The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District will be managed by an Advisory Board of 15 people. This board will be chosen through three rounds of elections, beginning on December 14th. Click here for a complete description of voting procedures.
The second election was held on February 22, 2020. Candidate statements for this election are below. These statements are presented as submitted by the candidates, and no attempt has been made to verify their content.
Jesse James Alexander
Ms. Billie Cooper
Michael (Tod) Edgerton
Jesse Oliver Sanford
As a Castro business owner and resident, I would love to bring my passion of celebrating diversity, culture and history of the neighborhood by serving on the Advisory Board of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District. I have been an advocate and protector of culture in my career as the proprietor of historic Castro Tattoo where our goal is to create a welcoming environment to LGBTQ, POC and womxn in their search for physical expression, and through founding of the Queer Tattoo Alliance: a developing organization of professional tattoo artists, LGBTQ+ identifying folks and allies of such, united to educate, protect, support, and celebrate the craft. With my best foot forward, and intentions of fortifying the community I love, I hope to come together to cultivate the strength in diversity of our Castro.
Jesse James Alexander
I moved to San Francisco about three weeks before my 20th birthday. Seeking a sense of self and identity in a world that I did not yet know my place within. I knew hardly a soul but something within my bones said that this must be the place. In those early months I would often feel alone and overwhelmed and would tune out at whatever Castro Café would host me. Between warm sips and cold anxiety, I would look to the sea of footsteps and try to get some peace. I couldn’t be the only one who was struggling, right?
Through courses at City College I got wise to the erased histories of our community. Learning how the backbone of our movement was the radical inclusivity of black trans women who labored despite a world against them. Learning of the White Night Riots, Compton’s Cafeteria, and the tales of a city that lost a generation during the AIDS epidemic. I was raised by a single father who never hesitated to sacrifice his comforts for the greater good and seeing generations of queer folks embody that was life affirming.
Although Oakland is home now, I stayed at CCSF and transferred to SFSU where I am still working on my Bachelors. I am unafraid of and unbeholden to special interests and have a resume in nightlife that shows the skills needed in deal making, coalition building, and creating action at the grassroots level to be an asset to the Board. I understand the need for representation because creating it for others is a central pillar to my life. I organize regular events at Powerhouse, The Stud, and Jolenes and have played at Qbar, Midnight Sun, and for a time was the DJ every Friday and Saturday at Flore. During Club Shevils weekly tenure at Powerhouse we booked more people who exist outside of the cis, white, male hegemony that dominates the space than any other promoter, and I will continue to bring these results to the Board and Cultural District if elected.
Rents are rising, the city is becoming more homogeneous, and Queer and Trans people of color continue to feel erased and unwelcomed. If individuals are not elected who understand the situation first hand we will not create a thriving and intersectional Castro that seeks to welcome and advance the lives and opportunities of those outside of the mostly white, mostly wealthy, and mostly male demographics that frequent it. If we do not represent the voices of working class artists we do not have a community, and as a Sober and self-identified Bisexual Jewish Socialist it’s time we show the establishment that regular people can win elections and are willing to take civic matters into their own hands and be the change they want to see. I am ready to be a voice and conduit for the disenfranchised and disillusioned and am ready to help create a thriving Castro that paves the way to the future by honoring the past.
Photo by Guerrilla Davis.
I am excited to be running for the Castro LGBTQ Cultural Historic District Advisory Board.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area and have lived in San Francisco for 17 years. For the past nine years I have called the Castro home.
As a firefighter in San Francisco and Hoodline neighborhood journalist, I care passionately about San Francisco and the Castro. Over the past seven years writing extensively about the Castro I’ve seen the neighborhood dramatically change.
Our neighborhood is struggling. I’d like to work together with everyone on the board, as well as our civic leaders and the community to find solutions to our many problems including; storefront vacancies, housing affordability, homelessness, healthcare accessibility and neighborhood diversity.
The Castro is full of so much LGBTQ history and we need to find a way to preserve it for generations to come.
As a dedicated neighborhood advocate I have been involved with many organizations including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Castro Merchants, Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Group.
For the past five years I have been a board member of the San Francisco Gay Softball League. As a firefighter I am also a Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) instructor.
From 2012-2016 I was Top Fundraiser for SF AIDS Foundation’s annual Santa Skivvies Run raising over $40,000 for HIV/AIDS services. For the second year in a row I’ll be riding in AIDS/LifeCycle, a 7 day, 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefiting the SF AIDS Foundation.
Please consider voting for me to be on the Castro LGBTQ Cultural Historic District Advisory Board.
Ms. Billie Cooper
I am a 60-year-old transsexual woman, how has lived and thrived with HIV for 33 years and has been invested in the San Francisco transgender community for over 30 years. I am proud to be a transgender elder and one of the many faces and voice of Black transgender excellence. In 2014, I founded the TransLife program at the SF AIDS Foundation, a weekly group for transgender men and women, gender-non-conforming, and gender-fluid people. Living in sobriety for 17 years, I am a motivational speaker and mentor for recovery. Life is truly what you make it. I also educate about transphobia in our community and how to end it, and speaks out about trans-excellence, trans-equality, and trans-equity.
When elected, I will be a catalyst in bringing folks who have been marginalized and disenfranchised out of the neighborhood back into the Castro community by creating and participating in events that are welcoming to all. I hopes to inspire folks who have never felt welcomed over the years to finally feel at home in the historic LGBTQQI Castro District.
Michael (Tod) Edgerton
Hi, I’m Dr. Michael Tod Edgerton—please call me Tod. I’m a poet and English professor who has lived in the Castro for three wonderful years, and I can no longer imagine living in any other neighborhood, let alone another city. It’s America’s Gayborhood, and I want to work with the District to keep the rainbow flags billowing as a proud symbol of the present—not the past.
As an artist and educator, myself, I am disheartened by the lack of arts in the Castro. While I love a good drag show and the occasional wild night of bar hopping (complete with my kick-ass karaoke version of “A Change Is Gonna Come” or “Purple Rain”), Queer culture in SF should not just be club culture. I’ve gone to a few literary and arts events at Strut on Castro Street, where I volunteer, once at a little gallery next to Mollie Stone, and at a couple of readings at Dog Eared Books—but these are very few and far between, and they don’t come even close to providing the density of arts events that the gayest neighborhood in America should be producing! When I go to an arts event, it’s almost always in the East Bay—and, if in SF, almost never in the Castro. It’s time to change that. I want a neighborhood filled with queers of as many colors and stripes as our rainbow flags, but also art galleries, performance spaces, and community arts workshops. I think the Castro should be a place where people come to seek out the best in the arts, not just that weekend hook-up. It should be as rich in forward-thinking artistic, cultural, social, and political activity and community as it was in its heyday. My husband and I intend to grow old in the Castro; decades from now, I do not want it to have become a neighborhood I once loved, wondering, as I enter MUNI to make my way to Oakland for the evening, where all the queer people have gone.
My most ambitious ideas for the District include putting some of the many empty commercial spaces to good use (every week, it seems, another business fails). I would love to be able to open more art galleries and to make the Castro Art Walk an even bigger event. I want to see educational and community spaces, performance venues, and affordable LGBTQ artists’ live-work spaces in the Castro. We need to bring not just the arts, but the artists back to the Castro, and housing is key to that aim. As an artist and arts organizer, editor, curator, and educator, I would love to work with community leaders to establish and help run such programs, perhaps partnering with Foglifter queer literary journal, the Castro theater, Dog Eared Books, Theatre Rhinoceros, Strut, ArtSavesLives, Spark Arts, and other extant organizations and spaces to nurture arts and artists in the Castro and help build more community in general. Three cheers for Queers, art, and community!
