QUESTION: Is The Era Of The Modern Gay Mecca Over?


Queerty readers had a lot to say about our first person op-ed written by one half of a couple who packed up their bags and moved from New York City to Michigan.

There is no doubt that New York, San Francisco and Provincetown are historic cities for LGBT people, but gone are the days when they were the only options where we could live openly and honestly.

With marriage equality and challenges to prohibitive marriage laws spreading throughout the United States at a rapid rate, and the fact that LGBT people are more accepted now than any other time in history, it begs the question:

Is the era of the modern LGBT mecca over?

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  • Eric Auerbach

    Good riddance to the gay ghettos!

  • lickety splitz

    In European countries such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway where gay rights are farther advanced than in the United States, gay ghettos do not exist. Gays are more fully integrated into the society and their laws and where they live reflects that.

  • guyingpp

    Not to be nit-pickey or anything, and yes Michigan is fly over country and by definition is not worthy of any attention by gay coastal elites…. but the guys in the article moved to Pleasant Ridge. As far as gay ghettos go, that and neighboring Ferndale are metro Detroit’s version of them. IIRC, it’s one of the top ten cities in the country ranked by gays per capita (just behind WeHo).

    So, Yes…it’s not New York….but it isn’t rural Kansas either.

  • Taliaferro

    I left Manhattan in 2007 and returned to rural Virginia. Why? I was tired of the congestion, the hostility and the lack of green spaces – yeah, I know about the parks. I welcome the day we don’t need gay ghettos or meccas. I live in a county with many lesbian and gay people; we are accepted and an integral part of the community. This, to my mind, is actual progress.

  • barkomatic

    I moved to New York City in 1997 to escape rural Michigan’s rampant homophobia at the time. Certainly, things have changed since then and I imagine its a lot easier for a gay person to live there–but it’s still no picnic.

    There are also other reasons that I moved not the least of which were a lack of job opportunities in Michigan. Also,as gay friendly as some non-gay meccas have become, its still easier to find a mate in a big city where the numbers are high. However, if you’ve got a partner and aren’t worried about an income, then moving to the country might be a nice change when you get older.

    I don’t think gay meccas will be completely dead, but its very good to see that younger gay people will be more accepted in their communities no matter where they live.

  • uruz422

    I think this is a very one dimensional question. I think LGBT people care about things more vast than sexual orientation or gender identity politics. Hence, most LGBT voted for De Blasio in NY over openly lesbian Christine Quinn. I think cities like New York and San Fran appeal to LGBT people for more reasons than that you don’t have to be the only gay person there.

  • redcarpet

    Gay folk will always need physical space to meet, so there will be be gay parts of town for the foreseeable future. Think of the dating pool. When your the only gay in the village (no matter how accepting) what is the incentive to stay in Backwater, AK?

    Acceptance will just make it so we don’t have to stay in the gay cities our entire lives if we don’t want to.

  • balehead

    The problem is all the masculine gay guys who can get it done are getting kicked to curb by bitter queens who live for publicity…..no wonder it’s all over….

  • the other Greg

    @balehead: jeez, balehead – if you’re so “masculine,” how come you get kicked around by those bitter queens?

    Also, where do you live? (so I can stay away from there!)

  • Fitz

    Personally, I am glad that I lived in a gay ghetto for a while when I was young. And glad I moved on. I needed it, but I also think it’s kind of sad when I go to the Castro and see 55 year old men still living for the cruise, and still dressing like kids. Meh– whatever floats your boat, I guess. I like being a grown up.

  • Larry

    The era of the gay mecca isn’t going away, but the purpose of the mecca is changing. There has always been a party crowd that will migrate to areas of common interest. Long ago, it was LA, SF, and NYC. Then Dallas, then Atlanta, then Seattle, etc. The hot areas change.
    The crowd that just wants to be left alone would migrate to the party areas for safety in numbers. Now that things are calming down, it’s safe to move away from the party crowd.
    Things will continue to change and evolve. For example, as the population ages and retirement becomes a force in the meccas. It’s will be interesting to see how things change in the next 10 years.

  • deltabadhand

    The men in the original piece bugged me. A lot. They turned their noses up at the birthplace and thought NYC was better and ran there. Now, they are bashing NYC (instrumental in making them the confident, grown ups they are) and going back home. Sounds like a case of the grass seeming greener from the other side of the fence. In reality, they should cherish both places and be glad for their life experiences and stop the two-faced bashing…

    As far as gay meccas being over? Maybe eventually, but not yet. Even in the most progressive placs, society hasn’t really figured out how to fix gay teens and 20-somethings into the mainstream dataing scene. And we have many communities where you still can’t be gay without putting yourself in danger. Gayberhoods in cities will exist and provide value, perhaps at some diminishing rate –to folks like the guys from the original piece– for at least another decade or two.

  • Dixie Rect

    Gay ghettos are fun to visit, but don’t want to live there. I say keep the ghettos.

  • mz.sam

    Gay ghettos are alive, well and here to stay. Besides, where can straight girls go to hang out, party and not get harassed by date rape jerks.

  • imperator

    I have mixed feelings on the subject because while I don’t like the idea of us being ‘ghettoized’ out of necessity, or for safety in numbers from persecution, I *do* like the idea of consensual ‘flocking together’ spaces. I think that by creating a microcosm of our community it illuminates diversity and stimulates creativity– by getting together we create opportunities to explore what makes us distinctly “us” and to nurture each other. And, plus, to use a supermarket metaphor– if I like cookies, I appreciate having them concentrated in one aisle so that I don’t have to go searching for them all over the place. Even if I don’t get any, it’s nice to have one place to go to browse the selection and think about what you love about ’em. :)

  • denx5

    There will always be “meccas”… Thank the old bearded man in the sky cuz they are fun to visit!
    But more of us will live satisfying lives outside of them.

  • wakeupscreaming

    I don’t remember where or when I read it, but some researchers used Facebook information or Google searches and found out whether users were gay using algorithms, and mapped their IP and location. About one third lived in the gayborhood, the other 2/3rds lived scattered in the burbs. Currently I live in an area that’s an older gay hood that keeps out the younger gays because its an expensive part of town. it makes me wonder how much ‘gayer’ my area could be if all gays could live there, regardless of income. Rising rents are destroying the gayborhood where I live.

  • viveutvivas

    Unfortunately the gay meccas have been largely destroyed as places to live for a cross section of ordinary gay people because of high rents and rising inequality, more than anything else. The most significant advantage they had was the availability and visibility of potential mates, as well as creating a sense of belonging. Living in a small city without a concentration of gay people, I suffer from the absence of a place to go where I can see or meet other gay people.

    Online gay meetup apps have paradoxically driven gay life underground again by making it invisible and asocial. This is not progress.

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  • Stefano

    @viveutvivas : good points.

  • the other Greg

    @Stefano: @viveutvivas: They WOULD be good points, except that viveutvivas has already told us he lives in Providence, RI where his points don’t actually apply. He seems oddly oblivious to real life there.

    Agree in general, though, about the asocial apps.

  • GayTampaCowboy

    Interesting topic to spur conversation, but there will ALWAYS be Gay Mecca’s – not sure i like the term ghetto to describe locations with large gay communities.

    Look, there will always be gay folks who want to be around a “community” of other gay folks. In the same way that there are “italian” sections of a town, most mid- to larger-size cities and towns have a “gay” section of town. Oh, and let’s not forget that in most of these areas, the gay residents RAISE the value of their home and the homes in the area!

    The gay folks who prefer to “blend in” will find homes and areas that meet their needs – unfortunately they are also the ones who like to lump all gay men in one bucket (whores, body-obsessed, narcissists) and who bash gay pride events, etc.

    Everyone is different!

  • Elloreigh

    “Is the era of the modern LGBT mecca over?”

    Never started for some of us. I’ve never been to San Francisco, and can’t say I really have any desire to visit. A trip that included a stop in New York City 30 years ago cured me of ever wanting to live in a large city. I found Provincetown to be nice, but it was just one stop on an extended trip – one that was part research, part vacation. Moving there is another question entirely.

    Nothing against any of those places or those who choose those settings. Just saying they aren’t my cup of tea.

    The plain fact is that being gay doesn’t mean being oriented toward life in a city or predominately gay neighborhood. Nor does it mean we have to make pilgrimages to New York, San Francisco, Key West, Provincetown, etc.

