I was trying to remember exactly when I first noticed the gaggle of gay naked guys gathering at gay ground zero, right where Castro and Market Streets meet.
It was last summer in July of 2011, while I was walking to my local bank, that I noticed a few gents in their birthday suits, just two blocks away from where I live. They sat casually in scattered chairs on the perimeter of the cute little parklet, that sits adjacent to the gas station on the southwest corner of Castro Street.
I asked myself if there was a weekday street fair or festival that I was unaware of, going on somewhere in the city, but knew that the Folsom Street Fair and the Castro Street Fair were months away. We expect to see nudity at our street fairs and festivals, and it adds a distinctly liberal, liberating and naughty spice to the festivities.
It was midday and there was a frigid easterly breeze sweeping down from Twin Peaks, into Eureka Valley. It was cold, and I thought that the naked guys must be freezing.
Over the coming weeks, months, and for over a year now - the gaggle of gay naked guys gathering at gay ground zero has multiplied considerably. While before there were 3 or 4 guys a couple times a week, there are 7 or 8 guys almost every day of the week. Weekends attract a greater number of nudists, and the weather has little to no effect on whether they show up. If there’s one thing you can count on, even in inclement weather, it’s the nudists at Castro and Market.
I posted my thoughts about the gaggle of gay naked guys, on September 12th, 2011. It’s entitled “Controversy: Don Ameche and the Cast Of Cocoon 2 --- At Castro And Market Daily,” which was a reference to the film Cocoon starring Don Ameche and Jessica Tandy, where the Senior Citizens disrobe and take off all of their clothes. I referenced the film because most of the nudists I’ve seen seem to be Senior Citizens, or are close to being a Senior Citizen.
Over the last few months, there’s been a controversy brewing in my neighborhood. Almost every day there’s a small gaggle of gay naked guys, gathering at the intersection of Castro and Market, to shock tourists, piss off merchants, make a political statement, exercise their free speech rights, and confuse and alienate kids, while the long time residents of the gayborhood primarily walk past, and like me, just roll our eyes.The “no skid mark” ordinance was passed. Quite frankly if this happened every once in awhile, I don’t think that anyone would be bothered by it. The fact that it happens daily, at a major city intersection and transit hub, and at the entrance to the historic Castro district neighborhood, where you can’t avoid the assault on your sensibilities - is what has the neighborhood residents up in arms, myself included.
Supervisor Scott (no relation to Anthony) Wiener is proposing an ordinance requiring the gaggle of naked gays, to place a cloth, a sanitary device, dental dam, or a towel, between their bare bums and the park bench, chair, or other seating available, for sanitary reasons. I think that a low dose of valium, or prozac, should be included as well. (For me - not for them!) The gaggle of naked guys will not be confused with the men of Hot House, or Raging Stallion, who are often seen in the area from time to time. We aren’t that lucky on these balmy days here in the Castro.
In the past year this problem has gotten worse from my perspective. In our neighborhood we have LGBT families with children, and straight families with children, who can’t avoid transiting through that major intersection. I don’t care what the proponents of “letting it all hang out” claim, If a parent does not want their 6 year old to have to see a gaggle of naked gay guys gathered in the neighborhood every day, then the gaggle of naked guys need to go away and free speech be damned!
This whole controversy bothers me on a number of different levels. On a visceral level, I resent not having a choice, and I don’t like being forced to see the gaggle of gay naked guys nearly every day. They have a choice to be clothed or naked, and I don’t have a choice of whether I can avoid having to look at them or not.
Quite frankly, I don’t want to see what I’m going to look like in the future, as I age, and I’d rather be kept in the dark (no pun intended). Seeing so many old gay guys has opened my eyes to the aging process, that’s for sure. I had no idea how much certain parts of the human body sags, while other bits jiggle, and the skin stretches with a texture that resembles fried pork rinds. No no no it ain’t right!
When I hear the gay guys say that this is a “free speech” matter, I disagree completely. To conflate nudity with free speech, is ridiculous. Whether someone is clothed or not, one can speak freely, and no one is trying to abridge anyone’s free speech.
No no no it ain’t right!
On Tuesday November 20th the Board of Supervisors will be considering legislation to ban the naked guys from the Castro. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Heather Knight described the proposed ordinance.
San Francisco may be a let-it-all-hang-out kind of city, but Supervisor Scott Wiener has a message for the nudists who parade their wares in the city's plazas and sidewalks: Put your pants on.I suspect that passage of this law is a slam dunk, in spite of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the gaggle of gay naked guys, to stop the legislation. I have yet to find any neighbor who is against the ban.
Wiener on Tuesday proposed legislation that would ban the exposure of genitals or buttocks on all city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets and public transit.
Nudity would remain legal at street fairs, festivals and parades - and thus, the Folsom Street Fair, Bay to Breakers and the Gay Pride Parade could remain as flesh-filled as ever. The legislation also wouldn't affect nudity at public beaches or on private property.
At Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market streets on Tuesday, the clothed sun worshipers were mostly relieved to hear that the Castro district's famous "naked guys" could soon be forced to be just regular, pants-wearing guys. As many as a dozen nudists gather almost daily in the neighborhood's town square.
Lisa Leff of The Associated Press writes in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal would make it illegal for a person over the age of 5 to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza" or while using public transit.I am hopeful that there is support on the Board of Supervisors for the nudity ban. If you want to see Don Ameche and the cast of Cocoon 2 get yourself to the corner of Castro and Market. Their limited run may soon be over.
A first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail. Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sadomasochism and other sexual subcultures.
Wiener said he resisted introducing the ordinance, but felt compelled to act after constituents complained about the naked men who gather in a small Castro plaza most days and sometimes walk the streets au naturel. He persuaded his colleagues last year to pass a law requiring a cloth to be placed between public seating and bare rears, yet the complaints have continued.
"I don't think having some guys taking their clothes off and hanging out seven days a week at Castro and Market Street is really what San Francisco is about. I think it's a caricature of what San Francisco is about," Wiener said.
The proposed ban predictably has produced outrage, as well as a lawsuit. Last week, about two dozen people disrobed in front of City Hall and marched around the block to the amusement of gawking tourists and high school students on a field trip.
Stripped down to his sunglasses and hiking boots, McCray Winpsett, 37, said he understands the disgust of residents who would prefer not to see the body modifications and sex enhancement devices sported by some of the Castro nudists. But he thinks Wiener's prohibition goes too far in undermining a tradition "that keeps San Francisco weird."
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