The death throes have been gradual and because of being gradual at times they have been invisible...yet they are there. It is only when we gay people stop and look at what is now around us as opposed to the magical vibrant gay city that once was...do we finally realize the extent of our loss.
There are three major events that have attributed to the death of this gay civilization. First there was the AIDS epidemic wiping out thousands of young gay men in the midst of their youth. Then came the Dot.com boom years when prices of housing skyrocketed whether renting or buying. At the time I did not live in a rent control apartment and I remember getting a $450.00 per month rent increase on Christmas Eve from my gracious and wonderful landlord. I give this as an example of what the average working gay person has had to endure to remain in this area. During this time the exodus of gay people, those that were not dead, started. Lastly, we now have the techie boom and the cost of housing is so unbelievable that it is just that...unbelievable. The exodus of gay people became a river...and the cost of living is the dam that prevents any new young or old gays from moving into the area. Wages have stagnated, rents have soared and it is a lose/lose situation.
Is it not an interesting thought to ponder that here in this city, this Bay Area, that is bluer than blue in politics...that the middle class has been obliterated. The same phenomena happened here that happened in the "red states" and "red cities" in the rest of the country...and yet we had the mighty protection of elected Democrat officials??? The gay population in the Bay Area...San Francisco in particular...has been betrayed by its very own elected officials that have allowed this to happen...all in the name of the almighty dollar. These Democrats that allowed this to happen...even encouraged it to happen...and are no better or any different that the Republicans.
The sense of betrayal is overwhelming.
Three things highlight the decay of this once great gay civilization. First...as one is out and about...the constant cry of dismay is over the cost of housing. This is not from "losers" (which is a term that some give to people that are not techies and wealthy) but from average working people: teachers, accountants, managers and so on. The refrain I hear is "I would like to move, but where would I move." These people are locked in fear in their rent control apartments dreading the day when their predatory landlord will Ellis Act evict them to convert their one bedroom apartments into condos that will sell for $1 million or more. Who can stay here, who can move here?
Second, I heard a conversation about a comfortable and popular dive bar called Esta Noche...that it has been sold and that the new owner is going to re-do the bar and put in flat screen TVs. Yup, that is just what the Castro needs is another vanilla type bar with flat screen TVs playing sports. Oh yay! Remember the diversity of places to go that was here...in the Castro neighborhood, in the Polk, South of Market, even in the financial district. Well, they are all gone now and what is left are boring sports bars.
Lastly, I bring up the Gay Pride Parade which is now corporate controlled. Yes it still is a huge event but it is boring to the point of being beyond boring. Money does not buy diversity. I predict that the parade and crowd might be huge for another couple of years but then will start decreasing in size and will eventually resemble a gay event in a small midwestern city. You see, as a gay, there is no "there" in San Francisco any longer. Would people want to go to the handful of vanilla bars in the Castro when they probably could do better in their very own cities? I think not.
In December I was at a bar called Badlands which is located in the Castro. It does have good music...it is filled with flat screen TVs...and it does have a dance floor. What struck me that night when I was there was how small city the bar seemed. It was no longer edgy, exciting, filled with hot men. Rather, it was a small city bar filled with what seemed a small city crowd.
So, yes, the once great gay civilization that was San Francisco is now over. It is not quite gone...but it is over and will disappear in the next five to 10 years.