In the News: Ghaziani Goes Global with ‘There Goes the Gayborhood?’

8-6 AminGayborhoods. Rising Rents. De-Gaying. ‘Straightening.’

What does it all mean?

Princeton University Press author and associate professor of Sociology Amin Ghaziani has dedicated his life’s work to defining these terms and to bringing the study of sexuality to the forefront of sociology. Naturally, the intent of his latest book, There Goes the Gayborhood? is no different.

In many respects, the book is an ode to the enclaves which have historically acted as havens of support, providing community and allowing those with common sociopolitical goals to coalesce in their quest for equality, meanwhile striking rich friendships and developing culturally vibrant and economically robust neighborhoods.

Throughout the book, Ghaziani analyzes deep demographic data looking for trends of same-sex and straight households moving in and out of traditionally gay neighborhoods like San Francisco’s Castro district, Chicago’s Boystown, and New York’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods. His findings show that gay neighborhoods are becoming decidedly less “gay”—the number of gay men who live in gay neighborhoods has declined eight per cent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 per cent in the last 10 years. He also found that other areas of the country are becoming more diverse with same-sex reported households in 93% of the counties in America.

The amount of media attention to Ghaziani’s book, and particularly to his unique sociological diagnosis of this issue, has been nearly as overwhelming as his findings. Mainstream media outlets like Time Magazine,  Yahoo! News, Chicago NPR’s “Morning Shift,” Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” and Huffington Post: Live, and the Chicago Tribune, among others, have responded accordingly to the radical realization of “straightening.” Salon has also paid due diligence to the dilemma, asking, “[A]s demographics shift, is it a sign of acceptance of a community – or the dilution of it? Is it possible, as the New York Times so damningly put it, that “gay neighborhoods face the prospect of becoming passe?””


“Gay neighborhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion,” Ghaziani says. “[I]t is critical that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces.”


Fortunately, Ghaziani’s own commentary in the Advocate rejects the claim that ‘gayborhoods’ are growing increasingly obsolete, no longer a necessary comfort to the gay community. He says that, “[t]here is a fine line between acceptance and the closet, just as there is between integration into the mainstream and the cultural loss of what makes gay people unique.” Although LGBT individuals have become “incorporated into the societal mainstream,” there’s no reason to dismiss such an integral and distinctive feature of the gay community.

And that’s not all the coverage. Not even close. The book has received recognition from French and German news outlets as well, in addition to an array of exclusively gay media sites like Pink News (Europe’s largest gay news service), Towleroad, and Joe.My.God, and we’re sure that the buck won’t stop there.

Even with this blitz of interest, though, it’s important to bear in mind the essence of Ghaziani’s argument: he is fundamentally fighting for these communities and seeking ways to preserve them without naively denying the realities of urban change. All neighborhoods change, of course, and gayborhoods are no exception. But they are evolving in unique ways as the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.

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Amin Ghaziani is the author of:

TGTG There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani
Hardcover | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691158792 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 5 halftones. 2 line illus. 15 tables. 6 maps.| eBook | ISBN: 9781400850174 | Reviews Table of Contents  Introduction[PDF]

Quick Questions for Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood?

Amin Ghaziani is an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. His areas of study include sexualities, culture, urban life, and social movements. He is the author of The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington, which was a 2009 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award’s Best Book in LGBT Studies in 2009. In 2010, he was awarded the Sage Prize for Innovation and Excellence by the British Sociological Association.

Amin Ghaziani

Dr. Ghaziani received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his M.S. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University. His new book, There Goes the Gayborhood? examines the future of gay neighborhoods in major American cities. Gayborhoods, from New York City’s Greenwich Village to Chicago’s Boystown, have provided gay and lesbians with safe places to live for decades, but could they become a thing of the past in today’s “post-gay” world of shifting cultural attitudes and civil rights milestones? Dr. Ghaziani takes up the question in large measure, drawing on census data, newspaper articles, opinion polls, and over a hundred interviews conducted with Chicago residents and argues that these urban communities will survive, even in the wake of radical social change.

Now, on to the questions!

What inspired you to become a sociologist?

The summer after my junior year in college, I signed up for a “San Francisco Field Studies” program at Northwestern. This was an internship-based practicum that taught undergraduate students how to conduct ethnographic research of an organization, and then connect their findings with a theoretically informed policy directive. I was placed at Positive Resource Center (PRC), which, at the time, was the first organization in the country dedicated to helping people living with HIV/AIDS return to work after having left on AIDS disability. Although many people once were getting sick, leaving work, and preparing themselves to die, medical advances in highly active antiretroviral therapies in the mid- to late-1990s gave them a chance to renew their lease on life. Many of these people wanted to go back to work, but they encountered numerous challenges along the way.

