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“The most common sound in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood these days is the sound of construction. New cafes, condos and experimental art spaces are popping up in a neighborhood once flush with gay bathhouses and bars.
But with the cost of living in San Francisco becoming increasingly out of control, the city is at risk of losing the storied transgender community that has long called the Tenderloin its home.
The city is looking to cultural districts as a possible solution to this problem. Traditionally, these districts — zoned areas within specific neighborhoods — have existed to stimulate economic development in neighborhoods with a distinct heritage or history, like the Filipino enclave in the South of Market Neighborhood, or the Latino area around 24th street in The Mission.
Now San Francisco has created the nation’s first official transgender cultural district to keep gentrification in check.
Among the neighborhood gems is Aunt Charlie’s Lounge — one of the Tenderloin’s few remaining gay drinking spots. By late morning, a few chatty locals are propping up the bar.
“This place has really been a centerpiece for the community,” says Honey Mahogany, a trans political activist and drag artist, who has appeared as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a television reality show in which contestants vie to become America’s next drag superstar. “It’s a place for people to meet during the day, at night.””
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