in

The Shrinking Gay Ghetto

Picture this.

It’s 1986. I just moved to Sydney. I’m in a taxi on Saturday night. I don’t remember where I’m going but I do remember stopping at a red light. I look out my passenger window and see a footpath filled with homosexual men. I’m in my twenties and so are most of them. We’re all in crisp trendy shirts and stone wash denim. The emphasis is on looking young. We weren’t known as twinks then. Youth was the look.

I ask the driver what street this is. He tells me it’s Oxford Street and adds a homophobic remark. I gaze at this magical strip, hoping I don’t forget its name and that I’m able to find my way back here.

My affair begins.

I came from a smaller seaside town with one gay nightclub, so I was already an expert in chatting to and dancing with a potential one-night stand. Here, there was a smorgasbord. Various clubs. Trashier nights. And a street that would make me proud of my sexuality in a city that cherished its gays, at least in its urban settings.

Fortunately, I wasn’t a baby-boomer. I was Gen X. The violent battles happened before I frolicked down the street and let my dick guide me. I reaped the rewards long before I knew what rights the previous generation fought for.

In 1990, I met the man I only just married this year. Oxford Street was where we spent most of our courting days. We danced to house tunes with our straight and gay friends, interpreting each lyric in our moves. This was our version of heaven.

So, what happened to the gay ghetto?

Late last decade, something radically changed. At the time we had visitors from Dublin expecting to see the world-famous Sydney Gay scene. We had to tell them it no longer existed. Their own Dublin scene was bigger.

My own generation had settled and moved into the suburbs and the next generation felt freer. They didn’t have to go out to pick up. With a click of a mouse, a one night stand was as easy as getting a pizza delivered. So, the need to congregate and live a shared underground experience was the first casualty of our wider acceptance.

Those that never had it, don’t miss it.

It’s just a sign of the times. Our Air BnB host in New York said the same thing. The rainbow has left the gay ghettos.

In Sydney, there are pockets of Oxford Street where you can still enjoy queer life. Outside of the famous strip, The Imperial Hotel in Enmore (the bar that features in the opening shot of ‘Pricilla, Queen of the Desert’) has reinvented itself as a great place to experience the current gay scene in this city. Even the Mardi Gras festival has many theatre and art events away from Oxford Street.

In the twenty-first century, we’re diverse. We no longer need to find self-acceptance in a ghetto of like-minded people. This is the case in larger cities. But knowing there are some remnants of a gay ghetto in your town is still a comforting thought.

I hope they never disappear completely as you never know when you might need them again.

So, that’s the scene in Sydney at the moment. What’s the scene like in your part of the planet? Tweet us at @GayBoyBible and let us know.

Written by Kevin

I live with my husband, Warren, in a humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), where all sorts of magic happens. I also write books. Crazy, I know, but someone's got to write them. Tweet me @kevinklehr

How to go about a gay divorce

Ask Allister