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Davie Village aims to grow from gay roots

Vancouver’s Davie Village leaders hope to launch a plan by November that doesn’t just celebrate the history of what was…

By Olivia Zauli Fellows , in Life , on October 21, 2013 Tags: , , ,

Rainbow crosswalk on Davie Street
Vancouver’s first permanent rainbow crosswalk symbolizes the importance and heritage of the Davie Village and Vancouver’s LGBTQ community.

Vancouver’s Davie Village leaders hope to launch a plan by November that doesn’t just celebrate the history of what was once the city’s only “gaybourhood,” but also aims to attract new locals and tourists.

Community members are excited about the plan (PDF), which will be up for consideration in council on Nov. 6th. It includes efforts to enhance the Village as a space for celebration and gathering and ensure the availability of resources for the LGBTQ community.

Movement  towards this goal began early in July 2013, when a permanent rainbow flag was painted across the Davie and Bute intersection to mark the neighbourhood’s historical significance as site of activism and celebration.

Professor Amin Ghaziani believes commemoration is an important device to mark a group's relationship with space
Ghaziani: Commemoration is important to mark a group’s relationship with space.

“Commemoration is a really important urban device to mark a group’s relationship with space and place,” says Amin Ghaziani, assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, who is writing a book on gay neighbourhoods.

He added that many North American cities have started to mark their “gaybourhoods” as historically memorable spaces.

“It’s one of the ways of taking a group that has historically been marginalized and written out of history, then to correct or redress a long-standing problem of historical invisibility,” says Ghaziani.

Historical importance

Chicago started the trend in 1998, when it erected 22 rainbow-coloured pylons down Halsted Street in recognition of the city’s LGBTQ community. Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco have followed suit.

Davie Village is no longer the only space where Vancouver’s LGBTQ community feels safe and comfortable. However, it still plays a major part in the lives of many of the city’s residents who see the hub as an important heritage site and commemorative space for LGBTQ identities.

Dara Parker, executive director at Qmunity, B.C’s. queer resource centre, says that Davie Village is no longer the only comfortable space for the city’s LGBTQ community. However, it still stands as the “most visible example of queer culture in B.C.” and as a safe space for many LGBTQ newcomers.

“The historical importance of the Village is still relevant, I think, even to young people,” says Parker.

Nevertheless, it has evolved over time to welcome all of the city’s residents.

An inclusive community

Bernardo Bamberg, a young man who regularly visits the Davie Village, says that “straight and gay [people] are working very well together, they don’t see any problem or prejudice.”

Many of the clubs in the Davie Village have an active clientele of both straight and gay people who come together to enjoy the space’s vivid nightlife scene.
Davie Village clubs attract an active clientele of both straight and gay people.

Bamberg is happy with the city’s efforts at enhancing the Village and still sees it as an important location in the city and a safe space for the gay community.

Jim Deva, owner of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium, agrees and also supports the plan.

He believes the Village has seen a shift from being a gay-only space to a more inclusive community and believes it has to adapt itself to fit this new role.

“Rather than being home, it’s home base. I think that the role of the village has to change to suit that,” says Deva.

“In order to be that sort of place we have to be bright, we have to be cheerful, to be friendly to tourists, we have to show them a good time and have entertainment in the evening.”

“We have to have good restaurants, we have to have good stores and we have to sort of create that space.”

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