I am currently the General Manager of QBar on Castro St. We are unfortunately closed due to fire & water damage, which has also shuttered our next door restaurant Osaka & led to the closure of clothing boutique BODY as well. I began working in the neighborhood in 2014 as a door person at QBar & as a retail associate at the now shuttered boutique Citizen. My work & social life have revolved around the Castro neighborhood for nearly 6 years, & as a bartender & later manager at QBar I was directly involved in branding that venue as a safe & inclusive space for everyone, but in particular queer & trans people of color, something that was desperately needed in an ever gentrifying area where working class & people of color are fast disappearing. Over these many years I’ve watched numerous businesses come & go, as well as decades old legacy businesses shutter & am deeply disturbed by the steady & increasing decline of the Castro business community. Just today I read reporting that Cafe Flore will cease to exist as a restaurant. As a Bay Area local, born & raised in Oakland, venues like Cafe Flore & so many other Castro businesses were crucial & vital sites of developing my social network as a queer person & building a sense of community within the Castro & I am concerned with what the neighborhood will look like in another few years if these steady & exponentially increasing losses continue without a direct & concerted effort from both the city government & community leaders to find a solution. When QBar eventually reopens I don’t want it to be amid a sea of vacant storefronts & empty, lifeless businesses struggling to survive. I want to do whatever I can to help bring vitality, commerce, tourism & a sense of community back to Castro St. and the neighborhood at large.
Commitment to the community
I moved to this city for the vibrance, and density of its queer community. I had no family here or a job set-up, but after seeing the Castro for the first time, I knew that it was a place I could feel at home more than any city in America. I am grateful for this queer community and want to do the work to keep it strong, active and lively.
Skills to share
I’ve launched a nonprofit, and worked in nonprofit organizations since graduating University with a degree in History and Fine Art. I can share skills in nonprofit organization, community engagement, marketing, event planning, and volunteer organization (bringing in more people and valuing the use of your time and talents). I work with awesome volunteers to plan and execute events all year round at work and I want the opportunity to share that experience within our community.
Managed a board, coordinating with active committee chairs to engage in fundraising, programming and outreach that benefitted well over a thousand youth in Southern Colorado (2017-2018).
Completed application for 501(c)3 designation and insured organization of a board, passage of bylaws, tax filings, and other bureaucratic minutia required to get an organization off the ground (2016).
Oversee hiring and human resources for more than two hundred seasonal youth and adult staff. Run logistics and health and safety for events with 400-600 participants regularly (current).
Constituencies I Represent
Young people in the Castro, gay and queer people new to the community.
Intention in joining the board
Contributing meaningfully to the community in an environment I am good at making an impact.
Hopes for the district
Preservation of current businesses, nonprofits and initiatives that hold space for queer people.
Protection for residents, buildings, youth and elders in our community
Growth in the Castro’s accessibility for all queer folks and and arts visibility
Ability to raise funds
I work for a nonprofit and have participated in the planning and execution of fundraising events by doing mailing, outreach, logistics before and following the event, setup, program planning, and coordinating volunteers. Events have ranged from small $5,000 to large $400,000. Primarily grassroots fundraising, and middle-income participants.
Although I don’t have a significant network in the district, cultivating relationships and asking for money for a cause that I believe in is something I have five years of experience doing professionally.
26 years ago, at my first Castro Street Fair, on the very corner of Castro and 18th street, I dared to embrace my girlfriend intimately for the first time in public. That simple yet magical moment stirred an awakening reality that there was no going back into hiding for me. That my only option forward was to continue challenging myself and daring everyone else around me until that simple gesture of love was no longer hesitated in fear of my safety. That day changed the path of my life as a young closeted Iranian Lesbian. As the only safe space in the world for me, Castro became the epicenter of my life for the next 25 years. I moved into the neighborhood, I worked in the neighborhood, I celebrated my life in this neighborhood and learned to be part of a community that thought me the value and responsibility of community organizing and activism. This beloved historical neighborhood I call my home, has given me the voice, the strength and pride to claim all of me with no apologies or fear for more than two decades. I fundamentally believe that all of us who have had the privilege of experiencing the compassion & generosity of this neighborhood have the obligation to give back and ensure that this experience continues for anyone who seeks this sanctuary.
