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|Mary Gorham Malia • 10/05/15|
Considering we live in the land of the free, many gay communities have the opportunity to openly express their sexuality and fly their flags high. Most anywhere you go, there will be at least a few areas that are very LGBT friendly and will make you feel welcome.
In terms of lesbian communities, certain cities attract larger populations of these same-sex couples because of things like feminism, progressiveness or activist efforts that generate awareness and acceptance.
Regardless, having a large lesbian population is not the only positive attribute of an LGBT area. There are a lot of factors that combine to create an ideal lesbian community, such as open and tolerant attitudes, natural beauty, community events and legalized rights.
As someone who has recently made a big cross-country move from Portland, Maine to Denver, Colorado based in part on lesbian community, I’ll admit from the start that you’re getting my opinion and experience mixed in here.
And yes, I’m skipping the big, well-known cities because you already know about them. It’s the many small cities that I want to address that welcome lesbians with open arms because too often they go unnoticed.
(Maine has full legal rights and protections for LGBT residents.)
In the last 10 years, the lesbian (and queer) community has blossomed big time in Portland, Maine. There’s the lesbian neighborhood, Munjoy Hill, where I grew up as a kid, and it’s definitely not the neighborhood I once knew.
There are lots of lesbian-owned businesses, like Caiola’s and Katahdin, both restaurants that are hip and fun and have amazing food. You’ll find “out” real estate agents, bankers, mortgage brokers, designers, therapists, doctors and pretty much people in any other service you need.
There’s entertainment that is queer/lesbian driven, and there’s the Portland Lesbian Coffee House, a meetup group that started in 2007 and really changed the face of lesbian social life in southern Maine.
Don’t forget it’s also a beautiful city on the coast. Lighthouses, parks, bike trails, kayaking, hiking, beaches, skiing, First Friday Art Events, breweries, wineries and amazing local food and farmers markets. There’s an endless amount of activities to do with your SO.
Along with all this, you’re only one hour away from Ogunquit, Maine. A beautiful summer community with a strong LGBT presence, it hosts LGBT events year round, including a monthly T-dance for lesbians at a bar called Maine Street with my friend DJ Jodi rocking the dance floor.
Finally, it’s a 90-minute drive to Boston and a six-hour drive to New York City.
Now at this point, you can see I’ve got the 411 on Portland, so let’s check out some other great little cities around the country.
(Colorado has full legal rights for LGBT residents.)
The Mile High City is chock-full of lesbians of all kinds. One way you can tell is attending the First Friday Dance hosted by Dede Frain at Tracks. Upward of 2,000 women attend this dance, where it starts early with two-stepping and runs late with hip hop, electric and pop music, happening in three different sized dance rooms.
One week later, there’s Second Friday Happy Hour at the Living Room in downtown Denver. You have the chance to meet women from all over the city.
Denver is home to the Gill Foundation, the premier foundation for supporting LGBT rights across the nation. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the President and CEO, Courtney Cuff. She’s smart, high-energy and one of us! The Gill Foundation has been instrumental in helping us win equality in many states.
There’s the LGBT Center that also hosts a program called Rainbow Alley for LGBTQIT youth. It’s a really important resource for youth in need of information, support, allies and other queer youth.
Now what else is going on in Denver? There are 800 miles of bike paths, mountains just 45 minutes away that you can hike, ski, snowboard or mountain bike on if you want. There are hot springs, and let’s not forget 300 days of sunshine per year. It’s also a destination for legal recreational use of marijuana.
What I love about Denver is the large lesbian sober community. Yes, I’m a friend of Bill and can find fellow sisters at almost any meeting I attend, but there are those where the sisters gather in droves. It’s a good thing.
It’s got all the things we want! Universities and colleges, breweries, local food, festivals, a huge PRIDE festival, lots of great foodie places, cheap and free things to do in bulk (you can’t beat hiking the foothills of the Rockies for free), lots of parks and the most amazing mountain views.
But where else do the women hang out?
A bit larger than Denver but much smaller than Dallas and Houston, Austin has become one of the top cities for lesbian life.
Texas is known as an ultra-conservative state that is proud of being anti-LGBT (you can still get fired simply for being lesbian in Texas), but Austin seems to be different.
What I love about living in Austin is people are pretty laid back. The lesbian scene is alive and expanding thanks to active women who love to make events happen.
Get on Facebook and do a search for the Lesbutante. She and her girlfriend host dance events all over the city on a regular basis.
Keep an eye out for Rusty’s Revival, a dance event at Maria’s Taco Express on South Lamar that happens once a month. First off, Maria’s truly embraces the “keep it weird” theme that is Austin and fills that space up with two-steppin’ lesbians, so there’s nothing but fun and great food happening there.
Check out the hike and bike trail in the center of the city. It’s 10 miles of trail that has been developed along the Colorado River that runs through the center of the city (also known as Town Lake or Lady Bird Lake), and it’s buzzing with people all the time. It’s a great place to meet fellow lesbians who are out getting fit, working up a sweat or just bird watching.
