Russia, Vodka, Gays, and Urbanism

It's no secret the the LGBT community has long been a part of revitalizing cities by pioneering into neighborhoods the "rest" of the population isn't comfortable with and bringing some style and culture along the way.

I've heard New Urbanist guru, Andres Duany, say that gentrification of neighborhoods basically follows the settlement pattern of immigrants and the poor, artists and gays, hipsters, yuppies, and then finally, once the market is ready... dentists from new jersey.  It may be because of an inherent risk aversion, desire for community, appreciation of old architecture, the benefit of diverse places, or any number of other factors, but the confluence of gay people and cities is undeniable.  Richard Florida has made the fairly compelling argument that tolerance (for LGBT and otherwise) is an indicator for a city and nation's overall prosperity, and I would submit that despite our need to prove this over and over again, I'm pretty sure these enlightened guys would feel the same way.

Quince Street
Here in Philadephia, there's even a neighborhood called the "gayborhood," complete with rainbow street signs and all.  And no matter what Zillow tells me, I refuse to call it "midtown village" (because that's generic and lame).  The cool thing about the gayborhood is that unlike many a gay enclave, it's actually squarely in the middle of the city, not on some edge frontier.  And as the trajectory goes, it's now become quite posh and pricey, and I can see why... what with the good retail streets and absolutely unique tiny residential streets.  

But what about the Russians and the vodka you ask?  Well, as it turns out (big surprise), the Russian government is not very keen on the gays, forbidding homosexual behavior, forbidding "homosexual propaganda," and evidently doing little to stop (or even encouraging) violence at attempted gay pride parades.  With the winter Olympics to be in Socchi next year, the international community is taking increased notice, with some folks pressing for a boycott.  I tend to agree with Outsports that LGBT athletes actually should compete, win medals, and stick it to President Putin like Jesse Owens to the Fuhrer.  

The longer this persists and things worse it gets in Russia, I can only suspect that people will leave.  They will go to more tolerant places, be it the United States, Germany, or what would be a great twist of history, the Baltic States (with any luck, other elected officials in Lithuania will continue to follow the lead of its first female president, Dalia Grybauskaite and her views on the matter).  And at the end of the day... that's awfully bad for Russia.  After all, would you rather be a magnet like Austin and Philadelphia, or a backwater (only worth staying in for the the economy of resource extraction) that everybody's trying to get out of?  I'd hate to see St. Petersburg or Moscow suffer such a fate.  The alternative is upheaval from within.

But the vodka... what about the vodka?  Ah yes... of course.  Russia has long been famous for the spirit and there's a movement underway to boycott not the Socchi Games, but Russian vodka itself.  Nothing like lots of individuals collectively hitting an intolerant regime right in their wallets, eh?  It makes that upheaval from within much more palatable to submit to, and it's something I could really get behind.  And while we're at it, let's go local with something like Philadelphia's own Penn1681 or New Haven's Velocipede Vodka.

So this weekend, head to your local watering hole, and take a shot for tolerance.

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