Dupont. Chelsea. West Hollywood. Boystown. The gayborhoods of most American cities aren’t seeing a renaissance, but a complete crumbling. Matt Katz chronicles the decline of these enclaves, proclaiming “the American gayborhoood [is ...] already dead.” You could argue even Le Marais in Paris is being de-gayed. But what’s killing them?
The Internet. We used to actually go to a bookstore to buy books; now we go on Amazon. We used to go to bars to meet new people, because that was the only option; now we hit Manhunt and Grindr and Match. The always-on interwebs has changed much about society as a whole, but it’s has a direct effect on how the gay community congregates and socializes. Namely, doing so in the physical sense, around other gay people, is no longer a necessity. Gay-owned and gay-themed bookstores, cafes and yes, even porn and sex shops used to be staples of gayborhoods, but they can’t cut it anymore. They’re ushered out by increasing rents and sliding sales.
Heterosexuals. It’s the typical rags to riches to good riddance story. The gays move in to a derelict neighborhood because nobody else will have them, they spruce it up, create a place where Starbucks and Pottery Barn feel comfortable, help increase the rents, and then the breeders and their families start moving in, snapping up our safe haven while we move on to new pastures.
Ourselves. As we’ve migrated toward mainstreaming gay society into “regular” society, our ideals are increasingly matching up withe everyone else’s. Gay men and women in the 60s might’ve delighted at not having the responsibility of raising children; instead, they got to have a summer home and fly first class. But now marriage and adoption and raising kids is paramount to many of this same set of middle class gays, arguably because it’s finally an option — society will finally accept two gay dads walking their daughter to school.
The man. Well, it’s worked. We’ve finally snuck our way into polite society. Which means the reason so many of us uprooted ourselves from Nebraska and Oklahoma and Virginia and immigrated to Chelsea and West Hollywood is gone. Nothing is perfect yet: You still have parents throwing their gay kids out on the street, and plenty of states won’t let us get married. But gayborhoods doubled as headquarters for activism and community organizing. And while much of that has transitioned to the web (see above), the very success of anti-discrimination ordinances, HIV treatments and education, and Americans all over seeing people like us on TV means we no longer have to congregate in a 10-block radius to feel at home. In effect, all our rabblerousing has worked to many degrees, and made the gayborhood increasingly irrelevant.
And the only thing that’s saving the gayborhood? This guy.