Ed. note: John Corvino's column originally appeared last month in Between the Lines, a free, weekly gay newspaper.
happens so often it no longer surprises me. I was out of town, in
Chicago this time, and someone asked me where I was from. "Detroit," I
replied, waiting for the inevitable follow-up.
"Are you really from Detroit, or do you live in Oakland County?" he asked smugly.
Detroit. In the city. South of 8 Mile." At which point my questioner
looked at me with a strange fascination, as if I had told him that I
live in an enclave of talking sponges at the bottom of Lake Michigan.
least he wasn't obnoxious about it. Sometimes when I tell people that
I'm from Detroit, they respond, "Oooh, I'm sorry" — to which I've
developed an icy retort: "Don't be. At least people there aren't rude,
the way you just were." (Miss Manners wouldn't approve, but it makes me
I have lived in the City of Detroit since moving
to Michigan eight years ago. I like it here. If I won the lottery
tomorrow, I might move to a nicer house (there's a Mediterranean villa
in Palmer Woods I've got my eye on), but I wouldn't leave the city.
of the reason is aesthetic: I live in a neighborhood of beautifully
crafted homes, surrounded by massive trees (the oak in my backyard is
over 200 years old), in a unique 1930s Tudor. The neighborhood has a
feeling of permanence that's difficult to reproduce.
Part of the
reason is financial: If you were to move my house to, say, Birmingham,
it would cost at least three times what I paid for it. Even when you
factor in Detroit's higher tax rates and higher insurance costs, the
homes are an unmatched bargain.
But the main reason is personal:
I like the people here. My neighborhood is genuinely diverse — not just
racially, but also in terms of family structure, age, occupations, and
so on. I have a pastor living on one side of me and a playwright on the
other. As in many of Detroit's historic neighborhoods, there are an
increasing number of gays, who coexist peacefully with the
African-American professionals who have lived here for decades. We look
out for each other and for the neighborhood we love.
And so I beamed with pride when, in a recent issue of Metro Parent
magazine, one of our (straight) neighborhood board members
enthusiastically noted that among the diverse groups living here in
Sherwood Forest is a gay contingent. That issue included a pair of
articles — one, "The Lure of City Living," the other, "The Appeal of
Exurbia" — about raising children inside and outside of cities.
"City" article profiled some neighbors of mine — a social worker and a
landscape contractor — who are probably the most gay-friendly straight
people I know. The "Exurbia" article profiled a New Haven family who
had left Ferndale because, among other horrors, they were "uneasy about
the gay couples moving into the area."
Memo to Exurbia: You can keep 'em.
part of the reason we city-dwellers bond so well is unity in adversity.
Detroit's city services often leave much to be desired. But they
noticeably improve when people cooperate to make their voices heard,
and so we do — gay and straight, black and white, young and old.
the same time, city services in the established neighborhoods are a far
cry better than some suburbanites seem to believe. When some friends
recently bought a house on 7 Mile, they were told, "Aren't you worried
about safety? You're in the 'hood, you know." To which they responded,
"Congressman Conyers lives across the street. It's not exactly 'the
It's worth noting that the people who make such ignorant
comments often haven't set foot south of 8 Mile in years, and when they
do, it's only to go to a ball game.
Which is sad, because the
city has so many other things to offer as well: restaurants and art
galleries and museums and architectural wonders and really cool
neighborhoods with some of the most interesting and creative people
you'll find in the metro area.
People sometimes ask me, "Don't
you wish Detroit had a gay neighborhood, like Chicago's Boys Town?" I
don't, really. Personally, I prefer neighborhoods where gays rub elbows
with everyone else: pastors and playwrights, congressmen and
contractors. I'm proud to call the city my home.
Dr. John Corvino teaches philosophy at Wayne State University and writes bi-weekly for Between The Lines.
Dr. John Corvino
Sherwood Forest Neighborhood Sign
Greenacres Neighborhood Street
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger