The queerest state in the US has been revealed

A person wears a rainbow coloured cape as they walk in an LGBTQ+ pride celebration in the US state of Oregon

To the fury of right-wing bigots, the US is queerer than ever as more people are identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and a new study has figured out America’s gayest state.

Approximately 14.1 million adults in the US identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community – or roughly 5.6 per cent of Americans – according to new data released by the UCLA’s Williams Institute.

LGBTQ+ folks live in all parts of the US – with almost 37 per cent in the South – but there are vast differences in terms of which states boast America’s queerest populations. 

The data, based on information from the 2020-2021 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, doesn’t simply rank states for how many LGBTQ+ people call them home. Rather, it gives us an idea of which states have the highest proportion of queer folks by percentage of population.

Needless to say, the top five queerest states include some shockers and some kinda obvious choices – plus a contentious correction that originally left everyone a bit mystified. 

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1. Oregon

A person holds up a sign reading 'yay gay' in rainbow lettering during an LGBTQ+ pride celebration in the US state of Oregon
Oregon boasted the densest population of LGBTQ+ adults of the US states, according to the UCLA’s Williams Institute research. (Getty)

The Beaver state is officially the queerest state in the US with 7.8 per cent of its adult population identifying as LGBTQ – that’s 253,300 LGBTQ+ adults living in Oregon. It’s a bit of a ‘duh’ as America’s gay and queer populations have always been attracted coastal states, and Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, has a long history of welcoming the LGBTQ+ community. 

Darcelle XV, recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest performing drag queen, called the city home. In July, dozens of drag performers honoured the late queen by breaking the Guinness world record for longest continual drag performance with a massive 48 hour Drag-A-Thon show. 

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2. Delaware

Delaware senator Sarah McBride wears a black dress as she smiles for the camera in front of a pink and blue background
Delaware’s Senator Sarah McBride made history as the first openly trans state senator when she was elected in 2020. (Getty)

Okay, this one is a bit of a weirder one as Delaware, which is a pretty small state with only one million residents, came in second on the densest populations of LGBTQ+ folks of all 50 US states.

According to the UCLA’s Williams Institute survey, a whopping 7.5 per cent of adults (56,600 people) in Delaware say they’re LGBTQ+. 

Still, Delaware isn’t a complete outlier on making queer US history. Sarah McBride became North America’s first openly trans state senator when she won her Delaware seat in 2020. Now, she’s hoping to go down in the history books yet again by running for the US House of Representatives

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3. Vermont 

Two men, wearing tuxedos, hold hands as they prepare to get married in the US state of Vermont, which legalised same-sex marriage for LGBTQ+ couples in 2009
Vermont was the first state in the country to give same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions. The state legalised same-sex marriage in 2009. (YouTube/MyNBC5-WPTZ)

Vermont slides into third place with 7.4 per cent of gay and queer adults (37,600 people) in the Green Mountain state.

In 2000, it became the first state in the country to give same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions — legal partnerships which would grant those couples the same rights and benefits as those in legal marriages. Then, in 2009, Vermont legalised same-sex marriage.

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4. New Hampshire

A graphic composed of trans politician James Roesener, a hand holding a progressive Pride LGBTQ+ flag and a US flag waving in the background
After winning an election in 2022, New Hampshire Democrat James Roesener became the first out trans man to be elected to any state legislature in US history. (Victory Fund/Getty)

Right next to Vermont, geographically and in terms of densest LGBTQ+ populations, is New Hampshire with roughly 7.2 per cent (78,400 people) in the state saying they’re queer. 

In 2018, New Hampshire was the first Republican-controlled state to protect transgender rights. Just a few years later, in 2022, New Hampshire Democrat James Roesener became the first out trans man to be elected to any state legislature in US history.

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5. Washington

Drag Race superstar Jinkx Monsoon poses while wearing a black and grey dress
Several Drag Race stars, including Jinkx Monsoon, have called Seattle, Washington home. (Getty)

Washington can not only boast that it’s the home of Twilight but also a fairly dense LGBTQ+ population. Almost 6.9 per cent of the state’s 7.8 million-strong population call themselves a part of the queer family, according to the UCLA’s Williams Institute data. 

Beyond sparkly vampires and being the birthplace of Starbucks, Washington is another gay and drag epicentre of the Pacific Northwest states. Seattle, the state’s largest city, has sent six drag queens to sashay on Drag Race stage since the show’s 2009 premiere in the US – including superstars Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme.

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Honourable mention: Washington DC

Kit Connor Joe Locke Heartstopper
Heartstopper stars Kit Connor and Joe Locke showed up at Washington DC Pride with a timely message for the LGBTQ+ community. (Getty Images/Twitter)

Though not a state, Washington DC actually had the densest LGBTQ+ population, at 14.3 per cent or 81,400 queer adults, in the UCLA’s Williams Institute survey. So it’s not only the centre of US politics, but also a queer capital in the States. 

It’s not surprising that the city is über gay as it frequently tops Grindr’s annual list for most active users and has an immensely popular Pride celebration. In June, Heartstopper icons Kit Connor and Joe Locke attended the Capital Pride Parade to remind everyone that Pride is a “protest” and “change only happens if people talk”.

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The controversial first place: Kentucky

A person wearing blue and white facepaint shouts as LGBTQ+ people and allies gather in protest against an anti-trans bill in the state of Kentucky
The UCLA’s Williams Institute listed Kentucky as having the densest population of LGBTQ+ people of all 50 US states, before realising that it read the data incorrectly. (Getty)

When the UCLA’s Williams Institute data first dropped, it originally listed Kentucky as the queerest state in the US, which was a bit of an odd moment. The data estimated that 10.5 per cent of the adult population in the Bluegrass state identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

However, after some questions were asked about what in the water made Kentucky so queer, the UCLA’s Williams Institute admitted there was an “error” in their data as it has used older data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its report on the state. 

So it turned out that the percentage of LGBTQ+ adults living in Kentucky is 4.9 per cent, which is below the national average of 5.6 per cent.

In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Brad Sears, founding director of the institute, said: “We made a mistake, and we apologise to Kentucky and to you.” 

Sears promised there would be an updated analysis to catch any other potential missing info soon. 

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