07/28/2014 02:43 EDT | Updated 09/27/2014 05:59 EDT

Gay neighbourhoods 'straightening' out, says UBC researcher

An influx of straight residents to traditionally gay neighbourhoods is diluting the distinct cultural identity — and potentially the voting power — of these former "gaybourhoods," according to a sociologist at the University of British Columbia.

Amin Ghaziani looked at traditionally gay enclaves in the U.S., including the Castro district in San Francisco and New York's Chelsea, and found that eight per cent fewer gay male couples and 13 per cent fewer lesbians reside in the neighbourhoods compared with a decade ago.

The reasons for the shift are varied, Ghaziani found, including the increased desirability of these city districts by heterosexuals and changing attitudes within the same-sex community.

Pros and cons of social mobility

The research also uncovered the establishment of new same-sex clusters within the catchment areas of highly sought after schools and the emergence of neighbourhoods for LGBT people of colour.

Ghaziani notes that much of the new social mobility of same-sex couples is a response to positive changes in attitude toward the LGBT community, but cautions that the same mobility could risk lessening the community's political and cultural sway.

"Gay neighbourhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion," says Ghaziani in a press release.

"The growing acceptance of same-sex couples underlying these findings is extremely positive, but it is important that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces."