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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Urbanists have developed an extensive set of propositions about why gay neighborhoods form, how they change, shifts in their ificance, and their spatial expressions. In this chapter, I use the residential logics of queer people—why they in their own words say that they live in a gay district—to show how gayborhoods acquire their ificance on the streets.

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More generally, my findings caution against adopting an exclusively supra-individual approach in urban studies. The reasons that residents provide for why their neighborhoods appeal to them showcase the analytic power of the streets for understanding what places mean and why they matter. The association between sexuality and the city is as established experientially as it is affirmed in the academy—from sexological counts of sexual practices to thick ethnographic descriptions of the moral regions of urban sexual worlds Kinsey et al. Although the spatial expressions of queerness are a relatively recent object of inquiry, I see foundational works in anthropology Newton ; Rubin ; WestonBlack queer studies Neroeconomics Black et al.

Research in this area focuses on the properties of urban gay districts, including their spatial, historical, prototypical, institutional, and comparative features.

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The field of gayborhood studies consists of four major streams. One area of research focuses on the origins and ontology of these districts Compton and Baumle Scholars ask why gayborhoods first formed Castells and Murphy ; Knopp ; Lewishow they have changed over time Kanai and Kenttamaa-Squires ; Rushbrook ; Stryker and Van Buskirktheir cultural ificance for queer people Doan and Higgins ; Greene ; Ornewhy they appeal to heterosexuals Brodyn and Ghaziani ; Ghaziani dand their diverse spatial expressions Brown-Saracino ; Ghaziani a ; Whittemore and Smart Regardless of whether they ask about origins, change, resonance, inter-group dynamics, or spatial variability, scholars who work in this area generally propose macro-structural arguments.

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For example, standard scholarly s point to economic forces, especially gentrification, to explain why gayborhoods form and change Christafore and Leguizamon ; Collins ; Ruting When the nature of oppression changes, so too should the spatial response Andersson ; Ghaziani b. A small but vibrant area in this first group asks how a post-gay turn Ghaziani affects these districts Forbes and Ueno ; Forstie ; Ghaziani a ; Hartless A second research stream investigates the organizational profile of gayborhoods.

In earlier studies, scholars argued that the institutional elaboration of queer communities made them quasi-ethnic in character and composition Epstein ; Murray This prompted follow-up questions about whether gay districts resemble ethnic ghettos Levine ; Wirth and if gay bars are better conceptualized as private Weightman or closet-like spaces Brown From here, researchers documented the growth of public LGBTQ organizations Armstrongpride parades Bruceand the globalization of queer spaces Martel Similar to the first stream, those who work in the second also favor flirt nightclub Valley AL approaches that are abstracted from the streets, including debates about shifting political logics, theories of field formation, and the interplay between global templates and local variations of urban sexualities.

A third stream focuses on the effects of technology. Geo-coded mobile apps enable same-sex sexual partner selection to occur with greater ease outside the context of any one neighborhood.

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A common argument is that geo-aware applications like Grindr decenter placemaking efforts Collins and Drinkwater ; Roth Other researchers use the spatial concentration of men who have sex with other men, and their online activities, to track the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections Card et al.

These findings have triggered debates about the uneven effects of technology Blackwell et al. Some researchers show that people use technology creatively to imagine new spaces away from the gayborhood Wu and Wardwhile others argue that apps reproduce inequalities Conner Rather than origins, organizations, and technology, researchers who work in a fourth stream of gayborhood studies document demographic changes Morales ; Spring and consider their effects on community-building and placemaking efforts Brown-Saracino ; Casey ; Ghaziani and Stillwagon ; Renninger A topic of particular concern is the fate of gay bars.

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In San Francisco, Mattson shows that the popularity of gay bars among straight people has nearly wiped them out; their s dropped from thirteen to three in just eleven years. The decline in San Francisco is part of an international pattern. In the United States, the of gay bar listings in the Damron Guide fell by Pop-ups are ephemeral, yet they provide enduring experiences of community and self-exploration Bailey ; Moore ; Stillwagon and Ghaziani Table 4.

All adopt a macro, structural, or otherwise supra-individual lens of analysis and explanation. Are economic or cultural forces more compelling explanations for the emergence and change of gayborhoods?

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Are economic or cultural forces more compelling predictors of gayborhood change? Do gay bars still matter? Although scholars have produced considerable knowledge about gayborhoods, a key oversight remains: what does the gayborhood mean for the people who actually live in it?

