SF DAY 7 – It’s all about the gays

“Look how she rocks that hair! ”

“I know, honey! You go, babycakes.”

Okay, this is my favorite place in the universe. It might also be the gayest. Literally.

The Castro is a historic LGBT neighborhood in San Francisco. Everything is rainbow-colored and sex-punned. A nail salon called The Hand Job, a restaurant named The Sausage Factory. Fact: gays love puns. Doing a little research, I am told the Castro is considered the stronghold of the Old Gays, while Mission is home to the young and queer.

The GLBT museum situates the start of San Francisco’s reputation for sexual liberation at the Gold Rush, bringing hundreds of thousand of young men to the city, who didn’t really care what society wanted of them as long as they could satisfy their urges. The tradition of non-conformism continued on the the end of WWII, when non-cooperative (read: gay, communist, generally rebel) soldiers coming back from the war were unceremoniously unloaded on the coast of SF as a punishment. Oh what a punishment indeed to find yourself in a place that will harbor and accept your way of life.

Anyway, the community more or less doubled and flourished, invested itself in activism and social change (see: Harvey Milk, first openly gay man to be elected to public office). When AIDS started to appear, the LGBT community of San Francisco was one of the first to rally around HIV positive people and organize protests against the government’ s failure to react and communicate properly, as well as the profiting pharmaceutical companies. ACT UP/San Francisco became so big at one point that it had to split between different factions with differing but complementary missions.

Anyway: LGBT is big in SF. Who in the world doesn’t know that?

It’s a pleasure and a comfort just taking in the sun-soaked, rainbow-colored streets and the people lurking about. It’s a nice neighborhood, pretty pastel houses and large stoops people sit on to catch up on gossip. I learn that Kaylee fell off her high heels last night. Poor Kaylee. I hang out at Human Rights Campaign Action Center for a while, as the owner tells me about his time in Belgium during the Vietnam war. He’s now happily married and living in the Castro. How many lives are inside one man?

This is pretty cool, but where are my queers at? I take the M line to 18th St. I don’t let myself be distracted: I’ll definitely come back here to check out Dolores Park. I take a million pictures of the Women’s Building and its paintings of diverse goddesses of womanhood and fertility, and the ever-changing murals of Clarion Alley

Most are a critique of the current political climate or an exhortation to unite against capitalism, which floats my boat just fine.

Valencia and Mission Streets: taquerias, smoke shops and hipster barbershops. Historically, a harbor for lesbians of all horizons. I stop at Dolores Park Cafe for a latte and an egg sandwich, which I don’t eat because I’m not a fan of eggs. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, I know. Before I leave this place, I shop at Bi-Rite, a community store slash deli that specializes in local, organic produces. Honestly, it’s a haven of wonderful local food. I want to eat the whole store. I leave the store with mac and cheese, roasted carrots, a southern spices cupcake, a bottle of hard cider and stars in my eyes.

Tonight I’m spending time buried in a comfy armchair with my organic food and the saints of Bicho Raro.

BOOK CREDITS: All the Crooked Saints – Maggie Stiefvater