.
Diversity: A superpower
This story reminds me of Jean Grey, the most powerful mutant among the X-Men. While Jean did have a rather more dark side than most people, she did help save the Xavier Institute for Gifted Children. Thinking of other benevolent yet sinister heroes, Thor’s brother Loki, from the planetary body of Asgard, is the god of mischief. He tends to wreak havoc across timelines, but he has an extremely lovable side too. That’s that side that confided to readers about his bisexuality. And it’s the side that is kind and creative, that reminds us of the Jewish singer Debbie Friedman. Her clear, strong voice, inclusive style, and intense conviction helped to revitalize prayer for a generation. Like Loki, Debbie’s work can be magical. Empowering participation, creativity, communication, and diversity are pivotal to good health and productivity. And they are essential in building a more inclusive and regenerative global economy.
Speaking of creative and regenerative, it’s also magical (and profitable) the way Marvel Entertainment is constantly renewing and revitalizing the characters in the MCU. For example, Bobby Drake (Iceman) spent many years as a major character, then finally was outed as gay (by Jean Grey.) The fight for acceptance and social justice has always been the key theme of the X-Men as well. And while it may have been easier for the publishers to keep queer characters on the sidelines, making Iceman gay was a strong statement.
Dramatic action like this highlights how critically important diversity is to capitalism. The preponderance of research shows that diverse groups make better decisions, and diverse staffing and leadership makes for more successful businesses. To that end, there have been few more powerful Superheroes than Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry. Thank goodness Evan had the strength and wisdom to architect the rightful victory for gay couples to marry. Had he not taken on this fight, we may not have learned that the X-Men’s Mystique had married Destiny. Mystique’s openness and the strength she draws from this has made her one of the queer icons of Marvel.
We know that Mystique is a shapeshifter and can change the formation of her cells to assume the form of other humans or animals. But she can’t save those animals from a warming climate, melting icecaps, rampant wildfires, or deadly hurricanes. Iceman might be able to — he has the ability to manipulate ice and water by freezing water vapor around him. So the question is, can he do it alone? Can he control tears?
Not when it comes to tears shed when we lose another Superhero such as Urvashi Vaid. This extraordinary activist, lawyer, thinker, and writer has been a seminal figure in the history of the LGBTQI+ movement. Urvashi passed away last month at the age of 63. Aside from being incredibly charismatic and loving, she was referred to as an “Ideas Machine.” Now that’s a superpower! And while Urv is no longer here, she really is still here for so many people who knew her. As with both Batwoman and Wonder Woman, they died but came back to us to continue their legacies. All are warriors, all are ahead of their time, all are open about their struggles which informed their heroism, and all are a blessing to humanity.