There’s no place like The Castro (district) in San Francisco, not even Greenwich Village (which is hallowed ground, thanks to the 1969 Stonewall riots that began the rebellion against repression and police raids against gays. Honestly, it boggles my mind that police were concerned about gay men’s sex lives.)
The Castro is not so much hallowed ground as it is a celebration of being authentic–who you are as a gay person–out and proud and living life like anyone else. Today that seems like a no-brainer, but not that long ago, the closet was still a safe hiding place for many gay people. Here in California, the closet is an anachronism, at least in most places. Certainly in urban areas.
So it’s hard for me to remember that the closet’s still firmly in place in many other parts of the country. But less and less so. Which is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, it still exists. And that makes me sad, angry, frustrated and incredulous all at once. Which is why I love being in the Castro, where gay life is celebrated. And who better to hang out with on a sunny, gay day than my gay husband, Gregory.
This is a crosswalk in the Castro.
There’s no end to clever marketing in the gay community. Can anyone quip better than a gay man? I don’t think so. Here’s one example:
Do you know about Harvey Milk? When he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors he became the first openly gay politician to be elected. And that was in 1977, some eight years after Stonewall in NYC. San Francisco was progressive before there was a word for it.
Milk was murdered in 1978 by a crazy man, a supervisor who had resigned but wanted his seat back. The guy, Dan White, also killed George Moscone. Although Milk is considered a martyr, he wasn’t killed because he was gay. White was just unbalanced. Had Milk lived, I feel certain he would have achieved great things in his political career. As his last campaign manager said:
“What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”
Milk received the Presidential Medal of Freedom” posthumously in 2009. And he’s honored still in San Francisco with the plaza, above.
As we moved on, we met other activists.
We stopped a moment to learn about their project. We had the opportunity to tell them about the years G and I spent as volunteers in the HIV community, to thank them for being the new generation carrying the flag forward, then gave them a bit of money.
Later, we discussed how far we’d come since the days when HIV was a definite death sentence. Today, we have many friends living full lives with the disease. Back in the day, the conservative right wing had a real problem even saying the word. Part of it is that HIV can be transmitted by sex. S-E-X!
The gay community celebrates sex like none other. They talk openly about it, advertise sex toys in shop windows and generally have it more than any other group of people, I think. They are, after all, men. They do not require a commitment to enjoy themselves or someone else.
Sex is a recreational activity in the gay community, while many religious fundamentalists believe it’s only for procreation. It’s one reason conservative fundamentalists have issues with gays. But not the only reason. It’s “unnatural” and “forbidden by the Bible.” Blah-blah-blah (covering my ears). That’s all bullshi t.
I say to them, “lighten up and have a little fun!” (I think maybe they’d need a whole lot of lube, though…)
I think this is the oldest bar in the in the Castro–30+ years in that location.
But the sidewalk carried us on to the long literary history of gay men:
And look what I saw, also purple–do you know what this is?
Yes, this is kale. Another shopper and I were exclaiming over its beauty, and he laughed: “Always nice to be able to eat your floral arrangement when you’re done with it!”
Some things in the Castro are…puzzling.
No visit to San Francisco is complete without a stroll through the Castro. I was happy to revisit it with Gregory and reminisce about the good times we’d had there in years past. His memory remains not only intact, but perfect. Mine, not so much.
So, been to the Castro?