Eddie: I make the fabulous… I make the crap into credible. I make the dull into…
Everyone’s favorite Absolutely Fabulous characters could easily be referring to the ability of gay people to transform the blah into the beautiful. Witness Boston’s South End, once a gorgeous upper-middle class enclave, then a scary, boarded-up, blighted area to be avoided at all costs. When gay people were forced out of Beacon Hill due to rising prices they discovered the South End and its graceful Victorian curves beneath a layer of grit.
Incredibly affordable at the time (late ’70s and ’80s), SouthEnd townhouses then condominiums were sold for a pittance. Thirty years later, it’s one of the most expensive and gentrified neighborhoods in Boston and lo and behold:Once the gays tamed it, straight families moved in. Gays sold out and a once gay ghetto is now a (mostly)happy melting point of Bostonians of all origins and background.
This story has played out in spots as diverse as Key West, West Hollywood (a city pretty much carved out of Hollywood by gay civic leaders 30 years ago), Chelsea (New York), Soho (London), and many more places. While creating new, vibrant homelands out of decaying neighborhoods, LGBT folk have also created exciting destinations for visitors from the world over.
With a few exceptions, I don’t think gay people ever really have gotten that much credit for transforming neighborhoods and creating such value (intellectual, creative, financial). And I don’t know that there’ve been exhaustive studies exploring the reasons for this knack. But one underlying trait is vision — the ability to see the potential of something.
To cite and easy example, the White Porch Inn in Provincetown was transformed from a hulking eyesore into one of Provincetown’s most distinctive inns. Proprietor Tom Shirk told me that people couldn’t believe he was interested in this wreck of a property. Ayear (and many many dollars) later, Tom achieved his visiton and the White Porch, part of the Distinctive Inns of Provincetown, welcomes diverse guests all year round.