Monday, April 23, 2007

My Personal Gay Brain Drain

There is nothing to set you right like a weekend with your best girlfriends. Of course if you live in Michigan this typically means they need to come back to visit, because we cannot hang onto a homo here.

In this case, six friends who moved away from SE Michigan in the last three or four years all came back for a Reunion Ghettoway Weekend. Naturally they all moved to fabulous locales: Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Palm Springs. That's just the way it is. But miracle of miracles, the, um, two? of that core group left here in SEM managed to lure them back.

Now don't get me wrong. I am on the record declaring gay life here lacking, but there was no hesitation on everyone's part to come back. If there is one thing that we have going for us here is that you can meet some brilliant people who have no real agenda other than looking for other cool friends. It's a nice contrast to the "who do you know how do you know them" that you can get to varying degrees elsewhere (well, here too a little bit - I'm talking to you, Pronto).

But looking at my friends - a group of winsome, intelligent, funny and fun gay professionals / functional alcoholics in their 30's and early 40's - and thinking about how they all felt the need to move on out of here for self-actualization, made me a tiny bit sad. "Brain drain" is a well-documented phenomenon in SE Michigan, but I think no community is affected by that more acutely than the gay community. It's pretty much a fact of life that when you are done with professional school or have reached a certain point in your career, you head on out of Michigan for the greener gay pastures of cities such as SF, NYC, Chicago. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, LA, DC, Boston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Palm Springs, Portland, San Diego, Austin or even Columbus (yes, shockingly, even Columbus has their gay act together).

Last January Between the Lines published an article about "Gay Brain Drain" that was laughable in its scope. Sure, interesting topic, right? Well apparently the fact that gays in professional fields would leave is so taken for granted that the "brain drain" they discussed involved "waiters, designers and people who work in retail." The gay working class.

Man, when they are leaving your town, you know you've got problems. The big reason cited in the article for not moving? "Money. Honey, if I hit the lottery ... "


The one thing that article did get right was the universal sense that Ferndale does not qualify as a gay neighborhood; it's just a city with a lot of gay residents. "A district needs more of a draw than two gay bars, a bookstore, a community center and a half-gay restaurant." Thank you.

So what does this have to do with anything? I don't know, I forgot where I was going with this about ten minutes ago. But the fact of the matter is that I had a blast with my gay friends this weekend, and I wish there were enough cool, funny, culturally literate, non-self-loathing, well-dressed, professional, cosmopolitan gays with high expectations in this area that I didn't have to travel or wait for a visit to get a little fabulous in my life.

Oh, and believe it or not, this is me in my post-weekend LESS bitter mode!

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