That summer changed my life. I was rabble rouser during my undergraduate days, deeply committed to issues of social justice. I learned that sociological research offered unique opportunities to create change. I often cite that course, that summer, and those poignant experiences in San Francisco as the reasons why I found my way to graduate school.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

I have benefited from so much sage advice over the years that I simply cannot offer just one piece. Here we go:

  • For those who are finishing grad school: “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” And besides, why limit what we can learn?
  • For those who fear submitting their manuscripts for peer review: “It’s not the best draft, it’s the last draft.”
  • For those who venture into the precarious realm of public sociology: “Don’t read the comments!”
  • If you decide to risk it anyway, then let me console you with some words from Winston Churchill: “Criticism is easy; achievement is difficult.” Keep your chin up!
  • And finally, for those who choose to pursue a life of scholarship: Love what you do. The world appears and feels so much more effervescent when passion and pleasure accompany the pursuit of your craft.

Why did you write this book?

Sociologists have for a long time been captivated by questions of residential choice (where we choose to live) and urban forms (why neighborhoods look and feel the way they do). Although we know much about these matters in general, we still know surprisingly little about the everyday lives, social interactions, and spaces in which LGBTQ people live. This oversight, as far as I’m concerned, is part of a heterosexist project—one that sees the city through a myopic lens that erases the experiences of gender and sexual minorities. This book represents one of the ways in which I am trying to correct this scholarly bias.


“There are now more places in cities, suburbs, and rural areas that have distinct associations with same-sex sexuality than ever before.”


I also think that queer spatial patterns are worthy of study in their own right, rather than for what they can teach us about other groups and enclaves, such racial/ethnic areas or class-based stratification in the city. Sexuality scholars are accustomed to translating their findings for “broader” audiences as a way to convince them that they, too, should in fact care. I try hard in this book to invert the power dynamics. Let us think about gayborhoods on their own terms—and unapologetically—rather than see them as supporting characters, districts whose intellectual value lies principally in what they can teach us about other kinds of urban spaces.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

There are two sets of surprising findings. Each is startling on its own—but even more so when we position one next to the other.

First, demographers express the extent to which groups of people like gays and straights are segregated in the city through what they call an “index of dissimilarity.” This is a statistic that represents the proportion of a minority group within a census tract that would need to be replaced by a member of the majority in order to reflect the composition of the city overall in terms of sexual orientation.

When we run the numbers, we see that zip codes associated with traditional gay neighborhoods are “de-concentrating.” When we compare the one hundred most populous places in the US during the 2000 census with how those same places looked in the 2010 collection, we realize that average segregation scores for male same-sex partner households decreased by 8.1 percent and a whopping 13.6 percent for female same-sex partners. If we zoom out even further, we see that same-sex partner households in general reside in 93 percent of all counties in the country.

If we just look at the most visible gayborhoods, places like the Castro in San Francisco or West Hollywood or Boystown in Chicago, then we might be tempted to conclude that these areas are diluting and de-gaying. But I also found evidence that new settlements are emerging. To see them, we have to ask follow-up questions: where are they going next and why?


“…it’s a mistake to see the urban landscape as a binary between gayborhoods and all other, undifferentiated straight spaces.”


The answers point to something quite counter-intuitive. Gayborhoods are not passé and thus disappearing—on the contrary, queer spaces are becoming more diverse and thus plural. There are now more places in cities, suburbs, and rural areas that have distinct associations with same-sex sexuality than ever before.

For me, the bottom line is that it’s a mistake to see the urban landscape as a binary between gayborhoods and all other, undifferentiated straight spaces. Or to reduce the spatial expressions of sexuality to those most visible gay districts that capture our popular imagination.

How did you come up with the book jacket?

Ghaziani_ThereGoestheGayborhoodI had a vision for the cover that, unfortunately, did not materialize. Some years ago, the RedEye, a free daily paper in Chicago, ran a cover story about changes in the local gayborhood. The image on the cover of the paper haunts me to this day: it was an artistic rendering of one of the rainbow-colored pylons that adorn North Halsted Street and mark it as the city’s main queer artery. The colors, however, were bleeding off the pylon. I thought it was the perfect visual representation for a book about the de-gaying of gayborhoods.

Although I was not able to obtain copyright clearance to reproduce the image, what the design team at Princeton came up with is no less brilliant. I love the concept. Notice two aspects of it. First, the title resembles spray paint, and the colors of the paint are bleeding. This design aesthetic, with its gorgeous urban motif, is consistent with what drew me to the RedEye. You might also notice that there are no images or photographs. The cover of my book plays off negative space. From an artistic perspective, we can imagine that the title and my name embody the generative potential of negative space. This is unexpected—and that surprise itself animates the themes of the book. Fears about the negating of queer space interact in subtle and sometimes surprising ways with new areas that are emerging.

