words: Clara Neupert

photo: Ellen Mahaffy 

The sidewalks hum with an energy unmistakably queer. The brilliance of the marquee lights is intoxicating. As I enter into the theater amidst hundreds of people I am distracted by the smell of butter. Here, at the Castro Theater, everyone is welcome. And this time, I mean everyone. 

Annie Titus, one of my co-staffers, appreciated the Castro’s landmark presence. 

“I think the Castro does a great job of giving a modern perspective of the LGBT community, but also a historical one, too,” Annie said. 

The Castro Theater has centuries-old pride etched into its walls. A landmark since 1931, it’s clear why the theater has stayed put, a steadying hand in the district. The theater walls boast beautiful carvings. The bathrooms welcome all genders.  

It’s hard to believe I am there, all the way from Wisconsin. I am engulfed in velvety cushions, ready to take in "Transmilitary" (Dawson and Gabriel, 2018), the opening film for Frameline42.  

An organist rises from the of center stage, using all four limbs to produce classic theater tunes. Each is concluded with spattered applause. Then, as neatly as they started, the organist descends into the stage. Chandler told me that workers throw the organist sandwiches to keep them alive between films.  

“So many of us have told stories of films that have helped us find our truth,” Michael Colaneri, Frameline’s Board President, said in their opening speech. Colaneri’s speech spoke deeply to me, for I am a person who is using film as a process to find herself.  

One of the best parts about watching movies in the Castro are, oddly enough, the sounds. Movie-goers interacted with the movie. Instead of passively absorbing the information fed to them, they hissed and whooped and cheered. Their emotions created a dialogue uncommon in the medium of cinema.  

As "Transmilitary" flickered to close, my uncertainty was contrasted by the blanket of tranquility I felt in the Castro. Inside the theater, I’d finally come home.