The Advocate’s “Gayest Cities” list uses weird science once again in 2014. We aren’t surprised at Atlanta's annual inclusion, but we are tickled that inaccurate listings and senseless criteria are finally acknowledged – by saying it’s intentional.
Under any system that ranks gayness, Atlanta easily makes the “15 Gayest Cities in America” – this year at No. 5 (right). And as always, we’ll take it. But under increasing criticism, justifying the questionable findings requires some convoluted hindsight maneuvers. Advocate editor Matthew Breen obliges.
Here’s the dirty little secret about the list: The point isn’t really to pick the gayest cities. We know New York and Palm Springs are gay and exceptionally LGBT- friendly. Who doesn’t? But if you dismiss the list out of hand, you risk missing the whole point.
The very day Knoxville, Tenn., and Grand Rapids, Mich., made the top 15, local TV news crews went down to the only gay bar and the most gay-inclusive church in those respective cities, to discuss whether we were correct, or out of our collective tree. People started talking.
So, it’s a fucked up list because they are trying to be unexpected. Fine. That helps explain why this year’s No. 1 Gayest City is Washington, D.C. The convoluted calculations for starting a conversation in 2014 ostensibly give points for LGBT elected officials, lesbian-coupled households, gay rodeos, number of gay bars in the Out 200, women’s colleges, and concerts by Mariah, Gaga, Pink or the Jonas Brothers. Yes, the Jonas Brothers. Just go with it.
Breen says, “the point isn’t just accuracy” but “we do try.” Still, it's hard not to notice that the accuracy is perennially abysmal. So much so, we think that the Advocate's half-assed attempt to calculate their own figures is at best a backhanded compliment. Whether Atlanta really earns the praise or not.
5. Atlanta, Ga. (pop. 443,775)
Atlanta has long been the epicenter of the gay South, which is why it consistently makes this list, regardless of how the criteria change. And it’s no wonder, as Hotlanta’s LGBT folks strut to the beat of their own drummers — in stark contrast to much of the conservative surrounding state. The city has tons of great gay bars, including five on Out’s best-of list; the all-women Spelman College; Black Gay Pride in September and Atlanta Pride (one of the country’s largest) in October; and MondoHomo, a May event celebrating art, drag, burlesque, film, and BBQ. (You decide if the Real Housewives are a net plus.)
Breen and his husband stopped at gay strip club Swinging Richards as the list was being compiled. They must have been too focused on the dancers and missed the other women’s college, Agnes Scott. Maybe their trip was too quick to notice that MondoHomo hasn’t happened since 2012.
The good news is that Atlanta's listing – complete with shots of Hip Hoppers Kin4Life and burlesque doll Vagina Jenkins (top photo) – is actually more on point than in years past, though that may be because it doesn’t attempt to go into much detail. Check out 2013, 2012, 2011, and the year we topped the list despite poor methodology in 2010.
Photo by Omar Vega