Study indicates more gay couples live in Cowtown than in Big D but not by much
I think I’m going to move to Fort Worth.
First, there was that guy I met at the bar last weekend who said he was from over there. (If you’re reading this, call me.)
Then, the other day, I discovered Fort Worth is actually more “gay” or “gay-friendly” than Dallas at least according to one widely publicized recent study.
But before countless enemies start to celebrate my departure, we should probably take a look at the study’s methodology and some of the other factors affecting the findings.
According to the study, Fort Worth had 8.51 same-sex couples per 1,000 households from 2004-06, ranking it “23rd-gayest” of the nation’s 50 largest cities, according to the study.
Dallas, meanwhile, had 8.50 same-sex couples per 1,000 households, ranking it 24th. (San Francisco led the way, with 28.72 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.)
This marks a big change since 2000, when Dallas was 12th and Fort Worth 34th, and an even bigger one since 1990, when Dallas was 17th and Fort Worth 45th. Fort Worth, Jacksonville, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., have made the three biggest climbs in the rankings since 1990.
The fact is, though, there doesn’t appear to be any really good way to compare how many gays and lesbians live in various cities throughout the U.S.
While there’s no doubt Fort Worth has become more gay-friendly in the last 17 years or that Dallas has lost a lot of gay people to the suburbs the author admits the rankings may be somewhat misleading.
For one, the study doesn’t include single people.
“I think we should always remember that we’re basing this only on the location decisions of couples, and we’re basing it on out couples,” said author Gary Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.
On top of that, there appears to be a glitch in the data for Dallas from 2004 that Gates couldn’t fully explain. The 2006 rankings rely on the average number of same-sex couples from 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the American Community Survey, a periodic census update. But the ACS uses much smaller samples than the census itself, which could explain why the estimated number of same-sex couples in Dallas went from 3,520 in 2003 to 1,540 in 2004, then back up to 5,283 in 2005 and 4,462 in 2006. The 2004 number drags the three-year average way down.
Based solely on the 2006 number, Dallas ranked 16th.
Still, the study reflects some interesting trends both locally and nationally, and it’s likely to become a resource for policymakers and marketing executives.
One apparent trend is that the more politically conservative an area, the greater the increase has been in the percentage of same-sex couples there. For example, in regions where support for 1992 presidential candidate George Bush was above the national average, the percentage increase in the number of same-sex couples since then has been above the national average, the study found.
“In some ways that goes against perhaps your intuition, but what it’s capturing is that the stigma associated with being gay is going down even in our most conservative areas of the country,” Gates said. “Fort Worth had a bigger closet than Dallas.”
The percentage of same-sex couples also increased more in areas where voters have approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. That includes Texas, which has seen a seven-fold increase in the number of same-sex couples since 1990.
“That level of public discourse leads some people to say, “‘They’re talking about me, and maybe I need to become more visible,'” Gates said.
“It’s what some people would call the Anita Bryant effect,” he added, referring to the controversial anti-gay singer from the 1980s. “A lot of gay people became more open and politically active in Florida because of that. With a lot of these marriage referendums, there’s been kind of a backlash.”
Finally, the study shows a trend of gays and lesbians leaving cities for the suburbs. In Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit the only three cities to see declines in percentages of same-sex couples numbers in surrounding areas are way up. Gates said he has not compiled numbers for surrounding areas in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. This last trend parallels the devolution in many cities, including Dallas, of the traditional “gayborhood.”
“A lot of the original people who moved there because it was less expensive can no longer afford it,” Gates said.
In addition, gays moving out of gayborhoods can be more confident they won’t be harassed and will have opportunities to meet other gays in their new neighborhoods.
“People don’t feel that they need to live in those enclaves to the extent that they used to 10 or 15 years ago,” Gates said.
To view the study, go to www.law.ucla.edu/ williamsinstitute/publications/ACSBriefFinal.pdf.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 16, 2007