Queer Nation

The gayest state in America is…Kentucky!?

· Updated on December 11, 2023

UPDATE: Over the weekend, it came out that The Williams Institute misreported the numbers on Kentucky. The real estimate is 4.9% of LGBTQ+ adults, rather than 10.5%.

Time to plan your next vacation to the hottest new gay destination: Kentucky?

Yes, you read that right. According to a new study from UCLA, Kentucky is officially America’s gayest state in terms of LGBT population.

That doesn’t mean Kentucky literally has the most gay people — the state isn’t that big to begin with. Rather, Kentucky has the highest proportion of LGBT people in its population, with a whopping 10.5% of adults in Kentucky self-identifying as LGBT. That means every 1 in 10 people walking down the streets of Louisville and Lexington is queer, a fact you’d never guess from the state’s reputation or its conservative voting habits.

Landlocked, southern Kentucky having such a disproportionately queer population likely comes as a shock. America’s gay meccas have always been on the coasts: New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, to name a few. But the results don’t lie — there must be something in the Kentucky water that the coastal elite haven’t caught onto.

Technically, the highest proportion of LGBT adults goes not to Kentucky, but to the District of Columbia, with 14.3%. In terms of states, though, Kentucky reigns supreme, followed by Oregon and Delaware with 7.8% and 7.5% respectively.

Rounding out the rest of the top gayest states are Vermont (7.4%), New Hampshire (7.2%), Washington (6.9%), Colorado (6.8%), Nevada (6.6%), and Masschussetts, Maine, and Rhode Island, all tied with 6.5%.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the states with the lowest percentage of LGBT people are West Virginia and Mississippi, which both have a measly 4.1%. Other painfully straight states include North Carolina (4.4%), Illinois (4.5%), Alabama (4.6%), Iowa (4.7%), North Dakota (4.9%), and South Carolina (4.9%).

The study also analyzed its results by region, showing that the highest percentage of America’s queer population is in the South, with 36.9% of all LGBT adults living in southern states. Meanwhile, 24.2% live in the West, 20.6% live in the Midwest, and just 18.3% live in the Northeast.

Overall, the study found that 5.6% of American adults identify as LGBT. That’s 14.1 million people across the U.S. 

That proportion gets higher the younger the adult: between the ages of 18 and 24, 15.4% of Americans identify as LGBT, with that percentage trending downward with older populations. You heard it here first: the future belongs to the gays.

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