Today, I am a proud homeowner and active resident of the Castor. I am also the founder of a boutique law firm in San Francisco focusing on protecting the rights of artist and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. I currently serve on the Advisory Board of UCSF Alliance Health Project in addition to the Castro Merchants Marketing & Technology Committee.
While Castro continues to be an important historical neighborhood in San Francisco serving the LGBTQ community, it is also facing serious challenges due to the real social economic realities of our time which are similarly impacting many of the other historical neighborhoods in our city. I look forward to the opportunity to serve as part of the Castro Cultural District to ensure Castro continues with its spirit as a vibrant and unique neighborhood while enhancing and expanding its potential for diversity and inclusiveness worthy of its history.
Thank you for considering my application.
This is our moment! Let’s face it, we are looking at a deprived, historical place that is losing its meaning and its history in today’s society in creating an unknown future. We all have seen the changing nature of the Castro, for some, for the worst and others for the good but we must acknowledge an area that is fundamentally out of touch with the present and the future Queer community. We must understand all the party’s perspectives relevant to the area and come up with solutions that’ll maintain its identity while improving the community. I know, for myself, that I understand, appreciate and live my life-preserving and furthering the work and progress that those before me have allowed me to do; thus, we must keep their stories alive by having a place that is educational, inclusive, fun, yet it provokes a sense of hope and determination to keep fighting until we are all equal. Working for the Human Rights Campaign is allowing me to just that, educate the world and the community of our historical meaning while at the same time forging anew future that’s meaningful, inclusive, progressive and a commitment of putting us first. This is my story, this might be your story, so let’s make our story the story of the Castro. The Castro has a legacy to it, one that demands to be centered stage and I am here wanting to help do just that but, the Castro also needs improvement. The Castro needs to represent the Queer community entirely and not ostracize anyone within or outside of the community. I want to see the Castro as a beacon of hope and diversity, an area so rich in life yet lacking inclusivity. Nowhere have you seen when we have an open, inclusive neighborhood, that the neighborhood’s economic, social and political power is weakened. No! We see thriving, prospering urban areas that are affording new opportunities and ideas from people from all walks of life and backgrounds. While on the board, I will put forth comprehensive programs, events, initiatives and guidelines that foster a community-based approach that leads to a more educated, robust, inclusive neighborhood. I will ensure existing and future businesses and community members are trained and educated in all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, so we are attracting a community that represents today’s society. I have so much love for the Castro and I would love to continue my efforts and the efforts of others, like yourself, in making the Castro better than it is today. My dedication, overly active personality and the ability to get things done, while being sensitive and understanding to all parties, is some of the qualities I bring while also providing insight from the future generation and those who are voiceless, People of Color. Let’s face it, together, we are beautifully innovative, dynamic and resilient. Our moment is now, let’s build on the Castro’s legacy and let’s change the world from here.
I appreciate you considering my candidacy to join the Castro Cultural District Board. I was first introduced to the Castro as a small-town, wide-eyed Arizona kid by my older cousin. I was astounded to find there was a place where the LGBTQ community could live out and proud. Just the hugs alone my cousin got on every street corner from his friends made me hopeful that a little gay boy might find his place. It was that memory of my cousin, who died of AIDS in 1990, which brought me back to live here 23 years ago.
The Castro has changed a lot since then and the neighborhood needs to evolve to keep pace with it. We must develop a Cultural District that welcomes and recognizes today’s diverse LGBTQ community, while never forgetting the people and events that paved the way for all of us. Most importantly, we need to find allies and fight the current wave of apathy – the belief that we are powerless to counter the City’s woes. The Castro is the heart of the city. We must never lose belief in our ability to be the shining cultural beacon on the hill in San Francisco.
