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Article written by Maya Vukovska

Europe has Amsterdam, Brighton and Berlin as its gay capitals. The United States has its very own city ruled by omnipotent love and celebration of diversity - San Francisco. But it’s not only the American city with the most open-minded attitudes towards sex; it’s also recognized as the world’s gay capital. Here are 6 reasons why San Francisco is so important for gays in America, and across the world.

“God Save the Nelly Queen”

During WWII, thousands of soldiers were discharged from the military for being homosexual, and many of them were released in San Francisco. They realized they wouldn’t be given a warm welcome home reception, and decided to stay in the city, making it their safe harbor. The word of the very first large gay community in the country was quickly spread, and after the war, these gay pilgrims were joined by thousands more. Gay men would gather in the iconic Black Cat Cafe where they’d applaud the drag performances of Jose Maria each Sunday afternoon, and sing “God Save the Nelly Queen.”

Feeling the Beat

In the 1950s, Sand Francisco embraced the Beat culture. The Beats became infamous mostly for rebelling against middle class values. Аllen Ginsberg, himself gay, and his fellow thinkers helped draw mainstream attention to gay culture. In 1964, Life magazine declared the city the “Gay Capital of America.” Activists started flocking to San Francisco - the perfect place to start the fight for gay rights, thus paving the way for the rest of the country and then the world.

Castro, but not Fidel

The Castro neighborhood was named after the leader of the Mexican opposition to U.S. rule in California José Castro. The district became the place where, in the 1960’s, the solid gay community grew and flourished. The Castro rose to national fame when it elected Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay official, onto the city’s board of supervisors. Another thing the neighborhood is proud of is the Castro Street Fair. This street celebration is held every year in October, and it was Mr. Milk again who started it in 1974. His idea was to bring together artists and tradesmen, and to encourage inclusiveness. One of this legendary man’s quotes has become the slogan of the fair: “Hope will never be silent.”

Milk’s legacy

On November 27, 1978, Harvey Milk and the pro-gay Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. With Milk’s death, a big part of the Castro’s optimism about the future of gay rights pretty much died as well, because what happened to him was seen as a metaphor for the common gay experience in the United States. However, what Milk is still remembered for is his imperative call for living one’s life with integrity and to the fullest.
He cleared the road for openly gay men to run for political offices and win! Today, it’s impossible to get elected to office in SF without the support of the LGBTQ community.

Probably the best gayborhood in the world

There are many reasons why SF’s original gayborhood can be crowned the best in the world, and Chambers on Polk St., Aunt Charlie’s Lounge on Turk St., and Farm:Table on Post St. are just a few of them. Beside being one of the best places to live in San Francisco County, the South of Market Area, a.k.a SoMa, is also the hottest spot for gay bars and clubs nowadays. What’s more, the very first Folsom Street Fair, an annual leather and fetish event, was held in SoMa in 1984. On September 27, 2020, Folsom is going worldwide, as hundreds of thousands BDSM and leather enthusiasts around the globe will be able to follow the event online.

Queers onscreen

San Francisco is also the headquarters of the largest queer film festival in the world - Frameline Film Festival. Every year, the event is attended by 60,000 to 80,000 cinema lovers. It features movies and documentaries from the most outstanding screenwriters, directors, and actors. This year’s 44th edition of the festival is going to be held as a virtual event.

Whether you decide to quench your thirst in one of Castro’s gay bars, stretch your legs down the Rainbow Honor Walk, or buy a lubricant at Does Your Mother Know, with every step you make, you’ll be overwhelmed with LGBTQ history. And that’s why, dear friends, San Francisco is the world’s gay capital.

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