Since When Did South Boston Love Its Gays?

Apparently South Boston, the setting of every Affleck Family-directed film ever, is starting to love its gays, if this scene at a St. Patrick’s Day gathering — organized by the Facebook group “New Southie — is any indication:

At Barlow’s, the crowd celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in a typical fashion; they wore green, conversed over drinks, and filled the bar to capacity by 11 p.m. But most of the patrons were young gay men, a phenomenon that many in the crowd said would have been impossible a few years ago in South Boston, traditionally considered a working-class, predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood, and home to one of the biggest Saint Patrick’s Day parades in the country, which has blocked gay groups from participating. “This neighborhood has really come to accept us,” David Warner, who moved to South Boston with his partner nine years ago, said at the A Street restaurant and bar. “When we first came here, I could not have been open about being gay.”

To which I ask: Any Southie natives out there, please feel free to confirm or refute this warm fuzzy picture of acceptance. Because the one time I was in South Boston I was instructed by my then-boyfriend to stop trying to hold his hand, because he placed great value on his high cheekbones and didn’t want to get them broken.

[Boston Globe]

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  • Pitou

    Boston is wicked Gay, with the South End being the center of it all!
    Any New Englander within 2 hrs of Boston knows just how Gay the South End really is!! Oh those community gardens at night!!! LOLZ

  • Riker

    @Pitou: The South End is *not* South Boston. There is a big difference, the South End is a beautiful neighborhood. Southie is home to the projects.

    And yes, over the last decade or so it has been getting much better. My ex-bf lived in Southie, and I can confirm that is is getting friendlier. Most of the Irish Catholics have adopted a “live and let live” policy, they don’t really care what we do as long as it doesn’t harm them.

  • Joe

    @Riker: I lived on D Street 5 years ago and was called fag from moving cars on two different occasions. I was walking with my dog and my partner both times; assless chaps were not involved. Is it better than before? Sure. Is it accepting? Not yet.

    Queerty, “The Town” was set in Charlestown, not Southie.

  • Bubba

    @Joe: I’ve been called “fag” from a moving car in the East Village in Manhattan. If the frequency of such harassment is the litmus test for how “gay-friendly” a neighborhood is, I’m afraid that most–if not all–neighborhoods in America are far from “GLBT friendly.”

  • JKB

    I THINK I see a black patron on the right side of the picture, but can’t be sure. When blacks are accepted in South Boston, THEN you’re talkin’!

  • Joe

    It’s not the West Village or the Castro (or even the South End), but it’s become more gay friendly, absolutely. I have several gay friends who live in Southie and who love it. Ten years ago you’d have been crazy to move to Southie as an openly gay man. There are artist lofts going in and good restaurants popping up. It’s become the kind of neighborhood where the old Irish woman on the first floor loves the gay couple who lives upstairs, but she probably wouldn’t be too keen to see gay PDA on the steps of St. Margaret Mary’s.

  • TheRealAdam

    @JKB: No one cares about blacks in this article or their acceptance.

    @Joe: It’s not gay-friendly. There isn’t a place in America that is “gay-friendly,” whatever the fuck that means to you and the others. What you are really talking about is gay visibility, and hoards of gays in an area does not make it “gay-friendly.”

  • Tori

    @TheRealAdam: And in comes the ignorance.

  • Bostonian2

    Why shouldn’t the Southies be more gay-friendly than not? There are some pretty tough gays from those families and living there. ( But they’re “southies” first and gay second, I’ll admit. Though that’s fine with me).

  • Riker

    @Bostonian2: I once dated a guy from Southie. Interesting experience.

  • james_from_cambridge

    I only drive through Southie these days but it looks all glossy and gentrified when I do so I believe it!

  • Michael

    I grew up right outside of Boston and can say that South Boston has been the same way for decades, but things started to change in 2008/2009. Because it’s a working class area, the recession and the foreclosure crisis hit the neighborhood HARD. A lot of families and a lot of middle-aged and elderly Irish-Catholic people lost their homes. They were quickly bought up at low prices by house flippers, and refurbished. Only 3-4 years ago, an area that was almost 100% white, old, and Catholic, is now in the middle of a different sort of “gentrification” being led by the gays, per usual. The neighborhood is still very much in transition, and I still don’t feel comfortable acting “out” there as a 23 year old gay man. There are certain 2-3 block areas where I am, but for the most part, it’s just not there yet. I think in one more generation of homeowners, say 15-20 years, it will be.

    I went to college in D.C. and it reminds of me of the Columbia Heights and U Street areas. Trendy, up and coming, but still it’s new developments surrounded by slums. But there’s a lot less violent crime in South Boston. Probably because the economic (and racial) differences between the residents is not as great as the discrepancies in D.C.

