Study Finds Gay Neighborhoods Losing LGBT Cultural Identity


In an upcoming book entitled There Goes the Gayborhood, University of British Columbia sociologist Amin Ghaziani says that “fewer same-sex couples reside in historically gay neighborhoods compared to 10 years ago” adding that “the number of gay men who live in gay enclaves [like San Francisco’s Castro district, New York’s Chelsea, Chicago’s Boystown] has declined eight percent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 percent.”

Ghaziani says that “gentrification, changing attitudes among gays and lesbians, and growing acceptance of same-sex couples” as well as the desire of same-sex parents to live around good schools have all contributed to the dispersal of gays and lesbians from traditional gayborhoods.

“Gay neighborhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion,” Ghaziani says. “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.”

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  1. True the West Village in NYC has become a gentrified tourist trap.

    Posted by: jarago | Jul 28, 2014 6:07:11 PM

  2. Then where does a guy go to gay it up around other gay's in a gay way with lots of gayness if not the gayborhood?

    I ask figuratively of course. I know for now there are still plenty of gay spaces to go.

    Posted by: Brandon H | Jul 28, 2014 6:15:51 PM

  3. Most of these locations still are know for having a high percentage of gay bars than the rest of the city. But I wonder if this is a good thing or bad.

    Posted by: Billy | Jul 28, 2014 6:32:44 PM

  4. We needed a study to tell us this?

    Posted by: Alan | Jul 28, 2014 7:03:41 PM

  5. Gay Neighborhoods, otherwise known as gay ghettos. Not meaning run-down or anything, but just where the same type of people all live because they are most comfortable among their own kind (or the outside world is more comfortable having them all in one, decidedly other place.)

    So I think this is a mostly good thing - indicating it's fine for gays to live anywhere, and they don't have to stick to their own insular neighborhood for comfort or safety.

    West Hollywood, on the other hand, has never been insular. It's right in the heart of Los Angeles, adjacent and flowing into several other neighborhoods. It's still got more gay bars than any other area of L.A., and it's still a very gay place. But it's not All Gay and it's not a neighborhood going downhill. Quite the opposite.

    Posted by: Zlick | Jul 28, 2014 7:06:52 PM

  6. This story isn't completely accurate. From living in SF since 1982, it is clear that there has been a decline in the gay community in many areas. The Polk Street and Folsom districts are both far less gay than they were a generation ago.

    However, Castro is clearly the place where we've consolidated instead. If anything, the Castro is more gay (and has more gay residents) than ever before. Just talk to a local real estate agent, and it would be verified.

    So, yes, there are losses elsewhere in the city, but some areas are holding strong (thankfully). (Now, I'm not so sure about Bernal Heights...)

    Posted by: TonyJazz | Jul 28, 2014 7:08:52 PM

  7. It's not just gays moving out in larger numbers -- it's straights moving in. Gay neighborhoods are now a much more attractive place for (progressive) straights to live.

    Posted by: Rich | Jul 28, 2014 7:10:18 PM

  8. While it is certainly true that cultural changes have a hand in the decline of the gay neighborhood, I would expect that the primary reason is economic -- most of these gay enclaves started as less-than-desireable areas, and were gentrified by the gay community. Once that happened, these neighborhoods became attractive to higher income non-gay residents. In a sense, gay neighborhoods have always been a victim of their own success.

    And I would also say that gay neighborhoods "relocate" over time. Here in NYC, the Village and Chelsea have been in decline as gay destinations for years. The center of gay social life has moved on to Hell's Kitchen and various points in Brooklyn.

    Posted by: D.B. | Jul 28, 2014 7:15:50 PM

  9. I'd love to live in the West Village, but couldn't even begin to think about affording it. Artists move to an area because it's cheap and they can afford it. Gays follow because they are attracted to the art (and the artists and ARE the artists). With the gays come gentrification and the people who made the neighborhood cool are replaced by wealthy business people and insanely rich foreigners. And the cycle starts up in some other neighborhood.

    Posted by: Jere | Jul 28, 2014 7:46:53 PM

  10. @jere: ok. So what's holding us back from turning Detroit into a new destination?

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Jul 28, 2014 7:57:06 PM

  11. West Hollywood has been THE gay neighborhood of Los Angeles for generations. Other areas have later become very gay-friendly, such as Silver Lake and Long Beach - - but the gay has never "moved on" from WeHo.

