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San Francisco’s Regional Research Contribution

Rafael M. Diaz. Ph.D.

Director, Cesar E. Chavez Institute
San Francisco State University

The City of San Francisco

San Francisco is a well-known international tourist destination on account of its Victorian

architecture, fine-cuisine restaurants, and beautiful natural setting by the bay. The city’s
strongest and well-deserved reputation, however, is as a safe and welcoming haven for
sexual and gender minorities. San Francisco boasts one of the oldest and most active gay
neighborhoods in the world (the Castro) and hosts what is perhaps the largest gay pride
parade in the world where bare-breasted women on motorcycles (locally known as
“dykes on bikes”) march along bearded men dressed as nuns (Sisters of Perpetual
Indulgence), together with political figures and the young children of recently married
lesbian and gay couples. The city also hosts the annual Folsom Street Fair, sponsored by
practitioners of Sado-Masochism (S&M) where it is customary for city officials to attend
or send greetings and endorsements addressed to members of what is known as the
“leather community.” Mayor Newsom’s open defiance of federal and state laws last year
allowing the marriage of hundreds of same-sex couples was quite congruent with the city
spirit of acceptance and celebration of sexual diversity. A few years earlier, then Mayor
Brown “officiated” in a mass ceremony that celebrated the union of same-sex couples in
domestic partnership arrangements, defiantly calling the city “The People’s Republic of
San Francisco.” San Francisco’s residents and government officials have systematically
and proudly celebrated sexual diversity embracing as normative what is considered
sexually transgressive in the majority of other US locations.

The celebration of racial diversity in the city, on the other hand, has been more subtle and
problematic. While ethnic minorities now in fact constitute the majority of the
population in many California cities, including San Francisco, ethnic minority groups
continue to be over-represented in poverty and incarceration rates, school dropouts, and
in the prevalence of many preventable diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In the city, racial
“segregation” of neighborhoods and establishments is common, with Latinos and African
American living in working class neighborhood that are considered predominantly Black
(e.g., Bayview Hunters’ Point) or predominantly Latino (The Mission). In addition, the
recent dramatic rise in housing prices has pushed many ethnic minorities out of low-
income housing and created racial tensions in traditionally ethnic neighborhoods.
Similarly, many social establishments are overtly identified by the particular ethnic/racial
groups that patronize them. In the gay community, complaints of racial discrimination
are common by gay men of color who often report feeling uncomfortable in
predominantly white gay bars or clubs. A recent protest was held in the Castro against a
local popular gay bar that, according to protesters, systematically asked multiple
identifications of men of color at the entrance while allowing white patrons enter without
any identification at all. Men of color are often sexually objectified in the media as well
as in sex clubs in ways that are blatantly racist; this, and other racial tensions in the gay
community, have prompted the emergence of numerous organizations of gay men of
color that aim to fight racism in the gay community. It is clear that San Francisco will be
a fruitful and productive setting to study the interaction of race, sex and gender and we
are delighted to be asked to be part of this important collaboration.

Research Objectives

As a regional partner of the transnational proposal, the research to be conducted in San

Francisco will focus on the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender, as it is perceived,
understood, spoken about, and practiced by young (ages 18-24) men and women in the
city. Beyond ethnographic observations of venues where young men and women
socialize, we will conduct in-depth and close-ended interviews with both male and
female, heterosexual and homosexual, young men and women who self-identify as
African American, Latino or White. While African-American and Latino participants
will be selected by ethnic/racial self-identification, we expect that participants will vary
in skin color and facial features along a continuum of European “whiteness” to African
and indigenous “blackness.” The impact of position along such continuum on
participants’ lives (e.g., on sexual and affective/romantic partnering) will become the
subject of investigation for comparative purposes. All research participants will be US-
born given that an exploration of the particular issues encountered by Latin American
immigrants in the US, while important to the topic under investigation, is beyond the
scope of the present proposal.

Our main objective is to contribute to the transnational effort by providing both

comparable and contrasting data on how US racial/ethnic categories, sexual and racial
self-identification, and experiences of racism impact the sexual, social and civic lives of
young people in a city that -- similar to Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town -- is characterized
by the normalization of sexual transgression. The San Francisco research design and
interview protocols will be open to dialogue and input from the different regional partners
in order to maximize the comparability of our observations within the transnational
collaborative. An important topic of investigation for the San Francisco site will be to
examine the relation among sexuality, race and HIV infection, given the high prevalence
of HIV in the city and the fact that HIV/AIDS is disproportionately prevalent in
communities of color.

