A day in the Castro

February 17, 2015

We love the Castro!

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.


Rainbow crosswalk is way cool!

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:

20150117_143804Do 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.

20150117_144031Milk 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.

20150117_143415This enthusiastic young woman was part of a group riding their bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research. Oh, they were hooting and hollering and laughing!

20150117_143408They’re having way too much fun!

20150117_143532We 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!

20150117_143137The 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.

20150117_143132Sex 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…)

20150117_143154Oh, here’s another one-liner. So clever.

I think this is the oldest bar in the in the Castro–30+ years in that location.

moby dickAnd nearby:


20150117_154720No worries, this is actually a speakeasy called Bourbon and Branch. Yes, speakeasies are back in fashion.

But the sidewalk carried us on to the long literary history of gay men:

This tribute to Baldwin, embedded in the sidewalk.

Don’t forget, too, that the gay community has always had an eye for beauty.
20150117_142837I’m posting these purple tulips in honor of lesbians, whose color is lavender. Ladies, I adore you!

kale lovely

Kale: pretty and good for you!

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.

20150117_144001The reference here is African nations, but it was so unusual I had to include it.

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?


19 comments on “A day in the Castro
  1. Roz Warren says:

    Not since I lived in the area back in the late 70s. Now that my son and his wife are living in the Bay area, I’m going to be able to spend time there again. Let’s have coffee in the Castro the next time I’m in town!

  2. I’ve been to San Francisco so many times but have
    never been to the Castro. I’ve just added it to my list for next time. Thanks Carol!

  3. Bonnie Moore says:

    I moved from the Haight Ashbury to the Castro in 1973 when the gay population was slowing coming out and moving in. Ate at the Sausage Factory many times on Castro Street! Some of my best friends….finally settled down in Noe Valley for many years as an urban hippie.

    Life goes on…friends died of AIDS…being gay became mainstream, and I am old an grey now. Thanks for the memories!

  4. Hi Carol! Yes to having fun and strolling the Castro District! We live near Palm Springs and it too is a place where gay and lesbians feel free to be themselves. I think in so many areas of the country and the world they must resist that urge so when they have the freedom to let loose they really do.

    And as you say they don’t have that freedom or acceptance in other places including the internet. The day I posted the link to my post (below) I immediately received three “unsubscribes”….one even said “unsubscribe immediately!” It was clear that they didn’t read any further than the title to the post. Just like with women’s rights, we come a long way but there is still a long way to go…. ~Kathy

  5. chuck house says:

    For reasons I cannot remember, my wife and I took my parents to the Castro for one of the great gay parades circa 1988; I thought my dad was going to have a coronary.

    For current shock value, I would recommend seeing The Imitation Game, the recent movie about Alan Turing’s life. In ‘merry ole England’ homosexuality was a crime for most of the 20th century; Turing was forced to endure chemical castration, and committed suicide at age 41–one of the great minds of the computing age. Google just raised the ante on the annual ACM Turing Award to $1 million, to signify its primal importance for computer science.

    The postscript to the movie notes that 49,000 men were incarcerated or forced to have the castration during the 1950s in England. It further notes that Queen Elizabeth FINALLY was able to offer a pardon, in 2013 no less, for Turing, whose efforts almost single-handedly (if we believe the movie) saved World War II for the Allies.

    • I saw it, Chuck. It took me 10 full minutes to stop sobbing.

      • chuck house says:

        the irony of the ‘inhumane’ Germans bombing London, this guy working to save the place, and at every turn (within the context of his work) he was attacked and pilloried, and then to add insult to injury, the inhumanity of England toward his ‘affliction’ is just too much

        P.S. Even here in rural Elderwood, despite the reports of a homophobic Porterville riot, the mood is very much ‘whatever your persuasion is your business, not ours’ from what we’ve experienced (including some active discussions after the movie.

        • In Denny’s the other night I sat adjacent to four men who were in CAT hats and looked like rednecks. They were talking among themselves about being in a restroom with someone whose gender was unidentifiable. “Were they transgender?” one asked. “Did you say anything?” The response: “No, I didn’t want to embarass them.” Another man said “You did the right thing.” Unexpected sensitivity and kindness in people we’d made assumptions about. Michael looked at me and said “only in California.”

  6. Diane says:

    Never, I’m sad to say! But I love San Francisco and I must make a note to visit this fascinating spot on my next visit!

  7. Ines Roe says:

    Love Love Love San Francisco – did I leave my heart there?
    Your photos are wonderful and make me miss that wonderful place

  8. Carolann says:

    My daughter’s best friends just got married on Sunday which was so amazing for us to celebrate. We knew them both since my daughter was in grammar school. Both young ladies are two of the most wonderful women we know and love. It makes my heart smile reading this post. Sometimes, all if right with the world!

  9. Lana says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. But somehow I have missed this wonderful area. Will definitely make it a point to visit next time I’m there. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. What a great addition to this terrific San Francisco tour! I can’t wait to visit everywhere. You have shown me so many things that I wouldn’t normally see. I’ve really enjoyed it.

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