A gay village (also known as a gay neighborhood or by the slang gayborhood) is an urban geographic location with generally recognized boundaries where a large number of lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual people live. Gay villages often contain a number of gay-oriented establishments, such as gay bars or pubs, nightclubs, bathhouses, restaurants, bookstores, and other businesses.
Such areas may represent a gay-friendly oasis in an otherwise hostile city, or may simply have a high concentration of gay residents and/or businesses. As with many urban "groups", gay and lesbian spaces or villages are a manifestation both of their necessity for a tolerant space as well as choice. Much as other urbanized groups, some gay men and women have managed to utilize their spaces as a way to reflect gay cultural value and serve the special needs of individuals in relation to society at large. In cities that have the necessary critical mass to support such a community, the gay "ghetto" provides a normalization of space that is essential to the culture's ability to be supported and practiced in a safe environment.
Typically these neighborhoods can be found in the upscale or trendy parts of town, chosen for aesthetic or historic value, and not resulting from the corralling of citizens bound together by mutual socioeconomic hardship.
However, these neighborhoods are also often found in working-class parts of the city, or in the neglected fringe of a downtown area – communities which may have been upscale historically but became economically depressed and socially disorganized. In these cases, the establishment of a gay community may eventually turn these areas into desirable, upscale neighborhoods, a process known as gentrification – a phenomenon in which gays often play a pioneer role.
Today's manifestations of gay "ghettos" bear little resemblance to those of the 1970s.
These neighborhoods, which often arise from zones of discard — that is, crowded, high density, and often deteriorated inner city districts — are critical sites where members of gender and sexual minorities congregate. From one perspective, these spaces are places of marginality created by an often homophobic heterosexual community; from another perspective, they are places of refuge where members of gender and sexual minorities can benefit from the concentration of safe, non-discriminatory resources and services (just as other minorities do).
In some cities, gays and lesbians congregate in visibly identified gay neighborhoods, while in other cities they are dispersed in neighborhoods which have less gay visibility because a liberal, affirming counterculture is present. For example, gays and lesbians in San Francisco congregate in the gay and lesbian-oriented Castro neighborhood, while gays and lesbians in Seattle concentrate in the city's older bohemian stomping grounds of Capitol Hill, and those of Montreal have concentrated in a working-class neighbourhood referred to administratively as "Centre-Sud", but largely known as "Le Village". These areas, however, have higher concentrations of gay and lesbian residents and businesses that cater to them than do surrounding neighborhoods.
Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, specialized gay communities did not exist as such; bars were usually where gay social networks developed, and they were located in certain urban areas where police zoning would implicitly allow so-called "deviant entertainment" under close surveillance. In New York, for example, the congregation of gay men had not been illegal since 1965; however, no openly gay bar had been granted a license to serve alcohol. The police raid of a private gay club called the Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969 led to a three day rebellion involving over 1000 people. Stonewall managed to change not only the profile of the gay community but the dynamic within the community itself. This along with several other similar incidents precipitated the appearance of gay ghettos throughout North America, as spatial organization shifted from bars and street-cruising to specific neighbourhoods. This transition "from the bars to the streets, from nightlife to daytime, from 'sexual deviance' to an alternative lifestyle" was the critical moment in the development of the gay community.
The gentrification of some urban neighbourhoods has been catalysed by gay villages. Certain patterns of residential development are particular to the community.
The gentrification is linked, in part, to changing national and global economies, and in particular to the social and spatial restructuring of labor processes. Heavy industry has been leaving North America for developing countries or leaving central business districts (CBDs) for suburban areas, seeking, in both cases, cheaper land, labor, and tax costs. Conversely, the service sector has been steadily expanding, and investment in high-tech industries has increased. Much of the new corporate-managerial and service-sector investment has tended to be, not insignificantly, in the CBDs of large cities, and these sectors have also tended to employ large proportions of low-wage and/or part-time labor, much of it female. The expansion of these jobs in CBDs has constituted a significant part of the economic pull-factor to urban areas for lesbians and gay men, complementing the attraction of the cities as centres of gay life.
Lauria and Knopp, professors at the University of New Orleans and University of Minnesota respectively, tie these processes to the spatial nature of the urban renaissance which was occurring at the time. They argue that the "first wave" of low-wage gay residences in these urban centers paved the way for other, more affluent gay professionals to move into the neighborhoods; this wealthier group played a significant role in the gentrification of many inner city neighborhoods. The professors also noted that the presence of gay men in the real estate industry of San Francisco was a major factor facilitating the urban renaissance of the city in the 1970s.
The gentrification of once run-down inner-city areas, coupled with the staging of pride parades in these areas, has resulted in the increased visibility of gay communities. Parades such as Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras attract significant investment and create tourist revenue, and cities are beginning to realize, firstly, that the acceptance (or promotion) of lesbian and gay culture is fast becoming a sign of urban "sophistication", and secondly, that gay-oriented events, such as pride parades, the World Outgames and the Gay Games, are potentially lucrative events, attracting thousands of gay tourists and their dollars. The growing recognition of the economic value of the gay community is not only associated with their wealth but also with the role that lesbians and gay men have played (and continue to play) in urban revitalization.
