I came out to myself during college. I never accepted my sexuality prior and this drove me to the point of madness. I desired to know and understand who I was as a gay and I knew that the only place where I can find that—in a tangible and visible form—was San Francisco. Castro, to be exact.
There isn’t a more colorful place in the world than Castro, San Francisco. It’s always alive with people walking, hand in hand, the smell fresh baked cookies from Hot Cookie, and the colors of what it means to live life proud. There are rainbow banners on every pole, rainbow flags on every door way, and a giant rainbow flag right at the beginning of the street.
In other words, it’s pretty gay. Now, I think you understand just how immensely interesting taking a stroll here must be like: seeing couples, no matter the gender, strolling down the street and having people who aren’t afraid to be different, shine.
This is where I met myself—for the first time, in color.
I enrolled in the University of San Francisco and explored myself through a city that is diverse, accepting, and progressive. If there is one place on Earth where you can go to be who you want to be, it’s San Francisco.
And I did just that. I found myself gravitating to Castro—seeking the acceptance I craved for in all the flags, flashy clothes, and interesting shops. I wasn’t let down. The street itself is short and offers little to do if you aren’t 21 or over but even if you cannot participate in this—going to Castro is very important in discovering the paths of who we can become and who we want to be.
Most of media today depicts the gay community as promiscuous and raunchy—which is can be, don’t get me wrong. (I sort of live in it, anyway.) But Castro showed me that the vast majority of what media says isn’t always the case: it takes a physical presence to truly appreciate where you come from.
The flags hanging from almost every pole and from almost every shop all form a continuous bond of unity—of solidarity and strength. The community may be sparse and thin and outnumbered but once we gather in large enough numbers, we can’t be blotted out.
So, my advice to you is: if you are seeking to discover who you are, go to where you came from. If you are African American, seek out the country of your ancestors or if you are from a long line of barbers, discover where that began. I don’t know where you came from but I can tell you this—going to the start will always lead to you discovering where you will go in the future.
Seeing all of my brothers and sisters in arms, standing out, and being present, it makes me feel more like myself and it creates a bright future. There is a saying that the gay community absolutely adores: “It gets better.”
This isn’t about paying money to have fun or going somewhere to eat the local cuisine: it’s about traveling to the genesis of your being. And that, to me, is one of the most important advantages of traveling.
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