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Permission granted by author for anyone to distribute this
writing free of charge (including translation into any
language)...under condition that no profit is made therefrom,
and that it remain intact and complete, including title and 
credit to the original author.

Ezekiel J. Krahlin


© 2001 by Ezekiel J. Krahlin
(Jehovah's Queer Witness)

November 16, 2001

Dear Editor,

After having hanged out (and lived) in "The Castro" for the
almost-continuous span of years from 1973 to now and beyond, I
have come up with the sad conclusion of its tragic outcome: a
washed-out neighborhood rife with cynicism and homophobia,
with but little more than lip-service as to its gay
hospitality. The same can be said for this entire "Gay Mecca"
rotten to the core like you'd never believe. For the sake of
brevity, allow me to focus solely on the neighborhood I
facetiously call "home", described in maps of this unfair city
as "Eureka Valley":

I am both a freelance LGBTQ (or "queer" or "gay") activist,
and a homeless (or "houseless" or "residentially challenged")
advocate (and formerly homeless myself). Thus, I have intimate
knowledge of the street scene, as well as of the privileged
classes blessed with roofs over their (for-the-most-part)
clueless heads.  While these same bourgeoisie skirt around and
ignore the street subculture--hopping to and fro as is their
nature, to their jobs, homes, and this-or-that social event
and club circuits--a burgeoning populace of dysfunctional and
desperate homeless threatens to break through weakened class
barriers, and flood the neighborhoods of the privileged with
wave after wave of outrage and rebellion. (A fate which, I
might add, will be well-deserved if conditions are not rapidly
improved by those who have the power and affluence to turn
things around.)

The answer to this problem is not to strengthen these
barriers...which very existence belies the nature of what a
true democracy stands for: equality and respect for all
citizens. The solution is, of course, providing a
compassionate program to these unfortunate souls who, for the
most part, have done nothing bad to deserve such incredible
misfortunes. Which solution is: setting up basic, decent
no-income housing for these folks, along with appropriate
medical and social services required, for as long as
required...and wholesome recreation and job training that
lends dignity and hope to all. The mark of a truly civilized
nation is benevolence and a fair shake to all citizens,
regardless of their present financial or medical
situation...and regardless of how long each client requires to
become fully recovered. And we (of America) certainly have the
resources, know-how, and wealth, to accomplish this honorable
mission. But do enough of us have the will or desire? That, my
friends, is the real crux of the problem: class
discrimination, ignorance, and hatred.

But we here in The Castro--and other so-called gay
neighborhoods--suffer the additional burden of wave after wave
of homeless people who are virulently or surreptitiously
homophobic. After all, many of them hail from the Bible belt
and other conservative areas, including most of California.
This ugly situation results in our own gay (or queer)
houseless being terrorized and driven out not just by arrogant
home-owners and renters (many of whom are also gay); but also
by the many hetero and closeted homeless who seek safe refuge
(and/or easy marks) here in Gay Mecca. This latest influx of
homeless to The Castro, includes a rise in gay hatred, hence
more dangerous streets for one and all who frequent and live
in this area.

Rather than fire blame and hatred on all deemed houseless, I'd
much prefer to cultivate a safe haven for our genuinely gay
needy, and drive out the homophobes. However, I do not see
this likely happening, considering all the class hatred so
rife in The Castro, and in the entire city. This ugly
situation not only exacerbates rage among the dysfunctional
homeless, but lots more gay bashing--both verbal and physical.
Personally, I experience daily threats against me, due to my
socializing on the streets. Most of the time, these are not
direct threats, but offhand hateful remarks such as: "Ew. butt
fucking is so disgusting. I don't see how you can live like
that," and "If you don't have any attraction to a female, I
don't see how you can be really human," and (I saved the worst
for last) "I have best friends who are gay, though I still
think homosexuality is unnatural." Of course, there is the
constant name-calling on the streets among the homeless, with
the most common expletive being (of course) "faggot". My
request to one guy to stop using that word when angry at
someone, almost led to my being bashed. And he was someone who
had always been kind to me, until this moment.

Not to say that there aren't some really wonderful guys and
gals out there on the streets--both gay and hetero (and bi).
In fact, they are responsible for keeping our neighborhoods a
lot safer than they'd otherwise be, were they overrun only by
thugs. Some have even laid down their lives--and lost
them--for the sake of protecting someone they love (including
their housed friends). And some were even my good buddies (and
lovers). I grieve for them most of all, who must live in
constant dread of surprise attacks and thefts by psychotic
freaks who should be locked away; but do feel greatly honored
to be part of their street family. We need these good folks,
for they are strong protection against terrible harm. (Indeed,
they are not merely good, they are MAGNANIMOUS.) We need to
seek them out, befriend them, and make their lives
a variety of ways, suitable to the individual at hand.

Each person who considers my plea, must look deep into her
heart, and find some way to strengthen and improve their
quality of lives, by some form of intelligent, responsible
outreach to our queer homeless, and their too-few hetero
friends who are also without a roof. To put a smile on any of
these kind faces, is to be a saint yourself. It is also very
important, not to spurn anyone because of substance
abuse...but discover whether or not you can hang out with
them, and if they'll respect your own limits and value system.
For just like anyone in this world, there are good and bad in
the drug scene; and believe it or not, some make excellent
friends without imposing their own abuses. Just learn to use
good judgment. Your positive influence will inspire them to
realize they have much to look forward to, once they drop that
bad habit...and that the struggle to save their own soul is
well worth every difficult moment.

The refusal of The Castro (and our city at large), to
accommodate our queer (and queer-friendly) homeless with grace
and commitment, is shameful, to say the least. The rising tide
of street homophobia is equally shameful, and very dangerous
to anyone (both housed and houseless) who uses our streets.
These twin demons can be conquered if (and only if) enough San
Francisco residents with the bucks find it in their hearts to
accomplish this worthy and sacred goal. I am only one person,
even though I do a lot for my street buddies and gals.
However, I must back off considerably, due to this new
paradigm of increasing homophobia...which makes potential
friends more of a real danger, than they would be had not our
society swung far to the right with a predictable increase in
gay bashing. San Francisco is no liberal oasis, any more...and
hasn't been for at least a decade. For in these last two
years, I have been bashed (once) and threatened (many times)
by some of the homeless I have befriended...even though they
are gay or bisexual, though closeted; and even though we were
in each others' arms on numerous joyful occasions. Those
queers on the street are too-often coerced to act macho, even
violently so, in order to protect themselves from real or
perceived bashing by homophobic thugs.

And this, my friends, is the tragedy of Castro Street, and its
aborted dream of gay liberation.