[Marxism] Gated communities for gays
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 30 07:29:07 MDT 2004
Out of the closet and behind the gate
The first gated community marketed at gays and lesbians is under
construction in a small Florida town. Will it be a queer utopia -- or
one more sign of the fragmentation of America?
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By Dale Hrabi, salon.com
April 30, 2004 | Each year, a growing number of Americans agrees to be
locked behind bars.
They check in at manned guardhouses, waiting to be sealed inside their
gated communities, where they obey countless rules written into their
deeds. They grow only approved flowers and walk dogs no taller than 16
inches. They choose window treatments with trepidation, afraid a peeping
neighbor might report a deviant swag to their homeowner's association --
which can and will foreclose on rebels. They endure these indignities
for one reason: order. "In the end, it's not about security at all,"
says Mary Gail Snyder, a professor of urban studies at the University of
New Orleans and co-author of "Fortress America: Gated Communities in the
United States." "Most gated communities are incredibly easy to break
into. The appeal is really about control."
But more than just a way to escape the chaos of real life, these
enclaves are also becoming ghettos, increasingly targeted to specific
groups. Golf addicts lock themselves away in sand-trapped communities
such as Colorado's Fox Acres. Sections of the Los Angeles suburb
Monterey Park are specially feng-shui'd to serve the Asian population.
But the newest example will likely be the most controversial: Wilton
Station, the first gated community in America to specifically, if not
solely, target the gay market.
Now under construction in Wilton Manors, Fla., a bedroom suburb of Fort
Lauderdale, Wilton Station will be an ambitious low-rise project of 272
varied condominium units: brownstones in dignified rows, loft spaces to
tempt the trendy, and quaint porches to add a Mayberry touch. The
prices, from $300,000 to $500,000, are less quaint. On-site retail
spaces will let young professionals dry-clean John Varvatos sweaters or
stumble out of a martini bar without leaving the complex. A vast health
club will overlook a 72-foot lap pool, "beach" area, waterfalls, two
spas, and a "Tiki Hut." Other perks: a private screening theater, pet
areas, and the conspicuous guardhouse, where security guards will let
the privileged through that magic ingredient -- the gates.
Its developers are calling it an upscale "village," implying traditional
values. Its detractors are calling it a yuppie suburban version of a gay
ghetto -- or, worse, a Mecca for sinners who'll need saving. And it's
all happening at a time when gays are sparking widespread anger by
attempting to "appropriate" the tradition of marriage, and President
Bush is seeking to institutionalize homophobia with an anti-gay-marriage
amendment to the Constitution.
Is this the new gay American dream: First you get illegally married,
then you move to Wilton Station?
The $100 million project's development team, all friendly, middle-aged
straight men, see it as anything but a political statement. "To me, it's
not a controversial issue," says Jim Ellis, chairman of Wilton Station
LLC. "I want to build a really good product and it needs to sell. If
people don't like it, they won't buy. Simple as that."
Well, not really. Wilton Station, which will welcome its first residents
in fall 2005, raises other questions: Will rabid conservatives protest
it as an attempt to "appropriate" the "traditional" suburb? And, if it
succeeds, will it trigger even more splinter-group enclaves?
At the moment, Wilton Station is nothing but a big empty hole: Twelve
acres, formerly the site of a beer distributor's warehouse, bordered by
an (occasionally cacophonous) railroad, and a 300-foot stretch of the
lushly overgrown canals that cordon off the town of Wilton Manors (pop.
13,000), and give it its nickname, "the Island City."
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