    I doubt that means the draw of gay-friendly places is ‘over’. So long as anti-gay attitude prevail in some places, there will always be those who long to escape to somewhere safer and welcoming.

  • Elloreigh

    @GayTampaCowboy: “The gay folks who prefer to “blend in” will find homes and areas that meet their needs – unfortunately they are also the ones who like to lump all gay men in one bucket (whores, body-obsessed, narcissists) and who bash gay pride events, etc.” Hmm. Speaking of lumping people together in some stereotype…

    I have to ask – what did you accomplish by painting those who ‘blend in’ as bashers with your overly-broad brush?

  • Stefano

    @the other Greg : i don’t know where viveutvivas lives.

  • Elloreigh

    @imperator: Interesting observations. There is another side, though – those who isolate themselves in the ‘cookie aisle’. Diversity is certainly something to celebrate, but it seems all to often that isn’t extended by some in the ‘gay community’ to those of us who are rural and suburban dwellers.

    Isolation in the gayborhood can have an echo-chamber effect. It’s as if some of us are living in an alternate reality, where everything is ‘gay, gay, gay!’. As important as it is to have a sense of belonging and to feel safe, there are some people for whom this turns into a wallowing in their marginalization. Instead of really feeling safer, it reinforces a mindset of victimhood and feelings of persecution. What is inspirational and nurturing about ‘gayborhoods for some is more of a trap for others.

    And there is definitely some resentment among those of us who inhabit the ‘flyover’ states toward some of our urban brethren (who often mistake it for bitterness). It isn’t that we’re envious of what they have – it’s that what they have doesn’t hold the same value for us, and we’re tired of them thinking that they’re superior, that we’re just backward hicks, and that they should therefore be telling us what to do, think, and feel – as if there were only one right way to be gay, and as if all of ‘gay culture’ is created by coastal city folk. A lot of their ‘culture’ has no meaning for those of us who don’t share their urban, gayborhood experiences.

  • Rad

    My husband and I moved from the West coast of Florida back to New England, and have never looked back. We live in a wonderful community now where race and sexual orientation are not an issue.

    This is not a Gay Mecca, but it is very liberal and welcoming. And more… we all respect each other.

    In Florida, the so-called Gay Mecca of St. Petersburg was, well, not. We were never accepted as a couple and he (African American) was always treated lesser. I was told on many occasions from other gays that “I should not date outside my race” (and that was from both sides). we would try and push back, we were instructed “We all just go along to get along, and you don’t rise above the rest of us!”. We’re talking year 2000, not 1900. When we sold our last property down there, a couple who came to look at it asked me (pointing to my then partner) “Does he come with the property?”

    We said “Fuck it. These people are just plain ignorant!”.

    So is the modern Gay Mecca over? I think it’s not over, just getting bigger. Now ALL of New England has same sex marriage on the books, as does nearly a 1/3 of the entire country. Perhaps some day, America will be the Gay Mecca for the rest of the world, and perhaps at least set an example for proud “Crackers” to follow on how hospitality is supposed to be.

  • Tone

    LGBT enclaves will continue to exist because we’re not going anywhere and even when we achieve full legal and social equality we will still celebrate ourselves. Most larger cities have many distinct areas for different ethnic groups. Why shouldn’t we have ours?

  • the other Greg

    @Stefano: He’s said where he lives in previous Queerty comment threads (I didn’t mean this one). He has implied that he’s a relatively young guy, such as [paraphrasing] “there’s only one bar in this small town and it only has half a dozen retirees.” Uh, I’m neither young (50s) nor single, and I was never an outgoing person, but even I have noticed there are at least 6 gay bars in Providence and none of them at night are like what he describes. Pretty good for a city of less than 200,000. And there are non-bar social groups for younger gays (no doubt I’d have a tougher time at my age if I were looking). “Gay mecca”? – no but it’s not bad.

    So I don’t know where “vivuetvivas” is getting his skewed view of reality. He always makes the same complaints about gay life and meeting people – a few of which I agree are valid, such as what he says here about apps.

  • viveutvivas

    @the other Greg, if there is any gay neighborhood in Providence, RI, I would be curious to know where it is. There used to be a gay coffee shop that closed a few years ago. There is one gay bar (to speak of) that is empty on weeknights and two small clubs that ditto. You pretty much go through your life each day without seeing any other gay people. Online it is just the same old tired 30 people on every site and app.

