After/Lives: Insights from the COVID-19 Pandemic for Gay Neighborhoods

Sam Miles, Jack Coffin, Amin Ghaziani, Daniel Hess, Alex Bitterman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Beginning in 2020, COVID-19 produced shock-shifts that were felt across
the globe, not least at the level of the local neighborhood. Some of these shifts have
called into question the role of physical places for face-to-face gatherings, including
those used by LGBTQ+ people. Such open questions are a key concern for a book on
gayborhoods, so this chapter engages in three analytic tasks to provide preliminary
reflections on how pandemics problematize places. While acknowledging a range of
threats and challenges that the pandemic poses to the future of LGBTQ+ spaces, this
chapter focuses on the potential opportunities and unexpected benefits that COVID19 can create, running counter to more pessimistic predictions that abound in popular
discourse. First, the chapter contextualizes how the COVID-19 pandemic is reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, allowing the gayborhood to be well-equipped
to respond with grassroots activism, particularly in the face of government inaction
or apathy. Second, the chapter explores trends that can ensure the future vitality of
LGBTQ+ spaces, including (i) the potential of mutual aid networks, (ii) the power of
institutional anchors in LGBTQ+ placemaking efforts, (iii) urban changes related to
homesteading and population shifts, (iv) innovations in the interior design of physical spaces, and (v) opportunities to enhance social connections through augmented
virtual engagements. Far from signaling the death knell of LGBTQ+ spaces, these trends demonstrate the enduring appeal provided by neighborhoods and communities. Third, the cognitive schemas of lockdowns, re-closeting, and digitalscapes
are identified as unique expressions of the shifting spatialities of sexuality in postpandemic urban space. The chapter concludes by arguing that place will still matter
for LGBTQ+ people in a post-COVID-19 era, albeit with altered meanings and material expressions. The socio-spatial consequences of the novel coronavirus will be a
confluence of positive and negative developments, and while some will be reversed
as soon as an effective vaccine is found, others will linger indelibly in bodies and the
built environment for years to come.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods
Subtitle of host publicationRenaissance and Resurgence
EditorsAlex Bitterman, Daniel Hess
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9783030660734
ISBN (Print)9783030660727, 9783030660758
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameThe Urban Book Series
PublisherSpringer, Cham
ISSN (Print)2365-757X
ISSN (Electronic)2365-7588


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