Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods: The Castro, CA

Rainbow flags fly over The Castro
Rainbow banners fly along a street in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood.

Photo by Kenny Louie (CC BY 2.0;

San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is known as the oldest LGBTQ enclave in the country. It began to take shape at the end of World War II when United States detention policies had displaced thousands of Japanese Americans, families were flocking to live in suburban developments, and San Francisco's urban neighborhoods were particularly affordable. The LGBTQ community flourished, opening businesses and creating an entire community area where queer expression was celebrated, instead of being closeted. The camera shop where openly gay City Supervisor Harvey Milk worked and campaigned is located in the Castro. His assassination in 1978, along with the explosion of the AIDS epidemic and related homophobic persecution, galvanized the community, creating a larger sense of pride and urgency for self-expression. Today, the Castro is known for hosting one of the most boisterous LGBTQ Pride celebrations in the world. The neighborhood is home to an incredibly vibrant queer population, many of whom celebrate their identity daily by living openly queer lifestyles. LGBTQ businesses thrive and thanks to San Francisco's unrivaled yearly Pride celebration, the Castro is one of a handful of queer travel destinations in the world.

Part of a series of articles titled Finding Our Place: LGBTQ Heritage in the United States.

Last updated: February 20, 2018