For decades, the Castro has been a site of queer resistance, LGBTQ+ counterculture movements and the open expression of LGBTQ+ pride. This week, in time for the city’s 2019 Pride celebration, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to designate the Castro as a cultural district.
This is an important step in the preservation of the neighborhood’s cultural heritage. The designation is much more than just symbolic — it also means the Castro will receive $230,000 in city funds. This money will go toward serving the district’s queer community and can also be used to write grants soliciting additional funds.
With its votes, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has demonstrated its willingness to invest in queer spaces and uplift marginalized communities. San Francisco has taken the lead, and now it’s time for the city of Berkeley to follow suit. Berkeley officials must invest financially in more queer spaces and resources for the city’s LGBTQ+ residents. And both San Francisco and Berkeley, in doing so, need to also specifically support intersectional LGBTQ+ communities and create room for them to grow and thrive.
This support could take many forms — for example, the designated funding provided to the Castro district could be used to preserve the neighborhood’s historically significant businesses. Many such businesses have been disappearing in the face of increasing rents. By using funds to support these businesses, the Castro district will be able to preserve its identity and function as a neighborhood that uplifts these communities.
It is crucial that as San Francisco allocates these funds to businesses and communities in the neighborhood, officials ensure that spaces for those who may experience double discrimination are also being invested in. If the Castro were to allocate specific portions of these funds to queer and transgender people of color, it could function to counterbalance the rampant gentrification taking place in San Francisco.
While San Francisco and the Castro district have many nuances to consider as they determine how to use these funds, Berkeley simply needs to start with allocating more city funds to the LGBTQ+ community. Relative to San Francisco, it has done little to actively support queer businesses or historic queer spaces. UC Berkeley has the Gender Equity Resource Center, LGBTQ+ counselors at University Health Services and various other clubs and centers for queer and transgender people on campus. But once you leave the campus and enter the city, resources and spaces like these are much harder to find.
Berkeley needs to consider investing more heavily in LGBTQ+ resources, such as community centers or counseling services. While there are a few centers scattered throughout the city, they need to be more accessible to the community and must be given more funding so they can grow their outreach.
Cities such as San Francisco and Berkeley have historically been hosts to incredible moments of queer struggle and liberation. And as the LGBTQ+ community continues to fight for equality in the face of discrimination and alienation, these city governments must take the lead as allies and advocates.