    Posted by: Zlick | Jul 28, 2014 8:27:00 PM

  12. Zlick, the study didn't say anything about gay neighborhoods going downhill. The opposite, in fact. Gentrification is the first thing mentioned as a reason that gay neighborhoods are de-gaying.

    For me, West Hollywood has always been too cartoonish a version of gayness for me to tolerate, so I have never been a fan. Even when I lived near it, I spent no time there.

    Posted by: cooley | Jul 28, 2014 8:46:31 PM

  13. "So what's holding us back from turning Detroit into a new destination?"

    Lack of coordination.

    Posted by: BobN | Jul 28, 2014 9:14:04 PM

  14. Here in Seattle 25 years ago Capitol Hill was very much like the Castro in SF. Now, not so much so. There are still some bars, but you just don't see the high percentage of gays walking up and down Broadway. A key factor is that a lot of the young gays just can't afford to live in this neighborhood. I love the overall accepting attitude here, but I miss the ghetto a lot. It was fun not to feel like one gay boy among a whole bunch of straights like I felt in the Sough.

    Posted by: John | Jul 28, 2014 9:17:03 PM

  15. South End in Boston is getting gentrified and kicking out all the "retail gays".

    Posted by: Sam | Jul 28, 2014 9:18:31 PM

  16. I am living in the Gay part of the mountains. ;)

    Posted by: zeddy | Jul 28, 2014 9:26:01 PM

  17. The loss of the meatpacking district really disturbed me. It was so, out-there, end-of-the-city, scary and grimy for years. It had the lure and florent. It really was a great, great place. What a trip. I'll remember it fondly!

    Posted by: woody | Jul 28, 2014 9:34:22 PM

  18. there are places that are getting gayer, like wilton manors. he's left those out. i guess it shows we're aging. so many people go to wilton manors to gaytire.

    Posted by: woody | Jul 28, 2014 9:41:04 PM

  19. There are gays in every neighborhood in Boston. There are gays in every surrounding city and town. The old gayborhoods like the South End and Fenway have simply a very tight housing market, are much more desirable to live in compared to the past (70s, 80s, they were rundown and had pretty high crime rates), by the 90s large sections of the city started becoming gentrified, and many people simply are priced out. Even surrounding cities like Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline are now too expensive to rent or buy for a lot of people, including of course gays.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 28, 2014 10:27:55 PM

  20. My neighbors aren't gay. I love it.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jul 28, 2014 11:13:00 PM

  21. Nobody gets to keep their neighborhoods for long.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Jul 28, 2014 11:25:15 PM

  22. In the Church/Wellesley neighb of Toronto many gay businesses have closed up because the rents are getting outrageous. The area is getting a lot of branches of chain companies but, if a business owner also owns the building, then it stays.

    Posted by: leprechaunvict | Jul 28, 2014 11:57:28 PM

  23. D.B.: True, although Chelsea is still clearly gayer than most of NYC. But there is no "gay" area of Brooklyn. Lots of hipster area, but a gay area isn't going to develop. For all the reasons cited - basically, gay is fine with the hipster element and maybe there is a bit more flexibility in behavior developing among straight guys besides. Also, obviously guys just aren't hanging out in bars so much, there being online/smartphone ways to meet up. So the gay bar business that attracts gay guys to the street and makes the gayness of the area obvious isn't happening nearly as much.

    Posted by: emjayay | Jul 29, 2014 12:57:59 AM


    No neighborhood is losing "LGBT" cultural identity, because there is no such thing as "LGBT" cultural identity, because there is no such thing as "LGBT." Using that term a lot doesn't make it a thing in the real world.

    Posted by: Ben | Jul 29, 2014 1:17:46 AM

  25. In case no one has noticed... not all gay men are in committed relationships!!! This is a very bad argument to make. Saying that the fun, cosmopolitan youthful areas of gay history dont have so many committed couples is like saying early career professionals are leaving college towns. I can tell you Midtown Atlanta has gotten wayyyyyy gayer since the gay bookstore closed and five brand new gay bars opened up right after. And then some FSU researcher came to APA trying to say that Atlanta had less gay bars from a few years before by using an outdated grad student's research paper. I think people need to stop trying to say the gayborhoods are losing their identity because the baby boomers have moved to the suburbs to raised their accessory children.

    Posted by: Drewboo | Jul 29, 2014 8:50:58 AM

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