Mirror, mirror on the wall, which borough of Cincinnati is the queerest of them all?
I don’t need a magic mirror to answer that question when I can clearly see it is Northside. Where Ludlow ends and Hamilton Avenue begins lays the rainbow district of the southern city of the North. You can tell you are getting close when you see the rainbow flags that dot the houses along the way.
The Pride parade route starts in Clifton and ends right where all the gay bars are located in Northside. And even if a bar isn’t officially a queer bar, if it is in Northside it is filled with queers anyway. Travel a little further past Bullfishes, Bronz and The Serpent and you’ll find the Gay and Lesbian Center. A myriad of queers even inhabit the area.
Not only is Northside the queer Mecca of Cincinnati, it seems to just be more progressive or hipper than the rest of the city. Northside is home to Melt, Shake It Records and Alchemize. There are several trendy boutiques and vintage stores, an art gallery and a vegan restaurant; this place is practically a hipster’s paradise.
According to Jane Meek, women’s studies graduate student at the University of Cincinnati and Northside resident, these things tend to go hand-in-hand: “It (Northside) definitely has the most diversity of any neighborhood I’ve seen in this city – diversity in terms of people’s sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic class – although most people are lower middle class.”
The area has also been bolstered by the Cincinnati Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. According to their Web site, this organization “envisions a future of a diverse community of people living in a neighborhood that provides great housing choices, a variety of work environments and job opportunities, and the cultural and educational opportunities that allow one to live an interesting and nurtured life close to home.”
The Web site’s mission statement continues: “The community strives to be a holistic, sustainable community that provides a unique, tolerant environment for people of any income, race or cultural background. Northside’s vision is that of a true ‘urban village’ which can be a model of success for other neighborhoods.”
Maybe it is this vision that keeps the queers there, or maybe it was the queers who formed the vision.
CNCURC seeks to revitalize Northside by making homes in Northside “green homes” or energy efficient and by supporting local businesses, as well as decreasing the amount of homes that are abandoned or of ill repute.
Meek also highlights that most of the houses and buildings in Northside are old and close together, and “you can’t help but get to know your neighbors.” This bolsters the sense of community felt in Northside.
Northside also appears to be quite liberal. Meek estimates that 97 percent of the yard signs she has seen are for democratic candidates.
“There are tons of kids playing together in the streets. So, overall it just seems to be a very diverse place with open-hearted people,” explained Meek.
Emma Southard, a social work student at UC, sees things similarly. As a new resident to Cincinnati, she is not familiar with the origins of the queer scene here, but she does offer a valid outsiders perspective: “I suppose I always assumed it had to do with the Northside area attracting more liberal types of people.”
Southard contends that there are “always places that are just the gay places” for whatever reason, specifically known or not.
“Take San Francisco for instance: it is the gay city of America. I am from Cleveland, and in Cleveland it was always Lakeside. Everyone would make jokes about how they don’t know any gay people, but they know there are some in Lakeside,” explained Southard.