“‘Gayborhoods’ used to be small and intense near downtown. Now, agents have “‘straight’ neighborhoods seeking out gay homeowner
Lory Masters admits to being something of a queer snob. The vast majority of her business she estimates 90 percent – is for gay and lesbian clients, and she’s proud of that. But it took a while for the community to achieve the kind of independence and market power it now enjoys.
“We are not second-class citizens and we are not going to be treated like we are anymore,” she thunders. “It is getting better. We now have gay and lesbian loan officers and title company executives and mortgage brokers and other real estate companies owned by gay people or who just totally understand our issues.”
So when it comes to gayborhoods areas where GLBTs congregate in little enclaves few know more about them than Masters. She’s so identified with matching up gays with their ideal homes that there’s actually an area of town unofficially named for her: Loryland, bounded by Inwood Road, LBJ Freeway, Northwest Highway and I-35.
Not all gays gather exclusively in the Oak Lawn-Cedar Springs corridor, of course. Master Realtors has 12 agents who live in a variety of areas of the city. And Masters believes that there are few towns and neighborhoods where they can’t carve out an open lifestyle.
In addition to Oak Lawn and Lory Land, Oak Cliff is a now-popular district. Just 15 years ago, the words “Oak Cliff” sent shivers down the spines of some Park Cities and suburban denizens.
“Everybody was saying, “‘I’m not going south of the Trinity River,’ but the gays went down there and bought it up and now its some of the best in the city,” says Vint Vincent, an agent with David Griffin Realtors.
Kessler Park has long been a tony area, but gays often go to slightly depressed areas and make them work.
“A lot of the affluent will live in Kessler Park. The houses are well taken care of and on big lots lots of 1950s and ’60s style homes. But farther south is for the less affluent gay people,” Vincent says.
Wynnewood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood of 1970s-style homes, was once “a little scary to people. Now several same-sex couples started moving in and it’s a hot market.”
There are more. The M Streets the district south of Mockingbird Lane and above Vickery Place, with North Central Expressway and Greenville Avenue along the sides has become a bastion for many gay settlers. “It’s very mixed and accepting,” Masters says.
Lake Highlands, Carrollton and the Far North Dallas suburb of Addison are all showing signs of increasing popularity.
“There’s hardly a restaurant you want to go to downtown that you can’t go to in Addison,” Masters notes.
Other areas seem to want to become the Next Big Queertown.
“Straight people come up to me all the time and say, “‘Lory, do you have anyone that’s gay who would like to buy a house on our street? We’d love to have gay neighbors.’ Or they’ll call and say, “‘I’ve been told I have a gay house and you’re the one I need to sell it for me.'”
“A gay house?” What exactly does that mean, anyway? And why would someone seek out gay neighbors?
The increasing acceptance of gays in mainstream society probably has something to do with it, but economics plays a big factor: Gays tend to gentrify neighborhoods, raising property values along with them.
“They clean up the neighborhoods they buy the rundown houses or fix them up and make work,” Vincent says. “Urban pioneering isn’t strictly a gay thing, but they are willing to take a chance on a neighborhood. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a gay person, but the gay community seems more willing to take that chance.”
Perhaps the stereotype holds true.
“Gay men have great taste,” Masters says matter-of-factly. “Many lesbians do, too. They just seem to care more about their environment.”
She thinks it might have to do with the oppression gays have traditionally endured. Out in the world, they are subject to ridicule and hate crimes, but in their homes, gays find a retreat.
“Gay men have this incredible decorating and design gene that allows them to take a terrible, rundown property and make a mansion out of it,” she says.
What accounts for the migration to the suburbs? Several factors, Masters says. One is property taxes (and, in turn, the cost per square foot to purchase a house).
“A lot of people can’t afford to live in the Oak Lawn area anymore, especially the older folks on a fixed income,” she says. So they seek out well-priced areas, sometimes that are “not quite there,” to forge new ground.
Oak Cliff’s resurgence began when Oak Lawn first started getting pricey. Close to downtown and with many fine, older homes in need of a little TLC, Oak Cliff was an ideal Petrie dish in which to cultivate the germ of queer gentrification. Now it, too, has gone up.
Many jobs are held by gays are north of LBJ as well, Masters says. Her company does many relocations of management-level executives many from Florida, California and the District of Columbia, frequently those in the high tech field. (Gays, who often don’t have children, are asked to relocate more readily than their heterosexual colleagues, Masters says.) These clients tend to be more settled and less in need of the excitement and social scene of Cedar Springs. They want a quieter residential community, as long as it is accepting of gays. That’s becoming easier and easier to find.
Another reason is children. An increasing number of gay men and lesbians are parents, and like their straight counterparts, they are looking for the best schools, which often are away from downtown.
“It’s definitely a trend I’m seeing,” Mas-ters says. “A lot of private schools are not as [discriminatory] as the public schools I think because the gay parents are taking more of an interest in their children.”
When pressed, Masters says the only places in the immediate area where she doesn’t think GLBT buyers would find acceptance are Pleasant Grove and Grand Prairie “redneck country,” she calls it.
But honestly, gays are carving out niches even in unlikely rural locations.
“If you look at the census maps, you will see we are spread out everywhere,” Masters says.
And that’s a good thing.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 3, 2006.