Washington, D.C. Is Apparently The “Gayest Place In America”

1bkphoto-89055You can’t throw a stone without hitting a gay in our nation’s capital, but if you do, it’s a hate crime. The New York Times profiles Washington, D.C. and just how gay it’s gotten over the years.

When he wasn’t busy signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law, former President Bill Clinton became the first Commander-in-Chief to hire openly gay staff members back in the ’90s. Before then, being out and proud automatically precluded you from government positions and the Barney Franks of the world were few and far between — the Massachusetts representative came out publicly all the way back in 1987.

Even some 10 years ago, the climate in D.C. was still one of intolerance, recalls writer Jeremy Peters in his NYT piece. As a 20-year-old “struggling with his own sexual identity,” Washington offered little in the way of support. But what a difference a decade, an administration change and a few key pieces of legislation make. With a pro-LGBT President, the passage of marriage equality in the district in 2009 and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — another holdover from the Clinton administration — in 2010, Peters now describes Washington as “the gayest place in America”:

But don’t take my word for it. Consider what surveys by Gallup and the Census Bureau have found about the gay population here. When the District of Columbia is compared with the 50 states, it has the highest percentage of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup. At 10 percent, that is double the percentage in the state that ranks No. 2, Hawaii, and nearly triple the overall national average of 3.5 percent.

The Census Bureau looked at where the highest percentage of same-sex couple households were and also found that the District of Columbia ranked far higher than the 50 states, with 4 percent. The national average is just under 1 percent.


When our federal district is measured against other cities with large gay populations, a comparison that experts say is better than comparing to states, it still ranks at the top of the list. Gary J. Gates, who studies census data for the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports that Washington has 18.1 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. That places it eighth among cities with populations larger than 250,000.

Sorry, New York, but you have only 8.75 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. In Manhattan alone, it’s higher, at 16.7, but still not higher than D.C. The top three are San Francisco (30.3 per 1,000), Seattle (23) and Oakland (21). The numbers capture only those who acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship.

Actually San Fran was recently displaced by Seattle as the city with the most same-sex couples, but who’s counting? Numbers aside, Washington, D.C. has got all the makings of a gay utopia — fierce drag queens, gay newspapers, HRC national headquarters, bathhouses, not to mention the country’s biggest phallic symbol this side of Jon Hamm. That it’s the nation’s capital is a reflection on how far America’s come in the past few decades in terms of LGBT rights and acceptance. Now if only some of its more prominent residents could stop generally being the worst, maybe we can make sure the lightbulb in this beacon of democracy doesn’t go out.

Photos: NYMag; GayCities

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  • DonW

    Interesting story, but why does the NYT video focus so heavily on drag shows and barflies? Surely there is much more to D.C.’s LGBT culture than that. It’s the kind of voyeuristic coverage that used to be the only media portrayal of gays 20+ years ago.

  • Stache1

    Rupaul truly is a national treasure;)

  • TinoTurner

    Not only is DC gay, its obnoxiously so. I was 20 years old, had a great job and apt in DC but had to leave the town because of the gays. Its incredibly superficial and annoying. I dont hate myself but I do love to meet people outside of a club. DC is full of gays who’ll fuck anyone that is breathing but then call everyone else a whore. For a city of the size of DC, it seems like such a tiny place because the gays are all zombies that look, dress, and all act alike. Diversity is shunned there.

  • Joe Blitzen

    So our highest concentration of gay Americans has a non-voting representative in the House and zero votes in the Senate. Of course.

  • viveutvivas

    Maybe, but subtract the ?s?c?u?m? lobbyists, politicians, and their hangers-on, and what’s left?

  • viveutvivas

    That displayed as strikethrough on my screen :(

  • jwrappaport

    In the words of our matron of the Metro: “Doors are opening.”

    I doubt it’s gayer than most other cities, but I also tend to be a homebody.

  • Degas

    @TinoTurner: Your comment is more obnoxious than any GLBT I’ve ever met in DC.

  • TinoTurner

    @Degas: Sorry to offend but I’m a native and you’re probably a tourist. Of course you had a good time visiting for Pride but I’m still right.

  • Mediocrates

    @TinoTurner: I’m sorry you had a bad experience living in DC. It’s not an easy town to live in; people tend to either love it or hate it, with little middle ground. Some of what you said is on the mark. There are a lot of sharp elbows in this town, and it can be competitive and at times cliquish.

    However, as a long-time Washingtonian, I have to take exception to some of what you said. Regarding diversity, I’m not really sure where you’re coming from. DC is an incredibly diverse town, even in the context of the gay community. I have friends from all over the world and spanning all sorts of “types.” Are there still issues with racism, classism and ageism? Sure. But that can be said of the gay community as a whole, and at the very least its no more pronounced here than anywhere else.

    As far as meeting people, there are a wealth of options outside “the scene.” In my experience, the people who live here are smart, driven and curious. This translates to tons of social, sporting, professional, philanthropic and interest-based groups for LGBT folks. Granted some, like the gay kickball league, are less about sports than they are about drinking and socializing, but there are many more focused groups, some of which I’ve been a part of over the years.

    Regarding the “sluttiness” factor, there are some people like that, but there also lots of guys who are interested in real relationships – just like anywhere else.

    DC isn’t for everyone. But to say that you’re “right” about the DC gay community based on your regrettable experience isn’t fair or honest. That may be how it felt to you, but that’s not everyone’s story.

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