I jumped into philanthropy when my father’s death triggered the start of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation in 2007. He left behind bylaws, a starter board, three giving areas, and an incredible gift. Over the last 14 years, I built the Rainin Foundation, investing in important levers in early literacy education in Oakland, Bay Area film and performing arts, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease research.
In 2009, I married the love of my life, Frances Stevens. I knew she’d created Curve magazine, the best-selling lesbian publication, but didn’t fully understand her impact on the LGBTQ+ women’s community. Frances was so compelled to connect lesbians and tell our stories that when the banks denied her loan request (she was 21 years old and living in her car), she cashed out a dozen credit cards, went to the horse track, and won enough to launch her magazine.
Curve launched in 1991 in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The politics were Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and there were virtually no out female celebrities (Ellen DeGeneres didn’t come out until 1997). Women were often bashed, lost their children, and sometimes their lives by coming out.
Curve intentionally featured diverse LGBTQ+ women when positive media representation was scarce. Although Curve highlighted culture, music, and politics, the magazine was often filed in the pornography section or confiscated at the border because it declared “lesbian” on the cover. But Curve’s subscriber base grew like wildfire. Queer women were thrilled to see themselves reflected positively and many felt connected to community for the first time.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
As a filmmaker, I thought Frances’s story would make a great movie so I started writing the screenplay. But in my research, I realized how poorly documented queer women’s history has been, so I pivoted to film a documentary, AHEAD OF THE CURVE.
During filming, the current publisher told Frances that Curve was struggling and asked her to help reimagine the magazine to continue its mission. The Curve Foundation was conceived to empower lesbians, queer women, trans women, and non-binary people of all races and ages to share our stories, connect and raise visibility. Frances and I donated Curve magazine and committed $1 million to seed the venture.
A FOUNDATION FOR LGBTQ+ WOMEN
The Curve Foundation has a big year planned. We have hired our first Executive Director to create strategic, innovative, and pioneering programs in partnership with the foundation’s racially inclusive Advisory Council, chaired by former National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell.
Our initial program with NLGJA: The Association of LQBTQ Journalists has created the Curve Award for Emerging Journalists focused on LGBTQ+ women’s stories. We are building a searchable archive of the 30 years of Curve magazine to document the history and voices of the lesbian movement. The seeds of many current cultural conversations around identity, race, inclusion, and rights can be found in the early Curve articles. No other existing resource so fully documents queer women’s past and present.
Visibility and representation are the most powerful tools to protect LGBTQ+ women, and my wife knew this 30 years ago. Her work moved the nation forward socially and politically by creating space, visibility, and empathy for anyone who identified as lesbian. The film AHEAD OF THE CURVE chronicles her journey from the ‘90s to today. It will release widely on June 1, introducing The Curve Foundation to the world to continue Frances’s critical work into the future.
JOY AND GRATITUDE
I’m filled with gratitude to be in a position to amplify Curve’s work and support LGBTQ+ women. Although building and running the Kenneth Rainin Foundation has been an extraordinary gift, it has largely been about honoring my father’s legacy. The Curve Foundation is squarely centered on queer women, the community I feel deeply aligned with. That focus brings me unbridled joy.
I joined WMM shortly before the pandemic and have been fortunate to attend several California regional zoom calls. I’ve left each one energized and inspired, connected to at least one new remarkable woman. Even in this socially distant environment, I feel supported by the WMM community. I can’t wait to participate in the Annual Summits and share my journey with The Curve Foundation!