I read an article in the Washington Blade recently that talked about how Marriage Equality was changing the Gay ‘Community.’ The crux of the article is that the marriage equality was another nail—maybe the final one—in the coffin of the Gay Community. Not the death of LGBT people, but it was going to complete the assimilation of the ‘gay community,’ ‘gayborhood,’ ‘gay ghettoes’—you get the idea—into the general fabric of society. It’s an interesting topic.
For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when the gay ‘areas’ of major cities were predominately gay; Castro in San Francisco, Oaklawn in Dallas, West Hollywood in L.A. Hillcrest in San Diego, Boystown in Chicago, etc. They had gay bars, restaurants, books stores, coffee houses, places had rainbow triangles to let you know they were gay friendly or gay owned.
In D.C. the area was ‘Dupont’—the area around Dupont Circle. Lambda Rising (the gay book store) was there, ‘toy’ stores, a few gay bars, restuarants etc. But once that area became gentrified (meaning a lot of LGBT people moved into a dicey area and fixed it up), the ‘gayborhood’ moved. First to ‘P’ Street (which still has a strong presence) then further east to ‘Logan’ and now ‘Shaw.’ With each move, new ‘gay’ businesses sprung up, but not as many as before. Some remained enshrined in their old locations, others moved with the clientele and some—like Lambda Rising—closed up shop.
The last—the demise of Lambda Rising— is something of a phenomenon (or perhaps better said, a tragedy to people of my generation.) Greater acceptance of LGBT people brought with it a willingness to carry things we wanted. Soon Barnes & Noble carried our books and people could go to the closest book store instead of making a special drive into the heart of DC. Then Amazon sprang up and we could have it delivered to our homes.
Acceptance is great, and it’s what we want, but the unexpected side effect is the loss of ‘our’ neighborhoods. If we didn’t need to go Lambda rising, we didn’t spend time walking around because—well, we were there and we didn’t go that often so we might as well take advantage of the special trip. If we could go have dinner as a couple in other restaurants closer to home, we didn’t need to make the trip into ‘town.’ Then those spontaneous stops at the local gay watering holes became less frequent because we could meet friends at local ‘friendly’ places.
If you think I’m making it up, check for gay book stores in major cities and see what you find. First Lambda Rising closed its stores away from DC, then it closed its main location. Oscar Wilde’s in NYC is gone. A Different Light in San Fran and L.A. is closed. Giovanni’s Room in Philly closed, but recently reopened in a slightly different configuration. But by and large, the stores are gone or going. Part of it is obviously due to the eBooks and Amazon’s ability to mail things to your home, but that only happened because Amazon carries our books in the first place.
It’s something of a double-edged sword. We want to be accepted and treated equality, but that equality means the ‘us’ only businesses we created to fill a need, have lost the ‘need’ they filled. Instead of being the only outlet, they became quant, quirky, something to do that was different. Sadly that hasn’t proven to be a sustainable business model.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, how great will it be for our children’s child to read about ‘the good old days’ when gay book stores and businesses were common and ask, ‘why did you need those?’ For them, they won’t know a world where marriage equality doesn’t exist. (My then two year old daughter was part of our wedding.) Where generally LGBT people will be seen as, co-workers, friends, neighbors, siblings without any qualifier.
Yet for those of us who remember these places, they were our refugee from the less than accepting world we lived in. Seeing them close one-by-one is like losing a piece of our selves in some measure.
If this is the ‘price’ we pay for equality, however, it is worth it, no question, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my old haunts.
Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.
He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of nineteen years, their young daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.
On his website: www.andrewqgordon.com,
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon,
On Twitter: @andrewqgordon,
Or just email him: email@example.com
The Eye and the Arm: (Champion of the Gods – Book 2 – Coming April ’15)