A Glimpse of the “Gay World” in San Francisco & the “Fast World” in Los Angeles
STRUGGLING TO REMAIN ANCHORED IN JESUS
Ed. Note: During the 1985-1986 academic year, the Dutch-born Henri J.M. Nouwen was a priest-in-residence at the l’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France (a Catholic/ecumenical community serving disabled persons). This article is the tenth and final installment in a series of articles reflecting on that year, and includes impressions of a trip to the U.S. The series is adapted from his diary.
Saturday, May 31, 1986
In San Francisco. I am in the Castro district, the sensual, glittering gay district of San Francisco, to visit a friend who recently moved here.
If ever the word “gay” seems a euphemism it is in today’s Castro, where many young men die daily of AIDS and thousands are worried that they carry the virus that causes the disease. Behind a facade of opulent wealth, splashy entertainment, and large stores with posters, printed T-shirts, and all sorts of playful knickknacks lies an immense fear. And not only fear, but also guilt, feelings of rejection, anger, fatalism, careless hedonism, and, in the midst of it all, trust, hope, love, and the rediscovery of God in the face of death.
As I walked with my friend on the streets of the Castro district, we saw countless men walking up and down the sidewalks just looking at each other, gazing in store windows or standing on corners in small groups, going in and out of bars, theaters, video shops, and restaurants. It seemed as if everyone was waiting for something that would bring him a sense of being deeply loved, fully accepted, and truly at home. But in many eyes there was deep suffering, anguish, and loneliness, because what they most seek seems most elusive. Many have not been able to find a lasting home or relationship, and now with the AIDS threat fear overshadows all the disillusionment.
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