A poster at Pony, a popular gay bar in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood reads: “Attention: This is a gay bar. A very gay bar. If you aren't queer (or a respectful ally), get lost. This isn't a zoo and we're not your pets.” It was posted because the area, once an area populated by LGBT people, has become a popular hangout for many young straight men and women. Now it seems a trend of anti-gay hate crimes in Seattle may be due to the city’s tech boom as well.
In an article for Bloomberg Business Week, Peter Robinson takes a look at the latest gentrification trend in the city (second only to San Francisco's) as a cause for the neighborhood’s rise in homophobic assaults.
With a gay mayor, Seattle has become a notably liberal city. However, police records show that crimes targeted at the LGBT community in the first half of 2014 had already surpassed those reported in 2013.
Early New Year’s Day in 2014, an arsonist set fire to a local gay bar. In February, a man was arrested after spitting at and attacking two men in the neighborhood. Bret Fetzer, a playwright and filmmaker, suffered nerve damage in his tooth after a man smashed a beer bottle in his face, using a homophobic slur.
Fetzer, a Capitol Hill resident since 1987, believes the neighborhood’s hetero gentrification is to blame:
“We’re surrounded by ‘woo girls’ and dude bros. You see these young women wearing skimpy dresses and four-inch high heels tottering around on winter nights. And everybody is drunk out of their minds.”
Mayor Ed Murray has also lived in Capitol Hill since the 1980s, enduring numerous cases of gay bashing and bigotry. He doesn’t attribute recent cases to the city’s development, though. Instead, he agrees with a number of local residents who believe that the profusion of bars in the neighborhood may fuel belligerence and intimidation from patrons. More than 200 bars are located in the area, and most are catered to a predominantly straight clientele.
In March, Mayor Murray implemented a task force to investigate methods of improving safety. Social Outreach Seattle began offering self-defense classes and a nighttime shuttle service to safely ferry residents home. Meanwhile, police officers plan to have local businesses display rainbow stickers in their windows for a “Safe Place” program. There has also been talk of reviving the Q Patrol, a group modeled after the Guardian Angels, who patrolled Capitol Hill in the '90s.
Regardless of the cause, Capitol Hill’s homophobic incidents have not gone unnoticed, and must be curtailed.
Pictured above: A flyer in Pony, a gay bar in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle | Credit Matthew Streib for KUOW.org