While it's subject to the same macroeconomic forces, the East Bay is luring away many queers. Artist Mike Ojeda jumped across the bay because "so much maneuvering was required in order to enjoy the simple things. The magic of walking in a neighborhood, or going to a park to explore, seemed to always be overshadowed by an influx of douchebaggery. San Francisco became super-straight, and the weirdoes I was so excited to see when I first moved there were gone. I made the decision to land in East Oakland, and often wonder why I hadn't done it sooner." There is also an exodus to Los Angeles and Chicago — a huge, cosmopolitan city that is cheap compared to San Francisco. (It's 28 percent cheaper, according to The New York Times, which is partly why Ojeda has since moved there.)

But gentrification is not a Bay Area-specific problem. Cities with historically large LGBT populations are increasingly the most sought after. Places like Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, D.C., have seen dramatic population growth since 2000, in most cases after 50 years of stagnation or decline. More Americans want to live in cool cities than ever, but gay people would seem to need those cities and their gay ghettoes less and less.

While the bursting of the tech bubble and any subsequent real estate collapse would neither instantly undo everything nor transpire without creating major problems of its own, it might propel San Francisco in unforeseeable directions. Since the city's future seems to be one of ever-escalating wealth — the U.S. population increases by three million people a year, and there are still only so many pretty Victorians to compete over — it's possible that LGBT San Francisco may ossify into a heritage tourist destination first, and a place to live in second. That is, unless one is extremely wealthy.

The venerable Eagle Tavern's two-year closure got national attention in the gay press. If San Francisco couldn't sustain an Eagle, what city could?
Dan Schreiber
The venerable Eagle Tavern's two-year closure got national attention in the gay press. If San Francisco couldn't sustain an Eagle, what city could?
Erin O'Neill has lived in the Mission Dolores area since 1982.
Courtesy of Erin
Erin O'Neill has lived in the Mission Dolores area since 1982.

Christopher Kingery, technology program manager at Airbnb — and a regular Airbnb host — sees the risk, and strives for stability in a neighborhood in flux. While short-term rentals have been associated with displacements and housing scarcity, Kingery remains in his home while hosting guests, and shepherds them around. "If you look on almost every corner, there's a high-rise that's going up," he says. "And they're not cheap. They're creating all this inventory, and it's creating an influx of people. I don't know who those people are going to be — but more than likely: straight, techy-y guys and gals. I think that'll change the face of the Castro a little bit, but they'll live here.

Still, Kingery is concerned about what the future might look like. "I don't want the culture to be consumed by this gentrification of the neighborhood, and I think that's what's happening," he says. "Folsom Street Fair used to be wild, and now people are pushing kids in strollers."

As the Haight is something of a museum of past Haight-ness, so too might the Castro and SoMa become places where LGBT people BART in for the Frameline film festival or Pink Saturday, or fly in for the Folsom Street Fair, before returning to wherever they make their homes, much like Catholics who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.

Abramson, the early AIDS doctor and a 50-year Castro resident, feels the parallel acutely: "It already started," he says. The rainbow crosswalk stripes, sidewalk widening, and Gay Walk of Fame are "to attract tourists. They're making it a draw. It's always been a draw for gay people, but they want all of the tourists to come in here."

But while Abramson is no fan of condos per se, he doesn't see the immediate neighborhood's gay character under assault. In his experience, the Castro "has always been about 50 percent gay. I know all my neighbors. They know I'm gay. There's lots of straights on my particular block. It's cute." San Francisco might become a giant B&B, a Palm Springs or Provincetown writ large. Or maybe even that's too optimistic. As Bus Station John laments, "Go to Polk Street now, on a weekend night. It's one of the cradles of gay San Francisco and it's as if it never existed."

Yet every large-scale cultural trend contains at least a nugget of its opposite. Same-sex marriage might turn out to be something of a boomlet, as the rush of seeing couples who've been together for 50 years marry wears off, and gay Millennials (and whatever generation comes after them) fall back into phase with the wider discontent with traditional institutions. Heterosexual marriage rates, except among the highly affluent, are falling, and once it becomes commonplace, gay marriage may follow.

As political homophobia falls away — and with more than 80 percent of Americans under 30 supporting marriage equality and gay adoption, there is evidence it will — new generations of gays might not be so inclined to follow the marriage script. And not everyone who lived through the bad old days is rushing to wed, either.

Abramson is somewhat dismissive of same-sex nuptials. "The only reason I can think of for gays to get married is tax purposes," he says. Monogamy is hardly the only path, either. Will is openly polyamorous — openly as in "out and proud," as well as "in an open poly relationship" — and Kingery has hosted "throuples" through Airbnb. Same-sex marriage might become normal without becoming the only norm.

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24 comments
dblplus1
dblplus1

I would examine that dog poop a little more closely and realize that it could very well be human. 


I doubt an earthquake is going to chase techies away. They'll just get an Air BnB and rebuild because they have the money to do it.  


If the Castro is to become the "Hollywood Boulevard" of LGBT history, at least with the Rainbow crosswalks and sidewalk of fame there ought to still be those chalk body outlines with the names of the bashed and fallen so that the tourists (and residents) understand at what cost the Pottery Barn and Starbucks flourish. 

StevenEden
StevenEden

It was the Atlanta Eagle that was raided in 2009, not Dallas.

Lydia Sigo
Lydia Sigo

Blah blah blah, shut up! Gay people gave us electronic dance music, fashion etc. I don't think their culture is going to die off

Manuel Francisco Seminario
Manuel Francisco Seminario

Nope it's only the beginning; the beginning of many a great things to come. Who knows maybe one day a woman will run for president and win .