What is your next project?

I began this book at Princeton University during my days as a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows, and I completed it during my assistant professor years at the University of British Columbia. This major move in my life inspired new types of questions. How do gay neighborhoods in the United States compare with those in Canada? More generally, how does national context affect the spatial expressions of sexuality? I would like to move my work to a cross-national, comparative perspective.

In the meantime, however, I am writing my first textbook. This short volume (200 printed and bound pages) will review research on sexualities from a uniquely cultural perspective.

Never a dull moment!

 

Amin Ghaziani is the author of:

Ghaziani_ThereGoestheGayborhood There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani
Hardcover | August 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691158792
360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 2 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400850174 |   Reviews Table of Contents Introduction (PDF)

Unusual Destinations for a New York Stay-cation (#NYNobodyKnows)

New Yorkers might think they have to leave the city for a great vacation, but here are some suggestions for new and delightful places to visit on a New York City stay-cation from Bill Helmreich, the author of The New York Nobody Knows. For visitors from out of town, these destinations offer a side of the city separate from the usual tourist fare. Because of the distances between these places travel by auto is advisable, except for Manhattan, where travel by cab and public transportation is another option.

Photo 4

Where in Manhattan is this delightful spot?

Manhattan:

Besides the popular destinations, there’s much else to see. Starting from the North, Fort Tryon Park is a must at this time of the year. Nearby, walk down Pinehurst and Cabrini Avenues in Washington Heights, and don’t miss Chittenden Avenue at 187th St., with a fabulous view of the Hudson, the Jersey cliffs, and the George Washington Bridge, and the famous (look it up) Halloween House. On E. 162nd Street, you’ll find Jumel Terrace, one of a kind wooden homes built in the nineteenth Century on a cobbled street, now selling for up to one million dollars. For authentic (not tourist) gospel, stop in at a small church on 114th Street, just east of 1st Avenue. and for arguably the most beautiful brownstone street in Manhattan, go down 78th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue. And, of course, there’s the gentrified Lower East Side, the East Village area (especially 9th Street east all the way to Tompkins Square Park) and much more.

Bronx:

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This spot offers a “taste of Puerto Rico in the Bronx,” according to Helmreich

The quite safe Harding Park section in the Bronx feels like you’ve stepped back into history. It’s basically a Puerto Rican village, with small, neatly tended cottages fronted by charming gardens. Chickens scampering across the narrow roads and the beating rhythms of Spanish music give it an air of authenticity. And the drop-dead views of the Manhattan skyline across the East River make it the quintessentially paradoxical Gotham experience — one of the many communities with a small-town feel, under the umbrella of the most sophisticated twenty-first-century city in the world.

And while you’re there, visit Arthur Avenue and its many first-rate Italian restaurants and cafés. For sheer natural beauty, visit Pelham Bay Park. Over three times the size of Central Park, its sweeping views of rolling hills and the nearby bay are worth the effort. You’ll need a cart for this excursion, but you won’t be sorry.

Photo 26

Steve’s Place in Brooklyn

Queens:

Go to Linden Boulevard near 180th Street in St. Albans and see the mural of all the jazz greats who once lived in the area — Fats Waller, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and more. Visit nearby Addisleigh Park. For Afghani, Tibetan, Filipino, Hispanic, Thai, and Indian eateries of all types, walk between 82nd and 72nd Streets along Roosevelt Avenue. For beautiful homes and mansions with spectacular views of the water and bridges, stroll through Douglaston or Forest Hills Gardens. For an old-fashioned candy store and ice cream parlor, visit Eddie’s Sweet Shop at 105-29 Metropolitan Ave, near 72nd Road.

Brooklyn:

If you’re looking for nostalgia, take a trip to 2056 85th Street in Bensonhurst. Outside, you’ll see a most remarkable collection of Brooklyn’s history and that of the country — Betty Boop, Superman’s phone booth, the Fonz, Ebbets Field, Godfather types, Wildroot hair cream, vintage autos behind garage door, and much more. Look at the incredible gingerbread house at 8200 Narrows Ave, built in 1917. There’s the incredible graffiti at Troutman and St. Nicholas or Waterbury and Meserole, both in Bushwick. And check out beautiful Marine Park, with a nearby fishing village area called Gerritsen Beach.

Photo 31

Serenity now… at the Chinese Scholars Garden in Snug Harbor

Staten Island:

Enjoy a boardwalk stroll on South Beach where people sunbathe, play volleyball, and just relax. It’s 150 years old and was the locale for at least 100 films shot in the 1890s. Many silent films stars, like actress Lillian Gish and director W. D. Griffith, got their start there. Next to Snug Harbor is beautiful Von Briesen Park, adjacent to the bridge. Don’t miss the $5 million Chinese Scholar’s Garden with its stunning flowers, tiny waterfalls, and bridges, nestled within the Staten Island Botanical Gardens, a great outdoor wedding venue.

