It’s no secret. There’s no use mincing words (as much as I do enjoy a good mincing). Capitol Hill has fallen, and she just can’t get up. Roving hordes of date-rapey, fag-bashy tech bros and feckless woo girls on an endless bachelorette bender have landed, and they’ve brought their bulging bank accounts with them. The once proud gay ghetto — our safe space, playground, political FUCK YOU to the powers that would destroy us, and our home — is a misty memory. Or a foggy flashback. Or something. We are being priced out, elbowed out, alienated and literally attacked in the streets.
Oh, I hear you (well, a small handful of you with vested interests): WAH WAH WAH! Neighborhoods change! It’s inevitable! The city is growing — gotta break some eggs, right?! Go and make another gay ghetto, like you people always do!
Um, well, first of all, what do you mean, “you people”? Also, go fuck yourself to death with a syphilitic donkey.
Historically, unfortunately, the bastards who say that stuff (generally invading breeders with no clue, developers, representatives of developers, landlords, representatives of landlords, and old rich fags who got theirs and are too creaky to party anymore anyway and just want to settle in their mansions with their Ben Gay and the leather twink they’ve got tied up in the attic) are sort of correct. A little.
Times, and gay ghettos, do change. Capitol Hill was hardly our first stop on the Gay Seattle Tour. Allow me to illustrate with a little history from my own Adrian Ryan’s Way Too Gay Seattle Survival Guide (available in finer dumpsters near you):
“The ever-throbbing pants of Gay Seattle have pulsed and pounded in many parts of town: The very first “Gay Ghetto” (if you’ll please pardon the expression) blossomed in the muddy “Mudflat” — a sordid swath of saloon-and-hooker-covered ‘hood allegedly located somewhere just below Pioneer Square. When the Mudflat went flat, we moved to Pioneer Square proper, where the first Gay Pride Parade took place. (We ‘Mos do seem to enjoy lingering amidst criminals and whores occasionally, don’t we — just like that lovely Christ fellow you hear so much about.)
“History tells us that Gay men began drizzling into the Capitol Hill neighborhood even as early as the wee early-mid-‘60s — hypnotized, as we Gays will be, by the déclassé grandeur of moldering mansions and shabby-chic apartments on the cheap. But Capitol Hill’s first “official” leaping fan-kick toward Gay Ghetto-hood happened, they say, with the founding of the Dorian Society in 1967 — Seattle’s very first organized group of real Gay activists.”
So for almost 50 years, we ‘mos have called Capitol Hill home. But faced with the current realities (by which I mean the city tossing the keys to corporations and developers and saying, “Do whatever the fuck you want”) it’s a question on everymo’s lips: where do we go from here? It’s a question that brings no satisfactory answers, and mostly produces a lot of sad and glassy stares and extra bong rifts.
San Francisco? It’s worse than here. New York? And deal with those stinky summers? Ha! Detroit? That’s the Hunger Games sans the charms of Jennifer Lawrence. Denver? Gross. Portland? What’s Portland? LA? Like everyone else? Never! And so we turn our wandering eye back to our own backyard, dear sweet Seattle (we don’t really want to leave, anyway), and to its myriad — ahem, other — neighborhoods and burghs. Let’s take a gander:
South Lake Union
SLU is one of Seattle’s newest neighborhoods. It was invented by Paul Allen and Amazon in a secret plot. It’s like if Bellevue Square Mall had a baby with itself and that baby married a faux-indie but-secretly-corporate record franchise that probably went out of business in 2005. It’s the neighborhood version of a Borg Cube. There are no gay bars, no fun places, no creative vibe whatsoever. It is part of the problem. It will never be the new gay ghetto.
Now that Mama’s Mexican Kitchen is tits up there’s not even botulism to look forward to. Bell Town is a vomit and crackhead covered dumpster suffering also from a dreadful case of terminal roving night-time techbros, and the good housing options are just as expensive and ugly as the new ones on Capitol Hill anyway, so why bother? Never come to this neighborhood after dark without a flamethrower. Or ever.
First Hill is the next most obvious option, but prices are on par with Capitol Hill so you just end up farther away from the gay bars and you’re not saving any money. So, you know, First Hill is fine, I suppose. And that’s the highest praise I can muster for it. “Fine.”
West Seattle does not really exist. Don’t listen to the rumors.
There’s no such place as Magnolia, either.
Queen Anne is the dentist’s office receptionist that can’t afford to send her kid to private school, even though she’s a huge snob that really wants to. It is the neighborhood equivalent of a bake sale. The shopping gets a zero, for gay bars, a zero, the restaurants maybe get a two, if your standards aren’t too demanding. The only great thing about Queen Anne for we gays is that you can see Capitol Hill from (much of ) it (the good parts).
It’s an interesting and colorful place, here and there, and there’s lots of delicious international restaurants, run by the few international people who haven’t been gentrified the hell out of there yet. Where did they all go? No one has any idea. Traveler’s Thali House is the best vegan anywhere (that includes India) and is run by longtime couple Alan and Leon (who were themselves just gentrified out of their 15 year location on Capitol Hill), and Inay’s Filipino cuisine even has a drag show starring Atasha Manila! Pro tip: she doesn’t like it when you drunkenly bark out the correct lyrics to Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World”, even when she’s butchering them. Trust me. But besides that gay little spot… it’s pretty much a homo wasteland.
Georgetown is safe and quirky and too damn far away from the good stuff (this city is murder to move through at the best of times, and ugly, horrible SODO — where the sports stadiums live — sits between Georgetown and civilization, so try adding the hellish weekly sportsball game congestion to your commute into the city, and you can expect to die in traffic), but it is boring at night, has no gay bars or clubs whatsoever (although Sylvia O’Stayformore does infrequent events out here), and is basically the neighborhood equivalent of a hipster with a ukulele doing a cover of “Over the Rainbow”.
Ballard is most famous for old Scandinavians and rabid condo development. There are plenty of fabulous places for ‘mos to explore — on a sunny afternoon. Once a year or so.
In Fremont, beneath a big bridge, lives the one of the biggest trolls in all of Seattle, outside of Neighbours on a Wednesday night. That’s as gay as it gets, or ever will.
The U District
If there are any actual Gay places there, they exist in a parallel netherworld that even my fantastic Gay super senses refuse to penetrate. The place is like a bombed out Eastern Bloc country, but dirtier.
International District (aka Chinatown)
Chinatown is the defining urban institution after all — every city worth being a city has one, but Seattle’s Chinatown is a lamentable disaster that is best avoided unless you are looking for a good deal on a used mogwai. There is no gay presence, nor should there be.
So there we are, our bleak, bleak options. It’s why so many of us are choosing to stay on Capitol Hill and tough it out as long as we can… at least until the other shoe drops (i.e. another rent increase). Maybe the world has simply outgrown gay ghettos, and maybe that’s a good thing. I certainly don’t think so. And this time, we aren’t migrating to recreate our promised land in another ‘hood. We are simply being scattered to the wind.