Interesting arguments here and I’m definitely learning this the hard way as I navigate my way through the Bay Area this summer… with very little success.
Where the hell are all of these queer radical events being posted, I feel like I’ve looked everywhere? And if I just have to “know somebody” are they really open to all? Why does San Francisco, “gay capital of America”, seem so white and homonormative to me?
I’m brand new here, so of course I could be judging too soon. Someone, for the love of Britney Spears, give me a good website please.
I have found some promise in craft nights at the Holdout though. I love crafting.
This is a really interesting article about how white radical queers who have relocated to the Bay Area talk about it as if:
- everyone who lives in the Bay Area is from somewhere else and has the ability to move whenever they want
- everyone experiences the Bay Area as a queer paradise
- and more!
(By the way, before you tune out, non-Bay Area folk, this article is uber applicable to other “queer destination cities,” so read on.)
I don’t live in the Bay Area anymore, and I can’t claim to have grown up there. But I went to high school in the Bay Area and I lived there longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, so I guess it’s the closest to the traditional definition of “home” as I’ve got. And while I’ve certainly bought into the idea of SF/Oakland being The Queer Paradise, it’s weird to read some of the quoted comments in this article talking about “Bay Time” and “I just left my radical organizing group and now I”m going to my [some other radical queer group], ugh do I live in the Bay or what?” It reminds me of times visiting friends who have moved to Oakland who (unintentionally) make me feel dumb for not knowing about All the Queer Places in the place that I’m purportedly from.
I definitely wasn’t very aware of the nuances of this situation before reading this article, and I’m certainly guilty of fetishizing SF/Oakland, but the idea of this radical, white, queer, handkerchiefs-and-spandex identity being broadly attributed to the entire Bay Area is WEIRD. I can’t say that I’ve frequently experienced this happening myself because I haven’t really visited a whole lot since I left, but it’s WEIRD to hear about it being a thing. A lot of this is because I did not experience my part of the bay area to be a Big Queer Paradise, but mostly it’s because, Hello, Most of the Bay Area? Not white. Also, not gay.
Disclosure: I am a white uppermiddleclass highly educated cis currentlyablebodied queergirl who (for the purposes of brevity) grew up mostly in Silicon Valley and didn’t even realize she was queer until college. Silicon Valley (which is part of the Bay Area btw) was not a friendly place to be gay or pre-gay or even just politically nonconformist. My highschool now has LGBT-friendly stickers on the doors to all the classrooms, but it wasn’t friendly then and even now Silicon Valley does not feel (to me) like a place that is welcoming of queer people who aspire to politics that are any more radical than voting for whatever democrat is currently running. In fact, that is why I never went back after college and why I continue to live in St. Louis where I am constantly frustrated by the queer community and constantly asked “why are you HERE??” when people find out that I am (for the sake of brevity) from California.
Not to mention all the queer people of color and queer working class folk who are actually from the Bay Area who may also have experienced it as not very queer-friendly.
As the author points out, we radical white queers with privilege need to think about who gets marginalized, gentrified-out, and erased from our narratives of community when we essentialize cities, towns, neighborhoods as being Queertowns and Gayborhoods. We need to be accountable for our unearned privilege of being able to waltz into a city we’re not from, define Where The Gay Places Are, be as flamboyant as we want without having to worry about what our family/community thinks, and then be able to leave whenever we feel like it. We need to think about who isn’t feeling safe/welcomed/belonging to part of our community because they do not have the privilege of transience or because they experience their town fundamentally differently than we do.