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The Advocate’s foolish and sad “Gayest City” ranking

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2010

I appreciate the Advocate for many reasons, not least of which is that they are a gay magazine that is still in business. But their recent effort to light-heartedly identify the “gayest cities” in the United States betrayed our community’s occasional inclination to still buy into the most negative stereotypes as though they define us.

“Intrepid amateur sociologist Mike Albo” wanted to make the point that gay folk have fled from big cities and now are now scattered to unlikely places (an unlikely assumption).

About 10 years ago everyone else moved back into these nicely gentrified metropolises, and the lavender diaspora began. Now a slew of secondary cities are becoming gay epicenters.

So to identify these secondary epicenters and find which is gayest, he came up with seven measurements, some of which are reasonable, some of which are perplexing, and some of which make me sad at heart.

First the reasonable: same-sex households per capita and gay elected officials. These both seem like good things to consider. A city is likely “gayer” if it has more gay couples and if it’s residents are more open to gay elected officials. gay bars per capita – while I might think that this is not the best criterion, gay bars are to some extent a measurement of gay social life, although I would compare them to the total number of bars, not the total number of people.

Now the perplexing: statewide marriage equality – I can see how this might make sense in a small homogenous state, but I find it odd that by this measure Fresno is gayer than Atlanta. gay films in Netflix favorites – I guess one might measure anti-gay hostility by who was willing to watch Milk, but this is in many ways based in a ghetto mindset. Those who feel “outside” or “other” may be more inclined to need the connection brought by gay specific cinema, while those who are in welcoming communities might be less inclined to watch films based solely on their gay content.

And now the self-loathing categories. First let me say that I’m not accusing Mr. Albo of being self-loathing; he may be the most happy and secure guy out there. And I do recognize that this was not intended to be anything other than a fun exercise. But caveats aside, the following two measurements are based on stereotypes that are tragic and reminiscent of the tales of woe from ex-gays and self-hating drama queens of the 70s. gay dating and hookup profiles for single male population – that is not a measure of gayness, that’s a measure of the extent to which that community discounts relationships or has limited alternatives to meeting someone. And the saddest is cruising spots per capita. First, cruising spots are frequently frequented by those who do not identify as gay and those who are married. And also, cruising spots are most frequent in places where there are no safe ways for gay people to meet. This is not a measure of gayness, this is a measure of the closet in a hostile environment.

A measure of gayness might include a wide variety of gay social groups, citywide laws about discrimination or benefits or couples registry, supportive churches and synagogues, estimations of the gay population, the presence of an active community center, programs for gay youth or elders, and a lack of hate crime incidences. Perhaps even some comparison of the way the city voted on gay marriage bans would be informative.

But not guys lurking furtively in the bushes. That’s not gay, that’s just sad.

Comments

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Emily K
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

I took it as a satire against the stereotypes that non-Queers use to define us. He made some pretty outrageous statements about “gentrifying cities so that others can move in” and queering SF so much that “even laundromats have rainbow window decals.”

Maybe Albo really does believe some of the stupid things in the article he uses to define being gay, but that’s not what I saw in it. I saw it as a fluff piece for gays to definitely laugh at, but not necessarily laugh with.

For some reason, Randy Thomas over at the Exodus blog also took issue with this piece, but his reasons are more perplexing, since he is “not gay” and still reading a gay magazine.

Pomo
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

I got my advocate in the mail this month, along with OUT magazine and a letter saying the Advocate is no longer going to be in print and i’d be getting OUT instead. Which i’m not interested in at all. But i can’t confirm this anywhere. Does anyone know anything about it?

Richard W. Fitch
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

@Pomo – can’t give you a link, but Think I saw it on the Advocate wesite. There has been change of ownership and OUT will replace Adv subscriptions. Hoping that the website continues at least.

Elise
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

I’ve read that the Advocate will continue as a sixteen page insert within OUT, so you’ll still be getting it. Sort of.

As far this article, I also got the impression that the article, or at least some of the sillier choices, like the cruising spots, was tongue-in-cheek.

johnathan
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

Yes, tongue-in-cheek though it may be, the Advocate article still poses problems. I realize the GLBT community should not be defined according to, or be eternally concerned about the perceptions of the anti-gay world, however such “measurements” including the number of cruise spots and hookup profiles certainly do the GLBT community little justice. Yet would be nice if the GLBT community could be perceived to “les autres” by the standards Timothy rightfully suggested — if only so the anti-gays would have less “aha, I told you so, about THEM THERE FOLK,” and The Advocate article did not contribute in this regard.

