The LGBTQIA+ history in the San Francisco Bay Area is proud, prominent, and prestigious. San Francisco has trailblazed countless steps forward for the LGBTQIA+ community. With the city’s first gay bar opening in 1908, its inauguration of the Gay Pride Parade in 1970, and the creation of the renowned rainbow flag by artists in 1978—a history of LGBTQIA+ advocacy acts as a bedrock of San Francisco’s diverse culture and identity.

As an organization that began in San Francisco in 1889, Felton Institute has witnessed leading steps toward progress for gay rights, periods of tremendous heartbreak, and continuous evolution of equality. Felton Institute is more than just a bystander in the LGBTQIA+ movement—our organization’s history is interwoven and ever connected to the many LGBTQIA+ residents that live and flourish in our community.


Bernard Mayes, an openly gay Anglican priest, establishes the San Francisco Suicide Prevention crisis hotline —now an integral program within Felton Institute. Across the country, Mayes builds sanctuaries for LGBTQIA+ communities within universities, community centers, and places of worship. Mayes is later honored by many prestigious institutions for his activism, including the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus.


Felton Institute’s medical director, Dr. Richard Shadoan advocates vigorously to declassify homosexuality as a “sexual deviation” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association alters the classification of homosexuality in the DSM, the beginning of a long and critical path toward de-pathologizing LGBTQIA+ individuals.


Felton Institute’s board president, Donavan Thompson, sits as the first openly gay president of a nonprofit board in the country. At this time, there are nearly one million operating nonprofits in the United States.


Felton Institute becomes the first nonprofit in San Francisco to extend its medical benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. During this process, Felton Institute redefines the official definition of “family” in the employee handbook to include members considered to be part of an employee’s “intentional family”.

Felton Institute’s history of LGBTQIA+ advocacy is interwoven with today’s services, programs, and cultural outlooks. We continue to advocate for the rights of those living in our community—understanding that those who identify as LGBTQIA+ face unwarranted prejudice and significant social obstacles. Every service we provide is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ curriculum that provides competent and culturally responsive material.

Felton Institute is guided by a vision of equity in behavioral health services, where care embodies the client’s whole self, encompassing their culture, beliefs, and expression.

Community engagement and donations are crucial for keeping Felton Institute’s programs alive and operating. Please consider contributing to the services that provide innovative solutions for all community members.

Felton Donation Page


About Felton Institute: Rooted in equity, Felton Institute transforms quality of life and promotes social justice to accelerate community led change. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult and senior needs, Felton Institute provides evidence-based behavioral health and social services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.

Felton Institute can trace its roots back to 1889. The organization is named for its social services pioneer and executive director Dr. Katharine “Kitty” Felton who was called the “conscience of San Francisco” and was committed to ensuring that children and families in crisis have access to social services and resources in order to help them build upon their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency.