VCU Students Talk Gayborhood
On Thursday, March 1, I sat down with the folks of Queer Action at VCU to talk about the topic of “gayborhoods.” We led the conversation into the question of whether here is or could be one in Richmond. Our meeting spanned everything from our expectations of a community to the political ramifications of a gayborhood.
An additional component of the conversation centered on the reasons for a gayborhood. The reasons centered around safety and politics. If queers are looking to reshape society, then they need to begin to build their own. This queertopia would allow for individuals to refresh their spirits and political visions. The concentration of queers furthers a sense of community that creates safety in numbers. Additional safety features include a neighborhood watch, copwatches, emergency street phones, and an LGBT police liaison. All of these components would foster “a safe community so that people don’t feel intimidated.”
A common theme throughout our conversation centered on inclusivity. People expressed concerns about how to ensure that the community spans all strata of identities like age, class, race, gender and politics. This inclusive community would allow space for everything from radical anarchist queers to “weird cultural things like butch lesbians with Confederate flags.” Participants especially focused on economic classifications. Some suggested that the inclusion of a queer credit union would ensure broad economic access. The pooling of resources would allow the community to support its members and help others; queers could even collectively buy places. Money may make the world go round, but it should not be the focus of a queer community.
Many were worried about how gayborhoods gentrify places. They would like to ensure that people from mixed incomes can all live together. Many acknowledged that Virginia Commonwealth University and its students had already gentrified many of Richmond’s neighborhoods. Furthermore, these students are transient residents, so their impact and participation may only last for about 4 to 6 years. However, the students acknowledged that the gayborhood would foster a stronger connection to the city. This community ownership could compel some to even stay.
Other factors that would encourage a sense of community include a variety of community features. In a physical sense, the community should be accessible, with numerous bike racks, public parks, lots of trees and gender neutral bathrooms in all the businesses. The community would need places for gatherings like community centers, parks and other gathering places. There will still be numerous spots for recreational activities, with bars, bookstores, and even a queer arcade.
This conversation proved interesting as it provided insight into what a student community expects from a queer community. I am hoping to have more conversations on this topic. If you would like to connect, then please use the hashtag #RVAqueer on Twitter.
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
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