SAN FRANCISCO

Tears For Queers: Inside Polk Gulch's Gay Trans-formation

03/21/2012 12:42 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2012

Like many young queers, when I first moved to San Francisco I headed right for the Castro. Its reputation as a gay haven had lured me here in the first place. But over time, I found my home in places like the girl-centric bars of the Mission and Bernal, and the boy clubs of SOMA. Lately I've been venturing even further to the original queer neighborhood -- Polk Gulch.

Before the Castro, there was Polk. From the 1950s through the early 1980s, Polk was the gay center of San Francisco. But it was in the 1970s that Polk Gulch (between Geary and Union) really earned its rainbow stripes. In this pre-AIDS, pro-love era, Polk Street was a booming gay center, filled with clubs, bars, bathhouses, underground and above ground sex clubs, and frontline gay rights groups that laid the foundation for today's local queer community. In short, Polk started it all.

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