Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CASTRO: ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE UNDER THE WAVING GAY FLAG

Windy and freezing: that place was no league for any Southeast Asians or basically any Pacific Islanders with a high intolerance of a bone puncturing temperature. As much as I oppose the idea of a place being below 10 degrees Celsius, I knew I had to find the truth in a rumor. I had to let both of my eyes witness what most of my friends at Humboldt State University had been buzzing about this place. The Castro District was the place I had to visit before leaving the United States.

Some Castro locals threw a glance of smile at me few minutes after dropping off of the MUNI train from downtown San Francisco, probably because they knew I was a tourist. The locals at San Francisco are generally friendly (excluding some people I met at Chinatown), but people at the Castro are even more hospitable. They gave me complete direction to get to somewhere and didn't mind clarifying information. To my perspective, the people alone can be one tourism attraction. Can you imagine getting great reviews of a place, seeing those bombastic scenery pictures online, but the people are told to be sour and not helpful? It surely would lower the interest (at least, my interest would).
Series of European-esque Building lining up, nearby MUNI station. Castro District.

During my travel, I have been to several major cities in the West Coast and some in the East. However, I must say the Castro District is special.  This is not because it has the most breathtaking scenery or the best building architectures, but because the story lives within each corner of it. Unlike numbers of places in the world which disregard sexuality topic, The Castro is the first place in the USA that celebrates the diversity in sexuality and utilizes it to boost the local economic growth for decades. The bars, cafes, stores, flower shops, cinemas and housings are implementing a so-called “gay theme”: the building paints were bold, rather-provoking taglines hanging at the doors, and ALL buildings were accessorized by the rainbow flags (the multicolored flag known as the international symbol of LGBT communities around the globe). To put the cherry on top, at the end of the main street, there was a gigantic rainbow flag, waving in pride, greeting every driver and pedestrian coming into the district. 


The rainbow flags were everywhere!

Interesting decoration for your tea table

The legendary mother-of Rainbow Flag waving.


At The Castro, I witnessed people with similar sexes holding hands, hugging and kissing each other’s good night, eating dinner on a bench together. I had a few random chats with the locals and most of them implied that The Castro was the place where everybody felt belonged. 

Some same-sex couples enjoying the windy late afternoon. Not our everyday scene, indeed, but the air was thick with love

This is an amazing experience. As a person with a deep concern towards LGBT discrimination, being a part of The Castro community even only for several hours gave me hope that one day, the whole world, including Indonesia (one of the most conservative places in the world I must say), will be a better place for my LGBT brothers and sisters. If The Castro district can do it and make the best of it, why can’t the rest of the world?
"Let's Bring HIV Out of The Closet": a thought-provoking line on a billboard, right above a building with picturesque painting

Me with the rainbow flag

In front of the very first movie theater of Castro

"These men ask for just the same thing: fairness, and fairness only. This is, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have." 
- Abraham Lincoln

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