Gay village in Le Marais, Paris
Gay village in Schöneberg, Berlin
A gay village (also known as a gay neighborhood, gay enclave, gayvenue, gay ghetto, gaytto, gay district, gaytown or gayborhood) is a geographical area with generally recognized boundaries, inhabited or frequented by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Gay villages often contain a number of gay-oriented establishments, such as gay bars and pubs, nightclubs, bathhouses, restaurants, boutiques and bookstores.
Among the most famous gay villages are New York City's Greenwich Village, Hell's Kitchen, and Chelsea neighborhoods; Fire Island and The Hamptons on Long Island; Boston's South End, Jamaica Plain, and Provincetown, Massachusetts; Philadelphia's Gayborhood; Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle; Chicago's Boystown; London's Soho, Birmingham's Gay Village, Brighton's Kemptown and Manchester's Canal Street, all in England; Los Angeles County's West Hollywood; as well as Barcelona Province's Sitges, Toronto's Church and Wellesley neighborhood, San Francisco's Castro, Madrid's Chueca, Sydney's Newtown, Berlin's Schöneberg, The Gay Street in Rome, Le Marais in Paris, Green Point in Cape Town; Melville in Johannesburg, South Africa; and Zona Rosa, Mexico City in Mexico.
In North America, the following gayborhoods are also noted: Asbury Park, Maplewood, Montclair, and Lambertville in New Jersey; Wilton Manors, Florida; Atlanta's Midtown, Montreal's Le Village, Houston's Montrose, Minneapolis' Uptown, San Diego's Hillcrest, St. Leo's, San Jose, Dallas' Oak Lawn, Sacramento's Lavender Heights, Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California; and Seattle's Capitol Hill, Vancouver’s Davie street village.
Such areas may represent a LGBTQ-friendly oasis in an otherwise hostile city, or may simply have a high concentration of gay residents and businesses. Much as other urbanized groups, some LGBT people have managed to utilize their spaces as a way to reflect their cultural value and serve the special needs of individuals in relation to society at large.
Today, these neighborhoods can typically be found in the upscale or trendy parts of town like in Manhattan, chosen for aesthetic or historic value, no longer resulting from the sociopolitical ostracization and the constant threat of physical violence from homophobic individuals that originally motivated these communities to live together for their mutual safety.
These neighborhoods are also often found in working-class parts of the city, or in the neglected fringe of a downtown area – communities which may have been upscale historically but became economically depressed and socially disorganized. In these cases, the establishment of a LGBT community has turned some of these areas into more expensive neighborhoods, a process known as gentrification – a phenomenon in which LGBT people often play a pioneer role. This process does not always work out to the benefit of these communities, as they often see property values rise so high that they can no longer afford them as high-rise condominiums are built and bars move out, or the only LGBT establishments that remain are those catering to a more upscale clientele. However, today's manifestations of "queer ghettos" bear little resemblance to those of the 1970s.
The term ghetto originally referred to those places in European cities where Jews were required to live according to local law. During the 20th century, ghetto came to be used to describe the areas inhabited by a variety of groups that mainstream society deemed outside the norm, including not only Jews but poor people, LGBT people, ethnic minorities, hobos, prostitutes, and bohemians.
These neighborhoods, which often arise from crowded, highly dense, and often deteriorated inner city districts, are critical sites where members of gender and sexual minorities have traditionally congregated. From one perspective, these spaces are places of marginality created by an often homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic heterosexual community; from another perspective, they are places of refuge where members of gender and sexual minorities can benefit from the concentration of safe, nondiscriminatory resources and services (just as other minorities do).
In some cities, LGBT people congregate in visibly identified neighborhoods, while in others they are dispersed in neighborhoods which have less visibility because a liberal, affirming counterculture is present. For example, LGBT people in San Francisco congregate in the Castro neighborhood, while LGBT people in Seattle concentrate in the city's older bohemian stomping grounds of Capitol Hill, and those of Montreal have concentrated in a working-class neighborhood referred to administratively as "Centre-Sud" but largely known as "Le Village". These areas, however, have higher concentrations of LGBT residents and businesses that cater to them than do surrounding neighborhoods. Some cities like Austin, Texas did not develop a defined gay village despite the city of Austin being home to many LGBT people with developed LGBT-friendly businesses and a counterculture present.