Burr
January 22nd, 2010 | LINK

If it was satire it should have been a wee bit more obvious.. Cruising spots definitely is more a measure of how closeted a city is rather than how gay it is..

Jason D
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

surprise, surprise, I take issue with a few points:

“gay dating and hookup profiles for single male population – that is not a measure of gayness, that’s a measure of the extent to which that community discounts relationships or has limited alternatives to meeting someone.”

Uh, I met my partner through a gay dating profile, we’ve been together close to 4 years now. We’re not self loathing and there was nothing desperate or pathetic about how we met. So no, dating profiles aren’t a “measure of the extend to which that community discounts relationships or has limited alternatives to meeting someone.”

I’ve lived in Chicago ten years, and every date I had was through one of several online personals. They don’t represent limited alternatives, they are actually a fairly valid resource. Dismissing them would be like someone dismissing BTB readers as having “limited alternatives to real news”

And despite what you might think, hookups do lead to relationships. That’s not the goal, obviously, but it is sometimes the result. Dan Savage, advice columnist, had a column a few years back to the effect of “we met slutty/skanky” — letters from people in long term relationships who met through what most people would consider shameful, gross, and “unorthodox” circumstances. This was to counter several advice columnists’ “we met cute” stories that often run for Valentine’s Day.

And the saddest is cruising spots per capita. First, cruising spots are frequently frequented by those who do not identify as gay and those who are married. And also, cruising spots are most frequent in places where there are no safe ways for gay people to meet. This is not a measure of gayness, this is a measure of the closet in a hostile environment.

Since the author doesn’t outline the exact criteria it does not necessarily mean truck stop bathrooms ONLY, it very likely means bars and clubs, too. Because they are too young for the bars, you’ll find a lot of youths at cruising spots, it is one of the few options they have for socializing with their peers.

While you have a point, Timothy, about cruising spots being a haven for closet cases — there are plenty of out, proud, well-adjusted, gay people who *actually like* meeting people and having sex in parks, bathrooms, etc. The most famous one, of course, is George Michael. I don’t claim to understand it, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s a kink, or nostalgia, or playing out a fantasy, or just a plain old fetish, but perfectly normal, happy gay people also go to cruising spots. They’re not the majority, most likely, but they do count.

Seems to me, Timothy, you’ve done your own share of stereotyping….again.

Jason D
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

slight corrections, gay bars was it’s own category but the rest of what I said about cruising being one of few options for youths and hunting grounds for kinky closet cases is still valid.

Jason D
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

damnit, “hunting grounds for kinky NON-closet cases” is what I meant.

Emily K
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Jason said:

Because they are too young for the bars, you’ll find a lot of youths at cruising spots, it is one of the few options they have for socializing with their peers.

Wrong. I’m not yet 25, came out when I was 15 – and there are more than just “cruising spots” for youth to meet other gay youth. For one thing, my high school has a GSA – that’s a start. The GSA would then have resources for other meeting spots. There’s a church that holds a “safe space” hangout for queer youth. Philadelphia is home to plenty of non-bar resources. In fact, most of the “gay bars” in this town are dominated by heterosexuals. See, gay youth are learning that they can socialize with other gays without having to wonder if all the other person wants is to bang them and leave them.

While I agree with your defense of online profiles, perhaps the author was referring more to something like “manhunt.net,” which is used to “log on and get off.”

Additionally, Timothy isn’t saying cruising doesn’t happen among gays. He’s saying it should be considered no more of a trait to the gay community than to the straight community. He is absolutely correct in that regard. Gays aren’t inherently more drawn to anonymous encounters anymore than straights are – it’s just that circumstances are more likely to push gays into such actions than straights.

Carl
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Jason D, I couldn’t agree with you more. Timothy Kincaid’s rant against this fluff Advocate article is all fluff itself. Without having to go into the obvious details as Jason D quite adequately did, the Advocate’s “Gayest City” ranking is no more scientific or insightful than some of the other city listings that come our way through the media: “10 Best Places to Raise a Family,” “10 Best Livable Cities,” “10 Best Cities for Singles,” etc., etc. I could go on and on. We’ve all seen these rankings and know how subjective they are, which is why they all need to be taken with an aire of frivolity. Mr. Kincaid needs to lighten up. Not everything is an insult or attack on our community.

Eddie89
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Mr. Kincaid wrote:

Now the perplexing: statewide marriage equality – I can see how this might make sense in a small homogenous state, but I find it odd that by this measure Fresno is gayer than Atlanta

Did you mean, “by this measure Atlanta is gayer than Fresno”.

Because even though Prop. 8 has removed marriage equality in California, we still have domestic partnerships and some of the best LGBT legal rights, benefits and protections than most any other state in the nation.

