Sunday, November 4, 2007


An article in the New York Times addressed the potential decline of gay enclaves in the United States. The article stated that there is an ongoing population shift for gay people away from well known places like San Francisco's Castro district and West Hollywood, to less expensive and less urban locations. Places like Louisville, El Paso, Albuquerque, and Virginia Beach are experiencing sharp increases in the number of same-sex couples. The article discusses why this is happening and what it may mean to gay culture.

The concern is that gay neighborhoods will become passé, and with their diminishment would come a decline in the sense of gay community, cohesiveness, and identity.

It seems unlikely that the gay cultural centers would actually dissipate. Consider the "Chinatowns" across North America. Those bastions of traditional Chines culture are quite alive even though ethnic Chinese people live everywhere else on the continent as well. Likewise, it should then be expected that large metro areas will continue to have a Boystown, even while the majority of gay people live elsewhere. They will continue to serve a function as a meeting place and a physical nexus for the gays in the wider geographic area, but not a place of exile from the rest of the country.

There should be no fear from seeing gays spread out. For one thing, there are too many to fit in the established gay ghettos and so it is a necessity that many find other places to live. Another thing is that gay people are like straight people too in that some people like to live in highly urban areas and other people like to live outside it. It is not hard to believe that many gays also dream about the proverbial house in the suburbs with the picket fence.

For me, I like to visit gay neighborhoods but I don't think I would be necessarily happy living in one. I know that when I travel I like to get a hotel near gay areas but not quite in it. I've pondered this attitude and the conclusion I have come to is that gay areas are barragingly gay, gay, gay, which is okay for a short period of time, but for people like me who see that attribute as only one of several that make them who they are, it can be stifling of all the other interesting things in life.

I don't like the stereotype that gays need to be city dwellers. The NYT article had a quote from a demographer: “'Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,' he said. 'Now you can just go to Kansas City.'” At least there is an acknowledgment that gay people don't have to move to New York, but now there needs to be education that gay people live in rural Kansas also. I agree that it would not be as easy to live in the hinterland and I give those people credit. That's why I think that the verse about being able to make it anywhere if you can make it in New York seems kind of ludicrous. It would be more accurate to state that if you are gay and can make it in rural Kansas, you can make it anywhere.

Perhaps the theme song for young gays deciding where to live in the world should be R.E.M.'s Stand (in the place where you are).