Shelix is a 31-year-old, Canadian-born drag artist living in San Francisco since 2012. A self-proclaimed “bearded lady for a better tomorrow,” Shelix ties local charities with events she throws throughout the city. The other days of the week, Shelix works at one of the top rated restaurants in the city. “Being smack dab in the middle of the food and drag scene is truly my happy place, to put it simply.”
Here, Shelix details her favorite queer-friendly aspects of San Francisco, from the best artisanal desserts to late-night drag shows.
San Francisco is a mecca of many things, including queer life and culture. What makes queer life so special here is hard to put a finger on. It’s the culmination of having safe places to express ourselves, having fearless leaders integrated in city politics who are continuously championing for our community. It’s knowing I live in a community that is vigilant, that looks out for each other, is not afraid to speak up about issues, and watches each others backs.
First and foremost, the TL (Tenderloin). The tenderloin neighborhood has a long history as a center of alternate sexualities, as well as historic confrontations with police that was define queer history here in San Francisco but also nationwide. The famed Compton Cafeteria riots were among the first gay riots predating Stonewall, involving, you guessed it, police trying to arrest a drag queen!
Back in the 70’s, the Mission district had a rise due to the punk nightlife that started to take over the area. The 80’s brought about more immigrants from south and Central America, and more recently droves of young professionals with a keen eye on location have started to populate the area. The mission is one of the most desired locations in all of San Francisco. From Dolores Park to Bi-rite, the many acclaimed restaurants and bars nearby, and its prime central location, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most desirable hoods in the city.
One of the worlds most notable hubs of queer representation and activism, the Castro district became a queer epicenter thanks to families leaving Eureka Valley for the suburbs during what is called the “white flight,” leaving a large vacancy of open properties creating an attractive location for gay purchasers.
This hotel has always been welcoming and professional with a fantastic staff. Cute, contemporary rooms, a pool, spa amenities, and more.
If you’re looking for something a bit “cooler” and less corporate with more history, look no further than the Phoenix Hotel. Located in the legendary Tenderloin, this hotel had quite a rich history, catering to musicians including (allegedly) Neil Young, Debbie Harry, and more. With updated rooms, a central location, and an outdoor pool, this one’s a no brainer.
Put your eating pants on and get here early. Brenda’s opens at 8 a.m. and doesn’t take reservations. Get ready for some damn good, authentic soul food. From fried chicken, to chicken ettoufée, hush puppies, beignets, and gumbo. Brenda’s is run by none other than Chef Brenda Buenviaje herself (and her wife Libby). They have gone on to open two more restaurants in SF, with a second Brenda’s coming soon to Oakland.
This Mission-based salon is a must. Not only do they do incredible haircuts and beard trims, the space is beautiful and the owner fantastic, queer, and welcoming. Truly a company that believes in building community, networking, and supporting other local businesses.
Artisanal dessert, anyone? I came across this gem years ago when I was living in the Mission. This queer-friendly business blew my socks off. Not only are they fully engaged in their community, supporting local PTA’s, drag shows, fundraisers, and more, these desserts will change your life. The menu changes seasonally, and I can confidently say that you will definitely leave with a smile on your face and extra dessert to take home (or to eat immediately in your car).
Arts & Culture
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
YBCA is one of the nations top innovative art institutions. Touching on contemporary art, public life, and civil engagement, hundreds of programs are curated and presented annually. Equally featuring visual arts, performing arts, and film in the LGBTQ+ genre. There’s free admission every first Tuesday of the month!
The SF Wave Organ is one of my favorite places to go in the entire city. It’s located on a jetty right on the bay in the Marina District. It’s a “wave-activated acoustic sculpture” and was designed and installed by Peter Richards and George Gonzales through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and fundraising through Frank Oppenheimer, founding director of the Exploratorium (another amazing SF destination to check out). The Wave Organ is equal parts cool and tranquil, and the whole scenery surrounding the area is quite picturesque, best heard and enjoyed at high tide.
An obvious choice for several amazing reasons. Aside from it being the first queer-owned co-op and bar in the country, it truly embodies what a safe and accessible space is. There are cuties aplenty and consistently delicious cocktails. The Stud also curates so many damn drag shows, early and late, you’ll be sure to catch one. Bring some cash to tip those beauties!
This is the third reincarnation of this legendary queer bar, opened by the Futurebars team. This place has it locked down. Stellar cocktail program, cute and respectful crowd, friendly bartenders, weekly karaoke, and clean restrooms! 10/10 would recommend.