When “Strawberry” was ejected from his student digs in Denver, Colorado, following a rental dispute, he headed to San Francisco thinking it would provide a sanctuary for a young gay man.
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.