Atlanta, GA doesn’t have squat in these regards.

Priya Lynn
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Timothy said “gay dating and hookup profiles for single male population – that is not a measure of gayness, that’s a measure of the extent to which that community discounts relationships or has limited alternatives to meeting someone.”

I’m confused as to why you’d say that. Lots of gay men are single, they want someone to love, and they try to find that person through gay dating and hookup profiles, that’s not discounting relationships, that’s seeking relationships. My sister met her husband through an ad in the newspaper over 20 years ago – still happily married.

Jason D
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Emily K, if you’re going to critique me, at least read what I actually wrote. Here we go. Bold is for help…

“Jason said:
Because they are too young for the bars, you’ll find a lot of youths at cruising spots, it is one of the few options they have for socializing with their peers.”

Your response was:

I’m not yet 25, came out when I was 15 – and there are more than just “cruising spots” for youth to meet other gay youth.

Did I say cruising spots were their only option? No, as you can see, I said it was one of few options.
Your points are VERY VALID but they do not negate mine. You make the mistake of assuming your town is like every other, you assume universality when that may be particular to your area. Not every school has a GSA. And what about those 18 year old gays who aren’t in school and not going to college, what options do they have? Too young for the bars, too old for most of the “youth” stuff because most “youth” stuff that I’ve seen cuts you off at 18.

See, gay youth are learning that they can socialize with other gays without having to wonder if all the other person wants is to bang them and leave them.

You assume that gay youths aren’t interested in banging someone in leaving them. Some of them are interested in that, too.

“While I agree with your defense of online profiles, perhaps the author was referring more to something like “manhunt.net,” which is used to “log on and get off.”

Perhaps, but look at the category title:

Gay dating and hookup profiles per single male population.

“Gay dating” is the clue that they don’t mean ONLY manhunt.net….which is NOT a dating site. If they had meant to only look for hookup profiles, there would be no need to start with the words “Gay dating”.

Additionally, Timothy isn’t saying cruising doesn’t happen among gays.

And that wasn’t my critique of him either. Another point where reading what I wrote would help. here it is again (bold for help):

Timothy wrote:
“First, cruising spots are frequently frequented by those who do not identify as gay and those who are married. And also, cruising spots are most frequent in places where there are no safe ways for gay people to meet. This is not a measure of gayness, this is a measure of the closet in a hostile environment.

I countered with:
While you have a point, Timothy, about cruising spots being a haven for closet cases — there are plenty of out, proud, well-adjusted, gay people who *actually like* meeting people and having sex in parks, bathrooms, etc. The most famous one, of course, is George Michael. I don’t claim to understand it, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s a kink, or nostalgia, or playing out a fantasy, or just a plain old fetish, but perfectly normal, happy gay people also go to cruising spots. They’re not the majority, most likely, but they do count.

Emily K said:
He’s saying it should be considered no more of a trait to the gay community than to the straight community.

Really? Since we’re tossing out ages, I’m 32 and I’ve never heard of straight people having “cruising spots”.

I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m saying I question that their history and importance is comparable to that of gay cruising spots.

We all know that cruising spots started out as being a place for gays/bisexual/curious people too scared to come out to anonymously hook up. Considering the majority of gays in history have been closeted up until the past century or so, they started out as a necessity. They’ve become less so, but still exist because people both in and out of the closet want them too. And that’s my point. They are not as much of an indication of the closet as Timothy assumes.

He is absolutely correct in that regard. Gays aren’t inherently more drawn to anonymous encounters anymore than straights are – it’s just that circumstances are more likely to push gays into such actions than straights.

I don’t think anyone was saying gays are more drawn to cruising spots than straights, but I don’t think cruising spots are as entrenched, or as historically necessary for straights.

Had homosexuality been accepted since the beginning of time, it’s questionable whether cruising spots would’ve even existed and become part of our history and culture.

Jason D
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Emily K,
It would be great if you would read what I wrote(bold is for help):

Jason said:
Because they are too young for the bars, you’ll find a lot of youths at cruising spots, it is one of the few options they have for socializing with their peers.

Emily K said:
Wrong. I’m not yet 25, came out when I was 15 – and there are more than just “cruising spots” for youth to meet other gay youth.

And as you can see, I said no such thing. I said few options, not only option. You have some very VERY valid points, but you make the mistake of assuming universailty. Your experience is not everyone’s experience. Your town is not everyone’s town.

