A tale of three cities…or the There Goes the Neighborhood? book tour so far

As anyone who works in publishing or who has authored a book can tell you–book tours are hit or miss. Fortunately, for one recently published author–Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood?–his book tour has landed firmly at the hit end of the spectrum. Here are some photos from the road and a list of forthcoming tour stops.

San Francisco! Where it all began with a standing-room only event at The Green Arcade.

san francisco

Chicago! Much of the research for There Goes the Gayborhood? was conducted in Chicago, so it was fitting for Amin to have an event at Unabridged Bookstore. The homecoming feel of this event was cemented by the appearance of a special guest of honor for the evening–Amin’s mother!

ghaziani 1

Vancouver! University of British Columbia and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies launched the Ideas Lunch & Wine Bar with a tip-toe standing-room only event for Amin.

11319_717747564939490_2568936500318219094_n

 

Amin has several more events planned in the coming months, so make sure you get these dates in your calendar:

  • October 2: New York (Special Event at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies). [Update, here is a photo from Amin's event last week. CLAGS hosted a conversation between Amin and Christina Hanhardt, Lammy award winner for her book Safe Space.  There was a full house and the audience was deeply engaged with insightful observations and meaningful questions.]

Ghaziani CLAGS

  • October 23: Vancouver (Little Sisters bookstore, Vancouver)
  • December 12: Seattle (Eliott Bay Book Company, Seattle)

 


bookjacket

There Goes the Gayborhood?
Amin Ghaziani

Opinion: Gayborhoods Are Not Passé

This is a guest post from Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood? Amin will read and sign books at Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago next Friday, August 29, at 7:00 PM.

Photo by Gerald Farinas of the landmark rainbow pylons along North Halsted Avenue in Chicago, Illinois Boystown gay village in Lake View East,

Photo by Gerald Farinas of the landmark rainbow pylons along North Halsted Avenue in Chicago, Illinois Boystown gay village in Lake View East.

In a nationally unprecedented move, the city of Chicago installed tax-funded, rainbow-colored pylons along North Halsted Street in 1997 as a way to celebrate the area’s sexual diversity. The $3.2 million dollar streetscape made “Boystown” the first officially designated gay neighborhood in the United States.

“This has been a labor of love,” Mayor Richard Daley announced to the cheering crowd on the day of its unveiling. “I knew from the beginning it was about fairness—fairness to this community. I am thanking you for what you (the GLBT community) have done for North Halsted Street for many, many years.”

Some of us might question the investment of millions in highlighting an area like Boystown—especially with mounting evidence that the neighborhood’s demographics are shifting toward increasing numbers of heterosexual households. Is it possible, as the New York Times once so damningly put it, that “gay enclaves face prospect of being passé?”

About half of Illinois’s estimated 25,710 same-sex partner households live in Cook County, which includes Chicago and several suburbs to the north, south, and west. Forty percent of these households reside in the four northernmost neighborhoods along Lake Michigan. Lakeview, which houses Boystown, has the largest concentration. It is home to 1,106 same-sex households, or 12 percent of the city’s total, followed by Edgewater (951 households, or 10.3 percent), Rogers Park (736, 8 percent), and Uptown (635, 6.9 percent). Lakeview’s rate of self-reported same-sex households (2.1 percent) is above the city’s average (0.9 percent), but its sexual portfolio lately boasts many more straight people.

Demographers confirm that zip codes associated with traditional gay neighborhoods in the 100 most populous regions of the country are, in fact, “de-concentrating” and becoming less “segregated,” to borrow their words. Fewer same-sex households lived in them in 2010 than they did in 2000.

The RedEye, a free daily paper in Chicago,ran a cover story that lamented these changes. “Boystown, a haven for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community since the ‘70s, is losing gay residents,” the journalist announced, “while more heterosexuals are moving in.”

Why is this happening?


“The gay neighborhood? It’s pretty much all of Chicagoland.”


As I was writing my book on the alleged demise of gayborhoods across the country, I discovered two main reasons why these urban districts are de-gaying (GLBT people are moving out) and straightening (straights are moving in).

First, the ongoing integration of sexual minorities into the mainstream is reversing an earlier propensity for many of them to live in the same area of the city. Alderman Tom Tunney of the Forty-Fourth Ward, which includes Boystown, told me: “It’s not just one neighborhood. Gay is okay in major cities. Period. It’s just not as ghettoized. It’s not this pocket and this pocket. It’s everywhere.”

A gay man said in the same vein, “The argument can be made that the entire North Side is homosexual.” Another added, “The gay neighborhood? It’s pretty much all of Chicagoland.”

No longer limited to one small pocket, GLBT city dwellers are expanding their residential portfolios to include the entire city as a safe, livable place.


It’s a mistake to assume that GLBT people must surrender what makes us culturally unique in order to participate in the most foundational institutions of American society.


Second, many GLBT Chicagoans today feel culturally similar to their straight neighbors. “We’re just like them,” one lesbian told me. “We love the same way, we want to have the same sorts of fulfillment in our lives.”

Another explained how this affects her decisions about where to live: “We can live anywhere. You could live with us. And at the end of the day, that’s the happiest ending.”

Some people worry that this residential dispersion signals the dilution of our community. But I think it’s a mistake to assume that GLBT people must surrender what makes us culturally unique in order to participate in the most foundational institutions of American society. Full equality does not demand that we renounce our colorful queer citizenship.

History instructs. As a community, we have moved steadily northward in Chicago since the late nineteenth century and revived the gayborhood along the way: from Towertown to Old Town to New Town to Boystown—and now to Andersonville and Rogers Park.

This long-standing sequence demonstrates what sociologists call “homophily.” The idea is simple: birds of a feather flock together. As we leave an area in which we once clustered, we have used our creative energies to resurrect a new gayborhood somewhere else. We see this pattern in many major cities, including Chicago, of course, but also in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Furthermore, these cities, and many others, prominently feature a variety of commemorative markers, such as the rainbow pylons and the Legacy Walk in Chicago; permanent rainbow colored crosswalks in West Hollywood and San Francisco; rainbow flags under street signs in Philadelphia’s gayborhood; the designation of Frank Kameny Way in DC; and the dedication of Harvey Milk Street in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. Such municipal markers preserve these culturally sacred spaces without naively denying the realities of residential change.

Gayborhoods may not have that je ne sais quoi, center-of-the-universe feeling that they once had, but this does not mean that they are passé.

 


Amin Ghaziani, an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, is the author of There Goes the Gayborhood?

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.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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]