Kim Palmer / McClatchy Newspapers, Published January 15 2011
Gayest city? Magazine says it's MinneapolisMinneapolis may have dropped a notch on the “Most Literate City” list this week, but the metropolis picked up a new title: Gayest City in America. That’s according to the Advocate, the national gay news magazine based in Los Angeles.
The city came from nowhere to snatch the tiara from last year’s winner, Atlanta, which slid to No. 7.
“This was Minneapolis’ first appearance [on the second annual list], and it shot right to the top,” said Matthew Breen, executive editor for the Advocate.
What makes Minneapolis so gay, so suddenly? The Advocate changed its criteria for making the list, Breen said. "Last year, we looked at same-sex couples, gay-marriage equality, gay bars and the number of gay films on Netflix favorites pages. This year we looked at the number of dot.com [dating site] profiles per city, the number of gay elected officials, lesbian bars, gay-friendly congregations and gay yellow page listings."
Oh, and one other thing. Performances by Tegan and Sara, a lesbian twin sister band that tours the world. "That was our wild card," Breen said.
Just in case you couldn’t tell, the survey is not scientific, he said. "We do endeavor to make our math as accurate as possible, but it’s not meant to be a true census figure. It’s meant to be fun, tongue in cheek."
The Gayest City list may be all in fun, but Minneapolis is gay-friendly in many substantive ways, according to some associated with the gay community.
"We’ve been saying that for years, that Minneapolis is the gayest city," said Stephen Rocheford, president and CEO of locally based Lavender Magazine. Minneapolis has the fourth-highest gay population, 12.5 percent, of major cities, according to U.S. Census Data, he noted. (Nationwide, the generally accepted figure is 10 percent.)
Minneapolis also was the third city in the country, in the early ‘70s, to pass legislation prohibiting housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, he said. "Those laws are very important in developing this as a center. People come here because you can’t be fired or evicted from your apartment [for being gay]."
Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride, said she wasn’t surprised that Minneapolis topped the list. "We really are a great community for GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] people. There’s a lot of opportunity here. Everybody knows the East and West Coasts call us flyover land, but we have a lot to offer."
The Twin Cities boasts many gay organizations catering to niche interests, Belstler noted, such as the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, the Twin Cities Gay Hockey Association and the Mayhem rugby team.
The metro area also offers an infrastructure to support GLBT quality of life, she said. "There are so many Fortune 500 companies here, with gay-friendly policies. There are a lot of nonprofits, a lot of volunteers. It’s not just the fun stuff."
Minneapolis’ sister city, St. Paul, didn’t make the list. It’s not as gay as Minneapolis, Rocheford said. "According to gay community demographics, there’s a 3-to-1 settlement in Hennepin vs. Ramsey County." St. Paul passed anti-discrimination legislation a few years later than did Minneapolis, then repealed it, only to pass it again about a decade later. he said. "The laws are the foundation that draw people here."
What about those who don’t view "gayest" as positive? Breen said he knows of no city on last year’s list suffering backlash. "I would laugh if anybody took it as seriously as that. If anyone wouldn’t come to Minneapolis because of our list, I would be disappointed in their sense of humor – and very sad."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.