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Queer scapes patterns and processes of gay male and lesbian spatialisation in Vancouver, B.C. Bouthillette, Ann-Marie


While gay male and lesbian spatialisation has been historicised in some of the literature, and it has been determined that distinct gay male and lesbian neighbourhoods do exist i n our inner cities, the processes that are at work i n each case have seldom been compared. In the case of Vancouver, British Columbia, the two neighbourhoods in question are the West End (for men) and Grandview-Woodland, or 'The Drive' (for women). Such a comparative analysis yields a number of useful insights, particularly as concerns cultural differences between gay men and lesbians. For instance, historical gay male sexual marketplaces form the kernel of gay male ghettoisation, while lesbians' feminist politics (an early lesbian cultural signifier) orient them more towards countercultural enclaves. Similarities are also encountered, especially with respect to the central role of housing availability i n determining permanent gay identification. Specifically, the presence of a large number of single-occupancy apartments is a determining factor i n gay male spatialisation, while gay women typically need low-rent, family-oriented housing. A longitudinal perspective on the production of these gay-identified spaces reveals that their reinscription on Vancouver's landscape is also determined by different processes. The gay West End emerges as a landscape that reflects much more openly a gay presence, with gay-specific institutions and businesses, events, and several visual, cultural cues that inform passers-by of its gay identity. By contrast, The Drive is more subtly gay, and spaces are more likely to be lesbian-friendly or semi-lesbian: unable to support lesbian-only institutions, the women carve their own (sometimes fleeting) spaces out of the existing landscape. Changes are perceived, however, that indicate that boundaries — both between these two districts, and between these and 'straight' spaces more generally — are shifting and even blurring. Gay male and lesbian politics and culture are being transformed, and the spaces with which they have historically identified may no longer reflect these changes. Consequently, not only is there increasing fluidity between the West End and The Drive (with men and women moving from one to the other), but many gay households are openly foregoing these spaces altogether, opting instead for traditionally straight-identified spaces such as the suburbs. These spatial changes are seen as being indicative of the emergence of a 'queer' politics, which seeks to expose the constructedness of sexuality, and thus de-privilege heteronormativity.

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