How do you determine a gay-friendly city?
March 23, 2005 11:31 AM   Subscribe

How do you determine how gay-friendly a city is?

Tomorrow I'll be traveling to Springfield, Mo., in order to determine whether I want to go to Missouri State or not next year. However, my first trip to the city gave me mixed vibes as to how tolerant they are as a whole. How can you figure out how gay-friendly a city is? Google's coming up with nothing useful.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There must be some sort of association oin the city. Or at least one club. Speak to people there.
posted by furtive at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2005

There is a zip code’s gay rating that has been posted on the site numerous time. Try finding it.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2005

Have you checked out the Bisexual Gay & Lesbian Alliance at the SMSU website? I assume that the Missouri State to which you refer in Springfield is this campus? I'm sure folks there can help address your questions.
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on March 23, 2005

please post the site with the zip code gay rating thing if you find it--it sounds very interesting.
posted by lotsofno at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2005

Also - you might want to check with the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, PO Box 225, Springfield, MO 65801 (417) 869-3978.
posted by ericb at 11:50 AM on March 23, 2005

before i moved to new orleans, i remember googling around for cost of living and such. i came across some site that gave lots of demographic data, including something called the gay index. i was in ft meyers, fl at the time, and i remember it was listed as a great place for the gay and over 50 crowd (i am neither gay nor over 50). then my friend in atlanta and i started comparing the atlanta gay index (very high) to other cities. i think san francisco was the only place higher. i can't find the site now, but when i get home i'll look through my aim logs and get you a link. for now, here's an interesting something on the gay index.
posted by Igor XA at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2005

are you guys looking for the gayest zip codes? Check out more on [link goes to USA subsite but they have UK/Canada/other info too]
posted by jessamyn at 12:00 PM on March 23, 2005

There are also gay-centric travel books. I think Lonely Planet and Let's Go publish specifically gay-sensitive guides that ought to give you some sense. Of course, if the city you want to know about is Miluakee, it's not likely to be in there.

Then again, a city that's not likely to be in any travel guides is not likely to be very gay-friendly. That's just my intuition, but I trust it.
posted by scarabic at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2005

Here you go.
Put you zip, then on the left side select gay & lesbian.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2005

Start with the city's most popular gay nightspot, then look for flyers and publications inside. This will give you an impression of the breadth of the gay culture in the city you're in.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2005

did see Igor XA's comment
posted by thomcatspike at 12:07 PM on March 23, 2005

are you guys looking for the gayest zip codes?

Provincetown, West Hollywood, downtown DC: three of my favorite locations in the USA are in the five gayest zip codes. and I'm straight.
at least I thought I was until I read jessamyn's link.
posted by matteo at 12:13 PM on March 23, 2005

posted by thomcatspike at 12:16 PM on March 23, 2005

Keep in mind that it will also vary widely within a city.

I know that San Francisco is considered the shining beacon of gay tolerance (and in many ways it is) but even here, there are neighborhoods where, say, two men walking hand in hand may get very unfriendly looks.
posted by vacapinta at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2005

Yay! I live in the 5th gayest zip code in Washington State, by total number.
posted by matildaben at 12:33 PM on March 23, 2005

As a native Missourian who has been to Springfield, Mo., many times, has family who lives there, knows other people from there, has visited the University there, and who knows people who attended that university, I'd say tread lightly.

You're well into the Bible Belt and it is pervasive. You will not be able to walk down the street touching a same-sex partner in a loving way. You will not be able to wear your gay pride gear without risking harrassment. There may be gay bars but there is no gay neighborhood. There may be a gay and lesbian organization on campus, but I suspect it will be marginalized. There is not a culture of "leave well-enough alone": if your homosexuality is known, you will need armored skin, very good friends, and a lot of caution.

If you're already out and you decide to go to university in Springfield, I predict you'll go back in very quickly.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:40 PM on March 23, 2005

Who would have thought Texas would ranks 3rd for same sex couples. See the population ranks 2nd.
Does this change the state from a red to a rainbow color?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:40 PM on March 23, 2005

If you want to stay in the Bible belt area look at Dallas TX for a college. It has a large out an open community, Oak Lawn. Only places you may no be able to do Mo Nickles’ “do nots” is maybe at an unfriendly local only tavern.

George Michaels has a home in Plano, TX near where Deon Sanders' and Shaq O’Neil’s' have homes. Not sure if Troy Aikeman still has his in the area though.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2005

Travel guides and population indexes aren't necessarily the best source of info for this. Travel guides are really meant for tourists, not residents. Detailed information of the culture of mid-size cities gets pretty lost in the shuffle. And unless there's a notable nightclub scene, the guidebook for the area has nothing really to mention. For instance, St. Paul, MN is very gay-friendly, but it'll never make the gayest anything list. Likewise, if the city isn't huge, it'll never have the numbers to look very gay.

Definitely ask student and community GLBT organizations to find out how gay-friendly Springfield really is. Google to find if they have a gay newspaper. Evaluate any local alternative weeklies for gay-friendliness.

