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    There goes the neighborhood

    Now that Nathan is decamping for Hawaii, it’s apparently time for gay Spokane to make its move:

    Spokane already has a gay newspaper, Stonewall News Northwest, and some businesses that cater to gay residents. It has had an openly gay member of the City Council.

    But creating a district is still important, Reguindin said.

    “It would help youth struggling with their sexuality to realize they don’t have to go away to a big city to be gay. You can be gay right here in Spokane,” Reguindin said.

    Farand Gunnels, local representative for the Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based group that gives grants to support the gay community, wondered if there were enough gay residents in Spokane to support such a district.

    The INBA is also preparing to launch a “visibility campaign,” in which businesses will be asked to display signs in their windows proclaiming their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

    “We’ll know where we will be welcome and patronize those businesses,” Aspen said. “We’ve had a very positive reaction from the business community.”

    Gay customers will be able to leave special cards at businesses they patronize, to let the owners know they were there, Aspen said.

    “It will give Spokane an idea of the economic impact gay people have,” Aspen said.

    True, but it could also convince people that it’s not possible for us to pay for a bottle of Windex without announcing that we’re homos, which will not exactly militate against the stereotype that we’ve got sex on the brain 24-7. (It could produce a few comical exchanges, though. “Oh, here’s my queer card. Do I just give it to you?” “No fooling! A gallon of whole milk, a dozen eggs, and Hydrox cookies? I thought all you boys were anorexic.”) Also, if there’s already a gay newspaper and there’s been a gay city council member, does there need to be a whole neighborhood for gay youths to figure out that they might be able to find mates in their hometown?

    I don’t have any trouble with a bunch of investors starting gay-themed businesses on a street where properties are available, obviously. Announcing that you’re pre-planning the creation of a full gay district strikes me as asking for trouble, though. Opponents will have an open invitation to blame gay life for any and every new social ill that hits the place. Some will do that even if a group of gay investors decides to gravitate toward a cluster of shopfronts and beat-up old houses, of course, but the increased revenue and residential gentrification are more likely to register as benefits because they won’t seem like part of some institutionally-funded plot to give the gays a home base.

    Added on 25 January: Michael (the sort of squeamish Charlie who apparently can’t eat squid unless it’s edited to look non-threatening, like X-large Spaghettios) also has a reaction to this, which he cross-posted at Dean’s World and got an interesting discussion going.

    2 Responses to “There goes the neighborhood”

    1. Mrs. du Toit says:

      Why does the warning, “Be careful what you ask for” keep ringing in my ears like a huge, blaring nuclear bomb is about to drop. The instinct to “duck and cover” is overwhelming.
      That’s the ideal? The ideal society is one which segregates people into gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish ghettos or we have cards printed up that identify each of our differences? Man-o-man, where have I been.
      Silly me. And such irony that it is published so close to Martin Luther King’s birthday.
      If any reasonably intelligent person (you know, someone who can walk and talk at the same time) thinks segregating people into zones like this is a GOOD idea, we are so screwed. I always thought the ideal was a kind of transparency–where we weren’t such busy-bodies that we cared what race, religion, or sexual orientation someone was. Kinda like, “Where we will be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.”
      I guess these folks really think it’s our business. Hope they know the consequences for making your personal life/affairs the business of others.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Uh, you mean, like, if you offer your personal life for public examination, you’re, erm, inviting people to pass judgment on it and, uh, kind of, may not like what you hear? It’s amazing how the very simplest life lessons can go right by people who are otherwise capable of the most sophisticated political mobilization.
      I don’t have anything against distinguishable gay-friendly neighborhoods. A lot of people don’t like us, and it’s natural to want to live among others you can be comfortable around. I think you can do that and still be open to opposing arguments and be part of the wider community.
      It’s semi-officially delineating a neighborhood as the Gay Zone in advance that gets me. It’s asking people to think of it as an insular little ghetto before it even comes into existence. I mean, that’s the effect, however sincere the organizers’ motives are in the direction of showing people that we contribute to the economy and are people just like everyone else.
      You know this. In fact, it’s what you just said. My editing function is not working so hot this week, apparently.