A new study by the University of British Columbia has found that traditionally gay neighbourhoods are losing their distinct cultural identity and becoming increasingly “straight” places.
Straight residents are moving into gay neighbourhoods, with research showing fewer same-sex couples now reside in historically gay neighbourhoods.
According to UBC sociologist Amin Ghaziani, traditionally gay neighbourhoods have 8 per cent fewer gay men and 13 per cent fewer lesbians. The research is compiled in his new book There Goes the Gayborhood which examines San Francisco’s Castro district, New York’s Chelsea, Chicago’s Boystown, where heterosexual households are joining or even replacing same-sex individuals.
The shift has been partially a result of gentrification, but mainly because of growing acceptance towards homosexuality and changing attitudes among gays and lesbians from their newly acquired social mobility.
However, this social mobility and change in gaybourhoods 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 phenomenon is also seen in downtown Vancouver’s West End, especially with Davie Village where the gay community’s businesses and services are centralized.
In addition, there have been major shifts with some of Vancouver’s most enduring LGBT cultural institutions.
Celebrities Nightclub was one of Vancouver’s first gay institutions, but in recent years it was transformed into a music venue that caters beyond its LGBT roots.
Perhaps the most significant change was the closure of Odyssey Nightclub in 2009 after it was demolished for a municipal housing project. The nightclub was forced to close for good when West End residents vocalized their opposition to its relocation to the old Starlight Theatre on Denman Street.
Featured Image: Davie Street rainbow crosswalk via Shutterstock