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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gay Enclaves Face Prospect of Being Passé--Huh?



The New York Times reported it so it must be true: Gay Enclaves Face Prospect of Being Passe`. CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

The article's author, Patricia Leigh Brown, says"These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification." She talks about the change of character of San Francisco's Castro Area and how that mirrors the destruction of gay neighborhoods. The article then mentions Don F. Reuter, a New York author who is researching a book on the rise and fall of gay neighborhoods, or “gayborhoods.” He says “The Castro, and to a lesser extent the West Village, was where you went to express yourself.” “Claiming physical territory was a powerful act. But the gay neighborhood is becoming a past-tense idea.”

Poppycock. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago and the Castro was a gay as gay can be. I was in the Folsom area and it was gay can be. The department stores around Union Square were filled with gay sales clerks and gay shoppers. There was a sea of gay men. Ms. Brown specifically referred to the Castro Street Halloween celebration back in 1979. I was there on Halloween Night in 1979. The next night I was part of the filming of the finale of the movie CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC. That was 28 years ago. What a glorious time we all had.

In the article Ms. Brown mentions straight people walking down Castro Street today as if they were reclaiming space. Poppycock again. Gay enclaves don't mean straights are not allowed. There are, if anything, more gay stores today on Castro Street than there were 28 years ago.

As for Key West's mention in the article as being a part of these "wrenching times" of "population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging" and "the struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification" she has a bit of a point. I have lived in Key West for almost 15 years and have noticed that a lot of gay people have moved from Key West either because it does not offer them what they want in gay life or that the town has become too expensive. But every year there is a brand new bunch of gay men and women who move here for a variety of reasons including the openness and inviting atmosphere of this small little island where people are free to be who they want to be.

Key West today is certainly more gentrified than it was when I first came here as a visitor over 20 years ago. You can't stop the music and you can't stop progress. But you can pick the place you want to live and how you want to live your life. If you are gay and want to live a closeted cloistered life and deny your feelings you can live anywhere. If you want to live an open and free lifestyle your options are more limited. Like a lot limited. Key West, like San Francisco, is one of the places where it is okay to be gay. And I don't think there is a snowball's chance in hell that Key West is on the way to becoming passe`.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.