My friends have heard me rant and rave about the disappearing gay ghetto, or village, if you prefer, in Toronto. It has shrunk so much in the 13 years since I relocated here that it has become but a shadow of its once vibrant self. I cannot help but think that the recent senseless murder of Chris Skinner is both a consequence of this phenomenon and a discouraging sign of things to come unless the community reintegrates itself and–dare I say it?–actually celebrates its wonderful diversity and inclusiveness and grows!
While this newly-acquired “acceptance” of gay people I’ve heard about (or is it “tolerance”?) in the urban social scene may be comforting, it should also be viewed with skepticism for it is based on the acceptance of yourself by others and acceptance can turn to approbation as easily as to adulation. And this acceptance of us by the straight society is leading to the destruction of our community. We’ve allowed ourselves to become a “lifestyle,” just another among many living in their midst, and in the process we’ve become the great Gay Diaspora. As a community, we have splintered and willfully thrown ourselves into the wind.
We’re now found all over the city, sprinked, a few here, some over there. We’ve won “acceptance” wherever we leave our bucks behind, having lost, in the process, opportunities to build our own community. We have been absorbed by the glob of establishments willing to be tolerant of us if we spend our bucks there, and in the process, by spending our bucks in non-gay village establishments, we’ve contributed to the constriction of the Village. Yes, the constriction of the Village because the opportunity cost of supporting these tolerant straight establishments is that Village establishments go unsupported! It is a zero-sum game. It really is as simple as that.
Which brings me back to Chris Skinner.
I cannot help but wonder if this murder (beaten to death by a group then run over by a nutjob in an SUV) would have happened were our community more geographically constrained? (That is to say, all establishments near each other in a Village of whatever size it needs to be.) If the gay community stretched further south into the city, would this have happened, assuming it is a bashing incident? My gut says it would not have happened.
Sure, it’s nice to spend time with one’s straight friends. But not at the expense of having places at which to spend time with your gay friends. Bring your straight friends to the Village, if they’re so accepting and tolerant. This way, you’re among your people and not among those whose acceptance might turn to approbation without warning.