Where Is the Gay Ghetto Today?

 

I was looking through a 1982 book (yes, that's a while ago) by Dennis Altman called The Homosexualization of America, which discusses the birth and development of a specific “gay culture,” tying it into developments in the 1960s and 1970s such as the women's movement and the marketing of sex in popular culture.

This description of a typical gay neighborhood from that period really got me thinking, especially from a twenty-first century perspective: 

“Such areas are marked by a certain sameness: they seem at first to be populated almost entirely by men under the age of forty-five, dressed in a uniform and carefully calculated style and dedicated to a hedonistic and high-consumption lifestyle. The main streets of what are often termed the ghettos—Christopher Street and Columbus Avenue in New York, North Wells in Chicago, Castro and Polk in San Francisco, Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles—are lined with shops selling high-camp postcards, coffee pots, pillowcases, T-shirts, and even food (in the ice cream parlors and “Erotic Bakeries”), with dim noisy, and smoke-filled bars, and with the new-style gay restaurants, full of potted palms, with large front windows and health-food menus.” 

 

1970s Chicago


Now, specifically from a Chicago context, North Wells is no longer a gay area (and hasn't been for some time), and Boystown on Halsted Street, though it does conform to some of the description above, seems to be watering down its wild gay nightlife image. Both areas have been solidly gentrified (think strollers, tourists, and sports bars) for some time now. In fact, many gays, having been priced out of these areas, have moved north to less expensive areas like Rogers Park, or, in the wake of increased social approval, moved to the suburbs where many of the jobs have gone and to raise their own families. 
 

Halsted Street, Chicago

 


 

 

 

But what gets me thinking even more deeply (after laughing at the visual in the quote above of “potted palms”) is the queston of whether physical geography really does matter anymore when we are thinking of a gay neighborhood or even a gay culture.

 

After all, it's obvious that connections via the Internet and social media can easily transcend physical limitations and socioeconomic boundaries. A gay guy living on a farm in a “red state” area might of course want to visit a gay-friendly urban area in a “blue state,” but if he's got Internet connectivity, he wouldn't feel as isolated. And urban gays are at at point now, where instead of hanging out at bars or cruising bathrooms, they can hook up instantaneously via Grindr. The “hedonism” Altman observed can end up becoming “virtual” rather than real! 

It's ironic though, as members of the LGBT community are trying to jump through (and quite successfully) one of the last social hurdles in their journey toward full acceptance as equal citizens, same-sex marriage, that face-to-face interaction seems to be an option, not a necessity. As what were once gay ghettos disappear, I do wonder if the very real and nitty-gritty sense of community which gave birth to Stonewall and banded together to confront the decimation of the AIDS crisis will disappear as well. 

 

1970s Chicago
 
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Oh, those Hostess Twinkies!

Oh, those Hostess Twinkies!

Thirty years ago … 

January 6, 1984 

Having served barely five years for the murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, Dan White is paroled from prison. His release prompts protest rallies in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Yesterday was the last day Dan White could be assured he'd live through the whole day,” says one protester, pointedly eating a [Hostess] Twinkie before several thousand demonstrators in San Francisco. “I don't call for violence, but who knows, maybe one of us someday will be a little depressed, maybe off our diets, and who knows what may happen.” 

Having been ordered by his parole board to stay away from San Francisco, White settles in Southern California. 
 

--Leigh Rutledge, The Gay Decades

 

Twinkies

 

Oh, those Hostess Twinkies! 

Pretty much everyone knows about Dan White's infamous Hostess Twinkies defense. And now that there the U.S. Post Office is releasing a stamp commemorating Harvey Milk, the outrage about the above really erupts. ) 

It's so horrible, White's act of violence and his attempt to justify it, that the only psychosocial defense mechanism is to laugh and make jokes. Like we do, and continue to do, about the bathroom and what goes on in there. (I would call Dan White one of the words we use to refer to something we do in the toilet, but I will control myself.) 

But the word, brand name, and food I am most fascinated with here is Hostess Twinkie. Note I always preface that word with Hostess. Why? Because that is the real, true, authentic brand. 

Remember when the Hostess plant closed? And they were no longer on the shelves? I was afraid of violence occurring not because of access to them, as Dan White claimed, but because they weren't there. 

Knock-off brands like Cloud Cakes (not spongy enough) didn't cut it. The original Hostess Twinkies are back now, with a different manufacturer. 

 

Cloud Cakes

My question is, though: why did a certain type of younger male person come to be called that name, without the “ie?” Does the yellow color, vaguely phallic shape, and the cream filling evoke innocence but also hotness? 

That whole youthful look really took off in the 1960s gay magazines. Then Toby Ross and some of the other early gay porn filmmakers actually made the look iconic and connected it with complex social issues of coming out and sexual identity. 

 

Reflections of Youth - vintage ad


 

And the look keeps transmuting into boy bands and the Jonas Brothers and the now infamous Bieber and all that tweeny stuff. Yes, they're back now, with different image manufacturers. 

Of course, some (not all) of those younger males I might associate more with Hostess Ding-Dongs (not the shape, but the meaning of the word ding-dong). 

The youngman or “Hostess Twinkie” is beautiful, but also dangerous perhaps because it straddles the boundaries between childhood innocence and adult experience.

 

Donatello's David is perfectly beautiful, but he holds the head of the older, more mature Goliath. Arrogantly and triumphantly. 

 

Donatello's David


                                                         I've always preferred Ho-Hos. 

 

 

 

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God Loves Beefcake!

God Loves Beefcake!

GOD LOVES BEEFCAKE!

posted by Madame Bubby

 

You are sitting with your family at Easter, watching The Ten Commandments. You will notice that it's so very G-rated, so very Hollywood semi-Bible-based Inspirational. There is no question that Mother Angelica and Pat Robertson would heartily endorse this movie.

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Not All Gay Guys Are Klutzes!

Not All Gay Guys Are Klutzes!

The Huffington Post some time ago published a story on how a majority of LGBT youth are harassed or feel unsafe in in gym class. Whether the harassment is tied into actual athletic ability or physical coordination was not clear (discrimination by morally conservative coaches based on their views on being gay, regardless if the students plays well or not, seems to be more the focus there). 

 

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The Big Cock Comes Out: The Courage of DSI Sales in the 1960s

The Big Cock Comes Out: The Courage of DSI Sales in the 1960s

DSI acquitted on obscenity charges! 


Who? What? Where? 

Why would this story make the front cover of the then fledgling gay newspaper, The Advocate, in September 1967? 

 

The Advocate, September 1967

 

 

The 1960s may have been swinging and sexually liberating for some heterosexual segments of the population (were there any openly gay hippies?), but a gay person could still get arrested for kissing a member of the same sex in public, could not join the military (which could be a way to avoid the draft, then going on because of the Vietnam War), and could be fired from a job because of his/her orientation. 

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