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There's a bubbling-up effect that starts on the ground." Population: 209,880Bona fides: Birmingham has a solid infrastructure of support for its LGBTQIA population, but gay sex was illegal in Alabama until 2014. (God speed.) And Gina Mallisham, a member of the Pride advisory board in Birmingham, says wryly, "Adversity is nothing new to disenfranchised people in the South." Birmingham, she says, "is a very affirming city," with a gay community big and active enough to support a 10-day, tri-county Pride celebration, a gay softball league, and a chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a protest/performance art troupe of queer "nuns").
State law still dictates that teachers must tell students "that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public." In 2017, the state legislature moved to ban gays from adopting needy children, and the owner of a movie theater refused to show Beauty and the Beast because of a gay-coded character. There are also LGBTQIA book clubs, church groups, and youth centers -- check out the Magic City Acceptance Center, which hosts a number of affirming youth peer groups, particularly for queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) and trans kids under 14 and their parents.
Nothing can be queerer than getting out of your comfort zone.” In choosing cities to recognize, we looked often to the HRC's most recent Municipal Quality Index, which scores cities' LGBTQIA legal protections on a 100-point scale.
We also wanted chill places with an LGBTQIA scene, so we asked locals for their observations and impressions.
Nationwide, the Human Rights Campaign counts 31 states that don't have comprehensive laws to protect LGBTQIA people from discrimination in housing, in employment, and in receiving services. That's the discouraging news, if you're living in any of those states, or if you care about equal rights. In every one, cities are ahead of the curve in making life more welcoming -- and more safe -- for diverse peoples.
"Cities are the most immediate iteration of democracy that we have," says Xavier Persad, legislative counsel for the HRC in Washington, DC.
"Showtimes are strategically launched," Mallisham says, "so if you want to catch all three on one night, you can! In 2018, the city enacted a non-discrimination ordinance, protecting the LGBTQIA community from housing, public accomodation, and employment discrimination.City councils are simply faster and more nimble than state legislatures. Cities in the likes of Wyoming and Kentucky and Arkansas are the best chance for leading their deep-red states toward overdue changes.It's easy to sniff at the slow progress in Mississippi -- but who in America is fighting the good fight like Jesse Pandolfo, who runs the gay bar in Jackson?Adding to that, the police have trained business owners to be able to handle all kinds of issues, especially situations that may threaten trans people.It all makes for a surprisingly well-protected and inviting city; even the US Veterans Administration hosts regular clinic hours for trans servicemembers.
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Meanwhile, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation provides housing, food, care services and support groups for those living with HIV/AIDS.