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Fall 2008 | Perfect 10: College towns Part Two

Fall 2008 | Perfect 10: College towns Part Two

Deep in America’s heartland lie intellectual refuges that call to gay travelers like blue beacons through conservative fog. These idyllic communities are ideal leapfrog stops on a coast-to-coast American getaway.

6. BLOOMINGTON, IND. [population 69,000]
THE 411: It may look like the quintessentially wholesome all-American college town, but there?s more to Bloomington than meets the eye: It?s home to both the nation?s largest Tibetan Cultural Center and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Yes, that Alfred Kinsey, the so-called father of sexology that helped forever change attitudes toward sex and sexual orientation. Bloomington remains a bastion of forward thinking, and its elm-shaded downtown streets abound with groovy caf?s and boutiques.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS:Bloomington Beacon Center, Indiana University GLBT Student Support Services

LOCAL GAY HANGS: the Courthouse Square neighborhood, Indiana Memorial Union, restaurants at the Tibetan Cultural Center

7. LAWRENCE, KAN. [population 89,000]
THE 411: Home to the main campus of the University of Kansas (playfully nicknamed ?Gay U? by many), Lawrence seems to defy state stereotypes in every sense: It leans left politically, it?s quite hilly, and its lively downtown abounds with urbane lounges, caf?s, and wine bars. The city lacks a full-time gay bar, but Kansas City?s many nightlife options are just 35 miles away. Literary icons like gay playwright William Inge are among KU?s alums.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS:KU Queers and Allies

LOCAL GAY HANGS: The gay-friendly restaurant Teller?s, music club Jazzhaus, coffeehouse/bar Henry?s on Eighth, the art-house cinema and lounge Liberty Hall

8. COLUMBIA, MO. [population 95,000]
THE 411: What do Brad Pitt and Tennessee Williams have in common? They both attended the University of Missouri?s flagship campus in Columbia, a bustling city roughly midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. Although Columbia earned some notoriety concerning the 2004 murder of gay student activist Jesse James Valencia (a closeted ex-policeman who had an affair with the victim was convicted, but the finding was later overturned), the city ranks among the gay-friendliest in Missouri, and the university?s LGBT Resource Center is one of the most active in the country.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS:University of Missouri LGBT Resource Center

LOCAL GAY HANGS: Gay bars SoCo Club, Arch and Column Pub; Lakota Coffee Co.

9. CHAMPAIGN/URBANA, ILL. [population 105,000]
THE 411: Central Illinois?s somewhat sprawling and prosaic sister cities of Champaign and Urbana offer less in the way of visitor cachet than many of the Heartland?s other academic hubs, but the area, home to the University of Illinois, is a bona fide college destination?and outside of metro Chicago, probably the gayest in the state. Queer advice gurus Dan Savage (sex and love) and Suze Orman (money and love) went to college here, as did Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS:University Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resources

LOCAL GAY HANGS: The gay bar Chester Street, Illini Union, Caf? Luna, Bar Giuliani caf?

10. LINCOLN, NEB. [population 240,000]
THE 411: Like a few other cities on this list, Lincoln has the distinction of being not only the state?s largest university town but also its capital. In highly conservative and largely agrarian Nebraska, however, this doesn?t translate to quite the progressive, ultragay mindset of Austin or Madison. Still, in the past decade, the local gay community has dramatically increased its visibility. The university?s Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, opened in 2003, presents indie cinema, and gay bars Panic and Q are both over 10 years old.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS:University of Nebraska Queer Student Alliance

LOCAL GAY HANGS:Panic and Q bars, Nebraska Student Union, Coffee House.

Part One | Part Two

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