There's no shortage of "best gay cities" lists, but it recently occurred to us that somebody really ought to make a list of America's Most Lesbionic Cities. So we gathered a bunch of data to put together this fantastic list which undoubtedly every soul on the planet will agree with 100%. The Advocate's criteria this year included things like Veronicas concerts and Nude Yoga classes and somehow Grand Rapids made the Top Ten. This might be slightly more accurate than that.
1. Northampton/Amherst, MA
Keywords: Smithies, Out for Reel Film Festival, Pioneer Valley Roller Derby League, Lesbianville, New England Trans United Pride March, Allison Bechdel, Rachel Maddow, Pride & Joy, Sid Vintage, Iron Horse
Northampton's got more lesbians per capita than any town or city in the entire country, and that's not even counting the transient students from Lez-Heaven Smith College or Mount Holyoke in nearby South Hadley. There are 40.31 same-sex couples per 1,000 households here. The birthplace of Rachel Maddow's career, this cozy politically progressive college town is home to its own lesbian dance club (Diva's), LGBT bookstore, LGBT newspaper and a sweet LGBT film series, Out For Reel. Amherst ensconces U-Mass, Lezzified Hippie Festival of Education Hampshire College and, obviously, Amherst. Vegan restaurants abound. Plus, it's Massachusetts which means same-sex marriage is legal.
2. New York, NY
Keywords: Ginger's, Nation, Choice Cunts, Stonewall, GO! Magazine, Autostraddle, Eileen Myles, Dyke Slope, Cattyshack, Cubbyhole, Newfest, Logo, Women's Herstory Archives, Rodeo Disco, Ali Forney Center, The Center, Henrietta Hudson
Autostraddle got born in New York and it got born in New York for a reason — 'cause the city is chock-full of dykes. New York City's got more gays & lesbians up inside it than any other city in the country and the diversity of the LGBTQ scene and the anonymity afforded by NYC's masses make it a prime location for one to spread one's newly-queer wings. Conversely, newly legalized same-sex marriage makes it a nice place to settle down. NYU, The New School, Barnard and Columbia are chock-full of lesbians, as is nearby Sarah Lawrence. There are resources/activity groups for everyone of every sexual proclivity, gender identity, political passion and yoga style preference.
Although Manhattan's West Village and Chelsea neighborhoods have become largely male-centric spaces, lesbians have made gayborhoods of their own in areas like Park Slope, Red Hook, East Harlem and West Harlem. Nightlife is always evolving as some clubs close and new nights crop up, from Cubbyhole to Choice Cunts to Lovergirl. However everything is super fucking expensive all the time.
3. Los Angeles/West Hollywood, CA
Keywords: LA Gay & Lesbian Center, The L Word, The Abbey, The Real L Word, Truck Stop, Gimme Sugar, Ellen DeGeneres, Gay in LA, Silver Lake, Urth Cafe, Booby Trap, Girlbar, Ellen, Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival, Hamburger Mary's, Dyke Day LA
There are lesbians that loathe the fuck out of this city and there are those that love every inch of it's burning hot hub of lezzer lezdom and those in the latter group seem to have a pretty good time here. It never snows, there are girl parties nearly every night, and the place is teeming with creative women looking to collaborate with other strange geniuses. The city that birthed The L Word has been birthing power lesbians and stylish young dykes for generations. As the hub of the uber-liberal entertainment industry, Outfest and The LGBT People of Color Film Festival, The GLAAD Awards, The Power UP! Awards are all held here.
West Hollywood specifically has a population of about 39,000 and 1/3 of that population is LGBT, so there's a good chance your Coffee Bean barista and/or Hamburger Mary's waitress swings your way. Their lesbian nightlife tradition kicked off in the 1920's with the radical bohemian glamorous lesbian parties at WeHo's Gardens of Allah Hotel.
Also worth mentioning — Long Beach! It's about 30 minutes from LA and is often overlooked, despite having its own thriving LGBT community. There's Long Beach Pride, The Long Beach LGBT Center and the Long Beach Q Festival. Long Beach is actually 8.1% GLBs, which makes it the 10th most-LGB-populated city.
4. San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley, CA
Keywords: Harvey Milk, The Lex, Michelle Tea, The Castro, Dinah in Color, Original Plumbing, Good Vibrations, The Frameline Festival, The Advocate, Curve Magazine, The Mission, Valencia, The Lusty Lady, The Crib, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project
Everybody knows that San Francisco is Queer Utopia (and especially trans-friendly) but you probably knew that even before you saw Milk. The Bay Area is notoriously liberal and stocked with political activists, innovative writers and gender outlaws — in fact, LGBTQ culture is practically the dominant culture here, regardless of the fact that so many heterosexuals share the space. Seriously - so much queer shit to do.
