GQ: The juxtaposition of queers and gentrification

I found it quite interesting that this week’s inPortland had a short business article about attracting gay tourists while having a lead story on gentrification of some of Portland’s new hip (and queer) neighborhoods. I continually question the ongoing shifting of Portland’s neighborhoods, and while I remain far from any conclusions I certainly have some thoughts.

In 1996 several friends of mine started the trek north, away from Southeast’s rising rents, and found a house on 30th and Alberta, calling it the Church House, for the pew that sat on the porch. Since then the broke artists, musicians, queers and others have watched as their very appearance has started to build a new neighborhood that pushes themselves, as well as the former residents, out. If many of us left Southeast because it was becoming too expensive, so have we contributed to making North and Northeast as inaccessible for older and newer residents alike.

This got me to thinking about economics and community.

The articles in this week’s inPortland suggest a close knit African American community in N/NE that is often based largely on family and church, both of which are quite attached to physical place. So if those communities happen to be low-income it is likely that the neighborhood they live in is as well. Queer communities, on the other hand, are largely self-made, as biological families are not always particularly accepting. In fact, whole towns have reputations as being better or worse places for gays and lesbians to exist. If San Francisco, New York, Portland are positive cities, a large amount of the rest of the country may seem unfriendly at best. So queers have to create not only new families but a place for these communities exist. While a stereotype of gay men might usually imply money, the reality is that queer people are more likely to be low income than heteros. And if the low-income neighborhoods in gay-friendly cities happen to also be minority neighborhoods there is likely to be mixing, and possibly clashing as well.

Does the influx of poorer queers and artists necessarily portend the coming of more expensive boutique shopping and more well-to-do (white) families? It seems in many ways it does. Does it have to be this way? I don’t know. While the late 90s might have seen the beginnings of gentrification I also saw neghborhood kids occasionally dropping in on basement punk rock shows, minority owned bar-b-que carts and taquerias that started to serve a few vegetarian options, and people of all colors and sizes biking down Killingsworth together.

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