Are gay and lesbian communities losing the safety-netted solidarity of their urban centers to gentrification?
In an attempt to understand a contemporary, hot-button issue facing iconic gay neighborhoods in flux, Ghaziani (Sociology/Univ. of British Columbia; The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington, 2008) mines the roots of “gayborhoods” to understand where and why they began and the challenges they face. As homosexuality gains wider societal acceptance, are the “gay ghettos,” once considered bastions of organized solidarity, sexual freedom, and safety from anti-gay bigotry and violence, feeling the pinch? In a book rich with demographical statistics of same-sex-couple households, useful charts and personal interviews, Ghaziani delivers an unbiased perspective carefully weighing the consequences and the benefits of conformity for formerly homogenous gayborhoods countrywide. He documents how “post-gay era” singles and those married (with or without children) are opting for more mainstream districts without fear of ostracism. Yet, he counters, housing, employment and relationship discrimination continues to flourish in less-tolerant areas of the country, still creating a need for these protective spaces. Ghaziani focuses primarily on the Chicago area, which is considered a “vibrant sexual laboratory” facing the same gentrification and social identity issues as other high-profile gay enclaves found in San Francisco and New York City. The author also examines generational shifts, the evaporation of gay businesses due to the ease of Internet commerce and a decline in the significance of sexual orientation. He points to this conundrum as a double-edged sword and a trade-off: a consequence of conformity and a byproduct of the equality fought for through decades of derision.
Encompassing more than just the diminishing homogeneity of gay ghettos, Ghaziani’s important work also demonstrates an appreciation for how the provocative past, present and future of gay culture continues to evoke impassioned rhetoric and opinion.