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.
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.