I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who accused me, and not for the first time, of being a “downtown gay.”
This label wouldn’t bother me – after all, I live fairly close to the Village and am in a relationship with another man — but it seemed to be loaded with judgment. As I thought about where this judgment was coming from, I remembered my own mindset from when I lived, for many years, in the Yonge-Lawrence neighbourhood.
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Living uptown, I believed (perhaps subconsciously) that somehow I was better than those who lived in and around the Village. I had a clear image in my mind of what I thought these gays were like, a caricature of the negative stereotypes surrounding gay men. I, on the other hand, felt I was somehow holding on to more of my masculinity than they were by choosing to be outside that world, venturing in on occasion but never truly being a part of it.
I think this notion came from a part of me that deep down inside still felt unhappy to be gay; a part that felt being gay was something that would prevent me from being a man. Of course, years later I’d realize that there is a big difference between sexuality and masculinity.
I’m certainly not accusing my friend as being a self-loathing homo, but in my conversation with him he made it clear that he saw me as “immersed” in the Village and that he, on the other hand, doesn’t “fit in with the downtown gays” and lives in a “different world” from me.
This judgment of the entire gay populous living below Bloor saddens me. We, as gay people, have fought hard to prove to the rest of the world that we can take many forms — masculine rugby players, lithe go-go dancers, and everything in between – and that one little part of our lives is not what defines us individually.
Yet here is my friend, categorizing an entire group of gay people as a group of people he definitely wouldn’t fit in with; a snap judgment based solely on their location. And he’s not alone in this outlook of Uptown Gays vs. Downtown Gays. However, as an uptown- gay-cum-downtown-gay, I can tell you what has changed for me in my venture to the dark side.
I can now walk to the Eaton Centre, I seldom have to cab it home after the bar, and yes – I do now find it a pain in the ass to meet you for a drink at Jack Astor’s on Don Mills. Apart from that, pretty much everything else is still the same about me and I didn’t magically end up with high heels and a coke problem by moving close to the Village.
So go ahead, call me a downtown gay, because that’s what I am. But if I hear you say it in a way that suggests you think you’re somehow better than me, I will fill a sock with all the change I’ve saved from rarely having to use the TTC and I’ll hit you with it.
Follow Simon on Twitter: @ScottishGuy