Rudy Molinet
Saturday, August 27, 2011
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Key West and Monroe County are a mecca for gay and lesbian couples

We're a funky little island at the end of the road, a menagerie of people from all walks of life with beautiful weather, great architecture and wonderful caring neighbors. Now the U.S. Census Bureau has validated what we have known for generations: Key West is one of the top locations in the nation for gay and lesbian couples to live and to retire.

That's right, in case you thought that our beloved drag queen Inga stands in front of Aqua just for the tourists, or that having an openly gay police chief or county mayor was an accident, the government has documented what he have known for ages. If you are a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, you are welcome in our island paradise.

The U.S. Census has, for the first time, issued a comprehensive report on gay and lesbian couples in the USA. This release is historic, and will have huge implications for our community. No longer are gay and lesbian couples relegated to official nonexistence by our government. After all, if you hide that gay and lesbian couples actually exist, then you don't have to pass laws to protect our basic civil rights -- sort of a national "don't ask, don't tell" approach to dealing with what some right-wingers call "the gays."

Well, in Key West, we love "the gays," and the lesbians, and bisexuals, and transgendered folk -- and heterosexual people, too! That is the point of our One Human Family ethos, that we are all created equal members of One Human Family no matter who we happen to love.

Many times Harry and I hear from some members of the gay community that Key West is not as "gay" as it used to be. We often retort that perhaps there are a lot less gay bars and exclusively gay guest houses on the island, but isn't the point of equality to be able to go to any bar or any guest house, or any church, without having to segregate ourselves as a community?

Oh the power of data! The data show that the number of same-sex couples per thousand households in Key West has actually doubled in the past 10 years. That's right, let's all take out our rainbow flags and hang them in front of our homes and businesses. If every gay and lesbian business and household did this, our island would be a sea of color from Old Town to New Town from Bahama Village to Truman Annex and from the Casa Marina to Hilton Haven.

That is one of the many great things about Key West. In many cities, gays and lesbians are clustered in so-called gay neighborhoods or gay villages. This kind of "gay ghetto" has not been the case in Key West. Rather, there are gay people living alongside straights, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples living side-by-side in a wonderfully woven societal fabric everywhere on the island. We like it this way.

A look at the data provides great insight about the presence of gays and lesbians in the United States. The No. 1 city in America in terms of numbers of same-sex couple households per thousand is Provincetown, Mass. This has been a long-standing gay resort and pretty much a Key West of the North. According to the U.S. Census, there are 163.1 same-sex couple households per thousand in P-Town, up from 128 per thousand in 2010. Second place goes to Wilton Manors, at 139.6 per thousand, Palm Springs, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and Guerneville, California round out the top five.

In Florida, Key West ranks in the top five cities after Wilton Manors, Oakland Park, Miami Shores, and Fort Lauderdale. Key West has 34.34 same-sex couple households per 1000, double the number we had in 1990 when there were 15.7 gay couple households in our city. Monroe County ranks No. 1 in the state of Florida with 21.75 same-sex couple households per thousand, and No. 3 among counties nationally.

The data also show a surprising increase in same-sex households in rural America and small towns, debunking long-held views that gays and lesbians only live in big cities and on the two coasts. The other big surprise was San Francisco. The traditional gay mecca has dropped to No. 28 on the list, another sign that the gay and lesbian community is becoming more integrated into all corners of America.

The information may actually be underreporting same-sex households, since there was no choice on the census form for gay and lesbian married couples or domestic partners to check off. The form will hopefully be improved so that the reporting will be more accurate. Further, many same-sex couples still live in fear of discrimination and perhaps don't understand or trust that census data is confidential.

In the meantime, the rest of the country will know what our fellow Key Westers already know about their gay neighbors; we are an important part of the fabric of the nation and we are indeed, everywhere!

Rudy Molinet is a real estate broker, co-owner of Marquis Properties Realty in Key West and a community and human rights activist. He lives in Old Town with Harry Hoehn, his spouse of 18 years. Contact him at rudy@rudymolinet.com.