1The subject of this book is gaytrification, a term Colin Giraud uses for cases of gentrification where a significant role is played by the presence of a male homosexual population in the given neighbourhood. The book combines urban sociology study of gentrification with sociological study of homosexuality; it also examines the effects of urban spaces on gay behaviour, thereby contributing to sociology of socialization processes. It is the first study of this hitherto neglected subject as it pertains to France, and the methodology is original.
2The author’s first concern was to get two disciplines to work productively together, the understanding being that to study the arrival of gays in particular neighbourhoods will improve our understanding of gentrification while studying gentrification will teach us more about gay trajectories and lifestyles and gay attitudes toward space and place. The second was to adapt his analytic methods to the wide variety of data he collected: quantitative data from business directories and commercial indexes, population counts, the list of subscribers to the gay magazine Tétu; also a corpus of 1,300 documents from the specialized and general press, approximately 60 interviews with current or former gay inhabitants of the neighbourhoods under study, and ethnographic observation. Lastly, by choosing to compare two neighbourhoods – the Marais in Paris and the Village in Montreal – he was able to identify both shared gaytrification characteristics and city specificities.
3In the first section, Giraud studies the role of male homosexuals as a group in the gentrification process. He examines the role of three aspects of urban life in the “genesis of gay neighbourhoods”: business, and the symbolic and residential aspects. Drawing on business directories and indexes available in the gay press, he retraces how the neighbourhoods – and gay business in them – developed from the 1970s to the present, also clarifying how gay businesses fuelled local gentrification dynamics: in the Marais, they developed as part of a process that had already been underway for several decades while in the Village they were pioneers and remain crucial actors. To this he adds a study of how the image and atmosphere of the neighbourhoods were shaped and conveyed by the gay press. These neighbourhoods were represented in the media, including the general press, as “alternative,” innovative places of intense sociability – popular and authentic neighbourhoods whose development as such is explicitly attributed to the gay presence there. The residential dimension corroborates and confirms this impact. Signs of gay integration into the two neighbourhoods include changes in neighbourhood residential sociology, respondents’ regular references to a “gay neighbour”, the number of gay neighbourhood businesses and services, and the local real estate market. But what the author found most useful for establishing gay residential geography in Paris was Tétu magazine subscriber lists over the 1997-2007 period. While taking all the necessary methodological precautions, Giraud shows how certain neighbourhoods proved either attractive or off-putting for gays and confirms the connection between gay residential presence and gentrification, nonetheless qualifying it by taking into account residents’ age, generation and social position. In the final analysis, gay residential choices do appear specific and do seem to have played a role in the gentrification process.
4In the second section, he changes analytic scales so as to better apprehend the meaning of the residential choices that fuel gentrification, working on a micro-sociological scale and undertaking a sociology of “gaytrifiers.” Drawing on interviews with current or former gay inhabitants of the Marais (n = 34) and the Village (n = 18), he reconstructs their overall trajectories to get an idea of how they came to settle in these neighbourhoods. He first notes how mobile gays are, how many residential moves they make. To begin with there is the intergenerational move away from the milieu of origin; this is followed by residential, job-related or couple-related moves that involve several changes and interrelations, bifurcations in which the respondent’s love-life plays a considerable role. While the author’s presentation of gay social trajectories makes their specificity quite clear, especially their strong propensity for mobility and independence, his analysis of the role of the neighbourhood in these trajectories reveals the considerable diversity of those trajectories. Generational, historical and social factors impact on gays’ residential preferences and experiences, and the effects in terms of gentrification and relation to the neighbourhood are variable, as indicated by the study of gay residential practices, where the author details housing, neighbourhood, and socialization practices. He describes how being gay fosters certain lifestyles and habits – “outsider culture” or sexual encounters within the neighbourhood – that may be similar to those of gentrifiers while remaining distinct from them. But what is crucial in the construction of gays’ relationships to residential spaces, and what works most directly to transform the neighbourhood, is the fact that gay households are small and gay occupational status and education level often comparatively high. Moreover, gays’ residential uses do not follow exclusively from their sexual attitudes but also from class position and individual trajectory.
5After examining the impact of gays on their neighbourhoods, Giraud switches perspectives and examines how the neighbourhoods affect gays. Here he engages in sociology of socialization for a context where space is fundamental. Drawing on life histories, he reconstitutes “gay careers,” showing not only the importance of the spatial dimension in the various sequences but also the crucial role that gay neighbourhoods play: it is in those places and because they spend time in them that Giraud’s respondents have integrated certain norms – concerning the body, attitudes toward time, socializing practices. This explains why those places become loci of gay identity, even acquiring the status of founding sites, the place where it all began. But while the neighbourhood in this understanding is a socializing force, gays’ experiences in it are not all the same because the neighbourhood too evolves with time, and habits and values differ by type of gay place; also because experiences vary by the individual’s life stage and the historical period he is living in, and because competing (earlier or simultaneous) socialization processes are operative. On the basis of these findings, the author qualifies the widespread image of a homogeneous gay community whose members all have the same relationship to the neighbourhood.
6Colin Giraud’s book is highly informative and stimulating. The research topic has never been explored in France and the methodology is new, producing new knowledge about gentrification processes and gay lifestyles and trajectories while paving the way for analysis of socialization by particular living place. It confirms that gays have played a specific role in the metamorphosis of the neighbourhoods studied but modulates that role somewhat: “gaytrifiers” end up looking in some respects like other “gentrifiers”. The other contribution of this work is that it highlights how similar gay trajectories and lifestyles are to each other while showing their diversity, i.e., a wide variety of socioeconomic and cultural profiles. But the author also explains trajectory diversity as an effect of the multiple dimensions of time: generation, age and historical context. Certain research avenues remain open: Colin Giraud clearly indicates that not just the neighbourhood but many other places that gays spend time in play a role in their socialization.