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IT’S estimated that gay men and lesbians make around five per cent of Australia’s population but some suburbs are so popular with gay people that it’s likely every fifth person you walk past is far from straight.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) detailed the country’s most popular areas for gay men and lesbians to live in each major city.
The results throw up some surprises including that probably the suburb most fiercely associated with heterosexuality is in fact one of the gayest. In addition, one in 10 Australian gay men live within a brisk walk of one another. But in contrast, lesbians are increasingly heading out from city centres to the suburbs.
“Both male and female same-sex couples tend to live in inner-city suburbs of the capital cities,” an ABS spokesman told news.com.au. “While male same-sex couples make up less than 0.4 per cent of all couples across Australia, they made up 10 to 18 per cent of all couples in the ten suburbs with the highest proportions of people in male same-sex relationships.”
The reference to couples is important as the 2011 census, from which the ABS mines its data, doesn’t actually compel people to state their sexuality. But it does ask respondents their gender and if they cohabit with their partner. Put those two facts together and you know how many gay couples there are in a suburb.
ONE IN 10 GAY MEN LIVE NEAR DARLINGHURST
One of the unexpected findings from the research was the sheer dominance of Sydney in the rankings of most gay-friendly burbs — so called ‘gaybourhoods’.
While NSW had just under a third of Australia’s population, the state had 41 per cent of Australia’s male same-sex couples.
“The top ten suburbs for gay couples were all in inner Sydney,” the ABS spokesman said. But there’s an even more startling statistic. “No less than one in 10 gay men in a same-sex relationship live within two kilometres of Taylor Square in Darlinghurst which has long been considered the epicentre of Australia’s gay community.”
On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people will squeeze into every orifice of Oxford St, which slices its way through Darlinghurst, desperate to see the Mardi Gras parade. So it will come as no surprise that this suburb, on Sydney’s eastern fringe, is Australia’s gayest with almost 18 per cent of its couples being two gentlemen sharing.
Hot on Darlo’s fabulously stylish heels is Potts Point, the suburb which includes Kings Cross that with its strip clubs and beer barns is, perhaps mistakenly, thought to be a hotbed of heterosexuality.
SYDNEY’S RAINBOW RIBBON
The 10 Australian suburbs with the highest proportion of gay couples run in a continuous curve hugging Sydney’s CBD. This ‘rainbow ribbon’ of gays and lesbians shimmies through the terraces of Surry Hills and modern apartments of Alexandria to the terraces of Newtown and further west to Marrickville and Dulwich Hill.
While gay men congregate in Sydney’s inner east, female same-sex couples look towards the inner west of Sydney in places such as St Peters and Newtown. But lesbians tended to be much more geographically dispersed and less concentrated than their male counterparts, the data revealed.
Brendan Fitzgibbon, a landscape design consultant, moved to the inner city five years ago, “because Darlinghurst needs more gays,” he told news.com.au, tongue firmly in cheek.
The trade-off for city centre living is a smaller apartment then he might get further out, but he said this was easily outweighed by the local amenities.
Darlinghurst’s wealth of places to eat and shop, a short walk to work, the neighbourhood feel and a ready-made community were all reasons he liked the suburb. “When we walk the dog everyone knows your name and people here just seem a lot faster in accepting people from different backgrounds.”
But he was surprised as many as eight out of ten couples in Darlinghurst were straight “When you walk down the street it feels like it’s 80 per cent gay and only 20 per cent straight.”
LESBIANS LIVING FURTHER OUT
That’s not to say Australia’s other capital cities are bereft of gay people. The fewer amount of gay couples outside of Sydney makes the figures less accurate but with data from the ABS and some back of the envelope number crunching, it does seem that Melbourne’s CBD is so chock-a-block with gay men it’s likely to be the gayest ’burb in Victoria.
Like in Sydney, it’s the lesbians of Melbourne who are leading a forward party away from the CBD with areas such as Coburg, Yarraville and Preston attractive because of their bigger houses and more space.
It’s a point backed up by the ABS who say gay women are closer to straight couples when it comes to the types of homes they choose to live than gay men. “Around half of male same-sex couples lived in a unit or terrace house, compared with less than a third of female same-sex couples and 15 per cent of opposite-sex couples,” the ABS spokesman said.
GAY ON THE GOLD COAST
In Brisbane, the city fringe suburbs of New Farm and Fortitude Valley scored highly but the Gold Coast also has significant numbers of gay residents.
In Western Australia, the Perth CBD and Bayswater were popular spots; in South Australia, Unley and central Adelaide were top of the list while in Tasmania, they were North and West Hobart.
Proportionally, the ACT had more gay and lesbian couples than any other state or territory while the Northern Territory was popular with lesbians.
Regional areas, generally, had lower numbers of gay people. But not everywhere. Newcastle had a relatively high gay population as did Lismore in northern NSW, Alice Springs and Daylesford in Victoria.
ONLY GAY IN THE VILLAGE
Ann-Marie Callihanna, a photographer from Sydney, lives in Hurlstone Park. Heading towards the city’s south west, it’s outside of the rainbow ribbon and Ms Callihanna said it lacked some of the usual hallmarks of gaybourhoods such as an overabundance of cafes.
“The area is very residential which I love for the peace and quiet and it doesn’t feel overcrowded as the properties are on large blocks of land.”
“Sometimes, I do feel like I’m the only gay in the village,” she said.
But it was unlikely to stay that way for long, said Ms Callihanna, noting its proximity to the inner west. “It’s like what happened to places like Dulwich Hill. Once hardly any gay people lived there but as places like Newtown have got more expensive, people have started looking further west.”