Montrose's "gayborhood" status is officially over. Or it's just like it has been for the past five to ten years. It depends on who you ask.
Hair Balls recently spoke with various movers and shakers of the neighborhood's GLBT community about Montrose, which was (and maybe still is?) one of the top gay and lesbian centers in the country. (As was previously reported in the Press's cover story "The Mayor of Montrose," LGBT activist Ray Hill estimates that the 'hood's gay population stands at less than 8 percent.)
"It's getting tougher and tougher for us bohemians to be [in Montrose]," says Sally Huffer, a community projects specialist at the Montrose Counseling Center.
Huffer, like many in the community, points to the steady gentrification of Montrose's once-grungy environs that has priced out the older gay residents as well as folks on fixed incomes. Huffer, who recently moved out of Montrose to live with her partner, adds, "Tolerance of gays and lesbians has increased so couples now feel more comfortable living in places like The Woodlands and Katy."
"It's been going on for years," says real estate agent Suzanne Anderson about members of the GLBT community moving to the Heights, Garden Oaks and Westbury. "The same thing happened in Oak Lawn [in Dallas] and Chelsea [in New York City]. The gay people fixed up everything and before you knew it, here came the straight people."
Crime may be playing a factor as well. Alan Everett, a lifelong Houston resident, has seen an increase of riffraff in Montrose.
"I believe [crime] has gotten significantly worse in the last five years," says Everett, who lives on the edge of Midtown and Montrose. "There have been more people from the outside coming into the Montrose to sell and buy drugs." Huffer notes that the Montrose Counseling Center, which provides LGBT-centric behavioral health and prevention services, has noticed that crimes committed against transgender victims are increasingly more violent.
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Everett, along with Douglas Anderson, heads the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change, a group that was organized to support those affected by the very public death of Aaron Scheerhorn in December 2010. A spinoff group has since formed called Aaron's Angels, where community members can receive training on crime watch by a Houston Police Department officer.
Aaron's Angels plans on conducting a neighborhood walk-through on a to-be-determined Saturday night/Sunday morning from midnight to 4 a.m. According to Everett, the group is sort of like the Q-Patrol, which formed after the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard.
Despite the perceived changes to the neighborhood's flavor, Ellen Cohen -- who, from 2006 to 2010, held the District 134 (which includes Montrose) office for the Texas House of Representatives -- thinks that basically everything has remained steady.
Says Cohen, a Democrat who is currently running for a District C city council seat, "Montrose is still very much the same. The only difference is the aging of the population."