The recent annual Gayest Cities in America ranking by The Advocate has caused quite a stir. Most are aware by now, but in case you missed it, the nation’s longest running LGBT publication ranked Salt Lake City as the “gayest” city in the country, ahead of some other, more obvious, cities.
The response from locals has mostly been positive, with substantial excitement surrounding it. However, there’s also a good amount of criticism about it that would lead skeptics to suppose that the surrounding buzz may be undue.
How did we get to that position in the rankings, what exactly does it mean to be the gayest city in the country, and is it even relevant or useful information?
First, I’d like to preface this by noting that this is just my own speculation.
The factors that were calculated include items like number of LGBT elected officials, nude yoga classes, transgender protections, WNBA teams and more. These were then divided by the population of city limits. Is that the urban city limits, metro city limits or otherwise? Why does the number of nude yoga classes or studios affect how “gay” a city is or not? Can’t heterosexual people enjoy nude yoga too?
One thing can be mostly agreed upon: it seems the general consensus is that the rankings were calculated on per capita.
I received a response from a resident in Seattle, and who has been with his partner for 17 plus years. As an outsider to Salt Lake City, his take on it covered some very valid points:
“As a former resident of Salt Lake City, I strongly disagree with The Advocate‘s ranking of gayest cities. The fuzzy math is inherently flawed in that large cities like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco are penalized for having too many people (which) gives them an apparently low ‘concentration of gayness.’ In a separate Advocate article, the writers admit to being subjective and that the data was determined by completely unscientific methodologies.
I mean, one lesbian-owned wine bar, three gay bars plus the Sundance Film Festival does not make a city the gayest. Do you, in all sincerity, agree with the article? These reviews and rankings are typically meaningless and self-serving.”
Though I do agree with him, to an extent, I also believe that because I’ve been hearing Salt Lake City’s high ranking as such for the past four or five years, consequently there is most likely more to it.
I believe that this suggests vast social and political change has been happening in the country for the past few years toward LGBT rights and equality issues, particularly our fair city in the Beehive State. Furthermore, I also believe Salt Lake City is at the forefront of this debate, as we may be the only city in the country with such a large LGBT presence in a setting where we face so much obvious and, some would argue, almost proactive opposition.
The LDS church may or may not intentionally have become mostly the face of that opposition, particularly when we consider the Proposition 8 debacle, but I believe that many parts of the country look at Salt Lake City and how our queer community responds to our opponents because of the unique demographics here.
So, while we may not be the “gayest” city in the country, whatever that means, Salt Lake City just may be the most relevant city in the country when it comes to LGBT and equality issues, both politically and socially.
We could dissect this to pieces and analyze what is probably a very subjective ranking, but I think it would be best to remember what is most important here. Equality issues are hopefully some of the last human and civil rights matters that need to be fully addressed and dealt with in our country; our nation still experiences a large amount of oppression and discrimination, sometimes on a daily basis, based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
With the 2012 Presidential Campaign on the horizon, equality issues will likely play a major role, right up there with the nation’s economic status and foreign policy.
But what I believe this all comes down to is the fact there are many members of our queer community, myself included, who are, or who have been, incredibly discouraged, frustrated and/or discriminated against because of the fact that we are the minority and we are the counterculture of a city that is so discernibly overshadowed by an enormous religious dominance.
Considering, it’s nice to be able to call this “gayest city” thing our own and claim a small victory for the queers of Salt Lake City. To the many skeptics and critics out there, just let us embrace this one.