By debating macro structural forces like gentrification, assimilation, technology, and demography, researchers who work in gayborhood studies elide matters of meaning, interactions, impressions, and interpretations. Whether a person finds the gayborhood ificant—why it matters to them—is not a function of its statistical properties.

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A gayborhood is a collection of sentient people. To understand what it means, we need to ask people why they are drawn to it. I draw on more than six hundred national media reports about the gayborhood across several decades of coverage, particularly stories in which a journalist interviewed local residents, to identify six major reasons why queer people say they live in a gay district and what about it appeals to them. The patterns of association, interactional styles, and perceptions among the people who actually live in a place, like the gayborhood, provide more valid access to its local knowledges Geertz and meanings.

Voting Blocs and Elections. Former president Bill Clinton used a similar strategy. In discos, between videos of Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys, images flash on the screen of gay men and lesbians exhorting the crowds to vote.

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The presidential race provides an example of the enduring capacity of gayborhoods to serve as voting blocs. In the last several presidential elections, the percentage of LGB voters supporting the Democrat has hovered around 70 to 75 percent. LGBTQ people are more interested in politics, more interested in public affairs, and more likely to be engaged in civic and political activities than their heterosexual counterparts Egan et al.

The examples that I have provided in this section suggest that the queer vote is often a determining factor in elections. During election cycles, gayborhood residents historically have often worn buttons on their bags to proclaim the power of their vote, and they have organized voter registration drives on the streets as well Images 4.

Gay rights and voter registration billboards at the corner of Christopher St. Photo provided by the New York Public Library. Reprinted with permission.

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Sex and Love. Because homosexuality is not universally or unambiguously visible on the body, queer people encounter unique challenges in finding each other for sex, dating, and mating. Gayborhoods can make things a little easier. That was what put Christopher Street on the cultural map, the old-timers say wistfully. The waterfront, once a desolate truck yard, was a hour playground of sexual trysts and flamboyant acts. Nearly four decades later and across the country, people still appreciate the streets of gayborhoods for their sexual networking opportunities.

But it is a special place…Whatever its flaws, it was a city that let people be themselves and make their own choices about whom they loved and how, without judgment or condemnation or shame. Source Graphic de by Graham Gremore for Queerty. Safe Spaces. Despite the statistical liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuality across the country Twenge et al. I want to be near Chelsea and the West Village, where there are safe, gay people.

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A kind of Ellis Island for generations of gay men and lesbians…[W]hat it provided was freedom. The safe space theme resonates among younger generations as well. Safety is a pronounced concern for queer youth of color. Image 4. The Pink Economy. When gayborhoods were first forming, many people who moved there saw themselves as members of a minority group who needed to take care of each other—not just socially but also in an economic sense.

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Bars, bathhouses, bookstores, and other businesses that targeted a queer niche market emerged to service the newly visible residents Ghaziani b. Hopkins remarked on the historical arc of the pink economy, offering important lessons for urban planners who try to either preserve or reinvigorate neighborhoods:. Most urban planners try to revive neighborhoods in a backward manner by building affordable housing and then hoping people move into the area. Instead, he says, restaurants, shops, art studios, and other services should be there first.

Then the residents will come.

Gay men and lesbians realized that years ago, he says, when in the s and s they gravitated toward certain neighborhoods in cities across the United States. Their presence led gay bars and other businesses to open, and then more residents arrived. The pink economy gained momentum as gayborhoods became more institutionally complete. Never before has a U. Please journey to Philadelphia, where we will be at liberty to meet this Monday, at Independence Hall, as the clock strikes 6.

Introduction: gayborhood studies

An attractive girl flirts with him as she walks by. Then, another man sneaks up behind him and they walk away together. And your nightlife gay. The success of the commercial motivated the city to produce a companion magazine ad as well. Source Images 4. All images reprinted with permission from Visit Philadelphia.

Activism and Protest. An incitement to insurgency requires people to define their situation as unjust and to feel optimistic about their prospects for change. This type of culture work—redefining what a situation means—happens on the ground in specific places.

Consider an example from Dade County Miami. The Florida fight unleashed protests across the country, many of which were organized in gay neighborhoods. When people were angry about Dan White, they were able to assemble quickly, spilling out of bars [into the streets]…Physical location mattered. In response to escalating anti-gay hate crimes in the s, queer people again used their residential concentration in gayborhoods to redefine their situation as unjust and to respond to it.

Every day I hear about a friend or someone I know getting hurt.

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My lover and I were almost physically attacked in the East Village. From midnight until 3 a. They watch; they jot down plate s; they call the police if they see trouble; they blow whistles to scare off assailants; they intervene to extricate victims.