Not so. After six months of living on the streets he had lost the shirt on his back – literally. Identified as an easy target he was chased, beaten and robbed of the backpack containing all his worldly goods. “He grabbed me by the hair, threw me to the ground and started dragging me,” he said of his attacker. “My shirt was ripped off and I got a black eye and a bloody nose,” he said. “San Francisco is not the gay-friendly mecca that they say it is.”
Thanks to the equality rights work of pioneers such as the politician and activist Harvey Milk, San Francisco has a reputation as the gay capital of the world. But as the city recovers from its 43rd gay Pride festival at the weekend, attended by more than 1.5 million people, it must confront an uncomfortable issue. The streets through which about 200 colourful parades – from drag queens to the motorcycle-riding Dykes on Bikes – travelled, are also home to increasing numbers of gay homeless people, many of whom are exceptionally vulnerable to prejudice and violence.
Research produced by the Human Services Agency of San Francisco (SF-HSA) has revealed that 29 per cent of the city’s homeless population are from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. “Strawberry” is now living in a shelter but says his sexuality places him at risk.
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