LGBTQ People Are Moving To Red States, According To Recent Data — Here Are 4 Reasons Why
It may sound counterintuitive, but studies show that a growing number of LGBTQ people are moving to red states. Why is this something of a paradox? Traditionally, media depictions of LGBTQ people show queer people living primarily in liberal-minded cities: Shows like The L Word, Queer As Folk, and Will & Grace immediately come to mind. As a queer person myself, I know within the community this is often (jokingly) referred to as the "queer manifest destiny." Basically, this refers to coming out as LGBTQ and moving to a city with a large queer presence, like New York, Boston, or San Francisco. There's also been a long tradition of LGBTQ people living in low-cost urban neighborhoods.
Less talked about, however, are the LGBTQ people who live in traditionally red states. Of course, LGBTQ people have always lived, well, everywhere, because we've always existed. However, based on data released from the U.S. Census and Gallup polls, it appears that LGBTQ people are moving en mass to cities in red states: Think Indianapolis, Ind., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Louisville, Ky.
Everyone has their own reasons for wherever they choose to live (and admittedly, some people have little choice in their location because of obligations or restraints); here are four of them:
1. Lower Cost of Living
Across the board, the cost of living in cities is rising. While there are a lot of stereotypes about LGBTQ people being wealthy, it's simply not always the case. Like everyone else, LGBTQ people may be low-, middle-, or high-income, and have a variety of employment statuses. For low-income workers in general, the cost of living is increasingly out of reach to survive in urban areas, and it's no different for low-income LGBTQ employees. Coastal cities are generally more expensive to live in, so it makes sense that for lower income LGBTQ people, relocating to the midland of the country would be a more economical decision.
2. They're Good Places For Raising A Family
Studies show that there are more same-sex parents raising families in Salt Lake City, Utah than in any other metro area in the country. The first time I read this, it absolutely blew my mind. The study, which is from 2013, relies on data from before same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the United States; at the time the study was conducted, many red states including Utah didn't recognize same-sex marriages. Still, LGBTQ people who wanted to be parents found loopholes in adoption or second-parent adoption laws or worked with foster systems to make it work.
The same study found high rates of same-sex parents raising children in other traditionally red areas, like Memphis and San Antonio. On a practical level, these areas have a relatively low cost of living, which makes raising a family (potentially) more affordable. Some also argue that same-sex couples living in these areas are interested in "family values" and see these areas as being "family friendly" environments.
3. The Desire To Reconnect With Family Ties
For a lot of people, it's important to stay in touch with your roots. These days, it's normal for people to leave the area they grew up in and start their own lives elsewhere — but it's also normal for people to crave a return to the area they were raised in, especially if they want to settle down or start a family themselves. LGBTQ people don't come only from traditionally liberal environments, so for queer people who want a return to their family homes, it might mean relocating back to a state that isn't traditionally gay-friendly.
For others, this decision could also be rooted in serious responsibility: Just like heterosexual and cisgender people, many LGBTQ people relocate in order to care for sick or dying family members, or to support friends in need.
4. Personal Preference
Some studies find that LGBTQ people who live in rural areas actually experience happier lives than those who live in urban areas. For a long time, living in rural or suburban areas as an LGBTQ person was synonymous with living in the closet; for instance, many conservative states lacked employment protection laws or anti-discrimination for housing policies, and cities were seen as a safer, more inclusive option.
Even since the legalization of same-sex marriage across the board, you can still be fired for being LGBTQ in 28 states, and few states have anti-discrimination laws for housing on the books. While lack of legal protection is a potential stressor, a 2013 study argues that LGBTQ people can be happy anywhere. Personally, I have a hard time imagining myself living outside of an urban area, but I know many queer people who are happier to spend a day outside hiking than stuck in a big city.
All in all, I think it's awesome that LGBT people are moving to less liberal areas. I reject the notion that as queer people we need to fit a certain stereotype or expectation in terms of how we live our lives and where in the world we "fit" in. This said, I think it's important we remember that in many of these red states, LGBTQ people lack protections and opportunities they're offered in more liberal areas, which can be a source of stress and possibly result in loss of income or even homelessness.
Even aside from legalities, I think increasing tolerance and acceptance is additionally significant, as everyone deserves to feel welcome and safe in their home, even if it's not in a gayborhood in New York or LA.
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