 

Sexuality and the City–presenting the book trailer for There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani

In There Goes the Gayborhood?, sociologist Amin Ghaziani shows why the rumors of the demise of gay neighborhoods like Boystown, Chelsea, the Castro District, and Dupont Circle are premature. Publishers Weekly says his “findings are not to be missed,” while Library Journal says the book represents, “a fascinating, rich view that is supported by up-to-date statistics.” This video gives a quick overview of what the book covers.

You can sample a free chapter here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10211.pdf

Jenny White talks at the House of Commons (video now available)

On 4th February, Jenny White gave a talk in the British House of Commons as part of the Westminster debates held and organized by the Centre for Turkish Studies. The audience was a mix of politicians, scholars, students, and other interested people. The talk was moderated by Dr. Pelin Kadercan, of Reading University. A video of the event is now available to view here.White - Turkey Studies

In her recent book Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, Jenny White argues that the polarization in Turkey isn’t due to an Islamist/secularist split as it is often portrayed, but rather is a result of the rapid transformation of society and consequent insecurity and search for new identities and meanings, particularly among the younger generations, regardless of whether they are secular or pious. The danger to Turkey comes not from Islam, which for many has become a lifestyle and object of choice, rather than an ideology, but from 20th-century habits of political autocracy that mirror familiar patriarchal authoritarian relations in the family that promise protection and stability.

In her talk at the House of Commons, Professor White brought these ideas up to the present, suggesting that the discourse that posits a father state protecting his citizen children from outsiders  aiming (with the help of traitorous insiders) to destroy the integrity and honor of the nation reappeared in the rhetoric and actions of both the prime minister and protesters during the Gezi protests of summer 2013 and in the Turkish government’s response to corruption allegations and other recent events. She explained why this discourse still works to mobilize major elements of the population, while other parts of the population now categorically reject these affiliations and patterns of political and personal relations. Turkey is at a tipping point between these forces.

This spring sees the publication of the paperback of this important book.  Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks will be reissued with a new afterword  in which White analyzes the latest political developments, particularly the mass protests surrounding Gezi Park, their impact on Turkish political culture, and what they mean for the future.

Image credit: Centre for Turkey Studies

 

Bill Helmreich on the impetus for the book, the process, and gentrification

This video was taken at the Strand Book Store earlier this month where Bill Helmreich, author of The New York Nobody Knows, appeared in conversation with Kirk Semple.

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 5 — solution

Yesterday we challenged you to put your NYC knowledge to the test and tell us where this picture was taken:

quiz

 

Here’s the uncropped version of the picture:

solution

 

This beautiful spot is El Flamboyan Garden located at Tinton Avenue at 150th Street. It is a terrific example of the “greening of the city” that Bill Helmreich describes in The New York Nobody Knows.

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 5

We took a week off, but we’re back. Think you know everything there is to know about New York City? Try your hand at identifying where this photo was taken? Post your best guess here or on twitter:

quiz

 

This quiz is presented as we lead up to the publication of Bill Helmreich’s new book The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City. Sample a chapter here and check out The New Yorker’s recent story about going on a walk with Bill.

As featured in:

bookjacket

The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich

Read chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10060.pdf

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 4 — solution

We challenged you to identify this building (well really a corner of a building!), hinting that it was near a NYC landmark. There was a very subtle clue in the categories for which the post was tagged. Did you catch it?

quiz

How many of you figured out it was The Sutton?

solution

Gentrification comes to Harlem, writes Bill Helmreich in the caption for this photograph from The New York Nobody Knows. The building is the Sutton, hard by the Polo Grounds projects (hence the “Sports” category in the quiz post). Bradhurst Avenue, 145th to 155th Streets.

 

As featured in:

bookjacket The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich
Read chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10060.pdf

 

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 4

Who can pinpoint this building near a New York landmark?

quiz

 

As featured in:

bookjacket

The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich

Read chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10060.pdf

 

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 3 – Solution

We challenged readers to identify where this peace of art can be seen:

quiz

 

Did anyone guess it right? The fence is part of a larger mural at the Centro de La Paz (Center for Peace); motivating ghetto youth. 124th Street between Second and Third Avenues.

solution

As featured in:

bookjacket

The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich

Read chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10060.pdf

 

#WhereInNYC Photo Quiz 3

Anyone care to venture where this peace of street art can be seen?

 

quiz
 

As featured in:

bookjacket

The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich

Read chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10060.pdf