A rendering of the winning design for the revamp of Castro's Harvey Milk Plaza, which will debut sometime in late 2019. (Courtesy of Perkins Eastman, via @friendsofharveymilkplaza)

2018 is another big gay year for San Francisco


San Francisco is known as the world's LGBTQ capital for a reason—lots of reasons.

And with all the dystopian hoopla tickering across CNN 24/7, it's nice to find solace in the fact that San Francisco still remains a touchstone for inclusivity in America. And at just the halfway point, 2018 is already turning out to be another landmark year in the city's hella gay history.

Here are this year's biggest pieces of SF LGBTQ news—so far.

A Folsom Street Fairgoer captured side by side in his festival and everyday street looks.(Courtesy of Crave Portrait Project)

We (finally) got an official Leather District.

Your average outsider might be a little surprised to learn that, in May 2018, the San Francisco Board of Supes voted to establish an official Leather Cultural District, in a slice of SoMa between 7th and 11th streets. Come to think of it, if you were really an outsider, you might not even know what that means. But here in SF, this is just the kind of thing we live for. And the vote was actually more than a decade in the making, according to Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who points to the neighborhood's pivotal influence during the 1980s AIDS epidemic.

"The service of the leather community during the AIDS crisis—the nonprofits they founded, the amount of fundraising they did in the fight against AIDS—is something that should not be forgotten," he said. But even before that, the 'hood had been a capital for leather culture since the early 1960s, and an LGBTQ enclave dating back to the '50s.

The Leather District joins the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and Filipino Cultural Heritage District as a neighborhood historic landmark and, like its neighbors, will enjoy the benefits of an official state certification that allows the neighborhood to market itself as a cultural district; the Leather District will also receive $5,000 in annual stipends that can be used to support the community as well as for rebranding efforts. The designation also makes the 'hood eligible to apply for other city funding and outreach programs.

District landmarks include sites of former bathhouses, leather shops, and bars, and remains home to various local businesses—including The Stud, The Eagle, Powerhouse, and Oasis—as well as, of course, the annual Folsom Street Fair, which dates back to 1984. You'll also find SF Catalyst, the hub for the Leather Alliance. // For more information, go to leatheralliance.org.

A momentous year for the memory of Harvey Milk.

Forty years ago, the "Mayor of Castro Street" Harvey Milk was famously sworn in by the SF Board of Supervisors; eleven months later, in November of 1978, the gay rights champion was assassinated. To mark the anniversary, the late Milk's adopted hometown is doing right by his memory.

Thirty-three years since it was originally dedicated, Harvey Milk Plaza, which sits above the MUNI station at the intersection of Castro and Market Streets and is marked by a massive rainbow flag (it was erected in 1997 to mark the 20th anniversary of Milk's election), is getting a much needed revamp. The plaza, which as has served as a pilgrimage and political gathering spot, is slated for a major makeover thanks to a recent international design competition. The winning firm, New York–based Perkins Eastman, aims to convert the platform into a "soapbox for many," with a tiered amphitheater that can host activism and community events.

The new plaza will also hold a historical exhibit chronicling the life and achievements of Milk, and by night, yellow LED light posts will evoke the candles so often used here for vigils. Instagrammers will delight in the new rainbow lights that will illuminate the plaza's ceiling on MUNI's mezzanine level.

Other homages to Milk have also popped up. In April, the Board of Supes approved the renaming of SFO's Terminal One after the civil rights icon. The plan will include installations devised by the SF Arts Commission.

Also, in May, artist Oz Montania, in partnership with Stoli Vodka and the Harvey Milk Foundation, unveiled a new mural in honor of the late politician outside The Cafe nightclub at the corner of 18th and Castro. Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk's gay nephew and co-chair of the Harvey Milk Foundation, spoke at a special event for the big reveal. "This mural does a wonderful justice to my uncle's vision and dream, that people can live authentically, without a mask," he said.

Another big anniversary.

Fifteen years ago, San Francisco's then-mayor Gavin Newsom made the bold move of issuing the United States' first same-sex marriage licenses, in opposition to President George W. Bush who had clearly declared his stance against marriage equality. The SF unions were famously annulled by a Supreme Court ruling four months later, but the landmark event set the stage for the national fight for marriage equality, now the law of the land.

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