Can you spot the author? Hint: Her dress is the prettiest.

Dear Rain,

People say that it's hard to raise a kid in SF, but you grew up here and you seemed to turn out OK! Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to raise kids in San Francisco?

Potential Parent of a Native San Franciscan


I've been sitting on this question for while, thinking, since I don't have kids, and the city has changed a lot since I actually was one, that I couldn't really offer much advice on the subject.

And then last week, Donald Trump was elected president.

After the sobbing and anxiety attacks subsided on Wednesday morning, I started to become very relieved that I had grown up in a cultural bubble that turned me into a person that heard what Trump was saying, and voted against it.

My elementary school was in the middle of the Castro district. At the time it was called Douglas Elementary School, but it's now known as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. (That an elementary school is named after Harvey Milk is just another of many reasons why I love living here.)

I was in the third grade when Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated. That afternoon they gathered the whole school into the cafeteria, and eventually sent us home early. I knew someone had been shot, but didn't really understand why that meant we should all go home. So my eight-year-old brain figured it was because the shooter was still on the loose and may head over to the school to kill us all. Needless to say, lots of crying happened.

There was much unrest in the Castro after that, but there were also peaceful protests. One morning, as my friends and I were in the schoolyard for recess, we saw some men walking down the hill carrying signs. We yelled out to them, wanting to know what was written on them, so they walked over to show us. I don't remember what the signs said, but I do know they told us they were going to be used in a march for equality, and by the end of that conversation my young friends and I were chanting, "Gays have rights! Gays have rights! Gays have rights!" in the middle of the schoolyard.

I will forever be thankful that I grew up in a city where something like that could happen.

Last week a friend from the East Bay who is a parent to a five-year-old boy told me she had begun to question bringing a child into this seemingly fucked up world. I told her to never, ever question that, and then I quoted Whitney Houston, because it's what I do.

My point was, she can raise her kid to be the change we need, and she's lucky to be living in an area where that's encouraged, where kids can not only chant "Gays have rights!" in a schoolyard, but also BE the person they know themselves to be — where they might be surrounded by people who don't look like them, but still know that they should treat everyone with respect. Parents need to take heart in the fact they they live in an area of the country whose majority of citizens did NOT vote to give a hate-monger the highest position of power in the land.

I know San Francisco's public school system isn't the best. I know it can be difficult seeing your children witness homelessness (and worse) on the city's streets. I know it can be harder and harder to even afford to live here at all, let alone with kids. I know this city is far from perfect.

So yes, raising kids in San Francisco can be a tremendous challenge. But it's also one of the best things you could do for them.

Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.

In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!