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Goodbye Gayborhood: study finds gay neighbourhoods ?straightening?

Gay Castro Area

UBC Press Release- July 28, 2014- New research finds that traditionally gay neighbourhoods are becoming increasingly ?straight? places, and could be at risk of losing their distinct cultural identity.

Fewer same-sex couples reside in historically gay neighbourhoods compared to 10 years ago, according to one of the largest studies of sexuality in the U.S. Led by University of British Columbia sociologist Amin Ghaziani, the study found the number of gay men who live in gay enclaves has declined eight per cent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 per cent.

Ghaziani?s research, which is collected in his new book?There Goes the Gayborhood, suggests that San Francisco?s Castro district, New York?s Chelsea, Chicago?s Boystown and other ?gayborhoods? are changing as growing numbers of heterosexual households join or replace gays and lesbians.

He offers several reasons for the shift, including gentrification, changing attitudes among gays and lesbians, and growing acceptance of same-sex couples.

The study also identifies new demographic trends, including unexpected clusters of same-sex parents around desirable schools in traditionally straight neighbourhoods and the emergence of districts for LGBT people of colour. The findings also show that same-sex households exist in a record-high 93 per cent of U.S. counties.

Ghaziani says the greater desirability of these city districts among heterosexuals and increased same-sex couple mobility mark a crucial advance in the gay rights movement. However, he cautions that further ?de-gaying? of these areas could produce a loss of cultural identity and voting power for the LGBT community.

?Gay neighbourhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion,? says Ghaziani. ?The growing acceptance of same-sex couples underlying these findings is extremely positive, but it is important that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces.?


The research suggests two main reasons why many gays and lesbians are choosing to leave their neighbourhoods: Assimilation broadens their view of their city beyond the streets of just one district and many say that they feel culturally similar to their heterosexual neighbours.

Video: There Goes the Gayborhood? By Amin Ghaziani

Gay neighborhoods, like the legendary Castro District in San Francisco and New York’s Greenwich Village, have long provided sexual minorities with safe havens in an often unsafe world. But as our society increasingly accepts gays and lesbians into the mainstream, are “gayborhoods” destined to disappear? Amin Ghaziani provides an incisive look at the origins of these unique cultural enclaves, the reasons why they are changing today, and their prospects for the future.

Drawing on a wealth of evidence–including census data, opinion polls, hundreds of newspaper reports from across the United States, and more than one hundred original interviews with residents in Chicago, one of the most paradigmatic cities in America–There Goes the Gayborhood? argues that political gains and societal acceptance are allowing gays and lesbians to imagine expansive possibilities for a life beyond the gayborhood. The dawn of a new post-gay era is altering the character and composition of existing enclaves across the country, but the spirit of integration can coexist alongside the celebration of differences in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

Exploring the intimate relationship between sexuality and the city, this cutting-edge book reveals how gayborhoods, like the cities that surround them, are organic and continually evolving places. Gayborhoods have nurtured sexual minorities throughout the twentieth century and, despite the unstoppable forces of flux, will remain resonant and revelatory features of urban life.

Amin Ghaziani is associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington.




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