Monday, March 19, 2012

Queer Community Day 3

There's no adequate place to even begin talking about this trip; San Francisco is an incredible city and my initial interactions with it have been enthralling, overwhelming, and enlightening. Perhaps the best place to start is to say that it is completely foreign to be in a city (or at least portions of it) where Queer issues are openly discussed and consciously celebrated. Exploration of the Castro, Mission street, and the Tenderloin has unveiled different dimensions of a city that is unquestionably unique. We're just beginning our service portion of the trip, spending most of the day packaging Cranberry seeds at the San Francisco Food Bank, but the edification began the second we all hopped off the plane. This place has induced some form of either reflection or culture shock for each of us (or at least that is the impression I've gotten from our conversations, group reflections, etc.). San Francisco is incredibly diverse and the different districts we've gotten to slightly discover have outlined the huge disparities in income, acceptance, and tolerance not only of Queer issues, but a host of others.

The biggest challenge I've had so far is kind of hard to articulate. We've been exposed to individuals, districts, and organizations that are incredibly inclusive to Queer issues, but there has almost been a heavier presence of a financial and cultural disconnect both within and outside of that population. This popped up in our discussions of Castro street-a heavily gentrified, predominantly gay/queer male, and outlandishly historical district in San Francisco. Having only been exposed to the area in scenes from Milk, my expectations were already irrevocably skewed. Actually exploring the area unearthed an extremely different vibe than the one I acquired from traipsing around the Tenderloin or Mission street. I didn't get a sense of history there, at least the kind that wasn't pre-packaged for consumption by ambivalent tourists. That may not make a ton of sense, so perhaps the most succinct way to describe my reaction is to say that as an obvious tourist with a camera dangling from my neck, dressed down in an ugly sweater and jeans, I felt ill-equipped to be roaming the area. It was a similar reaction to impromptu trips to Uptown in Minneapolis: I wasn't uncomfortable, I just didn't feel the connection I was expecting. Our brief visit to Mission street and our somewhat sporadic walk around the Tenderloin, however, proved to fill that void.

This has been a good lesson to not wait three days before doing a blog post; my mind is fried and my feet hurt so the observations aren't coming as rapidly as this post demands. So far this has been a fascinating experience with some stellar individuals who appreciate outlandish use of a camera (which is always good for me). Every part of this city has a different feel and community, and getting to discern and discuss the differences with an incredible, intelligent group of people who care about Queer issues has been so refreshing. Now it's time to add 272 photos to the album already approaching 500.


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