The Castro

The Castro drives me nuts! Twenty-five years of building a “gay neighborhood” have resulted in building nothing more than a “gay marketing plan”, helped along by the so-called gay press (The Advocate, Genre, GQ, Men’s Fitness). The neighborhood strikes me as a sort of package tour aimed at one very strictly-defined type of gay (white) male who reads the right magazines, spends the required hours at the right gym, has the right job, and possesses the necessary cash (or plastic) to carry it off.

Recently, people have been horrified that homeless street urchins, skaters, and panhadlers have invaded “the mall”. I’m all for keeping them there; frankly, they add the only color to the neighborhood (aside from the ubiquitous rainbow flags) and they provide a crucial reminder to the shoppers, the residents, and the tourists that Castro Street is in no real way related to the rest of the world.

Read any mainstream gay magazine and you’ll see what I’m saying. There are no blue collar queers, most certainly no under-employed ones, and (God forbid) no homeless ones. If you’re in a band, it’s dance-pop. If you work the midnight shift at a convenience store, don’t know or care where the nearest gym is, or don’t have a tasteful and well-furnished home, you can’t be in the club.

Leatherfags and most dykes are not invited either, unless they’re discreet and know their respective places. Discussion of having had sex with more than three people in the last year, or in any public place, is not permitted. As a matter of fact, any discussion of sex is frowned upon. Pretty ironic, isn’t it, for a group whose only commonality IS sexual orientation?

I realize that I write from some sense of privilege myself. I’m a white boy, on the cusp between the Boomers and the X-ers, earning a thoroughly middle class living (albeit not at a “prestige” job), and I have pretty much everything I want and need. Maybe it’s liberal guilt, but I don’t think I fit into this package either. I know I don’t WANT to. I wouldn’t know how to do anything but cruise in a gym, and I doubt I’d be successful even at that. I’ve never made a purchase at the Body Shop.

Do not for a moment think that I’m on a “gay culture bores me…I want a straight acting and straight appearing lifestyle”. That is most definitely NOT what I want. People who are obsessed with their “normalcy” and “masculinity” bore me no end. Give me the choice between a date with a tight-assed butch football player and a date with a cute boy who may be a bit “effeminate” and I’ll tale the sissy any day. But the currently media-packaged, corporate and retail-driven version of “gay culture” doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me either.

My idea of a “gay community” does not involve a strip full of stores all my straight friends (hell, even my mother) would feel comfortable in. Frankly, even most of my straight friends find the Castro a tad sanitized.

So just what is my point? I don’t know for sure. I think I’m just a little disillusioned that decades of fighting for the right to be ourselves and to love as we see fit has evolved into such a de-sensualized party line of fitting into cute little assimilated pigeonholes, with Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren providing our role models. Maybe, as some suggest, this means our movement is “growing up” and I’m just lagging behind. Could be some truth in this; people my own age are starting to bore me tremendously. But if being grown up means becoming nothing more than a demographic profile, I want no part of it!