Homosexual propaganda organ The Advocate has been compiling statistics on "the gayest cities in America" for three years now. Each year's method uses slightly different measures, but they all get directly at the prevalence of gay culture in the city, without having to rely on, say, self-reported rates of homosexuality, which may not be equally accurate across all cities.
If there's a supposedly low rate of self-declared homosexuals, yet it boasts a high concentration of gay bookstores, elects gay officials, sends many participants to gay-themed competitions, shows a high demand for concert tickets for a group with a mostly-gay audience, and so on -- then that city is simply in the closet.
And presumably the folks at The Advocate have a better idea than a lay researcher would about which measures to include to smoke out the true level of homosexual culture in a city. All of its stats are standardized by population size -- this says how concentrated the gayness is in that city's social and cultural atmosphere.
Here are the slideshows for each of the three annual rankings, in case you want more detailed descriptions of a city's gay culture: 2012, 2013, 2014. They're worth at least skimming through to get a feel for how out-in-the-open some cities are, even if they're not out-of-the-closet. Atlanta and Salt Lake City, for example, are gay meccas within otherwise conservative regions that might throw off outsiders (the Deep South and the Mountain states).
Since the methods change slightly from year to year, I decided to make a composite index of cities across all three years. A city may have appeared one year as a fluke, while another may appear consistently. The cities are given rankings from 1 to 25 (1 being the gayest), so I first reverse-coded the cities' rankings, turning 1's into 25's and vice versa, all the way down. Then I took the average of a city's rankings across the years, where "gayest" is now shown by higher values.
Of the 44 cities that have ever appeared in the rankings, 10 have appeared in all three years, 11 have appeared twice, and 23 have appeared only once.
The chart below shows this composite index for all cities that have ever appeared in the Advocate's rankings, with gayest cities on top:
Lots of interesting things to go over in that chart. In no particular order...
The farther west and south you go, the gayer the cities. I lumped cities into four broad regions -- Northeast with 7, Midwest with 10, South with 10 (3 of which are in Florida), and West with 17. It has nothing to do with suntanning queers wanting warm weather, which would create a simple north-to-south cline, making the Deep South more popular than the Great Lakes region, and Arizona more popular than Washington state.
Rather, it reflects how traditional vs. experimental the regional culture is. The oldest and earliest settled Northeast has kept only those who were not footloose enough to set off for greener pastures. If you headed off all the way to California, you were not exactly the type to be held down by local roots. In some ways this greater cultural innovation further out West has been a blessing, but in other ways it has served to weaken communal resolve against deviance -- homosexuality, divorce, and suicide are all way more common Out West, including the Mountain states (not just decadent SoCal).
That still leaves room for variation within regions. Most of the homo activity in the Northeast is confined to the Bos-Wash Corridor, with Rochester being the sole outlier (and it only appeared once). Folks in this sub-region are more the inheritors of Puritanical Yankees, while the more rural parts (especially out toward Maine) are more the descendants of impulsive Celts. The flourishing of faggotry in Puritanical areas will be a recurring theme here, though only at a sub-regional level -- the large regional differences are again driven by the frontier vs. rooted difference.
Notice the total absence of a place in the New York City metro area. The hedonistic descendant of the anything-goes Dutch colony has driven its queers out toward Boston, DC, Atlanta, Madison, Seattle, or San Francisco.
The Midwest shows a similar pattern, where the Saxon and Scandinavian weenies around the Great Lakes are more tolerant than the Scotch-Irish hicks toward the southern and western parts of the region (St. Louis being the exception). Again, austerity and sobriety have bred homosexuality, while the dens of cigarette smoking and lottery ticket buying have killed it off.
The South is the only region where homosexuality is more common in the sub-regions that allow greater indulgence in daily life -- Austin, central-to-southern Florida, Appalachia, and New Orleans. The only outlier in this respect in Little Rock. Somehow, Dixie is the only sub-region where folks keep homo activity to a minimum and live more restrained personal lives. Alternatively, I may be reversing which places are, relatively speaking, more or less Puritanical in the South, i.e. if southern Florida and Appalachia were more Puritanical than Dixie.
Out West, we're back to the clear case of Puritans breeding the queers. The gayest city in the country is Seattle, famous for the grunge movement of the '90s that stripped away style and exuberance from youth culture. Neck-and-neck with Seattle is Salt Lake City, the cultural capital of the strict-living Mormons, who are descendants of Yankee Puritans and sober Saxon-Scandinavian converts. Most of the other homo hotbeds are in the drab and dreary Northwest -- Tacoma, Eugene, Spokane, Portland -- and the mild Bay Area.
(To outsiders, it may sound odd to list San Francisco among sober cities, but its residents are more status-strivers with no lust for life, where cerebral status contests matter more than sensory indulgence.)
In fact, Sin City hardly ranks at all -- only one year, and at 21 out of 25 (in the original ranking). The inheritors of the Wild West in Arizona have likewise remained hostile to the faggot frontier. Only a yuppie suburb of Phoenix shows up, for just one year, and at 16 out of 25. There are several spots in SoCal, but none of them actually strikes Los Angeles proper. It's similar to the no-show of New York, although since we're out farther west, there is a cluster just outside.
Zooming back out, it's striking how few of the nation's cultural capitals and fun-loving destinations are heavily infected. New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, Nashville, and Dallas are no-shows. Boston and Las Vegas just barely chart. Note that the size of the city and cost of living do not make the difference, as San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Portland, DC, Atlanta, Denver, etc. have no trouble attracting crowds of queers.
Academic or intellectual capitals are more encouraging because the residents are nerds with no sex drive, hence there is no potent heterosexuality to freak out and drive away the Peter Pans who still find girls yucky. In combination with the result about Puritanism, this suggests that a population where the majority is asexual will be the most tolerant toward homosexuals. That whole domain of life just doesn't register on their radar, so how could they get disgusted by flagrant deviance and try to shame it back into the closet?
I think you see this pattern operating at the global level as well. Joyless races like the East Asians and the Scandinavians are way more tolerant than the ebullient Mediterraneans and Middle Easterners.
France is an especially fascinating case here -- they're the one country that contributed much to the Enlightenment, yet has an active mainstream (not fringe) movement against gay marriage. But then France is not made up only of egghead Parisians in the northern Plain -- there are all those honor-oriented highlanders in the eastern and southern parts, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline. The inheritors of the Troubadours do not want to see their glorious boy-meets-girl tradition corrupted by faggot infection.