    Contrast that to a real city with an actual gay area. It is a huge difference in quality of life and sense of possibility.

  • the other Greg

    @viveutvivas: First – I’m glad you replied!

    “empty on weeknights” – gasp – just like NYC or Boston? Or for that matter, most hetero bars everywhere.

    “one gay bar,” really? – well right there, I’m not sure if you’re referring to The Stable, or the Eagle, or Mirabar… or if by the two small clubs you mean the Alley Bar, or Ego, or whatever that other place is called this year. (again, I rarely go to any of the above but I’ve seen them.)

    Maybe it’s not your thing, but I don’t condemn casual (safer) sex: Providence is the only place in New England with gay baths, and one is for the older crowd, but Megaplex is for the younger crowd.

    As for social groups: Have you ever looked at the group listings in Options and just thought, oh what the hell, I’ll try ___ and see?

    Benefit performances of various kinds? Gay Men’s Chorus? Gay bingo?

    What do you think of the Pride event that’s been on the river front, 3 or 4 years in a row? Have you ever talked to any of the dozens of groups who have booths there?

    If you really think it’s better in Boston, it’s an hour away (sometimes) but I hear nowadays THEY come to Providence for fun!

    If you just want me to agree with you and say, yeah the apps suck and the bars are empty most of the time… okay, so just stay home and eat pizza. I would like to be encouraging, but I’m genuinely puzzled by your outlook.

  • Stefano

    @the other Greg : Providence is 200 000 and there is 6 gay bars? Are you sure? Did you go verify by yourself because sometimes, gay sites mentionne gay bars that does not existe ! Anyways…I used to live in Quebec City wich was 600 000 by that time and it has only 2 gay bars (in the 80’s and the 90’s) !!! I now live in a small city (Rigaud; 8 000).

  • Stefano

    @the other Greg : :-)

  • the other Greg

    @Stefano: Yes, at least FIVE of them are definitely in business right now, I’m been very recently to 3 myself & heard recently of the 2, and I’m pretty sure about #6 (will ask & be sure). Some of my friends go out a lot.

    Providence & RI in general have kind of a wild history with regard to alcohol. Back in Prohibition times it was pretty crazy.

    I liked Quebec City when I visited!

  • AxelDC

    It’s nice to have areas where you can congregate and be yourself, but it’s even nicer to have lots of them.

  • Bumper

    As a middle aged person, I would agree. I’m moving myself to a much, much smaller community for many different reasons. Mostly for the peace and beauty of nature.

    But I have to say, being in the thick of centralized gay life for young people is probably more critical than it is for me. I wouldn’t change anywhere I’ve lived. I have lived and yet I’m not going out to pasture, I know I will find gay friends wherever I go.

    The internet has made that possible. You can find people wherever you go.

  • Fitz

    Plus Providence has Preservation Park, lol. But aside from park-sex, Providence also is a college town, so with Brown, RISD, and to lesser degree even Johnson Wales… there be a lot of fags there. But not much of a “scene”.

  • ronsfo

    I lived in the Gay Ghetto in San Francisco we call The Castro, it was my home town and my village, I still love it it will always be close to my heart. But The Castro like everywhere, it eventually changes, new people take over and drive out the old, but that’s life.

    In 1970 3 of us lived in a huge 3 bedroom flat on Castro just above 19th Street. We paid $160 a month that was about 45 years ago. We could have bought the 3 story building for about 80k. Today that same flat would rent for about $5,000 a month maybe more.

    I no longer find The Castro a fun place to live and I’m ready to move on, it will never recover as a Gay Mecca or beyond its tourist attraction of the Harvey Milk era. It’s a great place to live if you are wealthy or homeless. And I’m neither.

  • Thad1527

    There are changes in what areas/neighborhoods are meccas for gay people.
    Towns like Collingswood, NJ has grown in popularity and gained a gay community. When same-sex marriage became legal in NJ last month the mayor of Collingswood found himself performing 10 marriages in one day. (He averaged five marriages a year in the past.) And some neighborhoods lose favor among gay people; the Fairview section of Camden, NJ, used to have lots of gay residents, but now has only a few.

