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Is Noe Valley Safe for Gay People?
I am writing this piece to ask that question: Is Noe Valley safe for gay people? I have lived in Noe Valley for 15 years. I was here before the earthquake and before the boom. I have seen stores come and go and neighborhood kids grow to adulthood, and I have always felt like this was my home. I love Noe Valley and have always been proud to live here.
Last Sunday night, June 3, my neighbor Bill and I were confronted with homophobic bigotry while walking past a bar on 24th Street. Two men sitting outside verbally abused us. I will not repeat their outrageous small-minded remarks, but in a nutshell, we were told that we did not belong here and that we should be "over the hill," meaning we belonged in the Castro.
Our first reaction was shock, and we both kept walking. Though both of us are large muscular men, we decided not to inflame the situation by confronting these drunken individuals. However, when I got home, I called the bar to complain. I also called the police. By then, the men were gone. Since then, I have called the bar's owner, spoken with the manager, and introduced myself to most of the bartenders.
I will say that they were surprised by this event, claiming that theirs is a neighborhood bar and this has never happened before. They promised they would talk to their patrons about the incident, and particularly to those who go outside to smoke.
Although I have been somewhat satisfied with the response of the bar management, I am still troubled by the incident. When I walk past the bar, I often see intoxicated people sitting outside at tables and smoking and drinking. I have had to walk around motorcycles on the sidewalk. I have also asked other neighbors about their experiences with the patrons of this bar. Many agree that some of the patrons have not acted in a neighborly fashion. Many women have also mentioned being harassed while walking by.
Are we at a place in our society where abuse toward women and gay people is the norm? I sure don't want to believe that.
I ask my neighbors, particularly those who are gay, women, and people of color, to let our bars know we live here. Let's stop this type of negative behavior in the place we call home.
Join me also in asking for the sidewalk tables to be removed. Let's make our street safe to walk on again.
(Full name withheld by request)
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