Where is Britain’s LGBTQ+ population?

Allegedly, Grindr killed our city gay bars. But what if it didn’t?

Four decades ago, being queer was more tolerated in the South East of England, and the North East, home to Brighton, London and Newcastle. Yet by 2012, gay-friendly attitudes were strongest in Yorkshire and Humberside, the South-West, the North-West, and (still) the North-East, including the cities of Leeds and Manchester. Does this mean queer life is mainly in cities?

Not quite. The above areas include Northumberland and the Peak and Lake Districts, and numerous small cities. While data shows the countryside to be stubbornly resistant to gay-friendliness, small cities seem to have been long inclusive.

There’s not only data on what people think about queers, but on how gay venues have changed. 58% of LGBTQ+ spaces in London were lost between 2006 and 2017, with ‘significant’ venue losses in other UK cities. The popular story is that we shuffled over to apps like Grindr instead of going out. Rising rent prices for city venues, and squeezed incomes during the financial crisis, didn’t help.

Yet more might be taking place here. Surely apps have made it easier to meet people in places, like rural reas, without queer-specific venues? No doubt some LGBTQ+ people prefer to live in the countryside anyway? If we are more accepted outside of major cities, are we more likely to stay or settle there?

There’s limited research on rural gay life right now, so this project aims to capture queer life outside the city and compare it to experience in our urban centres. We’re currently looking for participants for our first study, so click here if you’d be interested in taking part.

Further Information and Research Links:

Grindr Killed the Gay Bar, and Other Attempts to Blame Social Technologies for Urban Development

Fifty shades of gay: Social and technological change, urban deconcentration and niche enterprise

LGBTQ+ cultural infrastructure in London: Night venues, 2006 – present

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