Wounded Pride

Despite its reputation, gay-friendly San Francisco is still a tough place for teens to come out.

"I don't know, dude. How come you don't like dick?"

"'Cause I'm not gay."

"I'm not straight."

Watch a video of artist Scott Bakal creating this week's cover for "Wounded Pride."
Watch a video of artist Scott Bakal creating this week's cover for "Wounded Pride."
Rafique Franks transferred schools after facing bullying for dressing as a female.
Josh Edelson
Rafique Franks transferred schools after facing bullying for dressing as a female.

"Girls are supposed to like that," Rene lobbed back, still not convinced. "If I was a girl, I would like it. ... For you it's more like an emotional thing?"

"An emotional thing? Yeaaaah," Fallas said, uncertain. "I guess."

"I mean, that's good," Rene allowed.

Fallas asked about Kristi, her prom date, on whom Rene had a crush.

"She's pretty as hell," he said. "She's too much for me."

"Yeah, that she is," Fallas said.

"If I were her type of guy, maaaan —"

"What is her type of guy?" Fallas asked, "You know she's," she paused, choosing her words, "more into girls now, right?"

"I don't give a fuck. If I were her type of guy, I'd do everything I can. I'd buy her roses every day, I'd fuckin' –"

"Nah, nah," Fallas cut him off. "You ain't gonna change nobody, man. There's no changin' nobody. It ain't worth it."

After Rene left, Fallas said, "They'll be respectful about it. They don't say anything fucked up about it. It's just that they're curious."

With her parents, it's a different story. Fallas was an extra in the recent movie La Mission, in which the macho Latino father, played by Benjamin Bratt, finally accepts his gay teen son. It can happen: Carla Moreno's mom even marched with her in the Pride parade last year. Yet Fallas isn't so sure about her own family.

"She always gives me this spiel of 'Your dad and I didn't raise you this way,' and I'm like, 'You didn't raise me to be happy?' I'm not doing anything wrong."

On a recent Thursday night, Fallas buttoned up a blue plaid shirt over her solid frame and pulled on her baseball cap. In her bedroom, the Justin Timberlake poster still hung on the wall to fake out her grandma who often sleeps over. "She'd have a heart attack. She's super-religious." Her friend, Enrique, a gay boy from the Bayview, came over and they picked up another friend, Alyssa, who could pass as Fallas' twin in her almost identical plaid shirt, loose jeans, and baseball cap. They drove to City Nights, the gigantic blue box of a nightclub in SOMA; downed some vodka-and-cranberry cocktails in the car; and headed inside to greet the pounding music.

Every Thursday is the Crib, an 18-and-up LGBTQ club night. Fallas comes every other week. "At straight clubs, the men are just staring at you," she says. "At gay clubs, it's about having a good time." The music videos playing on the screen above the packed dancefloor were the club's only injection of heterosexuality — Katy Perry beckoning to Snoop Dogg in "California Gurls," Beyoncé belting out "Put a Ring on It," though it's still uncertain when the young people here will be able to do so in California. But no one was thinking about such heavy stuff that night. The place hummed with the energy of youth, sex, and acceptance as Fallas joined the orgy of indiscriminate grinding on the dancefloor — with butches, with femmes, with gay boys, with five or six other young people in a queer conga line. When the place closed at 2 a.m., she left with two girls' numbers.

The three piled back into Alyssa's car and Fallas rolled down the passenger window as she spotted a 19-year-old gay friend, Richie, walking away from the club. Richie was jumped last year near the Metreon by punks calling him a faggot, and the memory brought out Fallas' protective streak: "Richie, text me when you get home!" she called. As they sped away from the haven of the gay club, the realities of the real world sank in again.

"Take off your hat," Alyssa told Fallas as she drove down Folsom.


"So we don't get racially profiled," Alyssa says, insinuating that the hat could get Fallas mistaken for a young thug. "We're in the Mission."

Just blocks away from the house where Fallas still fights for acceptance from her parents is the place where Rafique Franks has finally found it. During freshman year, bouncing between girl and boy, between foster homes and her sister's place, Franks would often head to the Bayview extension library on Third Street to escape the drama. (Well, maybe also to chat with a certain boy who liked to read manga.)

One day, Franks flipped through a magazine photo spread of an androgynous model, exclaiming, "She looks like a man!" A librarian named Wendy overheard her and asked, "So what if she looks like a man?" Franks was amused, and started talking with Wendy on every visit. Eventually, Franks came by to check whether Wendy was working; if not, she'd leave.

Eventually, Franks decided to pop the question to Wendy: "Would you adopt me?"

These days, Franks lives with Wendy and her female partner in their Mission flat, her bedroom decorated by a poster — of herself — and a math table her "moms" hung. The foster parents have given her the stability to plot a future. Franks would like to work after graduating from high school to save up money for her gender reassignment surgery, and eventually go to college.

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