I am the co-owner of the Castro’s MX3 Fitness with my husband and am currently a member of the Castro Merchants, serving on that organization’s Marketing Committee. Throughout my professional life, I have been focused on great stories – both creating them and telling them. My career in consumer marketing spans nearly 30 years. I am currently the owner of Raptor Communications, a Castro-based consultancy, helping companies and brands develop and tell their stories through smart marketing.
Prior to Raptor, I held the position of VP of Communications – North America for Campari Group, the sixth-largest global spirits company, featuring such brands as Campari, Aperol, Wild Turkey Bourbon, Espolon Tequila and San Francisco’s-own SKYY Vodka. While at Campari I oversaw the company’s media relations, consumer events, entertainment marketing, and digital marketing. I previously held similar positions at Sony, Allied Domecq Wine & Spirits, Kmart, and the Nevada AIDS Foundation. Before starting my career in marketing, I was a television reporter for CBS and NBC.
I am formerly the Chairman of the Community Affairs Committee for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the spirits industry’s government lobbying organization.
What I believe I will bring to the Castro Cultural District Board is not only an extreme desire, as a small business owner, resident and a member of the LGBTQ community, to see the Castro grow and thrive, but also vast, real-world experience in how to develop engaging programs and events that drive involvement and action – from project management, to budgeting, to tactical execution, to evaluation. I have worked on projects as big as Coachella and the MTV Video Awards, along with every local fundraising event SKYY Vodka has sponsored over the past 12 years, big and small.
I am ready to help make a change. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I’m originally from a small conservative town in the southern end of California’s central valley. I moved to San Francisco in 2002 for college—or so I told everyone. I really moved here because I wanted to be in the “Mecca” of LGBT life in the U.S. I had read about the Castro in LGBT publications and I knew I had to go there. I would find acceptance and love there (and I did). There are so many like me; for whom the Castro was solace, inspiration, and rightful indulgence. It symbolizes freedom and affirms that it’s okay to be who we were. While I could never afford to live in the Castro, I visited often. Sometimes daily. The Castro is so much more than a neighborhood—it’s an international symbol of hope. The cultural district advisory board should be more than a homeowner’s association. I wish to be a part of preserving that cultural symbolism for everyone, not just to remember, but to endure and to inspire further progress.
I’ve spent most of my career—and personal life—advocating for vulnerable people. While an intern for now congresswoman Jackie Speier (then a state senator), I organized her SF Pride contingent. I also joined one of the youth groups of the STOP AIDS Project and went on to be a youth group facilitator. I was named Quintessential Volunteer of the Year in 2005. When I began my career leveraging healthcare data to breakdown disparities among minorities, sexual, gender, and otherwise, I helped organize CPMC’s services at the LGBT Center’s first LGBT health fair. I have peer-reviewed and invited publications in medical journals as well as a book chapter on the social determinants of health. I’m a member of the Alice B. Toklas Democrats and the former chair of the LGBT forum at the Commonwealth Club of California. I currently work as a senior analyst for the comprehensive health assessment program of Sutter Health, striving to improve the quality of healthcare for seniors all across northern California.
Most recently, I’ve joined the junior board of the Treasure Island Museum. Through my work there, I will ensure that the gay history of the island—which contributed immensely to the growth of LGBT San Francisco and the Castro—will be conserved and remembered in the museum.
A first-generation college graduate, I have a BA in political science from San Francisco State University, a MBA and a Master of Public Policy from the very queer friendly and progressive Mills College. At Mills, I was a Point Foundation Scholarship finalist. The credential I am most proud of, however, is my sainthood from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; my saint’s name is St. Wes Craven-Cox.
I have been visiting your grand city of San Francisco since the mid-eighties. I still travel there on a regular basis for work and to be inspired to write my next poem, screenplay or story.
I am an award-winning writer with over 35 awards to my credit. I also write Feature stories for the NoHo Arts District News, (http://www.nohoartsdistrict.com/entertainment-all/the-lines), which covers Los Angeles County & the entire San Fernando Valley.
Though I am based in Los Angeles, I also call Castro my home. As I pointed out, I travel frequently there for business & inspiration.