It’s been my observation that a good deal of those youth programs and safe spaces don’t let anyone over the age of 18 in. There are gays that don’t go to college. So, a 19 year old gay man is too old for youth services but two young for the bars, cruising spots might be his only social option, or it might be one of very few. And it’s possible that he’s looking for no strings sex. You forget the sexual peak of men is in their teens, so not all those 18 year old gays are looking to settle down into a proper relationship.

As I said, your points are VERY VALID. However they do NOT negate mine.

While I agree with your defense of online profiles, perhaps the author was referring more to something like “manhunt.net,” which is used to “log on and get off.”

Very possible, but look at the name of the category:
Gay dating and hookup profiles per single male population.

That, to me, says they mean match.com, chemistry.com, gay.com, AND places like manhunt.net.

Additionally, Timothy isn’t saying cruising doesn’t happen among gays.

And that wasn’t my critique of him either. I pointed out that gay people, regular out, proud gay people do like to go to cruising spots. They are not necessarily indicative of closeted activity. In the past, sure, but even in todays climate of acceptance, there are out, proud, happy, well-adjusted gay people who like cruising spots.

He’s saying it should be considered no more of a trait to the gay community than to the straight community. He is absolutely correct in that regard. Gays aren’t inherently more drawn to anonymous encounters anymore than straights are – it’s just that circumstances are more likely to push gays into such actions than straights.

Really? Straight people have cruising spots? Really, like Hampstead heath? So what’s the straight equivalent of , say, a truckstop restroom — laundry closets everywhere? I’ve never heard of any. I’m not saying they don’t exist, I just question that they are comparable historically and socially to that of gay cruising.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Eddie,

Fresno which has state-wide protections would rank on that measure as more gay than Atlanta which has no state-wide protections.

Which, as I’m sure we all know, is not reflective of reality.

Timothy Kincaid
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Some readers thought that the criteria selected were so steeped in stereotype that they must be satire. If so, I wasn’t the only one to miss it.

The San Diego Union Tribune noted:

The city of San Diego has a new label to join its“America’s Finest City” nickname thanks to a new ranking by a popular magazine and the political activism of its mayor.

How about California’s Gayest City?

The Advocate, a national gay magazine, ranked San Diego 14th on its list of the 15 “Gayest Cities in America.” San Diego was the only California city on the list despite San Francisco’s large gay population. Atlanta topped the list.

Here’s what the mag had to say: “Why San Diego when L.A. is so close? (The question almost answers itself.) San Diego has always been more bi-friendly, mellower, less snooty, and a place to which L.A. gays frequently escape. Black’s Beach is a famous nude sunning spot, and there’s even an annual gay rodeo.”

Yeah. Cuz of the nude beach. Thanks, Advocate.

TonyJazz
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Unfortunately, Tim is quite right. Fresno is one of the most homophobic cities in California (remember the pro-prop 8 rallies so prominent there?), and San Francisco has one of the highest concentrations of gay bars in the world. Dozens of them in just one neighborhood, and many more in many other neighborhoods. Most cities have lost half of their bars or more (see Boston, Miami, Key West, the Russian River, etc…), but SF has maintained a big core. Other cities like Chicago retained their Boys Towns, but lost the other ones in smaller places…

Given a choice, no one who is gay would want to live in Fresno…. (not picking on the good people there)

Ray
January 23rd, 2010 | LINK

The Advocate lost me YEARS ago. I cannot understand why they STILL send me their magazine. I stopped subscribing at least ten years ago.

Fresno? A gay town? I only lived in Fresno for 25 years. It is the most ugly homophobic city on the face of the earth. In the heart of Fresno’s most distinguished neighborhood, living next door to the most powerful politician in the city’s history, my home was shot at, vandalized with the word “faggot” spraypainted on my house and driveway, my yard was used as a place where the kids of the filthy rich popped wheelies, destroyed my landscaping, and while that was going on kids would come by while I was working in my yard and scream “FAGGOT” at me. I called the police no less than six times to report all this stuff and not ONE person was ever charged.

Fresno a gay town?

The Advocate lost its’ mind ages ago. They are so out of touch with the mainstream of the gay community we should SUE them for libeling us.

BILLOFTHEDESERT
January 24th, 2010 | LINK

Being in the business, the Advocate should know at least as well as anyone else what it was doing. Has it occurred to anyone that the reason the Advocate is no longer a print magazine is that it is no longer relevant? Money talks. And if you don’t take care of your customers’ interests, they walk. Even 25 years ago, when I was a regular reader, it could not decide whether it wanted to be a big city publication or a small town publication. Its political point of view, even in the days of David Goodstein, was often the unexamined and untested view of whoever was in charge at the moment and feedback from its readers took weeks, if they took the trouble to write at all. News could be six weeks old by the time it got into its pages. It’s easy to see now what a poor model it was in the rapidly changing world of gay life. I liked David. I had friends who worked on the paper. I will always remember it and them. And now, in part because of it all, we have bigger fish to fry.

