The "ghetto" Edit

Throughout the 20th century, the term ghetto has been used to describe the areas inhabited by a variety of groups that mainstream society deemed outside the norm, including poor people, gay men and lesbians, racial minorities, hobos, prostitutes, and bohemians.

These neighborhoods, which often arise from zones of discard — that is, crowded, high density, and often deteriorated inner city districts — are critical sites where members of gender and sexual minorities congregate. From one perspective, these spaces are places of marginality created by an often homophobic heterosexual community; from another perspective, they are places of refuge where members of gender and sexual minorities can benefit from the concentration of safe, non-discriminatory resources and services (just as other minorities do).

In some cities, gays and lesbians congregate in eventually visibly identified gay neighborhoods, while in other cities they are dispersed in neighborhoods which have less gay visibility because a liberal, affirming counterculture is present. For example, gays and lesbians in San Francisco congregate in the gay and lesbian-oriented Castro neighborhood, while gays and lesbians in Seattle concentrate in the city's older bohemian stomping grounds of Capitol Hill, and those of Montreal have concentrated in a working-class neighbourhood referred to administratively as "Centre-Sud", but largely known by all now as "Le Village". These areas, however, have higher concentrations of gay and lesbian residents and businesses that cater to them than do surrounding neighborhoods.

Since StonewallEdit

Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, specialized gay communities did not exist as such; bars were usually where gay social networks developed, and they were located in certain urban areas where police zoning would implicitly allow so-called "deviant entertainment" under close surveillance. In New York, for example, the congregation of gay men had not been illegal since 1965; however, no openly gay bar had been granted a license to serve alcohol. The police raid of a private gay club called the Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969 led to a three day rebellion involving over 1000 people. Stonewall managed to change not only the profile of the gay community but the dynamic within the community itself. This along with several other similar incidents precipitated the appearance of gay ghettos throughout North America, as spatial organization shifted from bars and street-cruising to specific neighbourhoods. This transition "from the bars to the streets, from nightlife to daytime, from 'sexual deviance' to an alternative lifestyle" was the critical moment in the development of the gay community.[1]


  1. Castells, 1983 p.141

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