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Gay destinations on the rise off the beaten track

While San Francisco, New York and Boston are known as the epicenters of LGBT living, other LGBT-friendly cities are proving themselves as new gay meccas. These typical urban havens may have the richest gay histories from the Stonewall riots to Harvey Milk as the first openly gay elected official, but these 10 rising cities are catching up. Welcome to 2013! 

Austin, Texas

The saying is true: “There is no centralized gay neighborhood, the whole city is gay.” Gay people can be seen all over the city in almost 10 different districts from Clarksville to Downtown Austin to Westlake. Austin is quickly rising among the ranks of LGBT-friendly cities as the capital’s Lone Star State is infused with a growing number of gay bars.

The city is also catered to different subcultures of the community from gender-queer to country-western. With a progressive and liberal side and a rise in LGBT youths amongst its collegiate students, they passed anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It’s no wonder the Logo channel focused their latest season of the A-List on this pulsating city. 

Atlanta, Georgia

Like Austin, Atlanta is quickly rising as an upcoming LGBT-friendly city. The city is ripe with an active nightlife and fun activities such as shopping, music, high art, and numerous gay bars like My Sister’s Room and Swinging Richards. LGBT members are settling in and starting careers with many rising queer-identified suburbs.

There seems to be more than one gay neighborhood as Ansley Park, East Atlanta, Grant Park, Kirkwood, and Midtown are helping spread members of the LGBT community. Decatur, especially, caters to queer women. With a strong base for progressive organizing, Atlanta also has transgender protection laws and 5 openly gay elected officials with an approval from the Human Rights Campaign. Tourists should check out its Pride Parade.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital may not be known as a sanctuary for gay people, but the state has a lot to offer in progression. Aside from approving marriage equality earlier on, they have 20 openly gay elected officials and large resource groups for the Bisexual community and many transgender protection laws.

Many businesses have been approved by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and have many notable gay suburbs like Logan’s Circle and Dupont Circle. But don’t count out the LGBT nightlife, as there’s a lot of activities from bars like Town Danceboutique to Cobalt.

Tacoma, Washington 

Aside from its beautifully serene ambiance that’s attracting everyone including the gays, Tacoma has a lot to offer with a state that approves marriage equality. The nightlife is centered on St. Helens district but also very progressive with 8 gay elected officials and laws centering on Transgender Protection. Be sure to check out Tacoma celebrate Gay Pride at Out in the Park. 

Oakland, CA

Oakland is barely on the radar of LGBT friendly places because of its more famous neighbor, San Francisco; But don’t easily dismiss the city has they have more to offer. After Seattle and San Francisco, Oakland ranks third in LGBT-headed households and has the most lesbian couples per capita than any other metropolitan city in America.

They also have a wonderfully diverse nightlife that includes gay establishments catering even to the 18 and over demographic like Bench and Bar, SomaR Bar, The Fox Theater, Heinold's First And Last Chance Saloon, Dogwood, Make Westing, and Easy Lounge. Oakland is evolving and it shows with 13 openly gay elected officials and transgender protection laws.

And for gay film aficionados, they host the African American LGBT film festival wonderfully meshing the LGBT community and the African American Community. 

Providence, R.I.

Providence may be the most notable LGBT-friendly city on this list. Unlike its familiar urban gay cities, Providence revels its small town New England vibe but without the stuffy exterior. The city is very progressive and artsy with a literally youthful LGBT community from its three distinctive left-leaning colleges: Brown, Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson and Wales.

The city is progressive in politics with 5 openly gay elected officials, including the respected and openly out former mayor David Cicilline. He’s enjoying a successful career by enjoying his second year in Congress. Providence also has an active nightlife like Mirabar and Dark Lady and notable haunts including gay stories provided by the Providence Ghost Tour (Providenceghosttour.com)

Salem, OR

The most intriguing aspect of Salem is its seamless infusion of the LGBT community with religion. Many churches welcome gay people like the First Congregational Church, the Salem Spirit of Life Church, the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem, the United Church of Christ, the Freedom Friends Church, and the Morningside United Methodist Church.

Salem is very progressive with 3 openly elected officials, transgender protection laws, LGBT support groups, and its state capitol building hosts Capitol Pride every year. Its nightlife may be slim but Southside Speakeasy, Chaps, and Club Remix provide just enough for the small city.

St. Louis, MO 

Aside from the main three urban cities, St. Louis has the most embedded in gay history. The city is the only place to have many old haunts of Tennessee Williams and prides themselves with Clementine’s, the city’s oldest gay bar since 1978.

Known for being a fur-trading outpost, it has progressed as a symbol of hope for the LGBT community in the Midwest with 3 openly gay elected officials and approval by the Human Rights Campaign’s equality index. Diversity is also rampant with its gay central focus on Manchester Avenue in the Grove with many gay-friendly neighborhoods filled with leather bars, a respected LGBT center, and gay-friendly coffeehouses. 

Tel Aviv, Israel

The list is covered with American cities, but Tel Aviv deserves recognition, as the city is remarkable for being the hottest destination for LGBT travelers. The White City has been labeled the gayest city in the world by Advocate Magazine and ranks the highest as the gayest destination by Gaycities.com for 2011.

And while the city may be the most unusual place for being LGBT-friendly because if its nation’s intolerance and plagues of war, its government was able to make the area gay-friendly as it is the only city in the world to be entirely supported and budgeted by its City Council.

There is no specific gay neighborhood so all its hotspots from its bars, hotels and coffeehouses are gay-friendly and is known for equality. Its Pride is the biggest event of the month for the city so it attracts over thousands of tourists from around the world from Europe, Australia, Japan, and the United States.  

Its main attraction may be their beautiful men, but you will fall in love with the warm weather, divine beaches, pulsating nightlife, and its blossoming gay community.

Beirut, Lebanon

Like Tel Aviv, Beirut is a contradiction. While homosexuality is prosecutable under the penal law of article 534, the country is very relaxed and widely tolerated on the LGBT lifestyle, as the law is considered obsolete. The city is slowly evolving ever since Lebanon’s 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

And considering neighborhood countries like Damascus, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Cairo are not gay friendly and enforce police brutality; Beirut has become the default gay mecca in the Arab world. There is no gay neighborhood, but the gay scene is visible in the bars with many establishments like hotels, coffeehouses, and beaches as unofficially labeled gay friendly.

Beirut has become a hot vacation spot that attracts people from other Arab countries and also people from Europe, Asia, and the United States. St. George’s beach has attracted LGBT travelers with Acid and Bardo as notable bars from the dozen gay establishments nearby. Gay people may not wear their pride, but there is definitely a thrill of discovering a freshly evolving gay culture.

Beirut even has a LGBT center present and promotes itself as a gay destination by recently hosting the International Lesbian and Gay Travel Association media trip. And while public displays of affection is not advised and photography not allowed in the clubs as everyone leads double lives.

Written By:
Chris Huqueriza
Chris Huqueriza
Thu, Mar 07, 2013
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