It used to be that Key West, Victoria Park and South Beach were the centers of gay life in South Florida. Over the last decade, this tiny town of about 12,000 people, just outside of Fort Lauderdale – has taken over. Wilton Manors has more same-sex couples per capita than anyplace but Provincetown, Massachusetts. The latest census numbers got screwed up, but by some estimates, 40% of the population is gay.
John Fiore, a former mayor of Wilton Manors, says if you tried to sell your house there two decades ago, “you’d advertise it saying northeast Fort Lauderdale because if you mentioned Wilton Manors, no one knew where it was.” Not that knowing where it was would help anyway. The city had garnered a reputation as “rundown” – to put it nicely. How things have changed. The story of that transformation is the story of how this little village surrounded by metropolitan South Florida became a gay mecca. Under the Sun’s Kenny Malone tells us how Wilton Manors came out.