And don't despair if what you learn is that the area gets somewhat mixed reviews for tolerance. If there's no discernable gay community (no gay orgs, bars, anything) there's a problem. If there's a thriving community that not everyone is sure about, that's okay. As was pointed out above, not everyone in San Francisco is keen on the city's reputation as gay heaven. (On preview -- my experience w/Bible Belt queerness is via southeast VA. I don't actually know MO.)
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on March 23, 2005

I've basically been between Springfield and Lawrence, Kan. (KU) — this should help in the decision.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 1:16 PM on March 23, 2005

As a native of Missouri somewhat familiar with Springfield, i agree with MO Nickels...

On Preview: between Lawrence, KS and Springfield, MO? I would choose KU in a heartbeat. There is a large radical (gay and otherwise) contingency there.
posted by schyler523 at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2005

I would encourage you to choose a school in a state that has not codified homophobia into its constitution. Missouri doesn't qualify. Also, you should make sure that the school in question (and the city, if possible) has an anti-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation.
posted by anapestic at 3:03 PM on March 23, 2005

I currently live in Springfield and work for SMSU (soon to be Missouri State), and I have to agree that Lawrence will be a much more gay-friendly town. That said, there is a not-insubstantial BiGALA organization on campus, and I encourage you to get in touch with them (their website (oof)).

Mo is right that there is no gay neighborhood (the town is too small and too non-urban for that), and that Springfield is far more conservative than most college towns, despite SMS's size. You should also note (per anapestic's advice) that for years there has been much controversy over the addition of sexual orientation to the campus non-discrimination policy which is de rigeur for most large universities. The president and board have strongly opposed such a change against endorsement by the student, staff, and faculty senates. But in a way, I think the controversy has strengthened the gay community on campus and the support from the rest of the campus community demonstrates that SMS's campus is probably the most gay-friendly place in the city.
posted by daveadams at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2005

One suggestion in looking for a gay community: take a look at the churches. These are obviously important in a gay community, but take a look at affiliations, what their websites say. Most churches that accept homosexual members will mention that on their website or with just a quick note to the admin/pastor/any member. If you have one or two churches with acceptance policies, you're probably in luck.

This is what I've found moving from a very gay-unfriendly community to an extremely gay-friendly one. Most of the churches take care to note that they accept any sexual orientation.

Just be gentle about inquiries, of course. Best of luck to you.
posted by honeydew at 3:23 PM on March 23, 2005

If there's no discernable gay community (no gay orgs, bars, anything) there's a problem.

Not necessarily a reliable indicator. Sonoma County, CA is a progressive, gay-friendly area that has virtually no dedicated glb groups (except the one for gay youth), only a handful of gay bars scattered around the county, and no gay neighborhood in any of its cities*.

*Though 40 minutes down river is the west coast's faggiest little resort village, Guerneville 95446...

Yet this is an area teeming with gay and (especially) lesbian families. On any day, in any large store, there's at least one lesbian or gay couple holding hands and no one gives a hoot. On the downtown streets, there's bound to be some couple trading smoochies. Whatever. We're here, we're queer, and... *yawn* they're used to it. A young queer looking for action would probably get bored fast here, but the queer-positivity is very much a part of the general community vibe.

Also, in some areas a strong glb group emerges as insulation against a particularly hostile surrounding community. Do look for signs of a gay presence in the community, but it takes more digging to find out whether that presence is: (a) integrated, (b) welcomed, (c) tolerated, (d) ghettoized, or (e) fighting for survival.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:25 PM on March 23, 2005

This is cool. I'm not gay, but I don't want to live somewhere that isn't gay. To me, that indicates closed mindedness. I'm really happy I'll soon be moving to Boston... nice and gay! :P
posted by abbyladybug at 3:33 PM on March 23, 2005

About 90 miles up I-44 in Rolla, MO, where I spent my freshman year of college, conservative students actually protested and succeeded in canceling a university sponsored BiGaLa picnic back in 1993.

That should've been warning to me to get the hell outta Rolla. It took me a miserable year before I left.

The mere proximity of Springfield to Rolla might scare me off.
posted by u2604ab at 3:52 PM on March 23, 2005

This is cool. I'm not gay, but I don't want to live somewhere that isn't gay. To me, that indicates closed mindedness. I'm really happy I'll soon be moving to Boston... nice and gay!

The "gay index" - as referenced in Igor XA's post above - weighs heavily in Richard Florida's research at Carnegie Mellon. His basic premise: regions which contain diverse populations and exhibit tolerance are those which attract a "class of talented people." This class fuels innovation which ignites economic growth.

Florida's book: The Rise of the Creative Class: And How Its Transforming Work, Leisure Community and Everyday and website are worth checking out.

BTW - welcome to Boston!
posted by ericb at 5:14 PM on March 23, 2005

*...and Everyday Life*
posted by ericb at 5:15 PM on March 23, 2005

aargh ... *...It's Transforming*
posted by ericb at 5:16 PM on March 23, 2005! thanks, thomcatspike. that was exactly it.
posted by Igor XA at 9:22 PM on March 23, 2005

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