This spring, James McManaman, co-owner of the Absolute Abstract gallery on South 13th Street, proudly announced that more than 60 merchants from the 15-square-block area between Market and Spruce and 11th and Broad had "named" their neighborhood, whittling down an initial list of 100 nominations to four finalists; Midtown Village won. But the neighborhood already had a name — the Gayborhood — which, while not quite official, had sprung up organically years earlier from the large presence of gays living there. So, when news broke about the vote, it was perceived as a deliberate attempt to "gay down" the ‘hood.
"Ugh," declared Philly Weekly‘s blog, opining that the name evoked the image of "a gated suburban housing development." Posters bitch-slapped the idea on message boards. "It sounds like a 24-hour diner, or a collection of bad gift shops in Cleveland," groused one. "Long story short — you live in the gayborhood, sister. always and forever. *snap snap snap*," hissed another. Others predicted a heterosexual-driven apocalypse: "I hope there’s enough history and pride in that part of town to keep it from becoming the gentrified haven for white-bred [sic] homophobic yuppies people would love to see it become. That’s all we need is for all the f%&king yellowtape pieces of trash who speed down 13th Street every Saturday shouting f$g at anyone who doesn’t look as inbred as them, to actually move there." Just in case no one got the point, gays held a formal ceremony at 13th and Locust to stake their claim.
McManaman — who’s gay — seems taken aback by it all. "We are absolutely not trying to rename the Gayborhood," he protests, arguing that "Midtown Village" is simply a marketing tactic. PR guru Peter Breslow became one of the first to drink the Kool-Aid, issuing a recent press release touting the opening of the new Marathon Grill "in the heart of Midtown Village."
Mark Segal, editor of the Philadelphia Gay News and usually quite the rabble-rouser about stuff like this, surprisingly says he’s not particularly worried about a threat to the neighborhood’s gayness. "It seems like various groups of people are tring to claim various turfs in Philadelphia," he says. "I think there’s plenty of room for all of us to coexist — so long as we all play together nicely." Girlfriend, you’ve been warned.