My intention to join the board is simple: To be a part of a Team of like-minded individuals who want to preserve the Historic Heritage that Castro is and represents. I have observed how the City of West Hollywood has given itself over to greedy developers and contractors and representatives. Any and all available real estate is now gone-way to being bulldozed and replaced by ‘Luxury Condos.’ This includes Historic architectural designs and vintage buildings that made West Hollywood so special and unique. I give you this warning, this is exactly what will happen to Castro if you do NOT act fast & now! Rents are skyrocketing in Castro, as well as WeHo, and I see the sad effects. You will lose the charm, the sweetness & ambience that defines Castro if you’re not careful.
Your Artists are everything! They are the pulse of any great city and community. WeHo chased the Artists out many years ago with astronomical rents. Don’t let that happen to Castro.
Our Straight Friends & allies are important and we love them. We have worked hard for their Friendship. Those friends will also understand how important it is to keep Castro the gay mecca that it is. WeHo, on the other hand, is mixed, and has evolved out of being the ‘Boys Town’ that it once bragged it was.
Affordable Housing & the homeless … where do I begin? A problem and dynamic that faces us all here and across America. A topic that has many answers and questions and must be addressed. Can Castro be a Leader & model in this area?
I’m 56 and I’d like to think I represent the ‘young-minded’ seniors. No, I don’t do karaoke and I hate bingo. I’m not sure why ‘those things’ became to define seniors. I love a great dance party that includes music from the 1960s-90s! LOUD! We’re NOT dead, yet! Perhaps, I can help organize a dance party as a fundraiser. As we know, fundraising is a key element to a successful charity. DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! As a DJ, (my fantasy career) I own over 6000 classic TOP 40 Hits, and I can even help DJ the fundraiser.
In conclusion, I have been a member of San Francisco’s own Sundance Association For Country Western Dancing for 16 years, with many of its members in Castro.
I love your community & I would like to be a part of the Castro LGBT Cultural District’s mission!
Jesse Oliver Sanford
For 15 years, I’ve lived at 18th and Castro, right on the intersection, in the apartment above the Sausage Factory and next to Bank of America. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, I’ve seen our queer Mecca in all her “looks”: out, loud, and proud, drunken and sober, flooded with tourists, pouring with rain.
Every time I walk up to Market, I see folks whose names I know: neighbors and tourists, staff and owners, homeless and housed. Every day, I offer thanks for the privilege of living here, where Gilbert Baker sewed 6 colored stripes into the globally-recognized symbol for our community, where José Sarria ran for office and founded the Imperial Court. And every day, I ask: with such a gift, what is my responsibility?
At Grand Central, the Radical Faerie collective house where I live, I’ve hosted hundreds of community dinners and scores of community meetings. As a Pride Board member, I drove the replacement of the Pride website, organized a reception that raised nearly $10k, and proposed the 2016 theme, “For Racial and Economic Justice.” As part of the Faerie church, Nomenus, I’ve helped open membership to all genders and bring on projects across the country, from an intensive retreat program to a trans-centric commune in Tennessee.
Since 1990, San Francisco has lost 1 in 4 of its queers and most of its queer venues and businesses, while the number of LGBT homeless has skyrocketed. For the Cultural District, changing those trends is the bottom line.
That’s why, for three years now, I’ve been studying affordable housing and real estate. I’ve learned from leaders of color who’ve recently liberated numerous homes in the East Bay from for-profit speculation. At Creating Change in Detroit, on a panel with the head of the Philadelphia LGBT Center and a leader of Trans Housing Atlanta, I taught a training on US housing policy, showing how it continues the theft of Black and Indigenous land. And I’ve been working to bring Community Land Trusts — a better type of real estate ownership, invented by two visionary Black activists — into our community.
