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.”


  1. Brandon H says

    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.

  2. Billy says

    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.

  3. Zlick says

    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.

  4. TonyJazz says

    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…)

  5. Rich says

    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.

  6. D.B. says

    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.

  7. Jere says

    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.

  8. Just_a_guy says

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

  9. Zlick says

    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.

  10. cooley says

    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.

  11. BobN says

    “So what’s holding us back from turning Detroit into a new destination?”

    Lack of coordination.

  12. John says

    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.

  13. Sam says

    South End in Boston is getting gentrified and kicking out all the “retail gays”.

  14. woody says

    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!

  15. woody says

    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.

  16. ratbastard says

    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.

  17. leprechaunvict says

    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.

  18. emjayay says

    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.

  19. Ben says


    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.

  20. Drewboo says

    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.

  21. Jere says

    Just_a_guy, not a thing. Personally, I have committments in New York that run beyond wanting to live among my own people (artists, gays, and gay artists), but, if I was younger and looking for a place that would allow me to have an urban lifestyle at an affordable price, while also doing my thing, Detroit would have to be on the list.

  22. Stephan says

    “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.”

    Uhmmm, the baby boomers are all grandparents now.

  23. Clayton says

    I’ve never lived in a city that had a gayborhood. I’ve always lived as an out, gay man in small towns in the South. While gayborhoods have their place and have certainly made their contributions, I like to think that my choices have also made contributions, putting a face on the LGBT community in places with populations of under 100,000 (usually much less than 100,000).

  24. pc says

    in chicago, andersonville is the new boystown. tired of traffic congestion, overpriced housing and hetero-regentrification, a lot of gay men and women have made the move a few miles north. things change.

  25. T says

    The gays are extremely mobile and where we live is pretty much self-determined. Concentrated social power was necessary, but we’re winning the war of hearts and minds. In 75 years when no one can recall a time without full rights do you really think there is going to be a ghetto? Our progeny are going to disperse into society just like every ethnic and religious group has after they win their battle, and the gayborhoods will symbolically become “historically gay.”