by Dish Staff
Gay bars and clubs have existed since the late nineteenth century, but Ghaziani traces the rise of the gayborhood to the Second World War, when the military discharged thousands of men and women for being gay, and many looked for new homes in the cities that housed or were near their military bases, including San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Miami. Gays and lesbians congregated mostly out of self-protection, Ghaziani explains, but gradually established rich social, business, and political networks that became draws in themselves, giving rise to such fixtures as the Castro in San Francisco, Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., the South End in Boston, and Boystown in Chicago. These neighborhoods shared a few defining characteristics: known geographical boundaries, a concentration of gay residents who celebrated gay culture, and clusters of gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses.
Ghaziani argues that the current “de-gaying” of these iconic gayborhoods results more from gays and lesbians feeling safe outside of them than from straight people pushing gay people out. But he acknowledges that both gentrification and tourism have transformed gayborhoods.
Ghaziani’s research tells us that between the 2000 and 2010 Census, the number of same-sex couples living in key traditional gayborhoods declined, often as larger trends in urban life made those neighborhoods newly desirable destinations. At the same time, the Census now finds same-sex romantic couples living together in 93 percent of America’s counties. The gay population is becoming less concentrated as its legal, political, and social reality is increasingly accepted.
That acceptance itself is clearly a good thing. But the decline of the gayborhood may be a negative consequence of declining homophobia. Ghaziani notes that the American political system heavily rewards geographically concentrated voting blocks. Gays and lesbians are a relatively small minority in the United States, but when they cluster in hubs, the politicians who represent those hubs become key champions of their issues.
(Photo: Provincetown, MA by Ted Eytan. Note: photo has been cropped.)