I am a lifelong queer liberationist. I didn’t just show up for this election, nor am I interested in higher office. If I ran for Supervisor, the mainstream would eat me alive. But for almost two years, since our first meeting in Spring 2018, I’ve been working to found this Cultural District. As chair of our Governance Committee, I wrote the rules for this election. And as a board member, I will fight for:
* Housing for queers and queer groups, right here in the Castro;
* Supportive training and employment opportunities, especially in empty storefronts;
* Safer hangout spaces for queer youth;
* A permanent home for the nation’s first LGBT museum;
* Sanctuary for LGBTQ refugees from the US and beyond, regardless of economic means; and
* Racial and gender justice, especially through diverse leadership that actively challenges white supremacy.
Please come out February 22nd and cast a vote for me!
My name is Anvar Shukurliyev. I came from the one of hundreds of homophobic countries. I am going to tell you some very unpleasant things because you need to know the truth and I have all rights to do that due to my DNA of rainbow color.
The Castro has created the beacon of freedom for all gay people in the world. But as we gain more rights and achievements, the more angry homophobic countries become. They hate us more, they kill us more, they are afraid of us more. And it is just because we still did not provide them the same equal mission as they have which is procreation. They think that we are the genetic trash,
Today the Castro must declare our mission. We created our flag and we need to put some words on it. Where are we moving to. What is our final destination. If we teach ourselves to love each other as gay people, if we are first who make the next step of our human evolution, if we show that we were born to make this world beautiful, that will be our victory and our decent mission, We need to talk about it a lot, we need to spread this information among all gay communities in the Castro, Then the rest of the world can accept us by heart, because we were brave enough to make a human’s dream “Love thy neighbor” first. That is why I am knocking on the door of the bravest people in the world.
It is possible to do this. We can do this. Some people have started doing it already.
I am ready to serve humanity. And you my gay brothers and sisters? And you……
As a Business Professional and longtime Castro resident, serving on the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District Advisory Board would afford me the opportunity to apply my business and marketing background to help maintain and revitalize one of San Francisco’s most important districts.
Stephen Jon Torres
Thank-you for accepting my nomination for the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District’s advisory board.
As a newly out teenager, living in suburban Southern California is when I first watched Robert Epstein’s The Times of Harvey Milk. After ninety minutes, my understanding of who I was had completely changed. Being queer and poc was who I was, but I suddenly realised I was also part of a larger force. Part of a movement that had started long before I even existed. I too could effect change. I also knew in my heart that I would end up in San Francisco.
The city I moved to in the summer of 1999 has changed greatly in the twenty-one years since. Even then I was shocked by the deep scars left on Castro Street by the horrors of an epidemic that seemed only to harden as the city’s economic prosperity in subsequent years has failed to manifest itself in its neighbourhoods. The Castro and many other neighbourhoods are becoming shadows of their former selves.
Harvey Milk was only a year older than I am now when he opened Castro Camera. Eureka Valley in 1973 was on the precipice of decline as well. But what Harvey and his contemporaries saw was the promise of something new and beautiful. They were able to harness an energy that redefined what the “all-American” Main Street looked like. Castro Street became a center of vitality in a time when San Francisco and our country were fracturing..
I believe that we are stewards of that vision and the maintenance of that movement. Even in its infancy, the Castro Village was plagued with racial and gender inequality that still exists. Now its living and economic disparities are nearing a fever pitch, too. Not only are we the custodians of the rich history of our neighbourhood, but we are the propagators of growth and redefinition of what the Castro is, what it should be, and what it can be. The Castro is still a shining beacon to so much of the world. We owe it to our history, our community and our movement to keep that beacon lit, welcoming and functioning.
In my twenty-one years in San Francisco, I have lived in five of its neighbourhoods, including the Castro and currently, the Mission. I have chronicled its past and present as a freelance writer. I have served over seven years on the board of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club working for an equitable city and maintaining Harvey and our forebearers’ legacy in our community. I work as a substitute teacher at the Children’s After School Arts program at Rooftop Elementary, in awe of the promise of our future. And I sling drinks at Twin Peaks Tavern, one of our very own legacy businesses, here at the crossroads of the world. It would be an honour and a privilege if you elected me to the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District Advisory Board. Thank-you.