Posts Tagged As: Gayborhoods

But My City Was Gone

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2016

The demise of gayborhoods across the country elicits a range of mixed emotions. Some of them, I suspect, cut across generational lines. But when I read about an outpost disappearing, I can’t help but be sad about it, even though I enjoy living in my outer quasi-suburban neighborhood myself. Washington DC’s City Paper looks at what’s been happening in Dupont Circle:

Today, Lambda Rising’s final storefront, at 1625 Connecticut Ave. NW, is a Comfort One Shoes. Other LGBTQ spaces have vanished from Dupont, too, including Mr. P’s, the Fraternity House (later, Omega), Phase 1’s Northwest outpost, and the Last Hurrah (next called Badlands, and most recently, Apex)—watering holes that catered to gay men. D.C.’s queer quarter has diminished with the fading of such institutional anchors, places where LGBTQ individuals could play out their identities and lower their guard among birds of a feather.

…(Rainbow History Project’s Prof. Bonnie) Morris recounts when Dupont was affectionately called the “Fruit Loop”; these days, people give her blank stares when she uses that term. Bookstores and bars have closed. “Young people gained more rights, more people were accepted in their own families, they didn’t have to go to a ‘gayborhood’ to get that feeling,” she explains. “I miss the sense of a subculture.”

The article isn’t entirely doom-and-gloom. Where old LGBT businesses have closed in Dupont, others have opened elsewhere in the city. And I think everyone reaches a point in their lives when they feel that aspects of the “good old days” were better than they really were. I’m sure I’m guilty of this. So it’s natural for different people to have different reactions to different parts of this article. With that in mind, this… this jumped out at me:

Ross says big-name LGBTQ spaces like Nellie’s and Town have started attracting a fair share of straight customers, not all of whom are educated about or sensitive to the community’s culture. “It’s disconcerting,” she says. “I’m in my safe space—why am I being hit on by a guy? I don’t know if there’s some type of straight entitlement where straight people feel they can come into our spaces.”

In the kind of “crossover” now apparent along the U Street corridor, Ross says she would like to see more respect for the norms of the queer community (no homophobic comments or staring, please) as well as a greater understanding of D.C.’s LGBTQ history. “It’s like they’re sightseeing in gay bars.”

The very first gay bar I ever went to was in San Diego, when I was still struggling to come to terms with my sexuality. I circled the block dozens of times for about three hours before I finally found the courage to show my I.D. at the door and go inside. That was the scariest three hours of my life. I was inside that dance bar for all of an hour when I was felt up by a drunk straight chick — the very last thing I wanted or needed at that point.

The first time I visited Town in D.C., in 2008 and many years later, a bachelorette party was in full swing. And that angered me on two fronts. First, gay marriage was illegal in all but a small handful of states. Having a bachelorette party seemed the the most insensitive and insulting thing those girls — and Town — could have done. And that anger was only compounded by this fabulous drag show, among the best I’ve ever seen, being treated as a kind of a minstrel for those tourists’ amusement. Which is why I’m still not comfortable with bachelorette parties in our spaces. That’s just my thing. I can’t defend it on any logical level. But it feels wrong. It’s a kind of slumming, and I’m just not keen to play the colorful native.


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