Philadelphia’s Gayborhood Tour or is it Midtown Village Philadelphia?
©2013 Midtown Village
As part of the larger umbrella known as Washington Square West, Midtown Village also contains the LBGT-friendly Gayborhood, with its restaurants, galleries and hot spots; the popular dining destinations of the famed 13th Street corridor; and some of the biggest and best hotels and theaters in the city.
As the hub of LBGT nightlife, there are many clubs and cafes that especially cater to the community, as well as the William Way LBGT Community Center, which serves as a locus point for social wellness programs.
ゲイバーフード（Gayborhood）とは、フィラデルフィアでゲイが集まる地区の名前です。この地区を訪れると、まずは道路標識に飾られたレインボーフラッグに目が行くはずです。このフラッグは、ゲイバーフードの長い歴史を象徴するもののひとつです。この地区は独立記念館（Independence Hall）や自由の鐘（Liberty Bell）から徒歩でわずかの場所にあり、1960 年代に初めてゲイの市民権要求運動が起こった場所なのです。
ミッドタウンビレッジ（Midtown Village）と呼ばれることもあるゲイバーフードは、近年LGBT 関連の活動の中心的な存在になっています。フィラデルフィアのこの地区には、2 階建ての U バー（U Bar）、出会いの場のタブ（Tabu）やウッディーズ（Woody’s）、ピアノバータバンオンキャマック（Tavern on Camac）や女装・男装イベントも行われるダンスクラブアイキャンディ（ICandy）などのバーやクラブで溢れています。 グリーンエッグスカフェ（Green Eggs Café）やバランニ（Valanni）のような美食レストランでの食事の間に、エイズ患者のための資金集めを目的としたリサイクルショップも運営しているLGBT 専門書店ジョバンニズルーム（Giovanni’s Room）も覗いてみましょう。
Don’t Mess With the Gayborhood
Real Philly should sideline “Midtown Village.”
by LIZ SPIKOL· 2/24/2012, 8:40 a.m.
If you pay attention to real estate news in Philadelphia, you’ll notice a few key narratives that play themselves out repeatedly. One enduring trope is the authentic vs. the superficial: Who’s a real South Philly person? What’s a real West Philly business? Which is the real neighborhood name?
It’s the latter question that’s been preoccupying me lately, in particular regarding what we call the part of the city that runs from 11th to Broad between Spruce and Market. Five years ago, City Paper’s Ryan Creed wrote about the attempt to rebrand that area—known as the Gayborhood—as Midtown Village. But as recently as last month, members of Philadelphia Speaks, an online forum, were debating the merits of the name “Gayborhood” as though the words “Midtown Village” had never been spoken.
Midtown Village is used in real estate and by the Midtown Village Merchants Association. I suppose it satisfies people who continue to look for an alternative to “Gayborhood.” But why is an alternative sought at all? “Gayborhood” is clearly the word that’s most accessible and familiar to people. When I say “Midtown Village,” people think I’m talking about a shopping center, or maybe a diner that closed.
Let’s look at a different example: 10th and Race. That’s Chinatown, right? Not everyone who lives there is Chinese. Should we change the name to something like “North Midtown” so Anglo homebuyers won’t be intimidated? Of course not. It would be completely disrespectful to disinherit a community and its history that way. But we’ll do it to the Gayborhood.
There’s a fear of contagion embedded in this argument about the Gayborhood’s name. No home buyer is afraid he’s going to become Chinese. But homophobes do worry about their children becoming gay by virtue of exposure—to a teacher, a friend, a parent. And maybe even non-homophobes would prefer not to deal with raised eyebrows when they say where they live.
Well, that’s tough. Philadelphia holds an important place in American gay history, and we should celebrate it. Real Philadelphians don’t back away from a challenge. Real Philadelphians are proud of their history. Used to be when you lived in Byberry, you’d get a joke about being crazy. No one moved. You know why? Real Philadelphians were proud to be crazy.
