The Dwindling Gayborhood
Springboarding off tomorrow's closure of the Castro for Halloween (thanks to violence spawned by the annual invasion of het-thugs), today the New York Times riffs on the topic of gayborhoods, asking if "gay enclaves" around the nation are not only doomed, but even necessary in today's increasingly accepting world. (The post below this one to the contrary.)
These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification.I've blogged on this topic many times. Call me an insulated ghetto queen if you will, but I have always had a special burst of pride in my people when I visit our gayborhoods around the country. They are typically vibrant, exciting places where the conflux of art, activism and yes, action create a singular, safe refuge. A friend of mine once memorably compared stepping into the Castro to walking through the Stargate. One is transported and transformed, if only for a few blocks.
There has been a notable shift of gravity from the Castro, with young gay men and lesbians fanning out into less-expensive neighborhoods like Mission Dolores and the Outer Sunset, and farther away to Marin and Alameda Counties, “mirroring national trends where you are seeing same-sex couples becoming less urban, even as the population become slightly more urban,” said Gary J. Gates, a demographer and senior research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles.
At the same time, cities not widely considered gay meccas have seen a sharp increase in same-sex couples. Among them: Fort Worth; El Paso; Albuquerque; Louisville, Ky.; and Virginia Beach, according to census figures and extrapolations by Dr. Gates for The New York Times. “Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,” he said. “Now you can just go to Kansas City.”
I'm delighted in the explosion of mini-gayborhoods in smaller cities around the country, even if they come at the expense of more established places. Still, I long for that palpable sense of belonging, of place, that I once felt in South Beach, in Dupont Circle, and increasingly, even in the West Village. I miss enjoying the self-delusion that, at least as far as the eye could see, the world was, pardon the cliche', fabulous.