  • viveutvivas

    @the other Greg, seeing a place like Providence from the point of view of a casual visitor on Pride weekend or Halloween is not the same as living here. I stand by my description.

    But really, are we going to make this about Providence and about my personal state of mind? Even if you don’t agree with my characterization of the place (whose name I didn’t mention because it wasn’t important) my description does apply to many out of the way cities and towns. It answers the question of why most (single) gay men would NOT want to choose West Bumf*ck, Michigan, over cities with a more generous amount of gay life. Gay men in their thousands are still voting with their feet and getting out any way they can to the big cities, and many more would if they were not held back by economic reasons.

  • the other Greg

    @viveutvivas: I agree with you about the lure of big cities for young gay people. When I came out I couldn’t wait to move to NYC. But you know what, NYC is a great place to make gay friends, and a great place for casual sex buddies, but it’s a lousy place to find a boyfriend. Everybody is too busy trying to make enough money to live there.

    As for Providence I’m hardly a “casual visitor,” my bf & I live nearby and we go to Pvd weekly or so, separately or together. I thought that for someone who actually lives there, you sure don’t seem to know much about it! If you feel stuck there for economic reasons, and would like to find more non-sexual friends and/or a boyfriend, I put forth the theory that there are things you can try differently.

    As I said, if you just want me to agree with you that everything sucks – okay, stay home and eat pizza.

  • viveutvivas

    @the other Greg, like you, I didn’t mind Providence either during the decade when, like you, I had a boyfriend. But it is no place to be fortysomething and single.

  • the other Greg

    @viveutvivas: I totally sympathize with you (& I’m sure I’d have a tough time if I were single as a 50-something, anywhere), it’s just that I think you wouldn’t necessarily have an easier time in a bigger city, and you are overlooking many great things about Providence and haven’t tried a lot of things.

    You’ve implied in other comment threads that you like being on top, well that gives you an edge right there, a lot of guys like that.

    I can see you ending up with some “Boston refugee” who’s been priced out of there.

  • CJ

    Mecca is a holy pilgrimage destination, a holy place, not nirvana/heaven. I do think that San Francisco and Greenwich Village still speak to lgbtiq people everywhere with historic and symbolic value. While part of me began way back in the 1990s to lament the devolution of San Francisco Pride from a worldwide queer celebration (crazy party) destination back into more of a regional phenomenon, the rest of me was gladdened.

    See, to understand why the crowds were more local and less outrageous, one had to grasp the social changes taking place nationwide and worldwide. Every small city had a pride celebration and the world wide web was making networking and coordinating plans and dates incredibly easy. Potential pilgrims could spend their money on localizing the community movements and celebrating nearer home in a place more real and relevant to them. The SF celebration even shrank for a few years, but now numbers are higher than ever. It’s still a destination; but like the Haj, you need only make it once and need not make it at peak time. San Francisco Freedom Day is a celebration of normalcy as much as diversity, now. That’s beautiful. In many parts of the country and world, that environment still does not exist, yet it’s no longer a rarity.

    Symbolically, culturally, we still have our “Meccas.” Many of these cities/neighborhoods are still havens from the most repressive of locations; but they no longer represent escape to paradise for most of us. They are examples of the future, of hope for the continuation and progress of the gains we have made over the last few decades, of finally attaining normalcy without sacrificing difference or honesty, of sharing with all segments of Society these gifts and celebrating diversity in everything.

    If anything, the party destinations have already changed and will probably change again; like any centers of industry. Most will still want to, at least once in life, dance in the streets of San Francisco, see the Stonewall Inn and a Broadway play in New York, kiss their spouse in Amsterdam, show skin at Mardi Gras in Sydney or Rio de Janeiro. History is not finished, so we do not know what other places will earn the iconic status that draws “pilgrims.”

  • dirknerd

    I grew up in California, came out and lived in San Francisco for 16 years. My husband had to move to Oklahomo for work and family issues. It sucks. The queers here have this uppity smell her attitude and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a closet case. Gotta love the bible belt. Oddly enough though the regular folks are pretty cool. When we go to the stores and stuff we bicker like old married people and everybody is real nice. Never thought I end up in a red state but at least I don’t have to wear a burka. LOL

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