From outside our bubble, we are judged, declared insane and even outlandish. We hear the clichés about fruit and nuts and we giggle. There are worse things than being called a dreamer. The stereotypes fit, but they also strengthen our pride in our quirks and eccentricities.
San Franciscans may be hedonistic, but it’s hedonism with heart, which is most clear to us when we host visitors, especially our families from “back home.” When we witness their exposure to an authentically San Francisco experience, we realize that conversion to the spirit of San Francisco doesn’t require much convincing. It’s impossible not to see the splendor and feel the love that fuels our decadent lifestyle.
It did take a little convincing to get my 81-year old Turkish Jewish mother to join San Francisco’s irreverent Easter celebration recently, mostly because this year it happened to coincide with Passover. I promised her all due respect to her Jewish springtime tradition, and arranged Seders in her honor, even though my childhood memories of the ceremonial dinner weren’t particularly inspiring.
I turned to my beloved San Framily for help, and fortunately many of them, like me, were Jewish before they were gay. I realized that, in our own way, we’re extremely family oriented in San Francisco. Together with my mother, my extended chosen family reinvented a ritual born thousands of years earlier, and revived it with the joy of our San Francisco values.
Eloquently closing the Seder, my wise friend Jeremy Hough shared a quote that bridged the cultural and generational gap as gorgeously as the Golden Gate shines to serve as a beacon of freedom:
“The most beautiful people we have ever known are those who have known defeat, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
United as one merged family, our birth family and our chosen family transformed the Haggadah – the story of the Jews being liberated from bondage in Egypt – into a timely and poignant parable, one that resonates deeply with the gay struggle for equality. And we did it in a way that represented the very best of San Francisco’s beautiful history of peace and love.
Our chosen family and our cherished community has had more than its share of struggle, yet we celebrate freedom so fully and so sincerely that some on the outside can’t help but declare us crazy. But when an outsider gets an opportunity to share the “only in San Francisco” experience with us, they see our heart and soul from the inside out. From that vantage point, all they can see are truly beautiful people.