Affordable Gay Cities You’re Forgetting

The ditty on gay cities 

What the eff are gay cities? Gay cities are cities, big or small – size doesn’t matter – that are openly friendly to queer people. From New York City to San Francisco and Pittsburg to Portland, if I can walk down the street and holding my husband’s hand without fear, it’s a gay city. 

Note: This article contains affiliate links. This means we’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you if you buy items through these links. We only recommend products that we use or have thoroughly vetted and would recommend to our moms.

Migration to the gay cities

For decades, there’s been a migration of corn-fed boys and small-town girls with big city dreams to major cities that became the norm within the LGBT community.

Not long-ago gays and lesbians had to hide in bigger gay cities — like San Francisco, the queen of all gayborhoods — if we wanted to live our lives as ourselves. We gathered in pockets of less desirable neighborhoods in these larger cities.

The Castro in San Francisco today is not The Castro of Harvey Milk. Chelsea in New York City and Boystown in Chicago weren’t the exclusive enclaves they are today. Pre-1980, these neighborhoods were dirty, crime-ridden places citizens forgot and governments hoped to forget.

With the number of people these cities housed, it was easy for gays and lesbians to hide in plain sight. It’s been either irony or recompense that these places of refuge made many marginalized residents marginally rich with their DIY skills long before shirtless HGTV stars showed them how.

Live fabulously in affordable gay cities

Times have changed and, in many parts of the country, we no longer need to seek refuge. There’s still a draw to these bigger cities — one that now poses a financial problem. While real estate and the cost of living has increased nationwide since the 1970s — exponentially so in these first- and second-tier metros — many once affordable gay locales are now million-dollar enclaves Google employees can’t even afford. For gays and lesbians who don’t earn six figures, that’s a problem.

To be sure, today’s economy requires multiple streams of income and an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s why we’re advocating for more queer people to become gay bloggers. This can increase your streams of income to make more money at your own pace and on your own time. We’re also advocating for more people of “alternative lifestyles” to consider alternative residence.

Big city, empty pockets

While it’s fabulous to live in a city with tons things to do seven nights of the week with millions of people who look, talk and act like you, it’s also easy to become fabulously broke there. Here is the cost of living numbers for premier gay cities per PayScale:

  • New York – cost of living is 129% above average; housing is 369% above average
  • Los Angeles – cost of living is 50% above average; housing is 355% above average
  • San Francisco – cost of living is 192% above average; housing is 198% above average
  • Chicago – cost of living is 20% above average; housing is 46% above average
  • Seattle – cost of living is 24% above average; housing is 82% above average

A regular mo needs multiple incomes just to afford to live in one of those premier gay cities. If you’re committed to living on one of the above or other expensive cities, commit to starting your own business to generate income.

Smaller cities, bigger pockets

Gays and lesbians today should know that the door out of the closet doesn’t just lead to these emerald cities. Here are five alternative and amazing gay cities that rank in the top 15 for the highest concentration of LGBT per capita and have a more affordable cost of living. Best of all, when budgeted correctly, most queer residents in these gay cities can quickly hop on a plane and visit any of the above with the click of their heels.

  1. Austin, Texas

Austin boasts an LGBT population of 5.3% of the general population. Its cost of living is 3% below the national average and housing is 4% below the national average. Austin has an amazing music scene and is becoming a mecca for comedy and improv theater. It’s also known for great food, yet is one of the fittest cities in Texas. Austin’s gay community bookends the summer with Splash Days on Memorial and Labor Day weekends, which is the place to be Memorial and Labor Day weekends. For a full breadth of entertainment, fun and gay community, Austin may be your best bet.

  1. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is not the Sal Tlay Ka Siti we’ve come to love from The Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City’s LGBT people make up a solid 4.7% of the total population. Its cost of living is just 8% over the national average, and its housing is 33% over the national average. Salt Lake City is close to premier skiing and cycling destinations and has a growing music scene with free concerts in Pioneer Park.

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Gay people make up 5.1% of The Big Easy. New Orleans’ cost of living is 2% below the national average and its housing is just 1% higher than the national average. New Orleans flamboyance makes Las Vegas jealous and is a foodie’s buffet. With as much history as hurricanes, of both the wind/water and libation varieties. Lastly, New Orleans is rumored to be the home of David’s favorite drink, the Sazerac. That, alone, might make us move there.

  1. Louisville, Ky.

Louisville’s queer people make up a healthy 4.5% of Louisville’s overall population. Louisville’s cost of living is 10% below the national average, and housing is 22% below the national average. The city is filled with beautiful historic homes and — put on your best hat —it’s home to the Kentucky Derby! Louisville also has a thriving art, culture and zombie scene – yes, zombie scene; it’s the site of one of the world’s biggest annual Zombie Walks.

  1. Jacksonville, Fla.

Jacksonville can be proud of its 4.3% of LGBTQ people in it’s The River City. Jacksonville’s cost of living is 4% below the national average and housing is 15% below the national average. If you want to live near the beach, but can’t afford it, Jacksonville is the next best thing and much better than the movie of the same name. Jacksonville has a thriving downtown scene, including great restaurant and nightlife. It also has the largest urban park system in the U.S.

The above list isn’t all-inclusive of the best third- and fourth-tier cities for queer people to live, but they’ll give you money conscious considerations to live fabulously, not fabulously broke even with a single job. With multiple streams of income, you could be sitting like the queen or king you want to be.

What affordable gay cities do you recommend?

Note: This article contains affiliate links. This means we’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you if you buy items through these links. We only recommend products that we use or have thoroughly vetted and would recommend to our moms.

Comment List

  • Centsai 25 / 10 / 2016 Reply

    I can definitely agree with you that New York City is EXPENSIVE!!! Going out with your friends and ordering just one drink can cost you $15 when you can get that same exact drink for $7 anywhere else!!

  • Ed S. 18 / 12 / 2016 Reply

    You missed Columbus Ohio. We have one of the largest gay populations in the Mid-west, second only to Chicago. Plus we’re the home to a multitude of large companies, so there are plenty of jobs to go around. Check us out!

    • David Auten 21 / 12 / 2016 Reply

      Thanks for the hint. We didn’t find Columbus ranking high on the per capita for LGBT populations. Maybe the lists we were looking at need some updating. We are going to be in Akron for a speaking event in 2017. We may have to drive on over.

  • Zanaan Frame 20 / 03 / 2017 Reply

    Hey David! It’s Zanaan; thanks for including Salt Lake City on your list. I moved from Denver to Salt Lake and I always tell people it’s the biggest best kept gay secret in America!! The LGBTQ community is thriving here in the city, with a Lesbian Mayor, Gay city council members, booming economy and one of the largest populations of gay families with children, it’s no wonder why Salt Lake City is being touted as the new San Francisco.

    • John Schneider 30 / 04 / 2017 Reply

      Zanaan, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We need to get out there. I hear SLC has a great vibe and lots of friendly people. Any suggestions for our readers?

  • Mike 18 / 09 / 2017 Reply

    Check out Las Vegas also, low cost housing, no state income tax, lots of shows to see, and more jobs than people to fill them.

    • David Auten 18 / 10 / 2017 Reply

      Thanks Mike, we may need to add that to our list. We also pull from the listing of cities with higher than average LGBT populations. I am not sure where LV stands on that list. Do you?

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