Washington, June 10 : The world is seeing a drastic change in Gay communities, like clubs, bars, events and neighbourhoods, due to a number of factors that include Internet dating and achievement of civil rights, a new University of Minnesota research has revealed.
The research draws its findings from a 2007 survey, in which almost 30 HIV prevention experts, researchers, and gay community leaders from 17 cities spanning 14 different countries examined changes in gay communities. In fact, they also participated in a facilitated, structured dialogue asking if gay communities are changing, and if so, how.
They observed that in all cities, the virtual gay community was larger than the offline physical community. And the majority of cities saw that despite the gay population was apparently stable or growing; the physical gay community infrastructure was declining.
"With the exception of London and possibly New York, gay bars and culture are changing. On almost all measures, we're seeing the same trend: decreasing number of gay bars/clubs, decreased attendance at gay events, less volunteerism in gay or HIV/AIDS organizations and, less gay media, resulting in an overall decline in gay visibility," said Simon Rosser, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study and professor in the School of Public Health's Division of Epidemiology and Community Health.
"The biggest reason for these changes, we think, is the Internet. Traditional gay communities have become much quieter now that most gay men are online. It's really a worldwide trend."
The participants indicated many ways in which gay communities are transitioning. Rosser said that reasons like societal oppression, lack of rights, and the HIV epidemic made gay men to form communities in inner cities, which eventually became gay-identified neighbourhoods.
Now, it looks like that in cities as diverse as San Francisco, Amsterdam, Denmark, Toronto, Sydney, and Cape Town, these historically gay neighbourhoods are on the verge of disappearing, driven by high real estate prices, young gay people remaining in the suburbs, and greater integration of heterosexuals into inner cities.
Also, it appears that the gay community getting equal civil rights is making young people in cities to simply not feel the same need for community. Rosser pointed out that the changes are consistent with theories of social assimilation.
This change in gay communities is also a challenge for HIV/STD prevention. Earlier, gay community organizing and HIV/STD prevention for gay men often involved recruitment and education in gay bar/clubs and through gay media. As many cities gay bars and media are lowering in number, Rosser said that it's time to re-evaluate how to promote HIV prevention.
The study is published online and will be featured in an upcoming print issue of the journal AIDS Care.