Moving to gay San Francisco, 20 years ago
The other: leftover flyers and stickers protesting then-governor Pete Wilson's heinous Prop 187, which would deny undocumented immigrants healthcare, education, and social services. Like many young queers, AIDS and the recent Gulf War had radicalized me, but I was too young and isolated to really find my protest voice. Here was evidence of the politically expressive, multicultural gay community I was yearning to join.
Though there were some rough times ahead, I soon found a loving family twirling on the floor at the EndUp, running off zines at Kinko's, protesting in the Mission, hustling the Polk, shelving books at Green Apple, singing along at the Fillmore, sleeping in Golden Gate Park. I said tragic goodbyes to a lot of friends, burned through a few bright loves, went to grad school, ran a bookstore, connected with my spiritual side, edited a famous gay dating site, wrote a book, got married.... Oh my god my life did become a Grateful Dead song after all.
Is this kind of life-defining SF experience available to young queers now? Those of us who lived through AIDS know, survivor guilt is very real. I feel it coming on now from being able to hold on so long in San Francisco. Everytime I hit up my Facebook or duck into a bar, I learn someone else, another vital spirit, is fleeing this hyper-expensive town for somewhere with a diversified job market that can support creative growth and personal exploration. When I see a young person arrive full of hope, even one with a job at Google, it's hard not to react cynically — up to a third of our homeless population is LGBT, and that includes hundreds of youth. Our arts and music scene is undergoing profound transformation, and the tech world has turned away from freaks and geeks toward slick Ivy League degrees.
But then I'll see someone post something that makes me cry with joy. "Fuck that noise about moving. I'm not giving up that easy, San Francisco. I still believe in you!" Right on, sister. We all need to fight for that dream.
Marke B. is the publisher of the Bay Guardian