- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO

In just about any other place, the sight of a man and woman pushing a stroller would be welcomed as a sign of stability and safety. In San Francisco’s heavily homosexual Castro District, some people can’t help but think: There goes the neighborhood.

Leaders in the Castro and other predominantly homosexual neighborhoods around the country fear their enclaves are losing their distinct identities.

These areas are slowly being altered by an influx of heterosexual couples, the forces of gentrification, and growing confidence among homosexuals that they can live pretty much wherever they want nowadays and do not need the security of being in a “gay ghetto.”

“What I’ve heard from some people is, ‘We don’t need the Castro anymore because essentially San Francisco is our Castro,’ ” said Don Romesburg, co-chairman of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual) Historical Society.

As the fear of AIDS has eased, homosexual neighborhoods have become attractive to developers and investors trying to encourage families and empty-nesters to return to city centers, said Don Reuter, a New York writer researching a book on the rise and fall of homosexual neighborhoods in the United States.

Besides the brigades of baby strollers in the Castro, other signs of changes in San Francisco include the security gates installed last year by a hotel to discourage “cruising,” and the recent closing of a store that sold erotic leather gear. National chains like Pottery Barn and Diesel now occupy prominent Castro locations.

In addition, a sex-toys shop that had posters from homosexual pornographic movies in the window and an antiques store that had a naked male statue were asked last year to tone down their displays. They grudgingly obliged.

Also, several nonprofit agencies serving the homosexual community in the Castro have also moved out because of rising rents. Meanwhile, 500 new apartments and condominiums are planned for the area, and half of them have been designated “family housing.”

“When I see a stroller now, I see it as someone who evicted a person with AIDS, right or wrong,” said longtime community leader Brian Basinger, president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual Democratic Club.

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