Home Boys

A Gay Community Grows in Harlem

For many of the new residents, including the white folks, Harlem's lack of resemblance to a gay ghetto is its greatest virtue. "I fled Miami Beach," says Grübb. "I dread all that." He's worried that the gay influx will threaten the neighborhood's integrity. "I don't want Harlem to be another Chelsea," Grübb sneers. "So homo-genous."

He's not the only Harlemite who has mixed feelings about the new gay influx. One longtime gay resident, whose family has lived and owned businesses in Harlem since 1923, and who now lives in the schoolhouse, finds reason for hope in his new neighbors: "It's been a positive thing because they've brought in the economic diversity the neighborhood needs, and the development that goes along with it. It has made people wonder, though, not necessarily about the guys being gay, but about the guys being white. Because when it comes to new housing, these gay men are benefiting from what has been fought for by the African American community. So as they discover Harlem, will it displace the community?"

Jeff Grübb (left) and Quohnos Mitchell, two residents of "the gay building"
photo: Michael Kamber
Jeff Grübb (left) and Quohnos Mitchell, two residents of "the gay building"

Much depends on the future of Manhattan real estate in general. But one thing is clear: As more gay faces are visible on the streets of Harlem, the fronting is beginning to fade. "I have a feminine sway and strut, so I wondered if I was gonna get my ass beat," says 26-year-old Thomas Moore, who moved to 128th and St. Nicholas a year ago. "But it's funny, now that I've been here longer, and seen that the neighborhood is pretty fucking gay, I'm the same as I am downtown. I caught myself on the corner with my hand on my hip and I thought about it for a second and I just felt like, fuck that, I live in Harlem, too."

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