A Reflection on Gay Neighborhoods

Gay neighborhoods are not in big cities simply because they are big cities and there is a critical mass of gays to form an entire neighborhood. Places like San Francisco are home to so many gays and gay history because these places were ports of call where the demobilized US military came after WWII.

During the draft prior to and during the course of the war, many gay men and women were taken from their hometowns to serve overseas. And within the military you found the creations of the first gay social networks. As one person’s orders shifted, people would go to new cities and ports and the gay circle would be expanded. And the only place where gay people could meet? In the bars, under cover of darkness, where no one would know.

1002330_10151537692634249_1952945364_nAnd thats what they did when the war ended. They ended up in San Francisco and elsewhere, connected via one, two, or three hops out from their intimate circle, and went to the bars where they could safely find others like them. And that’s how gay urban culture developed. You went to the cities and to the bars at night because that’s the only place you could meet others just like you.

It has its origins in the military, and is largely due to military structure and actions. But it lingers because culture has momentum that is very difficult to stop. All these kids who grow up knowing they are gay but afraid to admit it see that their elders (in movies, tv, music, news, written fiction, and from stories they hear) flock to the cities, wait for nightfall, and go to the club and the bar to drink, laugh, and forget any of the social pressures upon them. They see that this is how you come of age, this is where you meet people like you, and see that there is no other place to do that with ease and comfort.

This is very much homo-normative culture. It’s how it’s been for the last 70 years. It’s no coincidence that the single event that acted as a match to brewing frustration occurred at a bar called the Stonewall. It’s no coincidence that our biggest gatherings are parties. Its no wonder why hooking up in secret via apps are flourishing with us but not with straight people.

We are not necessarily active choosers in this. Rather, we are just caught in the current of culture. It takes awareness of our history to know that because these are histories that we are sucked into, we can easily and confidently and without consequence also step out of them. But to step out of them is to become the subculture within the larger, older, and more prominent gay culture of drinking, clubs, and singular commonality.

Chief Esparza

Chief is a Southern California native with roots back the Spanish conquests of the 1780s now residing in the San Francisco Bay. A Political Science grad from UC Santa Barbara, he has a passion for writing and politics. He alternates between conservative and liberal policies depending on the issue-- he strives for consistency and pragmatism to determine his political beliefs. Despite the opinionated bite and the oft-described intimidating demeanor, Chief is just a teddy bear (they need hugs to live).

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