This piece originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
APRIL 01, 2016
Philadelphia was likely first city to have a gayborhood
And perhaps the only city to have an official Gayborhood
BY JAKE BLUMGART
- SMITH/FOR VISIT PHILADELPHIA™
The “Gayborhood” is easily identifiable thanks to the rainbow markers on 36 street signs in the neighborhood, which runs from Chestnut to Pine streets between 11th and Broad streets.
When I first moved to Philadelphia in 2010, I was struck by the starkly descriptive name of Philadelphia’s LGBT neighborhood. I’d just come from a brief tenure on the West Coast, where I’d visited the Castro, San Diego’s Hillcrest, and lived on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. All of these were proudly queer neighborhoods: I met my editor at The Stranger in a bar adorned with floor-to-ceiling images of naked men and bathrooms earmarked for “boys” or “men.”
But you wouldn’t know these were LGBT-oriented communities by looking at a map. In Philadelphia, on the other hand, it’s just called the Gayborhood. At first I thought everyone was joking, or just applying the common nomenclature of gayborhood (lower case g) that was by then being widely applied to many urban LGBT neighborhoods. But no, Philly had apparently decided to apply its notoriously blunt nature to the name of its queer neighborhood, too.
“For me it wasn’t a conscious attempt to coin a phrase, it was just a fun pun. I wrote the headline and just stole it from Mr. Rogers. And that stuck.” – David Warner, first gay editor of City Paper
This month marks the 40-year anniversary of the first gay community center to open in Philadelphia, a significant moment in the emergence of institutions openly meant to cater to the community. (The bookstore Giovanni’s Room had opened a few years earlier.) But the neighborhood between Walnut and Pine, Juniper and 11th Street didn’t adopt its current name until the mid-to-late 1990s. Before then it was known as a “gay ghetto,” in the words of Bob Skiba, archivist for the William Way LGBT Community Center. (In a recent essay in n+1 magazine’s book City By City, Chanelle Benz refers to the area circa- 1999 as “the Fruit Loop.”)
Perhaps that significant lag time between the emergence of LGBT institutions and the neighborhood’s official designation accounts for the directness of its name. By the time the community had grown powerful enough to claim an official moniker, American big city culture was ready for an unequivocally-titled LGBT neighborhood – even in historically conservative Philadelphia.
“I have not heard ‘gayborhood’ as an official name anywhere else besides Philadelphia,” says Amin Ghaziani, professor of sociology and author of the 2014 book There Goes the Gayborhood?, which analyzes the decline of LGBT neighborhoods in the face of gentrification. “Ten years after Chicago put up the rainbow pylons [to mark its LGBT neighborhood], Philly became the second city in the world to do that [when Mayor John Street installed rainbow street designs throughout the community in 2007].” (It’s perhaps worth noting that Chicago’s neighborhood is also remarkably up front: Boystown.)
PHOTO COURTESY/BOB SKIBA, WILLIAM WAY LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER
INSPIRED BY MR. ROGERS
If any LGBT community gets to be called the Gayborhood, it’s right that it be in Philadelphia. There is a strong argument that the appellation, which is now commonly applied as a descriptor to everywhere from Chelsea to West Hollywood, actually originated in the City of Brotherly Love.
Before the moniker’s invention, the area now known as the Gayborhood didn’t have a recognized name. It did have a reputation though. Like many mid-20th century LGBT communities the Gayborhood emerged from Philly’s red light district. Drugs and sex were sold on the corners as recently as the middle of the 21st Century’s first decade. The area was one of the last to host Center City strip clubs, straight and gay, before the industry was almost entirely removed to the Delaware River front. Former Philadelphia City Paper editor David Warner remembers that before the term Gayborhood came along, “13th Street had an identity, it just wasn’t a particularly good one.”
