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John Batchelor

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Death of the ‘gayborhood’ is a sign of progress

Seattle's mayor celebrates Pride Week in June with rainbow-painted crosswalks on Capitol Hill. (City of Seattle photo)

Like it or not, the death of “gayborhoods” is a sign of progress, even if it does bring with it some feelings of loss. That, despite an article in Salon.com that highlights one Capitol Hill resident’s complaint that Amazon killed his “gayborhood.”

It’s a gripe I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, but it’s one that lacks both an understanding of history (Capitol Hill wasn’t always a gayborhood) and, frankly, an understanding of its meaning.

The basic argument is that, thanks to Amazon’s high paid, mostly heterosexual work force, not only have they moved to the neighborhoods surrounding their offices, bringing the cost of rent up with them, but they’re taking over spaces that have traditionally been known as gayspaces (bars, coffee shops, etc.). Thus, you have heterosexuals moving into what’s traditionally been known as a gayborhood.

Related: Do rainbow crosswalks break the law? Did they cost tax payers $66,000?

But the evolution of a neighborhood becoming all-inclusive is progress.

The gayborhood has always been historically important and necessary. If you didn’t feel welcome or safe outside of the neighborhood (or if you were unable to express your cultural or community achievements), a gayborhood was exceptionally important (the same was true of any other neighborhoods that catered near-exclusively to other minority groups).

But understand that times have changed in this country and the LGBT community is experiencing growing acceptance (more for the L, G and B, and less for the T right now, though that’s changing). In Washington state? The fight for acceptance is near over.

The concept of a gayborhood is no longer as meaningful and that actually shows progress. That you can live in Tacoma, Milton, Everett, Redmond, or Seattle without having to deal with blatant discrimination and hate crimes is a testament to why the gayborhood is no longer as necessary. And this acceptance only came because of the community’s willingness to come out and expose people to the culture. We didn’t win equality exclusively in the courts; it’s a battle that was won because a younger generation grew up exposed to the LGBT community and culture.

Now, there is some validity to the anger some have with the disappearance of the gayborhood.

The complaints about the rising rents in Capitol Hill? They’re misguided and have absolutely nothing to do with the neighborhood’s loss of the gayborhood title.

It is true that Amazon contributes to rising housing costs (it’s the leading cause, I’d argue), but it’s simply part of the evolution of any neighborhood.

Related: You won’t believe this mindless attack on Amazon

And, frankly, areas with high LGBT members tend to have a higher cost of living. LGBT members have higher incomes and are in less debt than heterosexuals (though this shouldn’t diminish the fact that some trans individuals still suffer with a wage gap based on bigotry). They also spend less money than families because LGBT members tend not to have children, which are costly. Developers and landlords know this, which is why rent is higher in gayborhoods (from a home sales perspective, housing prices in these areas have increased 20% in three years).

But the hetero-overthrow of the gay bar? That’s a valid complaint, I think. The LGBT community has a more difficult time finding other members of the community without a clearly defined space where you know with near-certainty that the people around you are also in the community. And people who claim that hate crimes or bigotry is nonexistent are flat-out wrong (you can sometimes hear that argument as to why gayborhoods are no longer necessary).

But you can still have gay bars and feel safe without a gayborhood.

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