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'Gaybourhoods' are losing their cultural identity: UBC researcher

A surge of straight people taking up residence in traditionally gay neighbourhoods is putting these so-called "gaybourhoods" at risk of losing their unique cultural identities.

That’s the latest finding from University of B.C. sociologist Amin Ghaziani, whose new book There Goes the Gayborhood reveals that the number of men living in U.S. gay enclaves like San Francisco’s Castro district, New York’s Chelsea neighbourhod and Chicago’s Boystown has dropped eight per cent, while the number of lesbians has declined 13 per cent.

Although the changing makeup of “gaybourhoods” suggests a greater acceptance among heterosexual people of same-sex couples— a positive milestone in the gay rights movement— Ghaziani warned that “de-gaying” of these traditionally gay districts could see a a loss of voting power for the LGBT community.

"The loss of these kinds of concentrated spaces may have implications for the LBGT community in terms of exercising political influence," he said.

Gaybourhoods have also historically been hot spots for cultural innovation, which he said “might be lost if these neighbourhoods disappear altogether.”

“It's important that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces,” he said.

Although Ghaziani’s research focused on U.S. neighbourhoods, he said Vancouver has seen a similar change in the makeup of its gay neighbourhoods.

“Celebrities Nightclub at the entrance to Davie Village used to be a gay club but now is predominantly straight, yet it’s in the gaybourhood,” said Ghaziani.

At the same time, however, Ghaziani said initiatives like Vancouver’s installation of permanent rainbow coloured crosswalks in Davie Village suggest the district is still an important “community anchor” for same-sex couples.

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