Three strikes and you're out, Chelsea.
After being called "faggot" three times during the past summer while walking in the once-predominantly-gay neighborhood of Chelsea in New York City, we decided to move. We loved Chelsea, but we had to leave her because she is not the same gay neighborhood that we remember. The iconic gay neighborhood of the past has been changed for the worse by the neo-hetero-homophobic-heterosexist transplants, who have relocated to New York City from small towns throughout the United States, bringing with them their small minds. This drastic and dramatic change started slowly in 2000 and much more quickly in 2009.
Throughout the recent years, gay men and women have been evicted from Chelsea and have been replaced by heterosexual women and men, whether single or coupled, younger or older, college students or working professionals, most of whom are not gay-friendly but, ironically, chose to move to a well-known, predominantly gay neighborhood because they wanted to live in a trendy, pretty, clean and safe area with a lot of wonderful shopping opportunities. The old, wise saying that the gays beautify a neighborhood for the straights to invade and occupy is so very true and real. An important question to ask is: do the heterosexuals who relocate to Chelsea even know that it was once a gay neighborhood, or do their heterosexist and heteronormative thinking and behavior make them oblivious and egocentric?
In 2005 we moved to Chelsea from Brooklyn, N.Y. because we wanted to feel welcomed, accepted, comfortable and safe in a predominantly gay neighborhood. We longed for the sense of community that so many other minority groups have been fortunate enough to experience. So, we crossed the East River from one borough to another. As native New Yorkers, our transition was easy. (Michael, 36, was born and raised in the Kings Bay/Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn; Joseph, 31, was born and raised in the Bath Beach/Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.) We were familiar with Chelsea because, like so many other gay men, we were regular visitors since the mid and late 1990s, escaping our own predominantly heterosexual and heterosexist -- and often homophobic -- neighborhoods in Brooklyn for a taste of gay life.
So, in 2005, we decided to be residents of Chelsea, no longer visitors; however, it is no longer the same neighborhood of which we once so enthusiastically wanted to be a part. Years ago, it was a place where we were allowed and able to be our gay selves, without being embarrassed, ashamed, uncomfortable, ostracized, hated and judged. We were free to be who we were and who we wanted to be. We were open-minded, evolved, progressive and liberal. We did not feel oppressed, repressed, marginalized, stigmatized and discriminated against. We gays were once the majority in Chelsea, and it was empowering. Now, we are the minority, feeling powerless, discarded and disrespected. Sadly, we are outcasts once again, in a neighborhood that we made our own.
In the past, when we walked down the streets in Chelsea, we did not receive scornful stares and hateful comments. We were able to wear our tight, short, pink shorts and our tight, lavender tank tops without the looks of disdain and ridicule. We were able to walk along the Hudson River Park shirtless, without looks of contempt and horror. We were able to hold hands and hug and kiss in public without the looks of disgust and intolerance. But not now. Obviously, most of the new heterosexist, homophobic, straight transplants in Chelsea have never seen real live gay men and women. We are like wild animals in a zoo, whom they are observing for their own pleasure or displeasure; whether we are caged or uncaged does not make a difference.
Contrary to what some individuals believe, a gay ghetto was never a bad thing. And a gay diaspora is not necessarily a good thing. Are the new heterosexuals in Chelsea trying to divide and conquer us? We gays have been forced to disperse, which makes it more difficult for us to unite and fight for our rights and equality. Is this what they want?
So, who is to blame for this destructive change to Chelsea? Well, here are the culprits: realtors, business owners, corporations, colleges and universities, the media, Mayor Bloomberg and the local politicians. Nowadays, Chelsea is one big theme park and tourist attraction. It has been glamorized, romanticized and gentrified for the new heterosexuals and their bigotry.
Chelsea is dead. What is the next gay neighborhood? This month we moved to Astoria, Queens, in order to be around more native New Yorkers and more gay men. Will Astoria be the new Chelsea? Maybe. Maybe not. At least we have not noticed the neo-hetero-homophobes in Astoria.
Finally, here are new names for our once-beloved Chelsea: Hetero-sea, Straight-sea, Straight-singles-sea, Straight-couples-sea, West Gramercy, Gramercy West, Transplant-sea, Tourist-sea, College-student-sea, Spoiled-brat-sea, Trust-fund-baby-sea, Sorority-girl-sea, Frat-boy-sea, Privileged-sea, Entitled-sea, Immature-sea, Stupid-sea, Small-town-sea, Wanna-be-sea, Get-a-life-sea, Stroller-sea, Prudish-sea, Luxury-building-sea, Big-corporate-business-sea, Shopping-sea, Heterosexist-sea, Homophobia-sea and Not-home-for-us-anymore-sea!