A year after the 1969 rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, the first gay pride march was named after the street on which the struggle was waged. "Christopher Street Liberation Day" was soon followed by celebrations across and outside the US, many of which adopted the same name. But at the time, there was no need to privilege Christopher Street itself; many towns and cities already had a street that was identified as a kind of "Main Street" for "out and proud" gay life.
By the end of the 1970s, new claims for gay "Main Streets" had appeared. White gay men were buying and renovating depreciated property in neighborhoods home to low-income people of color. Neighbors and activists soon clashed. Many white gay men argued that rising prices plus their status as outsiders from middle-class propriety and family-centered economies left them with nowhere else to go. Anti-displacement activists retorted that white gay men were drawing on racial and economic entitlements in order to pursue real estate speculation and justify it under different terms.
This clip comes from a 1980 NBC show. It is followed by scenes with a white gay developer, displaced African American residents, a white gay self-defense class, and Latino men driving low riders (named "the source of [antigay] attacks") down the main street of the Mission, another gentrifying neighborhood.
So what might be a gay "Main Street"?
This video suggests a tug-of-war between opposing "Main Streets," vying for the same blocks. But that omits too much. For example, where are the LGBT people of color or of low income (for whom there is even no intersection here, to borrow an apt metaphor)?
In the 1970s and 2000s, city boosters named (white) gay populations a solution for declining central cities. Also during the 1970s, a federal "revitalization" program based in historic preservation (a strategy often associated with "gay gentrification") was named "Main Street." Are these a part of Obama's "Main Street"? Or, perhaps, of "Wall Street"?
What are the implications of using the prototypical sign of small town life for the ultimate symbol of what has been called metronormativity?
How do we analyze the idea of a gay "Main Street" alongside that other troubling but much more common phrase: "gay ghetto"?
I have no more space; these are but a few thoughts on the racial and class contours of "Queer Americana" through the concept of a gay "Main Street."