Moe Fuggin Rowland
Moe Fuggin Rowland

What kind of stupid ass question is that? Do poorly written articles with lame subject headlines mean the end for journalism? Obviously not cause you guy's are still in business.

paul.urban
paul.urban

Has the author actually left San Francisco and toured "fly over" country between here and NYC?  I just returned to SF after living in the south and midwest for 17 years and I can tell you that homophobia and transphobia are alive and well in most of the United States.  Citing statistics that are based on self reporting is misleading. Any student knows that such statistics have as much as a 50% error rate.   I believe that Americans want to say that they are more accepting of LGBTQ when in reality, they live their day to day lives full of prejudice in most of the United States.  Furthermore, alcohol serving bars, in general, have seen a decline in the past 30 years because fewer and fewer people are drinking.  Thus, the rise of coffee houses to replace the gin joint.  Stand outside of Starbucks on 18th in Castro any day of the week and you will find a crowd of mostly gay men socializing. I echo what many commentors have said before me, we would still have a growing, vibrant LGBTQ in the Castro if it wasn't for wealthy techies buying up real estate in the area and evicting us.  Frankly, I don't like the street widening that is occurring on Castro because I don't want to attract anymore heterosexual gawkers to my neighborhood than we already have.

adelacuba
adelacuba

San Francisco will always be the safe ground for queers. All we need is an earthquake and all the techies and supposedly straights will be running out like little girls. I remember Loma Prieta in '89. I for will stay here till my last day and if any person has a problem with it ... well write the supervisors. Pride is coming and those new in town will feel the heat and mean the queer heat.

adelacuba
adelacuba

San Francisco will always be the safe ground for queers. All we need is an earthquake and all the techies and supposedly straights will be running out like little girls. I remember Loma Prieta in '89. I for will stay here till my last day and if any person has a problem with it ... well write the supervisors. Pride is coming and those new in town will feel the heat and mean the queer heat.

bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

I'm honestly not excited about the fact ppl wanna push gays to the Windy city! Let them stay over there in San Francisco and such

drunner2
drunner2

This was a really interesting piece. Kinda wished there was a more direct comparison with other cities like Chicago or Houston (New York's demographics would be a bit off by sheer numbers). But good article regardless. Keep up the good work. 

red.marcy.rand
red.marcy.rand topcommenter

Let's hope so ! You people are getting to be very boring. By the way Prop 8 was 20 points behind in the polls but still won. Homosexuals are simply another obnoxious statist pressure group. I could care less about what happens to them.

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

"America is getting more inclusive"  That's one view of it.  More deviant, pleasure seeking, and fractured is another.

nunyabidniz
nunyabidniz

Well, there's always Detroit & Chicago.  Both are in great need of an influx of gays.  There's also, in the SFBA - Richmond, Vallejo, Stockton & Martinez.  They are in need of a huge gay influx.  Well?  Go ahead please move and help these places improve.

aliasetc
aliasetc topcommenter

Time for the "gays" to find somewhere else. How about Kansas or Iowa? You ain't wanted or needed in frisco!

Chris
Chris

@paul.urban I live very close to the Castro and I visit friends and businesses there quite often, both during the daytime and at night.  There is no "queer flight" (although the pigeons roosting in the Muni station can make some funny swoops).  The Castro is a predominately gay neighborhood (I say "gay" because I do not believe woman and transgender individuals are as well represented there as they should be), and it is just as vibrant as ever.  As for "heterosexual gawkers," get over yourself, you are not that interesting. 


Also, I have friends and relatives in "flyover" country, and while one can find intolerant people there, if you open your eyes and your mind, you will find many people who are loving and accepting of LGBTQ people, too.  (And surprise, here in SF, you can find homophobes, too--every single homophobic assault I have ever suffered has been right here in SF--including even in the Castro--long before the techies moved to town).  

Chris
Chris

@adelacuba I remember Loma Prieta, too.  Perhaps, you should jog your memory since it seems hazy.  There was no great mass exodus of population after the earthquake.   


Also, even at the height of the gay population in the very early 1980's in SF, the city has  been had a very accepting, but majority straight population.  LGBTQ are just part of the wonderful mix in SF.   


Get over yourself.  The City is lovely and beautiful as ever--and LGBTQ people are  a part of it.  Drop the defensive attitude and live and let live!

paul.urban
paul.urban

Gee Chris, read my post again. Did I say they were staring at me? I stand by my personal experience that all one needs to do is open one's eyes while standing on the corner of 18th and Castro and watch the tour busses and endless parade of heterosexual tourists from middle america. If you open your ears too, you will be treated to the occasional comment, "I ain't never seen anything like this back home!". I also didn't say every last person in flyover country is homophobic but I do believe from 17 years of living amongst them that the majority are homophobic and I can site a couple of job losses and being the victim of a hate crime in a small Ohio town as proof. I never said nor implied that 100% of San Franciscans are accepting of lgbtq people and most of cow hollow voting for prop 8 proves that. Furthermore, I never said that lgbtq people were leaving Castro end masse but I did say that we are being disproportionately evicted via the Ellis act. It seems to me that you just wanted someone to argue with this morning and I got to be the target.

paul.urban
paul.urban

Gee Chris, now you've told two of us commentors to "get over ourselves". Heed your own advice. Go have a cup of coffee and a good bowel movement. Seems like you sure need one!

 
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