U researcher says gay communities on the decline

The face of the gay community worldwide may be changing, according to a University researcher’s recently released study.

Epidemiology professor Simon Rosser said he learned that “while the gay population is stable or increasing,” in all but the world’s largest cities, “the size of the physical gay community appears to be contracting.”

This means the number of gay bars, clubs and bookstores appears to be thinning or becoming more mainstream.

Rosser credits it to a changing culture.

“What we think is happening is that, in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, gay men came together out of a sense of oppression, a desire to meet similar others,” he said. “Now, some of the reasons that brought them together are very different.”

Rosser cited the Internet as a possible reason for the change in the community.

“There comes an economic tipping point where the bars and clubs are all reporting they’re somewhat quieter than before the rise of the Internet,” he said.

The study, released June 9, looked at 17 cities worldwide. The effects can be seen in the Twin Cites as well.

After 38 years, Amazon Bookstore , an independent Minneapolis bookstore with a collection of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual books, will be closing its doors at the end of June.

Deb Patchell , an employee at Amazon, said the younger generation hasn’t bought into the nature of the bookstore as much as older generations.

“Their lifestyle is different than my generation,” she said. “They’re not as used to going to a bookstore. They’re more online.”

Still, the loss of the book store will hurt the GLBT community, she said.

“We’re more than just a bookstore,” she said. “We’ve been a community support for the whole gamut of the GLBT community.”

Rosser said losing GLBT locales will affect activism, like AIDS prevention groups.

“In the past, to reach the gay community, AIDS organizations and researchers would go into the bars,” he said. “Now, if most of the community isn’t meeting in those bars, we’re going to have to discover a way of connecting with the community and raising awareness.”

Nico Cruz , a co-chair for the Queer Student Cultural Center , said bars aren’t as appealing as other areas, such as school, to interact within the GLBT community.

Still, Cruz said the GLBT community isn’t diminishing.

“I don’t think (group members) really think they’re diminishing,” Cruz said. “Maybe it changes over time.”

Meanwhile, a study announced in late May by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that reported violence against the GLBT community increased 135 percent in Minnesota in 2007.

Rebecca Waggoner Kloek , anti-violence program manager of OutFront Minnesota, a GLBT activism group, said this could be credited to the greater presence of GLBT individuals in the mainstream community, even as niche communities diminish.

“The GLBT community is no longer regulated to, forgive the pun, ‘the closet,’ ” she said. “I think that the violence is going to happen no matter where the GLBT community is.”

Rosser said while his research shows a more mainstream GLBT community, “social homophobia is like any other prejudice.”