San Francisco and The Castro

As a geographer, there is one area I was particularly interested in visiting, and it may surprise you. It is not downtown San Fran, where many of us have explored the aftermath of “a large earthquake in an MEDC”. Classic GCSE geography- we’ve all done it. No, I am interested in The Castro, one of the gay neighbourhoods.

Having studied this area last year when I was learning about community, this neighbourhood formed a key part of my understanding of community, identiy and place. The Castro was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the USA and is an important place for the LGBT+ community today.

Being part of the LGBT+ community today is not the easiest ride, even in Western society. People still face discrimination, stereotyping, exclusion and hatred, simply for being who they are. Something they cannot change (and why should they?). Yet, go back a few decades and things were much harder. The suburban American dream was out of reach for gay couples, as they would face prejudice and exclusion if they moved to the suburbs. Hence, the LGBT+ population ended up staying in a concentrated space within the city where they faced the least resistance.

Fast forward to today, and The Castro still holds significance amongst the LGBT+ community. It provides a safe space for LGBT+ to perform their identities, which generates a sense of community and belonging, as well as a sense of place. LGBT+ people from across the world come to visit The Castro and experience this sense of community and belonging for themselves. The neighbourhood feels very safe, attracting not only the LGBT community to the area, but also young, gentrifying families. Gentrification can bring many benefits to an area, but can also threaten the unique identity of a place. Will the Castro maintain its unique identity in the future? Only time will tell.


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