Home. Safe. Proud. Just three from the myriad of words used to describe how people feel in The Castro. Located in San Francisco, The Castro has actively stood by the LGBT+ side of history since the gay liberation movement sparked up in the 60’s and 70’s. Although the street itself is filled with cleverly named stores, sex shops and an abundance of spots for dining and drinking, it took years for The Castro to evolve into what it is today.
This place has become more than just a location, it is an established statement that has developed from activism, visibility and the heart our older generations put into a tangible atmosphere. The Castro is everything the LGBT+ community stands for and the fact that solely walking around the district is such a liberating experience is revolutionary. To witness an environment where LGBT+ history is honored and thriving is an eye opening and personal journey every individual should take.
A good friend of mine recently took me to The Castro where I arrived determined to finish my tourist to-do list with an overwhelming amount of vigor and excitement. In sequence, I ate a phallic shaped cookie, visited the Human Rights Campaign store, basked in the glory of the pride flag and ended up at Cleve Jones’ assistant’s house in flawed hopes he would answer the door. To say my time in The Castro was remarkable is an understatement my friend.
Everything I accomplished in a short two hours was enough to make me feel connected with a community that has endured the real struggles of being heard, seen, and accepted. In my eighteen years of living, The Castro evoked one of the strongest and most memorable emotions that can only be described as a yearning for others to feel this way as well. The memory of supervisor Harvey Milk is prolific, the happiness that people radiate is visible, and the support for this prospering community is endless.
A landmark acts as a public beacon that discusses the past with respect and gratitude. LGBT+ history has been erased in aspects of education, common knowledge and geographical points, which is why we need landmarks like The Castro. Representation matters for the kid living in the Midwest, the exhausted activist and the questioning teen that all deserve the feeling of simply belonging.
Overall, the Castro is pride flags and rainbow cross streets. It’s the kind looks people give when you walk around with a cookie shaped like a penis. Most importantly, it’s the shared fondness seen in strangers local and broad. LGBT+ landmarks are a reflection of the past and the desired future of love. I am still learning the history that has been silenced for years and I am constantly recognizing different stories and perspectives from the community. My personal enrichment evolves through experience and although I don’t know everything, I do know it should not take anyone 18 years to feel at home.