One of our lovely readers forwarded me this link to The Daily Beast’s list of the US’s top 20 Gay Cities. Never mind that their only criteria for a gay city is number of same-sex couples per thousand households and all 20 cities hover between 7.6 and 5% gay, with San Francisco being the notable outlier at 12%.  But the article attached does have some interesting information about median incomes and overall satisfaction with living environment relative to a sizable gay population (if you consider 5% sizable…)

The article also brings to light an interesting question: how does the “gay friendly” factor affect your choice of where to live?  Granted, for a lot of people, the question of where to live has more to do with your potential job opportunities than the relative gayness of the metro population, but it can be an important thing to take into consideration.

So what makes a good gay city?  Besides gay people and tolerant straight ones, here’s your checklist:

  • Urban environment- cities have more liberal populations and more resources because of the population density
  • Nightlife- gay bars and nightclubs are probably the most fun and interesting way to meet people from the LGBT community and offer a stress-free environment for expressing yourself; also great for picking up someone cute on a Friday night
  • A gay senator, representative, mayor, or other official- anti-gay legislation pops up in the least likely of places, as evidenced by Prop 8 and Prop 1 in California and Maine respectively.  A high-level city or state official looking out for the needs of the LGBT population is the best insurance against having your rights taken away
  • Thriving BDSM, kink, or other sex-oriented community- although not directly connected to LGBT people all the time, kink communities are the most likely to be supportive and accepting of gay people and the events hosted by these communities often bring together like-minded people; in addition, their social network is just fun to get involved with, gay or straight.
  • An art scene- again, the artistic community is generally very open-minded and attracts LGBT people and their various supporters; an art scene enhances the culture of a city as well as keeping it open, accessible, and fun for the gay crowd

You’d be surprised how large a difference a gay-positive atmosphere makes in terms of comfort in a city.  Personally, I never felt uncomfortable living out in my hometown of Pittsburgh, but the switch to Washington DC was none-the-less mindblowingly different.  Something about all of these factors creates a different feel in the air- it’s more comfortable, more normal to be gay in your everyday life in these places.  So while I’ll never suggest this be the first criterion in your search for a place to work or a college town, you might consider how an urban environment (especially these top 20 cities) would affect your lifestyle.