2017-08-08 18:12:00 UTC
James Steck has lived and worked in Vancouver’s West End for about 20 years, and is noticing more straight customers coming into Celebrities nightclub on Davie Street, a portal into the gay-friendly Davie Village.
Steck — who works for Blueprint, a company that owns and operates five nightclubs and four pubs in Vancouver — says that more gay clientele are visiting traditionally straight hangouts on Granville.
“It’s definitely changing. I think this ties into the acceptance in Canadian society of being gay, so we can live where we want,” said Steck, who is gay and who organizes the entertainment at Celebrities during Pride Week.
He said Celebrities has always welcomed anyone regardless of sexual orientation, but it has had to take a look at its market “taking into account the fact that gays aren’t living at our front door anymore.”
His observations reflect the findings of a study by University of B.C. sociologist Amin Ghaziani that found traditionally gay neighbourhoods like the West End are becoming increasingly “straight” places — and could be at risk of losing their cultural identity.
Focusing on San Francisco’s Castro district, New York’s Chelsea, Chicago’s Boystown and other “gaybourhoods,” the study found that the number of gay men who live in gay enclaves in the U.S. has declined eight per cent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 per cent.
Economics rather than shifting social winds might be driving gays out of places like the West End.
“A lot of people can’t live in what was once the ‘gayborhood’ because of the cost of rent,” said Vancouver Pride Society spokeswoman Caryl Dolinko. “We’re not an affordable city anymore. We as a community will move where we can afford to live.”
Said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for the West End: “With the rents continuing to rise, a lot of gay and lesbian seniors who are on fixed incomes have been pushed out of the neighbourhood.”
He noted, however, that neighbourhoods are constantly changing. The West End is a case in point, having once been a First Nations community, he said.
Aside from feeling constrained by high rents, Herbert said there is a positive reason for the shift.
“As the West End has led the way, it has made it safer in other communities, so that you can hold your partner’s hand not just on Davie Street but in communities across the province.”
The study’s author said in an interview that economic factors like rising real estate prices may play a role in the changing face of American gaybourhoods, but social factors are also important.
In interviews with young, straight families living in Chicago’s Boystown, Ghaziani said he often heard the historically gay district was perceived as a safe place to raise children.
“You might recall that in the ’80s, gay men were perceived as monsters and pedophiles. This is a big shift,” he said.
Many straight women also told him they felt safer from harassment in gaybourhoods. And same-sex couples are often looking for neighbourhoods with good schools for their children.
“All neighbourhoods change. This is a simple fact of city life. Gay neighbourhoods are certainly no exception to this basic insight of urban planning,” he said. “That said, I do think that gay neighbourhoods are changing in unique ways as the long arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, if you will.”
Herbert maintains that the community’s unique hallmarks remain strong. “There is a need for a place that is loud and proud and welcoming of all comers, and I think the Davie Village has served as that kind of light for many, many years. I expect it will for many, many more.”
Dara Parker, executive-director of Qmunity, B.C.’s queer resource centre, said as legal equalities progress for lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual and queer people, “there is more real and perceived safety in other neighbourhoods. That’s created less of a need to congregate in one physical space.”
The Internet has also diminished the need for gay enclaves. Before people could connect online, “a lot of queer culture by necessity was centred around bars and nightlife, and that often anchored queer communities,” she said.
Rather than fading, she sees gay culture as evolving. For example, instead of a bar scene, the LGBTQ community has a huge sports scene that is now flourishing.
“I don’t see gay culture diminishing in the West End,” said Parker. “It’s still a very significant historical and current hub for the queer community, and I think there’s more visibility on Davie Street than arguably any other neighbourhood in Western Canada.”
I read in another article that same sex couples make up 1% of CDN households.
Leviticus 19:22 and 20:13
1 Corinthians 6:9-10