Cleve Jones: Queer Spaces After COVID-19



The reality is that the Gayborhood are going away. So, if you look at San, Francisco's Castro district or Seattle's Capitol Hill or Washington DC's Dupont circle or boys town in Chicago West Hollywood or anywhere you want to look lavender Heights in Sacramento wherever you look where there's a defined gay neighborhood. It's not just a place where there's bars though bar life has always been an important part of our culture. It's where very important things happen. I is political power. When we are concentrated in specific precinct gives us the power to elect our own public office the the power to defeat our opponents, the power to pass legislation that directly affects our lives in our wellbeing. As we are dispersed. We lose that power. Another super important part of it was the cultural vitality look at all the amazing stuff that's come out of West Hollywood that's come out of my neighborhood I mean it's no coincidence that the rainbow flag and the First Gay Synagogue and the First Gay Film Festival and the Aids Memorial Quilt and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence all were born in the Castro because there's that magic that happens when creative people when choreographers and filmmakers dancers and deejays and painters. Are All in that same area and I. Know that collaboration can occur very effectively online but there's nothing like the magic of face to face contact close proximity for that cultural vitality, and then the third thing that's at risk are the specialized social services for our most vulnerable population. So. Whether we're talking about people like myself who are getting old long term survivors of HIV or queer kids trans kids who were fleeing trump's America where do they go? They can't come to the Castro a little crappy studio apartment in the Castro is going to cost you twenty, five, hundred dollars a month. So this is the reality that nobody's really quite talking about that that community that has given so much and strengthened us in inspired US moved. US forward. Being threatened and there's many factors technology. Many. People will say, Oh, well, we can live anywhere. We want. No, you can't. Tell me that try it. You know go to Duluth and walk down main street and hold hands no offense to duluth or any other city. You Might WanNa try doing that outside of a gayborhood. So we need these these spaces they're important and we need to figure out what's our next move? Do you have a solution. There's no easy solution but yeah, when people say oh, cleave. Cities Change well. Thank you for that brilliant observation. Yes. Of course, it has changed but we want to. Be Thinking about that change and the big factor is that cities have changed in a way. That's profoundly new. For generations since the industrial revolution, the cities were the place where refugees went immigrants, Bohemians, counterculture people, artists, homosexuals, and all these people of all these different backgrounds and ethnicities genders would you know create this these cauldrons of creativity and and they would climb their way up the economic ladder move out to the suburbs and that was really accelerated in the Post Warrior the nineteen fifties, the nineteen sixties, nineteen seventies, the phenomenon of white flight. So when I got to San Francisco, the population of that city had been declining steadily since the end of World War Two and we were able to go into these neighborhoods that had been largely abandoned by the working class immigrants that had built them originally. And create what we created I on Polk Street. Then on Castro and folsom street hate streets you know he's really vibrant communities. These are now some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world. So the district that gave us Harvey Milk. is now inhabited increasingly by wide heterosexual gendered millionaires when you arrived in San. Francisco, you had a sleeping bag and a couple of shirts and forty two dollars and you were welcomed into this guy's home. You would never met who was not expecting you. It was an address you have from a friend and there was a safe place to live and to get on your feet. Even, if it's not as San Francisco, like that mentality is so unique. I think that's pretty much now partly because it's just so difficult to survive. So the young people I meet in their early twenty S. You know these and of course San Francisco, it's all tech And there's a lot of anger towards the tech invaders but I have a lot of empathy and. Real concern for them because first of all, most of them are working sixty seventy hours a week. They have no job security. There would never use the the phrase exploited workers to describe themselves but are blanche you are but I think also back then and especially in San Francisco it was still Kinda Hippie dippy. And it was very counterculture. It was very communal. And everybody was kind of expected and really encouraged to contribute in some way. You didn't necessarily have to be all that good at what you did, but you needed to do something whether it was a drag show or video or film or A. Poetry contest or something there was A. There was a real nurturing of people's creative pulses and a lot of support for there was so many places I knew where if I was hungry I just show up and there would be every night. There would be a communal potluck dinner. There were probably six or seven of those households within a few blocks of where I was living on Castro Street. So I never went hungry.

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