The last couple of weeks, my gym here in the city has been under threat of closure. A few months ago, the building was bought by a New York real estate company that has a track record of demolishing older structures and building condos. The building sits right in the heart of the Gayborhood here in Philly, which in turn is located in the heart of Center City. There has been a huge influx of luxury apartments being built the last ten years, like any other big city in America. I guess it was only a matter of time before the Gayborhood succumbed to that. The gym has over 4,000 members, many of whom are gay with strong attachments to the Gayborhood. It serves as a gym, but also a gay social and community center. I've been a member here for the 3.5 years I've lived in the city, and it's been like a second home to me. In those three and a half years, apartments, jobs, boyfriends, fuck-buddies, and friends have all come and gone, but the gym stayed the same and was always there for me. I got to know a lot of people in the scene from this gym, and it's where I first hit on my boyfriend over two years ago (he was terrified of me at first, lol). The point it, it is more then just a gym to thousands of guys, and now it is closing next week for good. After being Philadelphia's gay gym for 3 decades, it's going to be gone forever. And that is genuinely depressing to me. Everyone at the gym is being forced to disperse to multiple other gyms, thus completely diluting the sense of community the place brought. Sigh.
Unfortunately, the Gayborhood has been changing a lot since the first time I stepped foot it in in 2010. 3 gay bars have closed in those years, while only one new one has opened. The best gay club in the city, Woody's, has now been overrun with obnoxious straight people and mostly abandoned by the gay guys who made it such a great spot. Voyuer, the popular after hours club across the street, is starting to suffer the same fate, with more and more straight people invading and ruining the things that made it such an amazing place to dance until the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, the building that houses the gym also houses another gay bar, Tabu, and 18 other businesses with a strong LGBT focus and clientele. There is also a beautiful mural painted several years ago of Gloria Casarez, a well-known LGBT rights activist from Philadelphia who died several years ago (picture posted below). All of that will be demolished to make way for most likely another luxury high rise, and further water down one of the most fun, unique, and funky neighborhoods of this city.
I guess this is a byproduct of gay rights and the gentrification of cities. As we become more mainstreamed, we begin to lose so much of what makes us unique from the generic, mostly bland and boring straight world. I'm not quite sure anymore if it's a price worth paying, because I don't want to become like my straight friends. It's such a pre-determined, mind-numbing path that ends in a suburban track home with 2.2 kids and a hour long commute to a job you hate. No, I want what I had in the beginning and what the older gay guys had back in the day. I don't want to be assimilated anymore. I'm okay with being part of a minority that is different and unique. We've lost so much of that, especially here in Philadelphia, and I'm not sure we'll ever get it back.
It's time for me to start looking elsewhere in the world.