Harvey Milk | News | San Francisco

Gays in SF's Castro Feeling Like Zoo Animals for Tourists


Residents of San Francisco's Castro district, which expects to see additional increases in tourism once the movie Milk is released this fall, are troubled by an increase in tour buses which stop to unload out-of-towners eager to see the gays in their natural habitat:

"For gay and lesbian residents, who are doing nothing more remarkable than, say, walking over to Cliff's Hardware Store, the idea that as many as six tour buses could turn up at once seems bizarre. They also worry that the upcoming release of the movie "Milk," based on the life story of Castro Street politician Harvey Milk, will just be another step toward turning the Castro into a kind of urban theme park for looky-loos. 'It is the spectacle of people who might be different. That's all it is,' said attorney Rob Guite, a Castro resident. 'The tourists appear to have little regard for the neighborhood and its residents and view the stop as akin to visiting a zoo or other attraction where they are entertained by exhibits or animals.'"

When Castro Street was transformed in January for the shooting of Milk businesses expressed concern over the circus atmosphere that filming brought to the neighborhood but felt reassured that the movie would help revitalize businesses in the area.

Image: 1977 Castro Street fair by Jerry Pritikin.

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  1. Ya-know, Castro has it's place. The eighteen year old kid from KS who has been closeted all his life and now wants to metamorphose into an all-gay-all-the-time, proposition-anything slut needs the Castro to "process" that phase. And, then he/she moves on to whatever is next. Of course, there are some folks who choose to live their entire lives like being gay is the first, second, third and all-encompassing most-important thing about them. And, they can choose to live that fantasy 24/7 in the Castro too. It's an artificial world. I lived in the Bay Area for 25 years, and visited the Castro often; but, I never wanted to live there. To each her/his own. There's no getting around the fact that it's a very unique neighborhood for a very unique culture. I'm sure the Castro Clones still want to continue to draw that fresh little twink from KS that everyone wants a piece of. So, it draws a few tourist busses too. How can that be surprising?

    Posted by: Rammer | Aug 20, 2008 9:35:17 PM

  2. Sometimes I think that our gay scene has become a fetish scene. There's an unseemly obsession with sex, with body types, with how much hair one has on one's body, with whether one's a top or a bottom, with whether one likes to have one's nipples tweaked. It's ludicrous. We have degenerated into a scene of fetishes. The notion of gay rights has effectively been usurped by the fetish crowd.

    In one sense, the current gay scene is no different from the Hooters joint or the strip club scene which hetero guys attend. We've lost our "raison d'etre" and become consumed with fetish. There's no dignity in it.

    Posted by: jason | Aug 20, 2008 10:47:30 PM

  3. I CURRENTLY live in the Castro. Whoever it was that mentioned the Cronicle, I think, hit it. It's a shiteous paper. Seems like this is a non-issue. I think the busses are good. They don't bother me. I can't say that i've ever seen one south of 17th on Castro St though. There must be some city ordinance about tour busses because there are permanent signs posted specifically saying no busses. I love living in the Castro! Yay me.

    Posted by: Joseph | Aug 20, 2008 11:45:26 PM

  4. I live in the Castro and this hood needs money, so many businesses are closing and we have empty store fronts. I say let em out amongst us and let them shop! It wasn't too long ago that the buses only drove through, now they're letting them venture. I think it's silly, it's not like we're Chelsea, WeHo or even South Beach, just regular ole gays walking to work and from work and more often than not they'll see more straight families out and about, who've all moved in the hood. If the tourism board was smart, they'd offer a "nighttime" tour and tell the passengers to look up in the windows!!! ;-)

    Posted by: Eddy | Aug 21, 2008 12:53:31 AM

  5. Wow, Jason, thanks once again for your keen insight. It's true---back in the 70s no one cared about anyone else's body types or had any preferences whatsoever about who they slept with or what they did in bed. No one was a top or bottom, and no one had any right to be. And now these damn fetishists have come along and ruined everything.

    Oh, and this issue has a ton to do with the current thread.

    Seriously, what are you on?

    Posted by: Paul R | Aug 21, 2008 4:13:58 PM

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    Posted by: Marc Thomas | Dec 13, 2009 9:59:10 AM

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