“Before it was called the Gayborhood it was not really a neighborhood. If you remember, until 2004 13th Street was not very nice. It has majorly turned around in the last 10 years.” – Bob Skiba, archivist, William Way LGBT Community Center
Today, the Gayborhood is one of the neighborhoods that makes Center City great. During the day it buzzes with activity. Pedestrians hurry up and down Walnut and Spruce streets, while those with the luxury of time hang out, smoke cigarettes, and eat slices on the quiet cobblestones of Camac Street. Storefronts are filled with boutiques, gay bars, brunch spots, and the odd sex shop. Vacancies are very few.
At night the numerous bars and dance clubs spill onto the sidewalk, and a beery exuberance hangs in the air. No matter the time, its an active area and one that clearly bears the stamp of its decades as an LGBT rallying point – not least because of the rainbow street signs that mark its intersections.
The man responsible for the gayborhood as a name (not as a community) seems to have been Warner, the first gay editor of the City Paper. The alternative weekly had a page that delivered short and snarky previews of the cool events happening in the city that week. The centerpiece of the section on a week in October 1995 was about Outfest, a block party celebration in honor of National Coming Out Day. Warner headlined the piece in the style of Mr. Rogers: “It’s a beautiful day in the Gayborhood.”
That’s all it took.
“For me it wasn’t a conscious attempt to coin a phrase, it was just a fun pun,” says Warner, now editor-in-chief of the Tampa Bay alternative weekly, Creative Loafing. “I wrote the headline and just stole it from Mr. Rogers. And that stuck. It certainly seemed like it became pretty common, pretty fast, in Philadelphia. It’s only recently I’ve noticed the term being used in coverage of other cities.”
FORMERLY THE ‘GAY GHETTO’
A survey of numerous archives don’t seem to turn up any reference in print to a gayborhood, or to the Gayborhood, before 1999, when a now-defunct business named Gayborhood Inc. opened in Fort Lauderdale, evidence that the term either spread quickly beyond Philadelphia or was dreamed up by someone else shortly after Warner’s felicitous headline. A search of Proquest brings up the first story that mentions the term in July 2000. That September, Emily Nussbaum profiled a queer teen, recently arrived from Philadelphia, and his first year in the Big Apple for the New York Times Magazine (The West Village was his favorite, the ‘gayborhood’). In EBSCOHost, a database search resource, the first article is from Oct. 29, 2002, while JSTOR, a digital library of periodicals, shows the first academic study that makes reference to a “gayborhood” in May 2003.
The references to gayborhoods turned up by the search engines tend to be just as often about Philly as not. But even as the term began to be broadly applied to all such neighborhoods during the first decade of the 21st century, only in Philadelphia was it adopted as an official name.
The demise of the red light district went hand-in-hand with the city’s attempt to draw more tourists. “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay,” advertising proclaimed.
“1999 is when they start using the term Gayborhood on maps of the area, before that in the ‘70s and ‘80s they really just referred to it as the gay ghetto,” says Skiba. “Before it was called the Gayborhood it was not really a neighborhood. If you remember, until 2004 13th Street was not very nice. It has majorly turned around in the last 10 years.”
During the same period there has been an attempt to re-brand the area, or part of it, as Midtown Village. It’s largely been an abortive effort though. It’s a nomenclature mostly only used by the developers and merchants who’ve literally bought into it.
Midtown Village was selected as a designation when the neighborhood still bore vestiges of its roots as a red light district. Even though the cutesy name hasn’t been adopted by most people, those traces of sin have largely been erased by market forces anyway. The Gayborhood is changing with the rest of Center City, which is controversial enough, and it clearly doesn’t require a re-branding to do so.
The neighborhood began seeing major reinvestment around that same time, as developers like Tony Goldman sunk a lot of capital into the area. The demise of the red light district went hand-in-hand with the city’s attempt to draw more tourists, even becoming the first to openly advertise itself to queer travelers with the slogan “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay.”
Which leads me to an alternative theory for why the community received its title when it did. Perhaps the Gayborhood emerged for the same reason many such names do: it’s easier to sell a neighborhood that has a catchy name.