September 10, 2014 at 5:30 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
A rapidly changing clan in a rapidly changing city
changing city, gay news, Washington Blade

What is happening to the ‘gayborhood?’

Discussions of the evolving nature of the gay “community” and fast disassembling “gayborhood” clusters here and in cities across the country are as commonplace as yet another report detailing how expensive D.C. has somewhat suddenly become.

An announcement this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics identifying Washington as the most expensive metropolitan area in the nation for housing and shelter related costs surprised few. It was not the first such analysis regarding what it now takes to survive financially in the nation’s capital – and firsthand knowledge is proof enough for most.

In less than a decade, D.C. has transformed from a largely dysfunctional flat-broke city of declining numbers to a mostly booming modern metropolis with an exploding population and overflowing government coffers. Without waxing nostalgic for the charms of a formerly edgier – and more affordable – place, it’s enough to say that things are now very different.

Simply stated, the District is increasingly a domain of well-educated, well-compensated and career-focused professionals of a median age that keeps dropping. Whatever pitiful prospects politicians possess to affect this new reality in meaningful measure, or respond to clamoring to mitigate the negative effects for less fortunate citizenry, they are powerless to do much. There is scant chance of changing the current trajectory.

Simultaneous to this mesmerizing urban transformation and swath-wide streetscape makeover has been the adoption of full civil equality and complete legal integration for LGBT residents. This achievement of acceptance has bred cultural assimilation for the acknowledged 10 percent who have made the District home and are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – weaving a tight hand-sewn stitch into the city’s fabric. When considered as a state, D.C. claims a nearly three-fold larger, and perhaps most influential, population.

But will LGBT residents be able to afford, or choose, to stay? Will new arrivals continue to come in the numbers that are now the norm?

Economics will substantially influence the answer.

For more than two decades the gay community propagated what is now known to be largely a myth. We were eager to affirm internal self-worth and portray external marketplace value through perceived higher incomes with more disposable bounty. Despite hoping to assign an attractive component of commerce to our clan, it turns out this characterization was overstated in the aggregate.

Since that longstanding jig is up, many LGBT activists and community leaders have advanced a wholly new exaggeration with a companion political instruction to embrace another simplistic overstatement. Ironic as it is, we’re now told that a uniquely intrinsic inequality exists due to sexual orientation or gender identity based solely on targeted discrimination.

The fact is, we essentially track alongside the economic diversity of, and suffer primarily the same contributing and influencing factors as, well, everyone else.

Except that we might be a bit worse off – but for differing reasons.

There is, indeed, a reasonably well-documented negative collective income differential nationally between homosexual and heterosexual men, notably not for lesbians. This also appears true when contrasting gay couples and straight couples, inclusive of parents with children, for which there is more empirical data available. For a multiplicity of reasons, economic hardship is thought most acute among the thin slice of transgender Americans.

Any actual disparities may be partly or largely due, particularly among men, to differing occupational choices and employment work-life preferential variance among sizable segments. A significantly higher proportion of entrepreneurs and small business operators, combined with those choosing to work in independently structured or service-style endeavors, may account for much of the gap.

Whatever the causes, we may increasingly decline expensive lifestyle environments in choosing where to live. Evaluating destinations and domiciles, given a broader range of potential options the freedom of acceptance and assimilation allows, may further accelerate diminishment of clustered living in locales known for significant LGBT populations.

Expanding numbers may join those already forgoing the comforts of concentration in exchange for more compatible economic demography and familiar cultural landscapes.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at

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