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GLBT Thu Apr 08 2010

Won't You Be My Gaybor?

Obit magazine pronounces the death of the Gayborhood.

This is the American gayborhood. If you've never been, I'm sorry to report: It's already dead.

The name is explanatory. It's where gay people lived and hung out, somehow fulfilling stereotypes while simultaneously stimulating social justice. Gayborhoods were born in the second-half of the 20th century in relatively run-down, forsaken parts of cities, away from the establishment that could give a damn about man-on-man P.D.A., and side-by-side with others who found themselves similarly sidelined: the poor, drug addicts, ethnic minorities. Sometimes referred to with the euphemism "artists," gays became the Marines of gentrification, storming and conquering destitute places. Then, unencumbered with the financial burden of Huggie's, ballet classes and lunch boxes, they dropped cash. Disposable incomes turned vacant factories into lofts and abandoned lots into community gardens. They brought a live-and-let-live attitude, a sense of style, and several places to eat sushi.

I have to admit, the two Chicago "gayborhoods" of my youth--Boy's Town and Andersonville--seem to have lost some of their energy, but I'm not up there as much as when I was younger and worked nearby. Are Chicago's gayborhoods dying?


Dennis Fritz / April 9, 2010 11:20 AM

The basic problem here can be summed up in one word: gentrification.

I remember back when Lakeview--now Chicago's biggest "gayborhood"--was a predominatly working-class, Latino area. Gay men were among those leading the charge to purge the neighborhood of its "bad element"--i.e. Latinos-- and make it into a slightly more northerly version Lincoln Park (incidently, Lincoln Park was once a predominantly Latino areas well). They succeeded. Now, decades later, Lakeview's gay community is feeling pressure to "clean up" the neighborhood and make it more "family friendly." There is some sad irony in this, but some justice as well.

Ramsin / April 12, 2010 9:59 AM

Is it right to say that the gay men who moved into Lakeview were "leading the charge" to "purge" the neighborhood though, Dennis? I just wonder how conscious it was, as opposed to a policy of the gay-friendly Daley administration that was probably enabled by some local leaders.

Dennis Fritz / April 12, 2010 11:44 AM

Oh, in many cases it was quite conscious. It still is. Lots of gay men who see themselves as very liberal are pretty reactionary when it comes to affordable hosuing issues. It is a huge blind spot in that community.

But you're right. Saying they "led the charge" is probably an overstatement. That would be like blaming individual foot soldiers for the war in Iraq. They didn't create the policy. They were just recruited to help carry it out.

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