Seth
January 24th, 2010 | LINK

Tim:

I am so glad you realize that we should combat stereotypes about gay people, not embrace them and allow them to define us.

Therefore, I hope you will join the growing number of gay men and lesbians who are questioning the logic of identifying “gay and lesbian” with “transgender”, a term which covers transsexualism and cross-dressing and which describes a population that is overwhelmingly heterosexual. Gay men have fought against the lie that they are not “real men” or that they constitute a “third sex”. That struggle is completely undermined by the false creation known as “LGBT”. If you are going to take the Advocate to task for embracing stereotypes, you should consider how unthinkingly this blog does the same.

Rex Harley
January 24th, 2010 | LINK

I believe in sexual freedom.

I never read the article, but wasn’t fond of the way Timothy seemed to disparage people who enjoy a more promiscuous lifestyle. Granted, people believe stereotypes about a connection between being gay and promiscuity that is unfounded. In fact it is just as much a part of the social culture for straight people. But one of the distinguishing characteristics of being gay is enjoying gay sex. I don’t want to be asked to give up gay sex (the way I like it) so that I can be presentable to straight society. I would like to continue to fight for sexual freedom for gay and straight men and women.

My partner of nine years had sex with me at a party before I ever knew his name. We have an long-term and open relationship and we’re very happy with that. If there were safe cruising spots near home, I’d be visiting them from time to time.

Doug
January 24th, 2010 | LINK

I was also not pleased to hear the author of the article interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week. I just thought “gee, do you really need to air this laundry on public radio?” To mix metaphors, it occurred to me that the author was giving extra ammo to conservatives. I am not being self-hating, and I don’t mean to judge folks who enjoy public sex and sex with multiple partners–it’s not my place to judge. But is “cruising areas” really the most useful variable to include in a study by an “intrepid amateur sociologist?”

Emily K
January 24th, 2010 | LINK

That’s all well and good, Rex Harley, but the issue here isn’t a debate about sexual freedom. It’s about the impact an article, however satirical, can have on a vulnerable minority by using stereotypes to drive home its humor. Nobody cares what you do in your consensual relationships.

Jason D
January 25th, 2010 | LINK

so am I being blocked or what? I posted two different versions of a reply to Emily and neither have posted.

Timothy Kincaid
January 25th, 2010 | LINK

Jason D,

I don’t know why, but a couple of your posts were caught in the spam filter along with one or two other commenters.

fannie
January 25th, 2010 | LINK

Perhaps the saddest part about The Advocate is that it pretends to be more than just a magazine for gay men.

What, for instance, do the following criteria have to say about how “lesbian” a city is:

“gay dating and hookup profiles for single male population”

“cruising spots per capita”

It’s clear that sometimes the magazine uses the word “gay” to mean “all LGBT people,” but much of the time it really only means “gay male.” By continually subsuming lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people into the category of “gay man,” The Advocate effectively invisibilizes those of us who are not gay men (or at least, their uninspired stereotypical versions of gay men).

Chris McCoy
January 25th, 2010 | LINK

Seth wrote:

Therefore, I hope you will join the growing number of gay men and lesbians who are questioning the logic of identifying “gay and lesbian” with “transgender”, a term which covers transsexualism and cross-dressing and which describes a population that is overwhelmingly heterosexual.

Wow. Just. wow.

While we’re disassociating ourselves with the “cross-dressers”, why don’t we throw the bisexuals under the bus, too. They’re really just in denial about being gay anyway, right?

And the lesbians. I mean, they don’t even like dick.

Gay men have fought against the lie that they are not “real men” or that they constitute a “third sex”. That struggle is completely undermined by the false creation known as “LGBT”.

Translation: “Transgendered people aren’t “real men” either, so they deserve to be thrown aside, and left to fend for themselves.”

If you are going to take the Advocate to task for embracing stereotypes, you should consider how unthinkingly this blog does the same.

Or, maybe we recognize that all sexual minorities are equally deserving of the same rights – the right to be who we are and to not be judged as less because of it.

And we realize that by banding together, we help lift each other up.

The last thing the GLBT (I think we should use BGLT – alphabetical order) community needs is more in-fighting. United We Stand.

Priya Lynn
January 25th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks Chris, well said.

Jaft
January 27th, 2010 | LINK

Guys…Seth’s comment was sarcasm in order to disagree with Timothy. He doesn’t believe what he wrote.

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