I will say I'm not including a lot of photos in this post. I think there are enough tourists in this city who just want a picture of a gay person. I saw and heard many people while I walked around the area that were less than polite when remarking on the demographics. If you ever come to San Francisco, The Castro is not an invitation for a freak show. Don't go there to stare at gay people eating lunch together, to spot a drag queen, or to otherwise gawk at people different than you are. They're still people, God still loves them just as much as He loves you, and they should still receive common respect.
People's perception of The Castro is not reality. Sure, there are some times when the residents of The Castro come out in full force, celebrate their chosen lifestyle, or protest discrimination, hate, and prejudice toward them. But the everyday in The Castro consists of people who would prefer just to live a normal life and be left alone to do it.
During World War II, the US Military unloaded hundreds of young men into the San Francisco harbor - discharged from the forces because they were found out to be homosexual (sound like a familiar problem in the military to anyone?). So all at once these young men not only had freedom, but they had each other too. And they all had to live somewhere. Somehow a large number of these discharged soldiers gravitated to The Castro area - the housing was cheap and flocking together made their "illness" less aversive.
The Summer of Love (1967) brought The Castro's status as a gay mecca into public light. In a time where anything went, the homosexual residents of San Francisco finally felt like perhaps they could be accepted. You see, hate crime didn't just happen in the last two decades - and it's not just against people of different races. The prime culprits of these assaults of homosexual men in San Francisco were actually the police. They would receive tips on gatherings of gay men, whether at bars or parties, and charge in. They made "arrests," which really amounted to beating the unlucky men they caught to a pulp in the back of a police wagon.
Then in the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS crisis spread through San Francisco. The "gay disease" became the focus of multitudes of reform initiatiives, awareness campaigns, and fear. Now someone walking down Market Street into The Castro can see signs advertising HIV testing alongside posters for dating services and night clubs.
Is it everything you hear and read about in the news? Yes, and no. There's more to The Castro than gay people.