Yesterday was a lovely day in San Francisco, unseasonably warm weather for San Francisco summers which have the reputation of being, for the uninitiated tourist, colder than most winters. I met up with my friend Randal after work and we walked over tho the Noe Street Farmer’s Market. After some purchasing and grazing, I removed my clothing and we proceeded to walk down Market Street to Castro Street, down Castro to Eighteenth Street, and then up Eighteenth the five blocks to my house without incident. Once there, Randal entertained me on our saw which he spied on our back porch work area. He was impressed; as, according to him, musical saws are becoming difficult to find! I was impressed by his ability to produce music from our tools!
After a quick dinner we, Randal, my partner John, and I, made our way back to the Castro to see a double feature at the Castro Theatre, Mildred Pierce followed by Leave Her to Heaven. While we were driving down Eighteenth Street at Castro, we noticed a spectacle taking place in the bus stop. A homeless man was down on his hands and knees picking up what appeared to be little pieces of blue paper scattered all over the gutter. Standing in front of their patrol car, side by side some seven feet away from him with their legs slightly spread and their arms crossed, were two patrol officers. Presciently, Randall mocking said, “Now you pick everyone of those up,” as that is what we soon heard one of the officers exclaim. The pathetic man replied, “I just don’t want to be run over by he bus,” as he crawled around in the gutter picking up the trash.
After finding rock star parking directly in front of the theatre, I spied my friend Eric walking up the street, naked. He stopped to say hello and tell how one of the Castro Street Patrol officers had just been harassing him, telling Eric that every time we nudists were out he gets tons of complaints. Eric inquired as to whether he had gotten any complaints specifically addressed to him that evening. On replying no, Eric moved on, naked. While we were chatting a man a half block away started yelling very loudly, “Put some clothes on.” As he approached us he continued to yell, “How do you expect to gain acceptance if you insist on acting like that?” He then played the children card, telling how there are children around, especially on weekends when “you nudists seem to want to come out in force.”
There seems to be an intensified effort of late to police not only behavior but also the sort of people who are permitted to remain in the Castro since the Castro Commons, as the new plaza space at the Seventeenth Street, Castro Street, and Market Street intersection is ironically referred to. In the past week I have noticed four such incidents myself, the two described above, and two more which involved the police apparently engaged in persuading persons who appear “homeless” to move along, one was a transexual woman on the sidewalk in front of the Walgreens Pharmacy at Eighteenth and Castro Streets very early Sunday morning whom the police confronted and later that day, a black woman who had spent the past four hours dancing in the Commons to the music only she heard made the mistake of asking on of our upstanding Castro residents if she could purchase a cigarette from him. That request alone was enough to impel this citizen to make a call to the police.
When the police arrived, the Castro citizen who lodged his complaint insisted the officer press charges. After talking with the woman and running a check on her identification, the officer concluded that, even though the woman had been drinking, since she agreed to move along after finding something to eat it would be much more disruptive to arrest her than not. Not being appeased, the complaining Castro resident stood his ground, approaching the officer three more times to demand the satisfaction of an arrest. In the end the officer prevailed, the woman moved on, and the resident had fodder for the ongoing narrative of negativity which stigmatizes certain persons and the behaviors of persons who frequent our neighborhood.
Are we as a community that desperate for acceptance by the larger society that we are so easily willing to sell out and marginalize our own diversity to accomplish that narrow agenda? Are we really willing to become as intolerant and restrictive as our oppressors against whom we fought back at Stonewall forty-one years ago? As we live in a world were it is plain that the status quo will no longer work for the future, a world that will not be sustained by the never ending growth, extraction of resources, and dumping of pollution unbridled capitalism requires, a world were we will need to look and work locally to sustain ourselves, we in the Queer community have an opportunity to use our collective creativity and imagination that our very diversity can manifest to help achieve the change required. Sadly, we seem to be failing miserably.