Some cities have taken it upon themselves to artificially create gay villages to capitalize on gay dollars. In 2004, Oakland, California tried to create a village in a run-down portion of the city in an attempt to divert entertainment and shopping dollars from neighbouring San Francisco. The project has achieved mixed results as that city's gay community is spread out over a wide area. Moreover, some critics state that the level of social acceptance is higher in Oakland than in other cities, negating the need for a centralized gay village.
Gay villages can vary widely from city to city and country to country. Furthermore, some large cities develop "satellite" gay villages that are essentially "overflow" areas; in such cases, lesbians and gay men become priced-out of gentrified gay villages and move to other, more affordable areas, thereby creating entirely new gay villages. Some of the listed gay villages are technically not neighborhoods of a larger city but a separate entity entirely from the city for which they are the primary gay enclave, e.g., West Hollywood in Los Angeles, California; Wilton Manors in Florida; Plateau Mont-Royal in Montreal, Quebec.
Some cities have a well-defined gay village in the heart of a larger area with a significant gay population that would not necessarily be considered a gay village. For example, Davie Village is the heart of Vancouver's gay community, but sits within the greater West End area, which, though decently populated by gay people, is not necessarily considered a gay village. Other examples of this phenomenon include Boystown, Chicago, a well-defined gay village situated in the larger Lakeview community. Lakeview has a reputation for being a stronghold of liberal and progressive political views, but is far from exclusively gay, as a large number of straight families call the neighborhood home. Similarly, despite its predominantly gay population and higher concentration of gay venues, the South Beach area in Miami Beach, Florida, was never exclusively gay, because of its popularity among straight people alike. Philadelphia's gay village in Pennsylvania comprises downtown blocks from 12th and Walnut to 13th and Locust and is called "the Gayborhood". It is known for a wide range of clubs, bars, and restaurants along with LGBT health facilities. The Short North in downtown Columbus, Ohio is primarily known as an art district, but has a strong gay community and a high concentration of gay-oriented clubs and bars.
Some cities are often associated with being "gay" cities, for instance San Francisco in the United States, Manchester, or Brighton in the United Kingdom, Sydney in Australia, Cape Town in South Africa and even Mykonos in Greece is associated as a gay island.
San Diego has its own gay village called "Hillcrest", which sits around Balboa Park. Hillcrest is very close to the downtown area but is able to maintain a small town eclectic feel. While it is considered by most as the gay area of San Diego with its gay bars and dance clubs, the overall population of the area has only gotten more and more diverse with the rise in condominium projects.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota areas surrounding Loring Park, site of the local GLBT pride festival, are regarded as a "gay" neighborhood, though many gay and lesbians people have migrated to more residential neighborhoods such as Bryn Mawr and Whittier.
In Tampa, Florida, the gay community was traditionally spread out among several neighborhoods. In the early twenty first century, the Ybor City National Historic Landmark District has seen the creation of the GaYbor District, which is now the center of gay and lesbian life in the Tampa Bay area and home to the majority of gay bars and dance clubs, restaurants, and service organizations.
Church and Wellesley is an LGBT-oriented community located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is roughly bounded by Gould Street to the south, Yonge Street to the west, Charles Street to the north, and Jarvis Street to the east, with the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets at the centre of this area. The boundaries are not fixed, as some gay and lesbian oriented establishments can be found outside of this area. Many LGBT people also live in the nearby residential neighbourhoods of The Annex, Cabbagetown, St. James Town and Riverdale, and in smaller numbers throughout the city and its suburbs.
In some cities, such as Stockholm and Copenhagen, there are no established gay villages, partly due to the differing social dynamics of these cities (less social segregation within the city), but also due to earlier and greater social acceptance of the gay community within mainstream society. However there are areas which were historically known as meeting places for gays, such as Södermalm in Stockholm, which remains a somewhat trendy area for gay people to live, though it does not have a predominantly gay population.
In other cities, gay villages are not residential in nature, due to the high price of real estate. London's Soho district, the largest center of lesbian and gay life in the UK, is largely a commercial district; the city's lesbian and gay community typically live further out from the central city.
Le Marais, the recognized gay district of Paris, is similar in this role, offering a large concentration of businesses, but LGBT persons live in all parts of the city, and there are LGBT businesses in almost all of the arrondissements of Paris.
The U.S. metro area with the largest gay population is New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, with an estimated 568,903 gay residents. Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana is a close second with 442,211, followed by Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI with 288,748.
The following charts show a list of the top U.S. cities, states, and metro areas with: 1) the highest population of gay residents, and 2) the highest percentage of gay residents within city limits. (GLB population as a percentage of total residents). The numbers given are estimates based on American Community Survey data.
|1||New York City||6%||272,493||1|
|1||District of Columbia||8.1%||47,651|
|Rank||Metro Area|| Percentage|
|1||New York City - Northern New Jersey - Long Island, NY||568,903||2.6%|
|2||Los Angeles - Long Beach, CA - Santa Ana, CA||442,211||2.7%|
|4||San Francisco - Oakland - Fremont, CA||256,313||3.6%|
|5||Boston - Cambridge, MA - Quincy, MA||201,344||3.4%|
|7||Dallas - Fort Worth - Arlington, TX||183,718||3.5%|
|8||Miami - Miami Beach - Fort Lauderdale||183,346||4.7%|
|9||Atlanta - Marietta, GA - Sandy Springs, GA||180,168||4.3%|
|10||Philadelphia - Camden, NJ - Wilmington, DE||179,459||2.8%|