While I lived in Austin, I joined the Texas Rowing Club. It was the one way I could stand the summer heat and humidity. An insider secret is there are plenty of lesbians who love to row. Rowing is a team sport and a community activity, so getting even a single boat in the water requires asking someone to help you out.
I had the pleasure of rowing in a quad with three other lesbians. It was so much fun, even if we didn’t win any races during the Regattas that take place.
Finally, like most cities that have an active lesbian community, check out Meetup.com for lesbian groups in Austin. There’s a swarm of them. I started one of the first groups in 2009 known as the Austin Lesbian Coffee House. You’ll also find a book club, motorcycle group, basketball group and so on.
California is very lesbian friendly, and we finally have full legal rights to marry, work and live equally.
Long Beach is about 30 minutes from LA and is often overlooked, despite having its own thriving LGBT community. There’s Long Beach Pride, The Long Beach LGBT Center and the Long Beach Q Film Festival. Long Beach is actually 8.1 percent GLBs, which makes it the 10th most LGB-populated city.
Long Beach Pride takes place mid-May, and the evening finishes off with a huge dance event called Krave, with upward of 1,000 women attending. That’s an event not to be missed.
But Long Beach also has the … beach! There’s a lot of opportunity for sports and activity on the water. There are theme parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Park in nearby Orange County, as well as more educational venues like the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Let’s not forget the beautiful California State University, the ideal weather and the plethora of LGBT meetup groups in the area. Plus you can visit the Queen Mary, the aquarium and the Dog Beach! What lesbian in her right mind wouldn’t want to hang out at the Dog Beach with her furry friend and a potential girlfriend?
Let’s head back to the East Coast for some great lesbian living. There is plenty to do in Rehoboth Beach year-round.
If you like clubs and bands, then Rehoboth is the place to be. There are also many events such as parades, celebrations, festivals, theater, plays, water sports, gold and more to do here all year.
Rehoboth Beach is an award-winning, five-star beach with plenty of room for sun bathing, building sand castles and surfing the waves, as well as dolphin watching, pontoon boat excursions and areas for early morning or sunset runs along the coastline and boardwalk. Access to the beach is free of charge so pack up the beach blanket and sunscreen and hit the sand!
This small community blossoms in summer but has an active LGBT community all year long. Summer sees the largest crowds and the most exciting beach and nightlife, but as it gives way to fall, visitors enjoy independent film and jazz festivals, wild holiday shopping (no sales tax!) and a New Year’s women’s gala at the convention center. Spring brings chocolate, wine and cabaret festivals.
This is a beautiful place to live with a welcoming community and lots to do. You won’t find any universities or colleges, but you will find beauty, sun, peace and quiet (most of the year) and a town that welcomes lesbians of all kinds.
Plus, you’re only three hours away from Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, so you can get your intellectual, political or historical fix easy as pie.
Ohio’s capital city and the third largest city in the Midwest gets five stars for a great lesbian place to live. With more than 35,000 LGBT people living in the city, there is a very busy LGBTQ scene.
It’s a city full of businesses owned by women, lesbian clubs, great food and hot women peddling bikes everywhere. What’s even more fun for lesbians is it’s legal for women to go topless in Columbus.
If you’re a coffee lover, check out Travonna. It’s the premier LGBT-friendly coffee and art space, open 24 hours a day.
If you’re the kind of lesbian who loves literature and lesbian writing, Columbus has 10 local LGBTQ publications for print news. There’s Outlook, Gay People’s Chronicle and Out in Columbus to get you started. Check out Lavender Listings for all things lesbian. You’ll find many of these publications available at no charge at local coffee shops and bookstores.
Speaking of bookstores, word has it The Garden has the best and biggest selection of lesbian literature anywhere, and The Chamber has a knock-out section on fetishes along with any kind of gadget or toy you’ve been wondering about.
All of this makes Columbus sound like one of the more inviting places for lesbians to live and enjoy all the goodness of lesbian life.
Central Ohio features a high concentration of colleges and universities, including The Ohio State University, Columbus College of Art and Design, Franklin University, Columbus State Community College, and Capital University.
This is a potent mix of young people and academia that means lots of sexy-smart girls of all kinds of orientations, identifications and presentations. It also means we have lots of art shows, galleries, poetry slams, famous lecturers, music, boozery and fun!
As one of the largest universities in the country, by enrollment and area, The Ohio State University is crawling with lesbians. OSU also has a lot to offer, with one of the largest and best women’s, gender and sexuality studies departments, plus dozens of LGBT organizations on campus. You’ll even find they have a lesbian porn class during the winter semester.
There’s just so much to love about Columbus!
That’s six great cities from the East Coast to the West Coast, and a couple of places in between that give you plenty of options as a lesbian woman. What I’ve learned is you have to create the life you want, and sometimes that takes moving to a new location.
I’m a firm believer that everyone should live someplace different than where they grew up, even if its only for a little while. It’ll change how you think about life.
So get on Google and dig into these cities. You won’t be disappointed.
Photo sources: PixShark.com, NEFashionBrands.com, BeeautifulBlessings.com, Clinics.la.utexas.edu, RomaeLaDiaz.wordpress.com, RickCollier.photoshelter.com, SustainableCitiesInstitute.com.