Gay enclaves in U.S. face prospect of being passé

This Halloween, the Glindas, gladiators and harem boys of the Castro ”” along with untold numbers who plan to dress up as Senator Larry Craig, this year’s camp celebrity ”” will be celebrating behind closed doors. The city’s most popular Halloween party, in America’s largest gay neighborhood, is canceled.

The once-exuberant street party, a symbol of sexual liberation since 1979 has in recent years become a Nightmare on Castro Street, drawing as many as 200,000 people, many of them costumeless outsiders, and there has been talk of moving it outside the district because of increasing violence. Last year, nine people were wounded when a gunman opened fire at the celebration.

For many in the Castro District, the cancellation is a blow that strikes at the heart of neighborhood identity, and it has brought soul-searching that goes beyond concerns about crime.

These are wrenching times for San Francisco’s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Florida, to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification.

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