An undeniable smile creeps across my face as I walk hand in hand down the street with my wife. Our steps are in sync as we walk across the rainbow crosswalk, under a blowing pride flag and passed a queer-owned bookstore. Surrounded by people we’ve never met, in city we’ve never explored, we are at home. We are in a gayborhood. These pockets of strong queer community highlight some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the world.
WHAT IS A GAYBORHOOD?
Gay neighborhoods, gay villages or the often used “gayborhoods” have been around dating back as far the the 1920’s, as a basic necessity for queer people to stay safe. While gayborhoods are still thriving in many parts of the world, they hail from a time period when being gay was criminialized and homophobia was alive and well in western countries. Gayborhoods are often sprinkled with nightlife venues, as for many queer people their local gay bar was where they felt safe, grew up and grew into themselves. The gayborhoods offer much more than nightlife, there is also a high concentration of non discriminatory resources such as doctors, bookstores,and other places where queer people could and still do live as their most authentic selves.
It is impossible to talk about gayborhoods without mentioning gentrification. Queer people are moving into less expensive neighborhoods, which are usually home to lower income people and in some cases predominantly people of color neighborhoods.
The new LGBT people move in, change the fabric of the neighborhood, in both desirable and less desirable ways. Eventually developers and big business recognize the change and swoop in as an opportunity to purchase property at often dramatically under market prices. People, gay or straight, often white, move into these areas. Eventually, the queer people and original occupants of the neighborhood are priced out by wealthy newcomers. The complex history of gay villages and gentrification continue to impact these neighborhoods which is all the more reason we should be visiting them today.
WHY ARE THEY DISAPPEARING?
The landscape of LGBTQ specific spaces is shifting rapidly. We are losing lesbian bars in record numbers, gay bars are closing and yes, gayborhood are disappearing too. There are two major factors in these changes. Firstly, universal acceptance of gay people has made strides forwards. There are many LGBT people that feel more comfortable than ever visiting straight spaces. Though please keep in mind that many of our trans and gender nonconforming siblings often do not feel that same level of acceptance in straight spaces.
The other large factor in this shift is of course, the internet. LGBTQ people no longer need to visit specifically queer spaces in order to meet each other. People are carving out their own communities in places like Instagram and Tumblr. As well as connecting through apps like, Grinder (gay apps) and Her (lesbian apps) both at home and when traveling. We are a diverse and nuanced community, the internet allows us to connect with people whose interests and values align with our own without being bound by geographic location. While there are positives to be taken from both of these things it is undeniable that as these spaces disappear we are losing part of our culture.
Here are the best gayborhoods to visit around the world today:
West Village, New York City, USA
New York City, the home of so much LGBT history. It’s nearly impossible to narrow down “the” gayborhood in a city filled with pockets of so much gay. Places like Hells Kitchen, Soho and Park Slope are thriving gay communities of there own. The West Village is home to the most gay history of anywhere in the world, it’s where you’ll find the Stonewall Inn, starting place of the Stonewall Riots, which changed the course of LGBT history. It’s also home to the Christopher Street Pier and the finishline to NYC Pride, the largest in the world.
Zona Rosa, Mexico City, Mexico
Zona Rosa is a bohemian neighborhood located in the heart of Mexico City.It’s a place that both locals and tourist flock to for its art and nightlife scene. You can find an amazing collection of queer art Art Space along with dance clubs such as Kinky. You’ll also find queer affirming sex shops in this area. Zona Rosa is also home to Mexico Cities thriving Korean community. If there’s a must do while you’re it’s taste some Korean food.
Boystown and Andersonville, Chicago, USA
There are two distinctly different gayborhoods in the city of Chicago that you should know about. The first is the trendy area of Boystown, also know as the officially recognized gayborhood. As the name suggsts, it’s heavily populated by gay men. Halstead Street is the focal point of all things gay nightlife in the city. Andersonville, also a gay neighborhood is filled with locally owned businesses. Here you’ll feminist bookstore and a beer and bourbon arcade here, yes, this is the queer women’s part of town.
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Chueca, Madrid, Spain
Spain is known for being one of the most accepting countries in the world for LGBTQ people. In a country that is already accepting you’ll find Chueca to be on a whole other level. The fluttering pride flags draped from balconies will surely let you know when you’re in the right spot. What you’ll also recognize is this area has a constant buzzing energy. It’s busy ,it’s hectic, it’s filled with queer night life and it’s so unbelievably accepting. If you are looking to do some great high end shopping this must be on you itinerary. If you’re in the city for Pride you’ll also find that this area is where the parade happens.
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The Castro, San Francisco, USA
The Castro is a mecca of all things gay. The neighborhood itself has gone through great transformation over the years but has remained a focal point in the LGBT movement. Dating back to the 70’s many protests and rallies we held in the heart of the Castro. Today the area is made up of many businesses that cater to the LGBT community. Some of the can’t miss highlights in this area a pillars of LGBT history like Castro Theatre, Harvey Milk’s Castro Camera and Twin Peaks, rumored to be the first openly gay, gay bar.
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Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
There are two reasons you visit Palermo, upscale dining and nightlife. It is a great place to base when on a holiday because it’s conveniently located to nearly everything gay. The biggest draw is Latin America’s biggest gay club, Amerika. If you’re looking to dance the night away look no further than this mixed crowd club. Its not all about the nightlife though, there’s also the Museum of Latin American Art.
The Gayborhood, Philadelphia, USA
Yes, it’s actually called That Gayborhood and place that actually holds that distinction. The Philadelphia Gayborhood pulls out all the stops with rainbow crosswalks and street signs begging to be part of some instagram photos. This area is also home to Giovanni’s Room, the oldest LGBTQ Feminist bookstore. If you’re looking for nightlife don’t miss Woodys, the gay bar the takes up and entire city block.
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Soho, London, United Kingdom
While Manchester and Brighton may instantly come to mind when thinking about queer comunities in England, the historically gay neighborhood of Soho should not be overlooked. Almost 24hours a day you will see this area packed with tourists for many reasons including Trafalgar Square being within walking distance. While much of the newer gay community has moving into different parts of the city, SoHo is still the hub of all things gay. Old Compton Street in particular is overflowing with queer club goers dancing their hearts out to pop music.
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Schoeneberg, Berlin, Germany
Berlin is an extremely queer city and this neighborhood has queer roots dating back to the 1920’s. The rise in Facism of course put extreme pressure on the LGBT community however in time it has returned to its thriving queer roots. Berlin is home to the worlds first gay museum, Schwules Museum. If you are interested in gay history I highly recommend taking a gay walking tour with local experts. Its easy to find great gay accommodations like Axel Hotel, and Gay Youth Hostel. The night life is of course world class with bars fitting the wants and needs of nearly every identity.
Taylor Square, Sydney
All things gay in Sydney start with Oxford Street, more specifically Taylor Square. Its claimed that nearly 1/10 gay men in Sydney live with in 2km of Taylor Square. The most popular LGBT event in Sydney is Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This event has been taking place for over 40 years, progressing from a demonstration of visibility to the party it is now. Crowds have exceeded 300,000 for this event, so get there early! If you’re looking for something more low key Sydney also has a bunch of LGBT beaches.