When Jeanette MacDonald stood there in the ruins and sang. Ah-ha-ha-ha-hand sang.
[quote]When did San Francisco get its gay reputation?
In the '70s. It was a follow on from the hippie 'freedoms' of the '60s.
[quote] When did San Francisco get its gay reputation?
A long, long time ago. World War I? or World War II.
It was the major port that sent off and took back WWII soldiers. Many of them stayed, if you know what I mean.
It always had a bawdy reputation, but WWII sealed the deal. Soldiers who returned from the Pacific theater or were discharged for being gay stayed instead of returning to Bumfucke.
My father a WW2 veteran told me that he spent about 1/8 of his wartime career in San Fran where the USN put him up at The Mark Hopkins which was pretty swanky at the time. He would oversee all the ships coming into port, and apparently a LOT of sailors had realized on the long tours of duty that they preferred the company of men.
He said after the war ended, many of them settled there were they were the happiest and most comfortable(as opposed to their small home towns in Iowa and Alabama.)
I've read that it goes all the way back to the gold rush/Barbary Coast days. But then reading something doesn't make it true.
R6 and R7 have got it right. For hundreds of thousands of American men in "fly-over" states, WWII was the first time they were ever surrounded by so many men. For those serving on a ship, they learned fairly quickly that there were lots of other men just like themselves. The navy was a transformative experience for them, and many chose to settle at the port of San Francisco where there would be a steady stream of people like themselves.
It's really important to understand that this was a long process. San Francisco acquired a somewhat raffish reputation already in the nineteenth century; and many gays found a home there early on in the twentieth century, although they deliberately remained relatively invisible. All that changed with WWII, as described above. But the real emergence of San Francisco as an overt gay haven came only in the late 1960s and 1970s, as Gay Liberation (a part of sexual liberation) worked its magic.
Linked is a brief history, with some books on the subject.
Regarding its "sexually liberal" reputation, San Francisco was A) a boom town, b) a port, and c) a port of entry. The Gold Rush brought an instant city of prospectors, who were almost entirely single men or men who left there families back East. Where there are men without families, there are whores and "sexual deviants".
As the city established itself as a major port, sailors became an important part of the transient population. Wherever there are sailors, there are whores and sexual deviants.
But the most important quality is that as port of entry, San Francisco was the site of an exchange of a massive volume of people from all over the world. Wherever there is a massive civilian population just "passing through", there are whores and sexual deviants.
The American cities with the most notable gay communities - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans - generally have two or three of the qualities stated above.
I love your post R7 (swf on the verge of a breakdown). Thanks for making it.
Actually, it was Harvey Milk. During the forties and fifties Washington DC was considered gay central because bureaucracy was unusually welcoming to gaydom compared to the corporate and commercial worlds. SF had a very liberal reputation for hippies and radicals, but it wasn't considered a gay mecca until the 1970s, and it was far from the only one. It was only Harvey Milk, his successes, and his assassination that cemented SF in people's minds as the Capital of Gay America. And it still is, let's be frank. Gays there are still a few years ahead of the east coast.
I recall in 1969 my mothers saying it was Gay Francisco, full of homosexuals. So basically the gays moved in when the hippies moved out.
San Fran has always been the USAs biggest Naval Base. After WW2, the sailors came back and many stayed in San Fran, because "others" they met in the Navy were still there, looking for a continued "experiences" on land.
Seriously, San Francisco is all about the US Navy concentration after WW2.
R16... I am afraid you are innacurate. My hubby and I moved to SF in 1972 and I had know about it's gay reputation since the early sixties. San Francisco was always a center of bohemian lifestyle. Harvey arrived later because it was gay friendly. Let's not rewrite history.
[quote]I've read that it goes all the way back to the gold rush/Barbary Coast days.
This makes sense.
Very few females in the early days. The transformative experience of WWiI. A bohemian reputation.
In the early days of the gold rush, the proportion of men to women in San Francisco has been estimated at 50 to 1. And of course the mining camps that fed SF's population were pretty much exclusively male. The math is easy.
