What`s The Gayest State In The Union?

Gallup and professor Gary Gates have called up over 200,000 people and asked them, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?” 

(By the way, I can never remember what the T in LGBT stands for: Transexual? Transvestite? Presumably, you can make a living on the academic conference circuit having a strong opinion on what the “T” should stand for and why your kind of Ts are most oppressed and therefore most deserving.)

Nationally, 3.5% say “Yes,” which isn`t too surprising or even interesting. It reminds me of the Onion football headline: “Both teams satisfied with three-and-a-half-yard carry.” The Los Angeles Times ran an entire article on these results without mentioning the national average figure, which is a lot less than the Kinsey 10% number that all right-thinking people promoted for decades.

Of the 50 states, the gayest is Hawaii, which also isn`t surprising. Hawaii has long been a destination for semi-closeted celebrities downshifting their careers, like Jim “Gomer Pyle” Nabors in 1976.

LGBT Poll

In general, the term “downshifting” comes to mind when looking at the top of the list: many of the the states at the top look like lower cost, quieter places for homosexuals to head for when the bright lights of San Francisco (Oregon, Nevada), Los Angeles (Hawaii, Nevada), and New York (Vermont, Maine) start to lose their luster. 

Gay downshifting/retirement is a pretty big deal economically, as I noticed when I visited Palm Springs last year. The overall Palm Springs area is a vast exurban metropolis? exopolis?, while the actual municipality of Palm Springs, the original core, is now mostly inhabited by older homosexuals downshifting or retired from entertainment industry careers or the like. The whole place has been transformed into a fantasy land of early 1960s Suburban Moderne interior decoration. It`s like you are five years old again and your mom is taking you to visit the house of her most upscale social-climbing friend, who has just redecorated in Space Age colors.

A gay male reader pointed out that Palm Springs even has a golf course, Indian Canyons, favored by that most minuscule of all demographics: gay male golfers. (He estimates there are about 30 gay male regulars at Indian Canyons.)

In general, a visit to Palm Springs suggests that the overall national population doesn`t seem to be getting particularly gayer in the 21st Century, that there are a huge number of old gays from the 1970s around. The only young males around in downtown Palm Springs are the Mexican streetwalkers.

Other questions inspired by the list: is the big difference between South Dakota (4.4%) and North Dakota (1.7%) just caused by small sample sizes, or is South Dakota just gayer than North Dakota? I am reminded of the various serious attempts made by North Dakota legislators over the last generation to change the name of their state to the more manly-sounding “Dakota.”

One important question for these kind of surveys where the goal is to come up with precise estimates of quite small percentages is how large the random error rate is in answering questions. I wouldn`t be surprised if, say, one percent of respondents mishear or misunderstand the question, which would tend to falsely narrow the spread among states.