A new study of Castro district shoppers aligns with what many locals have observed in recent years: that the neighborhood has gotten less gay.
The Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy survey asked 1,200 people a series of demographic questions, including whether they identified as LGBTQ. Overall, out of the 600 residents who answered that question, 72.50 percent affirmed their LGBTQ identity.
That might seem as high as ever, but here’s the thing: The less time respondents had lived in the neighborhood, the less likely they were to answer yes.
Of the 296 respondents living in the neighborhood ten or more years, 77 percent identified as LGBTQ. Among those who have lived in the Castro for five years or less, 66 percent of the 223 respondents identified as LGBTQ.
The percentages keep dropping from there. For the 104 respondents who have lived in the neighborhood for two years or less, 61 percent identified as LGBTQ, and 55 percent did so out of the 44 surveyed that had been in the Castro for a year or less.
“Historically, there has been an ongoing conversation about whether the Castro is (or was) becoming less gay,” said Project Coordinator Danny Yadegar, in an interview with Hoodline. “These numbers seem to support our observation that a lot of the new residents of the neighborhood—presumably in the hundreds of new condominiums in the Market Street corridor—include an increasing number of people who don’t identify as LGBT.”
“I don't think it would be a stretch to predict that in the next few years less than half the new residents will identify as LGBT,” he added.
The survey, conducted last November in order to analyze the demographics of neighborhood shoppers, was sponsored by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) along with a range of neighborhood organizations, and was conducted by Seifel Consulting and coordinated by Yadegar. Of the 1201 people who responded to the survey online or via street interviews, 734 identified as residents and 600 of those answered the LGBTQ self-identity question.
Yadegar was quick to point out that “as a commercial corridor,” the number of shoppers who identify as LGBTQ “remains very high.”
Breaking down the study numbers in another way, Yadegar notes that of 400 survey respondents who were interviewed in sidewalk interviews, 58 percent said they identified as LGBTQ. Since there was not a historical control group to use to gauge any trends, Yadegar said the numbers must be viewed as “anecdotal.” According to Yadegar, sidewalk surveys are seen as a more representative sample of the customer base since respondents are completely random, rather than those who take the time to go online to answer a survey.
Still, he said, “I wasn’t the only one who found it surprising that this large a number of our shoppers” were gay. When Yadegar asked other people, including Supervisor Scott Wiener and CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello, “none of us guessed the number would be well over 50 percent."
“The Castro is vibrant and constantly changing—and that's a good thing," said Daniel Bergerac, President of Castro Merchants and co-owner of MudPuppy's Tub & Scrub (536 Castro St.). "If it's slightly less gay than it used to be, that's likely because gays are welcome all over the city. It's still a very gay neighborhood that continues to be a magnet for gay men.”
The Castro Retail Open House will take place Thursday, June 4th, from 6pm to 8pm, with remarks beginning at 7pm, at 2175 Market Street. Look for more Hoodline coverage as the results are shared.