Our book presents eight important takeaways about gay neighborhoods.


Gay neighborhoods are inclusive and are not only for gay men.

The term “gay” as a shorthand descriptor in the label for “gay neighborhoods” effectively ignores the multipolar diversity among the LGBTQ+ population (as noted in the “nomenclature” section above). The array of groups represented under the LGBTQ+ banner may share similar journeys but collectively each subgroup has unique challenges not commonly shared among other sectors of the broader LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, the term “gay neighborhood” may unintentionally suggest exclusive focus on one specific group—gay men—and not fully reflect the entire inclusive LGBTQ+ rainbow.


Gay neighborhoods matter.

Gay neighborhoods matter to everyone and are important—both historically and currently—to the functioning of contemporary urban culture; gay neighborhoods support the health and well-being of both LGBTQ+ individuals as well as mainstream society.


Gay neighborhoods are becoming less gay.

The trend toward inclusivity may be “de-gaying” gay neighborhoods. As formerly exclusive gay neighborhoods (and gay places within them) have broadened to include ‘gay friendly,’ many gay neighborhoods have attracted straight people as residents and visitors, a phenomenon that dilutes the exclusivity and collective safety offered by gay neighborhoods. Along with broader societal forces and greater mainstream acceptance, heteronormatizing gayborhoods has diminished the need for LGBTQ+ individuals to retreat to or self-segregate into gay spaces.


Virtual connections enhance gay neighborhoods.

Contrary to the perception that technological change—online presence and virtual connection through social media (dating and hook-up apps)—has hastened the decline of gayborhoods by reducing the need for physical presence, we argue that technology enhances rather than replaces the social aspects of gay neighborhoods.


The disappearance of gay neighborhoods could diminish safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals.

The perceived decline of gay neighborhoods has produced concern and anxiety among the LGBTQ+ population about possible disregard for the original accomplishment of establishing gayborhoods as safe and inclusive urban space for LGBTQ+ individuals.


Same-sex couples have shifted their residences away from gay neighborhoods.

Members of the LGBTQ+ population are shifting their residences or settling in new patterns. Gayborhoods have consequently experienced noticeable diffusion since 2000, with many LGBTQ+ couples relocating to other neighborhoods.


Gay neighborhoods, at this point in their stage of maturation, have reached a plateau.

By 2020, gay neighborhoods may have reached a plateau in their evolution; from this point in time and space, there are various trajectories into which gay neighborhoods may proceed in the coming years. A plateau, we caution, is an expected part of an evolutionary process and not necessarily a signal that gay neighborhoods are extinguishing.


The evolution and history of gay neighborhoods is empowering to the LGBTQ+ community.

While the future meaning and shape of gay neighborhoods is unclear, it is important to reflect on the profound and formative effect gayborhoods had on gay life and LGBTQ+ culture during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Stemming from this remarkable period of cohesion and maturation, the historic importance of gay neighborhoods will continue to influence the afterlife of LGBTQ+ urban space. In this way, gay neighborhoods will continue to reflect the struggle for recognition, equality, and civil rights for sexual minorities for future generations.

The rainbow flag and rainbow motif denote a broad spectrum of attitudes toward diversity and inclusion that is the cornerstone of gay pride, much as red hearts denote love near St. Valentine’s Day. However, the historical importance and meaning of rainbow symbols runs deeper in that the rainbow flag—to LGBTQ+ individuals—is a coded representation of safe and welcoming space and suggests a vital sense of belonging. Widespread use of the rainbow flag may suggest on the positive side greater mainstream acceptance, tolerance, and equality, however it may also erode the coded meaning of the rainbow flag through overuse or unintentional appropriation.

Alex Bitterman

The Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods: Renaissance and Resurgence

Alex Bitterman and Daniel Baldwin Hess

cover the life and afterlife of gay neighborhoods


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