Weird Science 2: ATL falls as ‘gayest U.S. city’

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imageAfter Atlanta was named the “gayest city in America” last year in an unscientific folly, er, “study” in the Advocate, this year’s ranking puts our fair city at No. 7 with even more egregious inaccuracies. We’re not too worried about it. Falling from No. 1 to No. 7 so quickly might be an issue if the magazine’s annual 15 Gayest Cities in America was any reflection on reality. Last year, our preponderance of gay bars and cruising spots outweighed—or at least, balanced out—our distinct lack of civil protections. We were pleased by the honor, if not by the methods used to get there. Among the accolades Atlanta receives in seventh place this year is mention of the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the use of a Project Q Atlanta photo (shown) of said group as the illustration for the ATL listing. Good on them, but the Advocate goes wildly off the reservation from there.

Not to mention that Atlanta is awash in burgeoning gayborhoods, from business district Candler Park and eclectic East Atlantic Village to the tree-lined Virginia Highland area, where residents elected a lesbian council member, Anne Fauver.
Um, let’s break it down. Atlanta is indeed “awash in burgeoning gayborhoods,” but… The residential Candler Park is not usually (ever?) thought of as a “business district.” Maybe they meant Little 5 Points. It’s East Atlanta Village, not “East Atlantic Village.” Maybe they meant Atlantic Station, but probably not. And while Virginia Highland is in fact “tree-lined,” we don’t think that electing lesbian City Council member Anne Fauver in that area—and more importantly, representing the actual adjacent gayborhood, Midtown—is the most recent data available on Atlanta's LGBT elected officials. With Fauver long gone, the last we checked, the only openly gay Atlanta City Council member is Alex Wan, who just got a plum appointment in his second year. And what, no mention of lesbian Fulton Commissioner Joan Garner, elected last year? Not a word on gay Atlanta State Rep. Simone Bell, the nation's first openly gay African-American legislator who this week started her second term at the Gold Dome? Of course, the Atlanta area also boasts longtime state Rep. Karla Drenner, the first lesbian state lawmaker who's been in office so long that she's a senior member of the Democratic party. The Advocate seems to predict that their list is all haywire in its introduction:
Using a completely unscientific — but still strangely accurate — statistical equation, The Advocate has come up with a diverse and surprising list of where gay people are living, loving, voting, and creating communities.
Ah. That explains it. Well, at least the words “unscientific” and “strangely” do. Other oddities? The magazine’s “gayest city” is Minneapolis, with Santa Fe, N.M., a close second. The Disney-esque Las Vegas also makes the Top 5. San Francisco? A distant No. 12. Miami? Poor things only make it to No. 11. New York City didn't even make the cut. With Atlanta's facts so ill-researched, we have to wonder about all those rankings as well.
Remember math? Our research team took a number of signifiers of gay-friendliness for each city, assigned points for each, added them up and then divided the raw scores by the population.
Huh? Yeah, we do remember math, Advocate. Values in an equation can’t be random if you want an actual answer, and the divisible signifiers must relate to the divisor, in this case, the population. Remember that part? Call us crazy, but the “signifiers of gay friendliness”--number of profiles, online gay wedding officiants, openly gay elected officials, Tegan & Sara performances (!), lesbian bars, gay religious congregations and YellowPages entries for “gay”—seem more than a bit suspect. It would be more fun to just blindfold yourself and throw darts at a list of contenders than spending time doing ill-concieved math and poring over ill-advised criteria. Well, we'll just be happy to make the list. We can hope that gay tourists who see it ignore the bad science and just visit for the real reasons Atlanta's Southern hospitality is so gay: the LGBT and gay-friendly businesses, one of the biggest Pride's in the country, a thriving gay media scene, pumping nightlife, abundance of gay sports teams and leagues, tireless nonprofits, umpteen gay congregations, and an active, diverse LGBT population. Photo by Sher Pruitt for Project Q Atlanta


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