The Hourglass

The Fading Gayborhood

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Originally featured in the November 2017 Edition

On the corner of 13th and Locust lies the Gayborhood, Philadelphia’s epicenter of queer homes and businesses. Rainbow banners overlook the flock of proud couples and bustling restaurants. On 13th, locals can peruse the myriad of books and trinkets the local stores offer. Yet, despite the neighborhood’s lively front, changes threaten to uproot this tight-knit community.
A rapid increase in housing prices has pushed queer businesses and residents out of LGBTQ-friendly vicinities, ranging from San Francisco’s Castro District to Paris’ Le Marais. The gentrification and increasing appeal of these areas draws in masses of straight residents, while expelling those who originally sought acceptance.
Influenced by conditions in the 1970s and 80s, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, social stigma forced the LGBTQ-population to gravitate towards cheaper, marginalized areas, such as inner cities. Here, gay residents were free to form enterprises and establish homes with minimal resistance. And for many, living in the city provided the only emotional or financially viable option. But now, facilitated by wealthy creatives and bohemians, gayborhoods have transformed into affluent districts. In our own local sector, the price of a two-bedroom apartment is valued at well over $2.5 million (https://www.trulia.com/).
Today, gay communities are often seen as a precursor to urbanization and revitalization. There’s a common misconception that same-sex households, prosperous and unhindered by children, are an indicator of renovation. A 2010 study published by the Williams Institute debunks this belief by accentuating the large fraction of queers that lives in poverty. (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu) The paper found that 19.8% of lesbian households with children lived in poverty, in comparison to 12.1% of opposite-sex households with children. (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/) Locals are often forced to recede back into poorer sections. Meanwhile, their straight counterparts infiltrate these neighborhoods. After establishing a stable identity and community, the queer populace is once again exiled to unfamiliar territory.
However, negative forces aren’t the sole perpetrators of these dwindling numbers. As tolerance increases in urban centers, the risk of facing discrimination declines, enabling new alternatives for those seeking a home. Furthermore, the internet creates a venue for queer individuals to meet, outside of familiar congregations in a certain sector of town. As gentrification increases and the reasons for congregating wane, gayborhoods may morph into relics of the past.

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The Fading Gayborhood