How I loved going to “The City” during my first three decades. There really was no place quite like San Francisco. And this was mostly before I recognized the siren song of sections of the city like The Castro and Polk Street Gulch. Alas, I haven’t visited the wonderful place in 20 years and may never get back there. I can imagine it is quite a bit different from what I remember. Cities can experience drastic changes in that long a time.
For instance, you might believe that the “City by The Bay” would be considered the most gay friendly place in the USA. Think again. The crown now belongs to another city I have great fondness and familiarity for–Seattle. A place I lived for a good decade and the closest major city to where I live now.
Seattle is also a West Coast attraction by a bay and it has a decently-sized gay community, but nothing like San Francisco or its neighbors to the south, Los Angeles and San Diego.
When I moved to the Northwest in ’87 Seattle was a lovely small city that couldn’t really hold a candle to the gay wonders of SF or LA. It was easy to see all the same faces occupying the dance clubs and bars. The local Newspaper seemed like a pamphlet in comparison to the Los Angeles Times I read on a regular basis before my move. LA was a sprawling metropolis that almost morphed into a new self during the decade I spent there. I left because of various things, but the strongest pull away was that I wanted to re-experience being immersed in nature and sensing a world that was less populated and far more green.
Seattle was a perfect fit. A short drive or ferry ride and you were in the wilderness and everything was cooler, lusher, wetter and smelled incredibly alive. The climate reminded me of where I was born in Humboldt County on the Northern California coast. I’d always loved visiting my grandparents as a child because they lived in the midst of the redwoods. LA had lots of idle pleasures, but heat and I do not really get along well, so it wasn’t difficult making the decision to leave the sandy beaches and searing sunshine behind. It also meant saying goodbye to the ocean of gay men and a city where hooking up seemed inevitable.
Seattle was friendly in those days and I loved discovering all the different attractions the Emerald City had to offer, but I never found exactly what I was looking for in lasting romance and eventually decided that being even closer to nature–living in the country–was a better option. I have never regretted coming to Washington State. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Recently, when the rest of the country seemed to be either on fire or going through a horrible heat wave and drought, the Olympic Peninsula was barely hitting 80 degrees. Last winter seemed to be never-ending for the poor folks back east. Here it was a fairly mild winter. The thermometer never dropped into the mid teens and there was no snow. Things may change soon with the threat of a coming El Nino weather system. But, even then, it will still be grand living here. I feel blessed. (If atheists can be blessed.)
Washington certainly suits my liberal sensibilities. We approved gay marriage and recreational cannabis. Even Massachusetts is too staid for such liberalism. Just stay west of the Cascade Mountains and it’s a progressive paradise.
So it seems somewhat justified that Seattle has become the gay friendliest city in The Union. I don’t know if that is because of the city’s reputation as “Top’s Heaven”. More likely, it’s because we are one of the centers of PC technology and are open to more risky and unusual ventures than other parts of the country. Lots of gay people are involved in the success of companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks who are all supporters of gay rights legislation.
Yes, Western Washington is a great place to live unless grey skies and misty rain make you depressed. Then, by all means, come see the wonderland in the summer, but make sure to go home before autumn arrives.