February 4, 2014

The geography of gayness in American culture

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: 201220132014. 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.


  1. Orphic Mystery2/4/14, 5:59 PM

    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.

    The Pew data don't really show a divide between the Northern and Southern European countries, or at least not between Latins and Germanics.


    Religious nations are most objecting generally. Seems like that fits USA internal variance as well - traditional regional cultures are religious, experimental regional cultures are secular. Likewise Puritans (like the Scandinavians) are secular-rational, not really that religious.

    On the world scale the irreligious outliers (who are objecting despite not being very religious) being the joyless "eat bitterness" extreme farmer nations (Russian Slavs and the Chinese). Latin (Iberian) influenced nations seem less objecting than their level of religiosity would predict.

    The Japs and Koreans seem about the same as Latins and Germanics for young age ranges, but the older folk are different.

    Maybe you could argue there's some disaggregated sampling issue there, I guess, or something wrong with the question, but I can't hugely see it.

  2. The Pew data are an opinion survey, not a measure of how prevalent the gay culture is on the ground. The kind of homo paraphenalia you can buy in Japan is stomach-turning.

    That's why things like the Advocate's index are more illuminating. Who would guess from opinion surveys that Atlanta and Salt Lake City would have among the highest concentrations of gay culture in daily life?

    Spain's data point probably sampled from Barcelona / Catalonia, not the rest who are more socially conservative.

  3. "I may be reversing which places are, relatively speaking, more or less Puritanical in the South"
    Always possible. I'd like to get a ranking beforehand to avoid Texas-sharpshooting.

    I remember one of those "Majority Rights" bloggers banging on about some correlations on the "laboratory of the states" website (now defunct), where there was a surprisingly high correlation between the rate of AIDS and the Jewish percent of the population. Sailer has used AIDS prevalence as a proxy for homosexuality in different professions, and I'd be interested to see how that stacks up here. Of course AIDS isn't the outbreak it used to be,so we might want to look at historical AIDS prevalence.

    Personally, I think if New York, Los Angeles & Chicago don't make the list it says more about the Advocate's rankings than those cities.

  4. Around 10% of urban Jewish males are gay, way higher than other groups. Their women are as likely to be lesbians, around 3%:


    New York has a sizable gay presence in absolute terms, but not per capita. If you walk into a random drugstore there, it's not as though 20% of the male patrons will be gay. In Atlanta or Salt Lake City, however...

  5. Given that Houston has a dyke mayor, I'm surprised it didn't make the rankings, but on a per capita basis, it does make sense. Still, even within Houston, you have a distinctly gay area (Montrose & Westheimer), and I know LA, San Diego and other large cities have their concentrations as well.

  6. What about the Philadelphia area? Whats Jersey look like?

  7. Yeah, most big cities these days have at least one "gay-borhood," but you wouldn't run into the homos just walking around the city at random.

    Philly and Jersey didn't come up on any of the lists. Too much of a tough guy attitude frightening them away?

  8. I dunno, isn't Jersey and Philly supposed to be the heart of the East Coast farmers(and, as you've pointed out, farming societies are more likely to have homosexuality, even if they don't embrace it)? I'm thinking they just didn't do a survey there.

    Speaking anecdotally, there's at least one gay mecca in South Jersey - Collingswood, if you've ever heard about it.

  9. I read Josh Barro's (at least I think it was him, can't remember for sure) thoughts on the steroid story. It seemed absurdly high to him, and he suggested that the bogus gay teen survey response problem may be related. But my recollection is that the steroid survey had 4% of respondents tagged as gay/bisexual, which isn't too far off from normal figures.

    Checking things out, it appears Barro borrowed that hypothesis from Gabriel Rossman. Also Barro suggested noise in a small sample size could be responsible.

  10. Another great article here! No surprise that Seattle is in the top 2. I wouldve paired it with San Francisco. Very interesting that Salt Lake City made number 2. I had thought it was a hallmark conservative city where faggotry would not fly. This is actually a compelling methodology, despite some questions about it remaining. I was just in DC a week ago and read that theres a big gay scene there and the rulers are very cultural marxist. I saw at least two gay couples, maybe a few more. One had a daughter. It was quite odd and I wondered what they might do to that poor girl. I have walked around plenty of cities, notably New York, and cant recall ever seeing that many gays except in Montreal (and I had stayed in the gay district that time by accident). Even in Seattle...however I only spent an hour there while catching a flight.

    Gay culture establishments may actually be the best way to gauge homosexual presence. Because even closet gays will seek out a porn shop or a gay bar, knowing they can dress discreetly, while even answering an anonymous poll can put some on edge.

    I live in New Jersey actually, as someone asked. While this state is intoxicatingly "liberal", I dont think there actually is that much gay culture. However, I might note that many of the colleges have many pro-gay clubs and a climate. There is a residence hall at Rutgers that even has a floor for all sorts of deviants where you probably have no idea what the hell species you are passing as you walk to your room.


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