LGBT Places Reviewed: San Francisco, CA

By Emelina Minero

Queer people are everywhere, but queer communities and scenes aren’t always evident everywhere you go. If you’re planning on traveling somewhere for a gay ‘ol time, read our column “LGBT Places Reviewed” to check out our queer reviews of places we’ve traveled to. Here is my queer review of San Francisco, CA and the greater Bay Area.

San Francisco, CA

Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

Golden Gate Bridge. Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

The two largest qualms I’ve heard about San Francisco are that San Fran lacks a strong queer community and that San Fran caters to gay men. I disagree with the first statement. I believe San Francisco has a great queer community. The Castro district does largely cater to gay men, but it’s still enjoyable and there’s a lot more to queer SF and the Bay Area than the Castro district.

The experience you will have at any place you’re visiting will be based on your attitude. Some queer communities and cultures may be more your style than others, but if you’re open, friendly and bring a positive attitude, then you can have a great time at any place.

The best time of the year to experience a lot of gay in San Francisco is during Pride month, June. San Francisco Pride is only a weekend long, but queer events are ongoing all month. That being said, there is so much queerness year-round in San Francisco, you just have to find it. The more you immerse yourself in the offline and online queer world of San Francisco, the more the community will open up to you.

Me, Emelina Minero, at San Francisco Pride 2011.

Me, Emelina Minero, at San Francisco Pride 2011.

I interviewed filmmaker Desiree Akhavan a few years back. She’s from New York. When she came down to San Francisco for the first time she told me that when she got off the street car into the Castro district and saw the rainbow flags lining down the buildings all along the street, she started to cry. That was her first time seeing so much queerness out in the open.

In June, 2012, I interviewed Swedish filmmaker Josefine Tengblad. I asked her what the difference was between Swedish and U.S. queer culture. She compared Stockholm to San Francisco, saying that Sweden has equal rights and it’s an open country, in terms of legality, but that you don’t see gay people comfortably out in the open in Stockholm, like you do in San Francisco.

You walk around here and people are holding hands. You see gay people everywhere. You don’t do that in Sweden. It’s open, but it’s not. Me and my girlfriend when we kiss in the streets people stop and they are like, “Oh my god!” It happens all the time. If you’re sitting in the car kissing, somebody, usually men, younger men, they honk.

San Francisco has its’ gay neighborhood, the Castro, but a lot of San Francisco is gay. If you walk anywhere around the city and have the slightest gaydar ability, you’ll likely see gay people.

SF Pride 2011. I was on the muni on the way to the Dyke March and I saw this awesome person with their great rainbow hairdo.

SF Pride 2011. I was on the muni on the way to the Dyke March and I saw this awesome person with their great rainbow hairdo.

During June, gay people influx from the corners of the world to San Francisco. Riding the street car during any part of the day, you’ll see notable amounts of queer people, especially during Pride weekend. San Francisco hosts the largest Pride in the states, boasting about 500,000 people each year, with a record breaking one million people in 2013 after it was announced that Prop 8 was overturned.

The Castro District extends down Market street toward Church street. Outside of the Castro, you’ll find a lot of queer places and people all over, in the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, Dolores Park and elsewhere. Also, the greater Bay Area is filled with queerness.

Dolores Park, Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

Dolores Park. Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

San Francisco has its shadiness too, just like New York, and probably most big urban cities. During my sister’s bachelorette party in one of the gay neighborhoods, she went out with a friend to pick up pizzas for the evening while my other sister and I decorated the hotel room to surprise her. When they got back they told us that drug addicts followed them a couple streets catcalling them and asking for their pizzas. All big cities will have a mixed bag of experiences, as long as you’re aware of your surroundings and paired up if you’re in shady areas at night, then you’ll have a good time.

And let’s not forget, San Francisco and the greater Bay Area have a thousand and one tourist attractions, like the the California Academy of Sciences.

California Academy of Sciences, Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

California Academy of Sciences. Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

And Muir Woods.

Muir Woods, Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

Muir Woods. Photo Credit: Ramona Minero

Queer Events in San Francisco and the Bay Area

Happy Hour & Free Wine Tasting – May 28, San Francisco. This event is part of a weekly queer female meetup in San Francisco hosted by a friend. The meetup is every week, but the location and activities change.

The Time Is Now: Youth Empowerment Summit – May 31, Oakland. The Time Is Now: Youth Empowerment Summit seeks to empower LGBTQ youth of color ages 13-24 to become leaders in their communities. If you’re not a youth, you can volunteer.

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus – upcoming performances from June 25-27.

PlayNice Productions, Inc – PlayNice is a nonprofit and event company that hosts events year-round in the Bay Area that are inclusive to the entire queer community. They also host volunteer opportunities and a basketball camp for youth.

Hick: A Love Story, the Romance of Lorena Hickok & Eleanor Roosevelt – July 10-27, San Francisco. Terry Baum, lesbian playwright uses Eleanor Roosevelt’s letters and Lorena Hick’s own writing to recreate Hick’s life.

Frameline Film Festival – June 19-29, San Francisco. Founded in 1977, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival is the longest-running, largest and most widely recognized LGBT film exhibition event in the world

San Francisco Pride – June 28 & 29. SF Pride is the largest Pride in the states. They’ve had Lady Gaga and Karmin perform on the Mainstage in past years, and have 23 community stages and venues, such as TRANS: THRIVE Pavilion, Queer Youth Space, Women’s Stage, Leather Alley, Steamworks Latin Stage, Faerie Freedom Village, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Gathering Space, Clean and Sober Space and Asian & Pacific Islander Community Pride Stand and Pavilion.

San Francisco Dyke March – June 28. This year’s theme is Dykepocalyplse: Our Feminist Awakening.

San Francisco Trans March – June 27. The San Francisco Trans March is SF’s largest transgender Pride event and one of the largest trans events in the world.

The Castro Theatre – San Francisco. They play films and sing-a-longs year-round, and the theatre is gorgeous.

MyCastro.com – A great website about news and events going on in the Castro District.

QueerList.org – A listing of events in the SF Bay Area.

Autostraddle’s Queer Girl City Guide: San Francisco – a great guide for navigating San Francisco if you’re planning to move there.

There’s a lot going on in the Bay Area, meetup.com, Facebook and google are all great resources to find out what’s going on.

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