Gay Bashing Has More Gays Leaving South Beach…Heading North to Fort Lauderdale

SOUTH  BEACH is the neighborhood that encompasses  about 25 blocks in the city of Miami Beach. 

In the 1920’s-1930’s South Beach  brought Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Nautical Moderne architecture to the Beach. During the 1970’s-1980’s the area was used as a retirement community with most of its ocean-front hotels and apartment buildings filled with elderly people living on small, fixed incomes.

This period also saw the introduction of the “cocaine cowboys,” drug dealers who used the area as a base for their illicit drug activities. Scarface and even Miami Vice , typified this activity. The town became very run down and there were vacant and boarded up buildings everywhere.

So what happens? Gays cleaned it up. In the late 1980s, a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of  “fashion industry professionals” moving into the area. South Beach started to become  “fabulous” and gay clubs sprouted up everywhere.

It became this extremely popular entertainment mecca, thanks to the media. By the mid 1990’s, the rest of the straight world started to capitalize on this small area. More and more big straight clubs popped up and by the late 2000, many from  Miami proper would come over and drink and cause trouble. We call that the “bridge and tunnel crowd”.  When suburbanites come in and start taking over “our towns”. It’s no longer fun at that point.

Gianni Versace was murdered  in 1997.  I really view that as a turning point.  Within a couple years, South Beach was changing. And not in a good way. I was last there in 2004 for the famous Winter Party, which attracts  several thousand gay people. Even with that many gays in town, my partner and I DID NOT feel safe walking  the streets at night.  Straight kids in cars drove past and yelled  “faggots”  at  us   and one car even hurled a bottle at us. We walked in somewhere for a slice of pizza late night and straight teenagers  mumbled “gay this” and “fag that”  under their breath, but loud enough to hear. We were told by locals at that time, that many gays are starting to relocate to Fort Lauderdale.  I have not been back to South Beach since.

It has just gotten worse in the last 5 years as the area has become a late night drinking straight town. This month in the news, gay bashings are on the rise there. State of Florida records stated that 75% of the anti-homosexual hate crimes in Miami-Dade County in 2009 occurred in South Beach/Miami Beach. It’s still chic and expensive there. Major developers have invested billions there. But the gays are getting out.

“South Beach isn’t the free-spirited haven of gayness it once was.” says writer Natalie  O’Neill from  Miami New Times.

Tony Lopez was celebrating the White Party this past November. Another huge gay event which brings thousands into the town. It was 4am and he wandered into a popular place for some take-out food. As he approached the line for food, an aggressive 20-something staggered up to him.

“Got a cigarette?” he asked. Tony shook a Marlboro Mild from the pack and handed him one.

Right then, a gang — Tony remembers four men — “appeared out of the woodwork.” They shoved him into the alley behind the restaurant, yelled “Fucking faggot!” and began to punch him. He fell to the ground and tried to shield his head as they kicked him in the face.

(Fort Lauderdale)

O’Neill reports, “In a five-year span, the State Attorney’s Office reported 26 incidents, half of which were in Miami Beach. Victims include a lounge singer who was stripped naked and hogtied and a magazine publisher who was viciously beaten.

It’s surprising when you consider South Beach’s heyday as a sparkling gay playground, where oiled-up boys frolicked between wild foam parties and the hub of hedonism that was the Versace mansion. Nobody thought twice about casual sex in Flamingo Park or flamboyant public fashion shoots, and — at its peak — MTV was even there to glamorize it all.” – which really became the downfall of South Beach. It was a  “kept secret” for a while but once it became celebritized by the rich and famous and sensationalized by television and film, it was no longer a  secret!

I am not saying don’t go to South Beach. There are still fun clubs and fun parties there.
But YOU MUST BE CAREFUL. Walk in groups and not alone. Especially at night, when most of the trouble starts

Gay Fort Lauderdale has been a haven for gay and lesbian travelers for decades. But in the last 5 years, it has seen tremendous growth as South Beach shifted.  In addition to being a  very gay friendly city ,  Fort Lauderdale has more than 100 gay-owned establishments including hotels/guesthouses, bars, clubs and restaurants, plus the second largest Metropolitan Community Church congregation in the United States and three gay and lesbian publications. Gay Ft. Lauderdale has three popular gay beach areas on Fort Lauderdale’s 23 miles of wide, sandy beach.

Fort Lauderdale continues to reign supreme as one of the most popular gay destinations in North America.

Read more from Natalie O’Neill.

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