Spotlight on UCLA: The Williams Institute
“We are everywhere.”
This mantra is one of the most quintessential quotations of the gay liberation movement. Despite its compelling message, I feel that our queer generation has forgotten this message and instead succumbed to believing the stereotype that gay people are only in WeHo, San Francisco, and similar explicitly gay-friendly urban areas. The Williams Institute’s Census Snapshots of the United States and of each individual state reveal that there is much truth behind “we are everywhere” and that same-sex couples truly do reside in nearly every pocket of the country.
Unless you have a superb knowledge of geography, you would probably not be able to find the aforementioned gay communities on the Williams Institute’s U.S. Census Snapshot amidst the many high concentration areas across the map. All fifty states have at least one county that consists of five to seven same-sex couples per one thousand couples. Strikingly, the majority of the state of Alaska has seven per 1,000 or higher concentration of same-sex couples (the highest proportion category in the study)!
Fascinatingly, female same-sex couples appear to be much more spread out than their male counterparts. Male couples seem more concentrated in urban areas and in the politically “blue states” of the country. Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that most gay neighborhoods are in fact traditionally gay neighborhoods which are not typically very inclusive of or inhabited by female queer people. Or perhaps female same-sex couples are more able to “pass” and fit in to the rural regions in which so many of them reside without facing discrimination or prejudice. This sharp distinction within our community is deserving of future research.
To be sure, studying same-sex couples is by no means representative of our entire community. Youth, single people, and people who did not feel the need to “out” themselves on their census forms are excluded from this analysis. Unfortunately, unless the census someday allows sexual orientation to be categorized similarly to race or ethnicity, it is difficult to conduct quantitative analysis of our entire community. But same-sex couples are an important demographic to study, and their geographic variety provides insight into the spread-out nature of the greater queer community.
As Harvey Milk famously recited, “Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all the sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said “Thanks”. And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that thousands upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s: without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.”