3 min

Davie St’s decline

Reenergizing Vancouver's gaybourhood

Is it just me or is our Davie Village starting to look a little dumpy? I know, I know. I can hear your eyes rolling. “Girl, where have you been? This dump’s been on the decline for years.”

I know, I know. I’m just a little slow to accept change, okay? But I’m done denying the obvious. Our gaybourhood is changing. Shifting. Dwindling. Declining. Evolving.

To deny this is to fling myself repeatedly upstream against an unyielding current. I do that a lot in my life. It usually leads to sore arms and a lot of frustration, but little headway.

So let’s try this instead: allowing the Village to evolve doesn’t mean we have to relinquish our home and let the straight tide rush in. And it doesn’t mean I’m about to trade in my bike for a minivan, pack the (nonexistent) kids into the car and head for the ’burbs to blend in with the other only-incidentally-gay Stepford people.

It does mean I’m ready to contemplate new ways of being queer in our traditional space. Or at the very least, a little sprucing up of the tired old sisters on the block. And by sprucing up, I mean a serious injection of new ideas and energy into a strip that desperately needs several shots in the arm.

It would be easy to blame the West End Business Improvement Association for squashing our gaybourhood’s spark. With its vapid, “family-oriented” Davie Days and its failure to celebrate and market the Village as a gay space, the BIA certainly isn’t helping matters.

Ever since the BIA snatched more West End blocks under its skirt, Davie St’s distinct gay character has been at best neglected and at worst deliberately diluted in an attempt to make the area more palatable to its neighbours.

But much as I enjoy a good round of Blame the BIA, it’s not the sole reason for the gaybourhood’s decline. Where are the homos clamouring to open new businesses, to revamp our street, to inject new energy to keep it vibrantly gay?

This decline can be laid on all our toes. And its revitalization will be equally up to all of us. Or we could just walk away.

But that means giving up the hub. And that would be a mistake. I think we will always benefit from a single area in which to gather, even as our postal codes shift.

It’s why so many of us love the Queer Film Fest. That feeling we get when we’re in the theatre, surrounded by our people, telling our stories, celebrating our shared experiences and creating new ones together.

That’s the kind of feeling I’d like to re-experience on Davie St. Home. Whether you live here or not.

The Village is “the very heart and soul of the LGBT community in Vancouver,” Jim Deva says in this issue’s cover story. “This does not take away from the vibrant communities in the East End or Gastown or Yaletown or Surrey. But without a vibrant, happening heart, the rest will dwindle into the giant miasma of a very diverse and accepting city.”

I don’t want us to lose each other. I’m already beginning to miss some of you.

So how do we renew what’s been whittled away and allowed to fade?

“To me, the reinvigoration of the Village is culture, and shared space that we can all occupy together as a community,” says Dave Deveau.

It’s a theme that comes up again and again in the interviews we conducted: culture. Bars, clubs and gathering spaces are essential but not enough. It’s our stories and the pleasure we get from sharing them, from recognizing ourselves in other people’s experiences, that sustains and strengthens our common bond.

“I think the next wave of what needs to happen in the Village is for us to have a space that all of us can occupy and use as a community together — the arts-goers, the community leaders who are doing human rights work and support groups, and all of the health work that goes hand-in-hand,” Deveau says.

He may be referring to a new community centre. He might as well be referring to the Village itself.