However, 60% of San Francisco's same-sex couples are men. Meanwhile, Oakland is on the up-and-up when it comes to lady-queerness. The Gay & Lesbian Atlas, using numbers from the 2000 Census, determined Oakland had the highest concentration of lesbian couples in the entire country. It's an affordable alternative to San Francisco with its own mixed LGBT dive bar (The White Horse), a lesbian-owned bookstore (Laurel), its own pride, its own monthly gay dance party (Hella Gay) and a Black LGBT Film Festival. Queer collegians or academics can be found at San Francisco State, University of California-Berkeley, Mills and Stanford, among others.
You can hold hands with anyone you want, just remember to recycle!
5. Cambridge/Boston/Somerville, MA
Keywords: Machine/Dyke Night, The Bay Windows, Edge Boston, Boston LGBT Film Festival, Bisexual Resource Center, Keshet for the Jewish LGBT community, Queer Women of Color, Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance, LGBT Youth Alliance, Fenway Health Center
In the 19th century, people used the term "Boston Marriages" to describe the middle-to-upper-class educated ladies who lived together as couples in the city after graduating from one of the city's many Universities. Nowadays, ladies who wanna marry ladies can just do so and they can use the term "marriage." This area has the largest lesbian community nationwide and is one place where gay ladies outnumber men. Cambridge is home to 41 LGBT-owned businesses, and the bounty of LGBT-friendly schools in the area are a huge draw: Simmons (all-girls), Brandeis, Harvard, Emerson and MIT.
6. Chicago, IL
Chicagostraddlers are perhaps Autostraddle's most passionate meet-up group and as one of the first cities in the country to attract a lesbian scene way back in the Post World War I era — the first gay rights organization in the US was founded here in 1924.
Northwestern University is in nearby Evanston, and our LGBT College Guide Northwestern U Reviewer promises that "if you're willing to sit through the first awkward five minutes of a Chicagostraddlers meetup, you will be rewarded with a wonderfully diverse queer posse who will accompany you to derby matches, lady arm wrestling, chicken and waffles, Pride, FKA at Big Chick's, brunch at the Chicago Diner, and pretty much anything involving alternative lifestyle haircuts/flasks."
7. Seattle, WA
Seattle! Where computer software, coffee and grunge music were born! A lot of people live in Seattle and a lot of those people are lesbians — 12.9% of the city's residents identify as LGBT. Seattle's dedicated lesbian bar is called Wildrose, its completely-devoted-to-LGBT-film cinema is called The Three Dollar Bill Cinema (it hosts both a Transgender and a Gay & Lesbian Film Festival annually) and its Roller Derby League is called Seattle's Rat City Rollergirls. The city's also super trans-friendly — The Ingersoll Gender Center has been holding at least one peer-support meeting for trans, genderqueer and otherwise gender-variant folks per week since 1976.
8. Portland, OR
Keywords: Bitch Magazine, Vaseline Alley, Portlandia, Rose City Gay Freedom Band, Triangle Productions, Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Hawthorne Boulevard, Alberta, Q Center, The Milwaukee Tavern
Portland is super queer. It's quirky, liberal, laid back, and home to a lot of trees and mountains and bodies of water and beaches and wineries and bookstores and farmers markets. Home to AS's Tech Editor Taylor and the 8th-most Autostraddler-populated city in the country, The Rose City is more than just the name of that sweet Portland Queer anthology Gabby has a story in. In 2008, it was the first big metropolitan city to elect a homo to be their mayor!
9. Washington DC
Keywords: The DC Center, OutWrite, Capital Trans Pride, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, GLSEN, Family Equality Council, National Equality March, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, The Real World DC, The HRC, DC Radical Fairies, Tongues Afire, Rainbow Youth Alliance, BiNet USA, National Center for Lesbian Rights
I feel like there are about twenty different DCs and one of them is hella gay (though nobody says "hella" there). I mean, there's the politics and the activism, and also American, The University That Birthed Two Autostraddle Writers, Katrina and Carmen, the latter of whom describes American as "dyke paradise." Clearly it headquarters a lot of political activism groups and events, as well as a vibrant Gayborhood in Dupont Circle. The first-ever Dyke March happened here in 1993. [Sidenote: a 2007 DC Public School Survey of High School students found 13.2% of young women identifying as lesbian, bisexual or unsure, which is kinda a lot.]
10. Austin, TX
Texas's government may treat gays abysmally, but Austin is a countercultural liberal breath of fresh air best known for its indie music scene, awesome BQQ and the annual South by Southwest music/film/interactive festival. I mean, there's a special Yoga class for Genderqueers, The Texas Gay Rodeo Association, The Kings and Things Drag King Group, and an active "e-mail based social network" called Foodies that organizes regular lay-dee get togethers. The lesbian social scene is "lively" and residents find queer life uniquely blended in to the dominant Austin culture in a super-special way.
11. San Diego, CA
San Diego has a big military population and is known to be politically conservative than the other California spots on this list, but it's still super gay. Gays have been taking over the Hillcrest neighborhood since the 1970s and San Diego's got the nation's second-oldest LGBT community center, The Film Out San Diego Festival and several of its own LGBT publications including SDGLN and the lesbian FlawLes Media Company.
12. Madison, WI
Much like Ann Arbor (#14), Madison's uber-liberal University keeps things temperate for lesbians in its home swing state. I mean, there's an entire neighborhood endearingly referred to by locals as "Dyke Heights." Fruit Fest, an all-ages all-day block party featuring live music and local artists and performers as well as a a 5K run, will celebrate its third year this summer (read all about it on Indie Queer). The 5K raises money for a scholarship fund given to an LGBTQA activist in high school or college.
13. Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN
According to our University of Minnesota correspondent "the stereotypical Minneapolis queer lady has piercings and lots of bicycle gear" and rumor has it the best place to meet a lady is at a game of WNBA team Minnesota Lynx. Also you can find ladies at nearby Carleton College. Did you know Sick of Sarah is from here? NOW YOU DO.
14. Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia has been pursuing the LGBT travel dollar for several years now 'cause it's just that great to be gay there and not jut for boys — Sisters is Philly's three-floor dedicated lesbian bar in the heart of the Gayborhood and lesbian couple Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran own and operate six successful businesses on 13th street. Only a hop, skip and a jump away at Bryn Mawr, girl-on-girl culture abounds.
Temple graduate and Autostraddle Teamster Laura notes that "it's a small city, but it's got a whole lot of queer per capita (caveat: Philly's also more hip per capita than most cities so be prepared to play lots of games of "hipster or gay?"). You're just as likely to run across a kindred spirit at First Fridays as you are at OutFest. If Temple's where you end up and you just can't handle another intensely sweaty underage night at Woody's, I'm sure the Philadelphia Autoteam would be thrilled to show you around."
15. Ann Arbor, MI
Fun fact: 70% of the town's same-sex couples are female! Uber-liberal University of Michigan was described by our LGBT College Correspondent as "a mecca for LGBTQA-Z students." Ann Arbor and the University leans dramatically left, so there's a lot of independent businesses and political activism here, as well as a dedicated LGBT bar/restaurant The Aùt Bar, gay bookstore Common Language, gay nights at Necto, two art-house cinemas and one independent film festival. Nearby Inkster hosts lesbian bar Stilleto's, and Detroit Suburb Royal Oak has lots for queers too.
16. Atlanta, GA
It's the capital of the Homosexual South, but some report it's much more gay-boy friendly than it is gay-girl friendly. Regardless, Atlanta's lesbian community is mega-diverse, My Sister's Room is consistently recognized as being one of the best lesbian bars in the country and the famous Outwrite Bookstore still exists (well, kinda). Nearby Decatur is commonly known as "Dykecatur," which sounds like a lesbian dinosaur.
17. Denver, CO
Denver's Gay & Lesbian Center kicks serious ass. And although that whole area of the country is often written off as being legally unfriendly to gays, that's not so in Colorado — The Rights Five Campaign has the lowdown on Five Laws (including ENDA) that "enrich and protect the lives of LGBT people."
18. Houston, TX
Houston's the largest city in the country with an openly gay mayor, the 12th most populated-with-gays US city and it's also just one of the largest cities in the country, period. A string of unseemly governors have no powers against Houston's thriving community and legendarily enormous Pride parade. Chances, one of the largest lesbian bars in the world, recently shut down; but there's still drinks to be had at places like Blur, The Usual and F Bar and additional queer activities happening at the Houston LGBT Youth Center, The Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Houston's LGBT film festival, QFest. Houston's Rice University has a healthy queer community as well.
19. Ithaca, NY
This tiny upstate New York town is best known for its two major universities, Ithaca and Cornell. It's filled with hippies, good food, beautiful nature, wine and other stuff like that. Perhaps you wanna participate in a Lesbian Potluck or a Guerilla Queer Bar takeover. If you wanna travel there, here's some special tips from our photoblogger.
20. Miami/South Beach, FL
Miami is home to one of the country's most successful lesbian event-planning companies, Pandora Events (responsible for Orlando's Girls in Wonderland and Las Vegas's Shedonism, among others) as well as the awesome non-profit Aqua Foundation for Women. South Beach hosts lots of LGBT parties, including (obviously) Pride, The Women's Winter Party and Aquagirl. Also, South Beach supports its own lesbian glossy, She Magazine.
21. Columbus, OH
OH-Hi-OH!?! Ohio Womyn's Festival is apparently "Ohio's best kept secret." There's heaps of activism going on in Columbus, through groups like Stonewall Columbus, Equality Ohio and TransOhio. Ohio State is a Big Ten School with a serious Greek System Situation, but it's also queer-friendly with lots of different LGBTQA student groups.
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