With that foundation, the Navy influence on modern-day SF is clear, as many have pointed out.
San Fran has never been USA's biggest naval base.
And I'm sorry, but no, San Francisco was bohemian but it was not specifically "gay" before the 1970s.
Lots of places in American history had high male to female ratios during booms.
The gay scene of the 1970s didn't just emerge from nowhere fully formed, r24. There were gay men, gay bars and a gay culture in San Fran long before the 70s. We're discussing the origins and emergence of that culture and reputation. Do try to keep up.
[quote] As San Francisco lacked infrastructure, the boardinghouses, saloons, gambling clubs, public baths were always packed with men. They lived in extremely close proximity with each other, often sharing rooms, beds and blankets. According to Lipsky, female companionship was available but it cost $4,000 to $8,000 per night in today’s dollars. As there were almost no women, some men agreed to “fill women’s roles” by becoming the dancing partners of other men at clubs and bars...
[quote]The gold rush attracted a transient population of young men who were less likely to conform to social and sexual rules and regulations in a newly built San Francisco city than in their hometowns..
[quote]Charles Warren Stoddard was a first important gay writer and author in San Francisco. Mark Twain moved to San Francisco in 1864 to work as a journalist and later wrote privately that Stoddard was “such a nice girl.”.
Today it's not that gay. The reason is it's way too expensive to live there. It's a very stratified city, there's only the rich and the poor illegal immigrants.
Unless you're there because of a legacy apt/house.
You have to make tons in order to live there decently now.
I've lived here since the 1980's.
It's still very gay but most of the gays are CLOSETED yeh isn't that something the so-called gayest city in the world attracts hords of cowards continuing the charade of being str8... all the long distance girlfriends, face palm who the fuck do they think they're fooling?
Living here has given me zero empathy towards closet cases. Most are screaming, anyway, fooling nobody. Damn you can't take the small town out of the boy...
PeeWee, I don't agree that they're closeted. The city is not that gay anymore, it's no more gay than LA or NYC now.
Money is the equalizer plus gays don't have to leave their small towns to live in SF nor could they afford to now.
R24...The bohemian lifestyle was always gay inclusive. The bohemian bars had gay clientele and performers. You need to read up. I moved here in 72 and the gay community had long since been established. They were already playing softball with the cops. The hippies were open to the gay and so were the beatniks before.
Early VP, before the costumes got big and expensive.
Can anyone continue the geo-cultural history lesson outward to present day? It sort of has a current reputation as unafforadable, filled with stupid yuppies, boutiques, and upper-middle-class liberal snobs? How did that happen? Is that reputation deserved?
Watch the end of this video and tell me if the SF baths were really this hot in the 70s?
SF's not so gay anymore, not any more gay than any larger populated city in the USA. Besides, young gays can't afford to live there unless they're fabulously wealthy.
It had a reputation even when Walt Whitman was cruising there and scored bus conductor Peter Doyle. Read his poems: cruising ghr streets of SF clearly inspired many. And read the great great gay historian Charles Shively's two indispensible books on Whitman.
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't San Diego a much larger navel port than SF?
Umbilicus mundi! ὀμφαλός!
[quote] geo-cultural history lesson outward to present day?
My best stab:
By the 60s white flight from urban areas to the suburbs and just general changes in tastes left crumbling Victorian homes in neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury empty or divided up as apartments, allowing bohemians/hippies/artists/gays to move in and claim the neighborhoods for relatively little money.
But in a way, bohemians are actually gentrifications' front guards. There's only so much space in a city, so eventually once a place develops a reputation as a desirable, artsy, happening place to be, prices go up. The poor and middle class are priced out as the wealthy move back in.
Voila. Artisanal cupcake boutiques, $8 coffee, three holistic yoga studios per block, and $4000 a month for a shoebox See also: Manhattan, Brooklyn, et al.
The new haven for gays is Homosassa Fl., y'all!
I think it changed for the worse when the navel port start being used for boats