  • Giovannidude

    South Boston always had a split personality. They would yell “fag” at you from a passing car, and then head for the L Street Bath House and check out all the nude guys. Whitey Bulger, the tough guy who is an alleged serial killer, was a male prostitute in his teens. He later allegedly had an affair with his girlfriend’s teenage son.

    There was a tough kid in the D Street Projects that everyone was afraid of who allegedly received it frequently up the Hershey highway.

    A lot of those tough kids from Southie used to hang out in the bars in Bay Village (a/k/a Gay Village), such as Jacques or the Other Side. They moved over there when the Punch Bowl closed.

  • bfenster

    This point has been made already, but the neighborhood is being gentrified like whoa. I’d imagine that’s partly because most other places in Boston (South End for instance, which the first commenter on this article absolutely wrongly confuses with Southie) are getting more and more expensive, and South Boston has become a much cheaper alternative. Last year when I was looking at places, our realtor took us to at least a half dozen places in South Boston.

    Also, there’s a march/parade today in Boston gathering folks together to demonstrate against the fact that LGBT people are still excluded from the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston. Here are the deets:!/event.php?eid=202611159764482

  • Zed

    Fact. Along with gentrification comes gay acceptance-the trend is no different in Southie. Also, the South End has gotten to be too expensive for many of the gays that used to live there, and some of them have moved to nearby neighborhoods, often South Boston.

    Also, no one in South Boston was ever as “bad” as movies make it seem. They’re movies.

    -Zed from Boston

  • P

    Tons of areas in Boston have become new neighborhoods for gay people. The South End, South Boston, even parts of Dorchester. Most places have become pretty accepting.

  • Dot

    Yes there are gays in Southie, but this picture was taken at a bar in an area of Southie that used to be industrial but has become a trendy “loft” neighborhood, also with a lot of new construction of upscale condos and apartments. A few years ago, no one lived here,it was a place people went to work. The people who live here now are the young,trendy, and above average income.
    The more traditional Irish Catholic residential areas are still conservative, and the kids still like to beat up gays and outsiders, but some gays are moving there too.

  • Shannon


    1. STOP trying to lump being “Black” when ever it has something to do with white gays being bashed…”Blacks” are the world’s FIRST…original and most predominate race people…not some “minority” like you LOVE claim!
    2. Maybe they do not want to be there! Go to a “Black” bar and you will see people of Black extract (ricans/cubans/dominicans included) they will be there…you will not see any gay whites…
    3. The Irish have NEVER….ever…accepted gays!!!!! Stop trying to force yourself on people that do not like you!

  • Harpy

    @Shannon: what the hell was that all about.

  • Shannon1981

    @Shannon: When is the last time you took your medication? That was frightening.

  • justiceontherocks

    @Shannon1981: You need to sue to make the other Shannon get a name change.

  • Riker

    @Shannon: I’m not so sure you can categorically dismiss an entire nationality. MY Irish Catholic family accepts gays just fine.

  • Shannon1981

    @justiceontherocks: LOL I have had to add my birth year to my name on every site. I am not sure if its the same person, but I sort of think so. But, luckily, the posting styles and views are different enough to where people can usually tell the difference. Being trolled around the net is a strange sensation.

  • Jeffree

    @Harpy: Shannon is a nonsensical, thoughtless, race-baiting troll. She clearly is an under-medicated nutjob with no adult supervision. I believe she is now qualified to write for Q’ty!

  • Giovannidude

    “Also, no one in South Boston was ever as ‘bad’ as movies make it seem. They’re movies.”

    This is technically true. Whitey Bulger was worse than he was portrayed in the movies. And Stevie “The Rifleman” Flemmi got off the hook in the movies. They gave him a total free pass.

  • Pete n SFO

    I’m also originally from “Bahstin” and the anger is always just below the surface… the gays are in JP, Dorchester, South End, even Charlestown & Southie… but don’t anyone kid yourselves; with no witnesses, there’s an element of Southie that that will always f you over. It’s just how it is.

    And those folks dismissing the comment about black people in Southie, lemme tell ya; you are wrong. Of course there’s progress, but Southie will always be defined by those maniacally angry people that fought hard for whatever they got & desperately need to feel like they’re better than the next guy.

    Last, Southie is on the water; a lot of ppl have had their eye on that Real Estate for a looong time. It will continue to change, but slowly.

    ps: Zed, you need to get out more; many ppl are FAR worse.

  • Budnik

    The funniest was how effete gays in Boston were known for putting down Irish Catholic boys and then secretly venturing into that area to pay for the privilege of giving them blowjobs. But I guess straight rough trade always has been a part of gay life. Manhattan gays are known for going up to the Bronx to seek out those same blue-collar types.

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