Research Program

The first step of the research program involves mapping the most prominent social
venues where African-American, Latino, and White young people interact for socializing,
flirting, and potential sexual partnering (i.e., “cruising”) in the city of San Francisco. We
will focus particularly on those settings that are not ethnically/racially identified (e.g., a
Latino salsa dance hall or an African-American hip-hop club) but rather, we will focus on
clubs and social spaces where participation and intermingling of different racial groups is
the norm. The major reason for such selection of venues is that we want to focus our
attention on young people that do socially and (potentially) sexually interact with other
racial groupings, rather than participants whose social and sexual networks are ethnically
and racially homogeneous. After mapping all potential venues, we will select four social
venues (two predominantly heterosexual, one predominantly gay male, and one
predominantly lesbian) to be observed. For the first three months of the project, three
graduate student ethnographers from Human Sexuality and/or Ethnic Studies programs at
San Francisco State University (SFSU) will conduct a minimum of 10 hours of
participant observation in each of the settings, for a total of 40 hours of observation. The
10 hours of observation will be distributed in at least three visits per setting. Under the
guidance and supervision of the SF project’s principal investigator (R.M. Diaz), field
notes will be written immediately after each visit to the venue.

During the following six months, we will recruit and interview six young persons from
each of the four selected venues (total N=24), so that we have 2 research participants for
each of the 12 cells created by the interaction of gender (2: male/female) x sexual
orientation (2: heterosexual/homosexual) x race/ethnicity (African
American/Latino/White). Study participants will be recruited in the context of the
informal social interactions with the student ethnographers who will continue more
informal visits to the selected venues during recruitment/interviewing months; however,
student ethnographers will be instructed to select participants who would qualify as
adequate “informants” according to criteria determined by the international collaborative
research team.

With those informants who so consent in writing, a two-hour formal in-depth, semi-
structured interview will be conducted at a safe interview space at the Cesar Chavez
Institute (CCI), a community-based research facility of SFSU, directed by R.M. Diaz (see The CCI is strategically and conveniently located in the multi-
ethnic Mission district of San Francisco with easy access to public transportation. The
Institute has comfortable, inviting, and warmly decorated interview rooms where
interviews can be audio taped for future transcription and analysis. After each interview,
participants will be given a paper-and-pencil self-administered “exit” interview with
close-ended questions. Each participant will be paid a modest stipend for their
participation in the in-depth and exit interviews. Each participant will then be given a set
of 5 additional exit interviews with self-addressed stamped envelopes, and will be
encouraged to distribute the interviews to friends who are similar in age and racial/ethnic
self-identification. If we obtain on average 2 returned self-administered interviews per
participant, we will have a total of (24x3) 72 close-ended interviews that will allow us to
contextualize the ethnographic and qualitative data collected in the project.

The specific questions for the interview protocols will be determined in dialogue among
all regional sites in the collaborative. However, we anticipate that both in-depth and
close-ended questions will be of three types: 1) a set of questions that will be identical in
all regional sites; 2) a set of questions that will be similar but adapted and tailored to the
specific situation of each regional site; and 3) a region-specific set of questions that
address unique site-specific realities and situations.
Proposed Budget

Cesar E. Chavez Institute
San Francisco State University
Two­Year Budget
Rafael Diaz, PhD In-Kind In-Kind In­Kind
Project Principal Investigator
Miguel Casuso, Data Manager 4,700 4,700 9,400
FTE .10 ($47,000 annual salary)
Fringe Rate 40% 1,880 1,880 3,760
Student Research Assistants 9,500 3,000 12,500
Year I (3) students/$14 hr./678 hrs.
Year II (2) students/$14 hr./214 hrs.
Fringe Rate 12% 1,140 360 1,500
Total Personnel 17,220 9,940 27,160

Participant Stipends 3,200 -0- 3,200
24 interviews $50 each ($1,200)
100 questionnaires $20 each ($2,000)
Research Venue Entry Fees 100 -0- 100
Supplies, Telephone, Postage & Printing 1,800 1,195 2,995
Transcription Services 7,500 2,500 10,000
Computer Workstation 2,000 -0- 2,000
Total Other Than Personnel 14,600 3,695 18,295

Total Direct Expenses 31,820 13,635 45,455

Indirect (10%) 3,182 1,363 4,545

TOTAL REQUEST 35,002 14,998 50,000