New York City — home to Stonewall, the first Pride parade, the catalyst to the modern gay rights movement — was No. 2 in a report published this week that ranks the 35 cities around the country.
Though Los Angeles took the top spot, surprising to some in the gay community here, New York City is still seen as a haven and cultural mecca decades after the equality movement was sparked by the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, a moment that will get a 45th anniversary celebration on June 28.
“New York City has an incredibly rich and vibrant LGBT community with a lot of different facets,” said Glennda Testone, executive director of The Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
The survey from Vocativ, a news organization that uses data-mining technology, looked at more than a dozen categories to rank the cities, including starting a family and adoption laws, fewest hate crimes, nightlife, gay-friendly business and number of gay, lesbian and transgender politicians.
For every 100,000 people, New York City was No. 1 in number of bars and clubs (59.41), singles (1,683), Craigslist posts seeking a partner (57.98), bathhouses and rentboys (3.45), sports leagues (.64), and theaters and museums (1.29).
“We’re still the hub of everything creative. You have to look a little hard with the chain stores, banks and Chipotles, but it’s still here,” said Michael Musto, a columnist for Out and former Village Voice scribe. “I think there are more gay bars than ever.”
Nightlife and the comfort that New York affords are attractive to residents and visitors alike.
“The nightlife here is amazing. People come from all over the world — Italy, Holland, Australia,” to party said Lisa Cannistraci, 51, owner of Henrietta Hudson, a lesbian bar.
Even though Los Angeles stole the city’s assumed crown as the destination, there are people in New York who still see the city as a better place overall.
“In New York City, you have everything,” said Stephen Silva, a 27-year-old law student in Flatbush. “LA might be more LGBT friendly, New York is definitely the best place to be LGBT.”
Beyond culture, New York was an important state for the marriage equality movement when it allowed same-sex couples to wed in 2011 and protect employees from discrimination over sexual orientation. Meanwhile, the state eased requirements to change gender on birth certificates outside the city and gender expression was protected for public workers. Bias crimes around the five boroughs bring people out for vigils and demands for justice.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, of Queens, said New York City has changed since he came out in 1989 at age 19.
“LGBT New Yorkers live in every neighborhood and work in every neighborhood and I believe that because of the political power that we have been able to assemble, we have seen many, many important legislative victories,” he said.
Earlier, “we were talking about having a seat at the table,” Van Bramer said. “Now, we’re not just at the table, we’re at the head of the table.”
Still, these activists and community members understand their fight for equality continues, turning toward transphobia and hate crimes, protecting gender identity in the workplace, youth suicide and homelessness, and bullying in schools.
“Certainly, we can pass all the bills we want,” said Erin Drinkwater, executive director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. “But at the end of the day, there’s a difference between legislative equality and somebody’s lived experience.” (With Sheila Anne Feeney)