Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This is my reaction to a piece written by Slate magazine's William Saletan, who suggests that the reason why San Francisco's Castro neighborhood rose to oppose the increasingly bold nudists walking around in the neighborhood is because they are "becoming more bourgeois" due to a shift toward same-sex marriage and, more importantly, parentage:

Ever since gay marriage became a plausible idea, opponents have predicted it would unravel society. There’d be runaway polygamy, bestiality, and public nudity. In 2008, as Californians debated a gay-marriage ballot measure, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality said it was “no coincidence that the man who took it upon himself four years ago to illegally and radically redefine marriage,” then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, was promoting an event featuring “rampant public nudity.” This year, the Family Policy Institute of Washington warned that Referendum 74, which proposed to legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state, would “make marriage genderless” and lead to men using women’s locker rooms. The National Organization for Marriage, capitalizing on a nudist’s stunt, ran the headline: “The ‘Naked Cowboy’ Comes Out for Gay Marriage.” The Iowa Republican depicted same-sex marriage as a gateway to nudity, incest, and necrophilia.

The predictions haven’t panned out. Instead, gays have drawn a line. While voters in Washington and three other states endorsed same-sex marriage this month, residents of San Francisco’s Castro district, possibly the most gay-friendly place on Earth, persuaded the city’s board of supervisors to pass an ordinance restricting public nudity. The rise of same-sex households isn’t making society queer. It’s making gay people bourgeois ...

My comment, which I posted at 7:00 am PST on November 28, 2012 (it has not been approved as yet):
As a lifelong resident of San Francisco, I can tell you that the populace here isn't getting any more conservative. It's been decades since anyone in city government came out of the closet and admitted that they, indeed, are Republican. The politics have gotten nastier for officials who didn't feel a compulsion to shift more to the left as the center moved to the right. For example, in the last mayoral election, the moderate Democrat public defender was vilified by the city's public employee unions for the sole offense of sponsoring a pension reform measure on the ballot. This earned him one attack ad showing his face alongside Sarah Palin's & George W. Bush's, and a another one suggesting there was no difference between him and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ("San Francisco is NO Tea Party Town!")

I know that people who are in favor of same-sex marriage want to believe that it's the moral equivalent of banishing anti-miscegenation laws (it's not), and to that end will embrace arguments that marriage in the gay community will temper the perception (or the reality) of the stereotypical promiscuous homosexual that causes Midwestern church ladies to clutch their pearls. That's a discussion for another time, because the nudity debate isn't really about that. It's about the line -- invisible to the naked eye (pun not intended) -- between "enough" and "too much."

Mr. Saletan compiled examples of public nudity long tolerated in San Francisco: The Bay to Breakers 10K bacchanalia, the Pride Parade with its long history of literally shameless exhibitionism before an audience of all ages, and The Folsom Street Fair, at which SF Police stand by and keep "order" among open displays of onanism and sadomasochism. Here's the difference, though: Those are events, not everyday life. The idea is that as long as a crowd of thousands only gather together to "scare the horses" once a year, it's not worth the expense and the effort to haul them all into the pokey -- just don't start waving broken whiskey bottles around.

But as is written in Ecclesiastes (or for you atheists, as The Byrds sang), "There is a season and a time to every purpose..." Even in the planet's Gay Mecca, the consensus is clear: The time for public nudity is NOT seven days a week in broad daylight at a busy intersection and for NO real purpose besides expressing the opinion that one's birthday suit ought to be seen by people who have NO true interest in looking. Public nudity per se has nothing to do with being homosexual or not, it has to do with eschewing rudimentary hygiene and lack of consideration for others.

As I said at the beginning, San Francisco isn't getting more conservative, but this narrow Board of Supervisors vote may be an indication that the city has finally hit bottom on being bizarre for bizarreness' sake. In 2008, an Eff You ballot measure that would rename a sewage treatment plant after George W. Bush was surprisingly defeated, and in 2009, gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty's proposed "sex tents" idea ("There are definitely people interested in seeing more public sex") was shot down in flames.

Calm down, lefties. Cracking down on people who wave their crack outdoors won't make San Francisco into Peoria any time soon.  

It occurred to me after writing this that it's ironic how Peoria, IL has become the go-to city when using shorthand for Middle America ("Will it play in Peoria?") when, in reality, Illinois was the first state in the union to decriminalize sodomy in 1961, a decade and a half before California did. So, in a sense, San Francisco adopted Peoria values.