Yes, San Francisco still has somewhat of a draw as a “mecca” for gay people. However, that image is changing rapidly each and every day. How can you move here if you cannot afford to live here? (Unless you were born with a trust fund.) Yes, the City has a great support system for gay people. It also remains a very tolerant city.
It still has a huge Gay Pride parade even though that has been corrupted by corporations that it has turned vanilla to be point of being boring. Does anyone remember the Gay Pride parades of the past...even during the height of the AIDS epidemic...hundreds of thousand of people attending, thousands upon thousands participating, bar floats full of handsome scantily clad men, the throbbing dancing beat from these floats causing everyone to move to the music??? It does not happen anymore. Dykes on Bikes seem to be the only carry-over from the parades of the past.
The Folsom Street Fair is still a nation-wide event...yet the majority of participants are from somewhere else.
The Castro Street Fair seems to be slowly fading away. Yes, it is still an event but it now draws less than half the people of the Folsom Street Fair.
Go-go boys? When was the last time that anyone encountered go-go boys at a gay bar in San Francisco? In the Castro?
Hustler bars? Ok, I am on thin ice with this...but regardless of whether it is "right" or "wrong" this scene is now gone...the Polk Street's bar scene is dead and nothing but a memory as wealthy straights parade from establishment to establishment. Remember when the gays in San Francisco were on the cutting edge of what was to be determined to be "right" or "wrong" and they plunged ahead with fun-filled glee? It is hard to imagine from the perspective of today that it even existed.
I have live here for over 30 years. The other night…during one of these unusual warm January evenings…I decided to go out for a drink after work. My observations…well I found them to be startling. Let me try to do a comparison:
1982: The number of bars in SF were countless along with numerous restaurants, etc. Any day, once the happy hour hit, the lines would form outside of the popular places…lines filled with the young. The bars were packed only not quite as packed as on a weekend night.
2014: What is left is a handful of tired average bars in the Castro filled with gray haired people. There is nothing wrong with gray haired people…I am one of them. Yet one has to ask "Where are the young people"? They cannot afford to live here. The evening I went out, I went to what were at one time three historically popular bars (two of them have changed names)…they were not crowded on a warm evening! There was no cocktail hour crowd filled with handsome young men and women. My last stop was at a bar with a few tables of people, a couple of people at the bar itself, and through the huge windows I could see another bar across the street filled with silver heads. The only thing of interest to watch was an older lesbian couple hooking up...and this was in a "hot spot."
Back in the "day" there was a video bar on 18th street that was the penultimate place for 20 years old and 30 year old men to meet and greet and hook-up. It still exists. However, instead of lines of handsome young men waiting to get inside the bar, the average age is now 45 to 55 years old (but still handsome). Once again, though, there are no young people.
One then has to wonder that when us older gays either die or lose our rent-controlled apartments and move away, who will replace us?
Will this joke become a reality: "(Q) What do you call a young gay man in San Francisco? (A) A tourist!"