Gay Male Urban Spaces after Grindr & Gentrification
Annual International Conference, London, 29 August–1 September August, 2017
Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with Institute of British Geographers (IBG)
Sponsored by the Space, Sexualities & Queer Research Group (SSQRG)
This panel addresses the changing forms and conditions of different kinds of gay male urban spaces in the wake of widespread sex and dating apps (see Collins and Drinkwater 2016; Roth 2016), and the galloping pace of gentrification in many cities (see Ruting 2008; Doan and Higgins 2011).
Gay men (and other men who have sex with men) apparently no longer need their own spaces for socialisation, nor are such spaces profitable enough anymore to survive in ever more expensive cities. These are common assertions about gay bars and other homosexual venues becoming outmoded by locational apps – the ‘squared screen realities’ of, first among many, Grindr and other platforms including Hornet, Scruff and Tinder – which enable gay men to connect digitally, and about these same venues being outpaced economically by spiraling urban rents.
These two conditions are presumably occurring within a context that some commentators consider “post-gay” (e.g., Brown 2006), meaning a situation where homosexuality has no stigma, and labels such as gay or straight, etc., are socially unnecessary because all kinds of sexual orientations socialize together flexibly and unproblematically – a scenario that is plainly far from a general reality, regardless of whether desirable or not.
However, “post-gay” impacts still require further elucidation, despite important strides in research (e.g., Reynolds 2009; Mattson 2014; Visser 2014; Gorman-Murray and Hopkins 2016; Kanai and Kenttamaa-Squires 2016). These studies offer greater clarity on the consequences of either or both of these shifts (outmoding and/or gentrification) for gay male urban spaces. At turns, they also grapple with features of the “post-gay” discourse that has become as prominent as the declaration of gay social networking apps and gentrification as the presumed downfall of gay bars and the like.
We aim to forge ahead in this session by delving into related questions, which may include, but are not limited to, the following:
– How are “old”, offline kinds of spaces still used? Are they used differently based on generation, or place of residence, or other dimensions of social differentiation?
– In what ways are these spaces – those that survive – themselves gentrifying?
– What do these places mean to their current users?
– Under what conditions elicits either the fading or the galvanisation of these venues, rather than their disappearance?
– What hybrid overlaps, interfaces or synergies exist between the virtual and the physical, such as gay social networking apps connecting productively with these gay male venues?
– What “new” spaces for gay male urban socialisation do we witness in practice? How are these different from the “old” spaces in their dynamics? In their politics? In their possibilities?
We welcome empirical and/or theoretically-driven contributions across disciplines on any kind of gay male urban space in any geographical locale. Part of our analytical task as geographers will be to reflect on differences in form and practice in different kinds of settlements or parts of the (virtually mediated) world, understanding that “gayborhood” (Brown 2014; Ghaziani 2014), for example, may never have been a relevant phenomenon or label in many places.
Note on terminology:
The term “gay male urban spaces” is used to signal an array of venues where biological males, who are predominantly attracted to other biological males, congregate in cities. The emphasis on “male” spaces is intended to acknowledge documented differences in urban spatial experiences between gay men and lesbian women (see Valentine 2000; Browne 2007; Brown-Saracino 2011; Brown-Saracino 2015). The choice of “gay” over possible alternatives such as “queer” is not meant to be exclusionary, only to denote a criterion of inclusion which is not necessarily as politicised or self-conscious as is sometimes connoted by “queer.” Nevertheless, we adopt a queer stance in challenging classificatory values and norms.
– Brown, Gavin. 2006. “Cosmopolitan camouflage: (post-)gay space in Spitalfields, East London,” in Cosmopolitan Urbanism, edited by Jon Binnie, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington, and Craig Young. London: Routledge.
– Brown, Michael. 2014. “Gender and sexuality II: There goes the gayborhood? Progress in Human Geography 38(3): 457-465.
– Brown-Saracino, Japonica. 2011. “From the lesbian ghetto to ambient community: The perceived costs and benefits of integration for community.” Social Problems 58(3): 361-388.
– Brown-Saracino, Japonica. 2015. “How places shape identity: The origins of distinctive LBQ identities in four small U.S. Cities.” American Journal of Sociology 121(1): 1-63.
– Browne, Kath. 2007. “Lesbian geographies.” Social & Cultural Geography 8(1): 1-7.
– Collins, Alan, and Stephen Drinkwater. 2016. “Fifty shades of gay: Social and technological change, urban deconcentration, and niche enterprise.” Urban Studies 54(3): 765-785.
– Doan, Petra, and Harrison Higgins. 2011. “The demise of queer space? Resurgent gentrification and the assimilation of LGBT neighborhoods.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 31(1): 6-25.
– Ghaziani, Amin. 2014. There Goes the Gayborhood? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
– Gorman-Murray, Andrew, and Peter Hopkins (eds). 2016. Masculinities and Place. London: Routledge.
– Kanai, Juan Miguel, and Kai Kenttamaa-Squires. 2015. “Remaking South Beach: Metropolitan gayborhood trajectories under homonormative entrepreneurialism.” Urban Geography 36(3): 385-402.
– Mattson, Greggor. 2014. “Style and the value of gay nightlife: Homonormative placemaking in San Francisco.” Urban Studies 52(16): 3144-3159.
– Reynolds, Robert. 2009. “Endangered territory, endangered identity: Oxford Street and the dissipation of gay life.” Journal of Australian Studies 33(1): 79-92.
– Roth, Yoel. 2016. “Zero feet away: The digital geography of gay social media.” Journal of Homosexuality 63(3): 437-442.
– Ruting, Brad. 2008. “Economic transformations of gay urban spaces: Revisiting Collins’ evolutionary gay district model.” Australian Geographer 39(3): 259-269.
– Valentine, Gill (ed). 2000. From Nowhere to Everywhere: Lesbian Geographies. Harrington Park Press: Binghamton, NY.
– Visser, Gustav. 2014. “Urban tourism and the de-gaying of Cape Town’s De Waterkant.” Urban Forum 25(4): 469-482.