Is the LGBTQI-centric neighborhood still needed in this day and age?
Over the past few decades, city neighborhoods have changed. Developers have moved in, building condos and mixed-used developments that have displaced many residents and mom-and-pop businesses. When talking about this phenomenon, we normally refer back to the racial makeup of a city, but one of the consequences of these new developments is the almost complete obliteration of the gayborhood.
For those of us that can remember, the gayborhood represented many different things in gay culture. It was where we lived, sometimes worked and definitely partied. It was an institution, a safe space. In Columbus, we had the Short North, an artsy strip where gays and creatives could be themselves.
Fast-forward to the present, and we have entered a day and age when queer people aren't restricted, with many unafraid to settle anywhere. So the question becomes, is the gayborhood still viable?
There will always be a need for queer spaces. If we expect to keep our culture alive, we have to be proactive in preserving those old spaces, in addition to creating new ones. And while there is nostalgia for the good ol' days of gaydom, when you had to go to a specific section of town just to be out and proud, it doesn't have to be an end-of-times scenario.
Together, queer people and allies can still build, create and inhabit spaces that specifically cater to our lifestyles. We don't have to look at the new developments being constructed in our former haunts across the country as the end of the gayborhood, but rather as a chance for us to regroup, figure out what's important to us and focus on building something sustainable that the next generation can inhabit and discover for itself.
As a thought experiment, let's say all queer people pooled resources and turned the tide on developers, purchasing shops and buildings to create LQBTQI spaces in newly gentrified areas. Could you imagine your favorite local coffee shop with a sex shop adjacent to it? Or if someone opened a nightclub next door to a high-end condo community? If the LGBTQ community moved into a neighborhood that was supposedly gentrified and gay'd it up, would there be resistance?
Statistically, the queer community accounts for more than $1 trillion in consumer spending, according to an annual Bloomberg analysis. Imagine if all that money was turned towards development? What would our gayborhood look like then? Or is the gayborhood something that has served its purpose and has now evolved into something else? Are exclusively gay communities even needed anymore? Time will tell.