In 1994, when Roddy Lindquist moved from Kent to the gay enclave of Capitol Hill, he didn’t even consider living anywhere else.
“I wanted to be able to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand,” he says. “Capitol Hill was the only place you could do that without getting harassed.”
But after nearly 20 years in the neighborhood, Lindquist, 44, was ready for a change of scenery. Last year, he and his husband, Mark Whiting, 30, sold their condo on Olive Way and rented an apartment in the Central District.
When contemplating the move to a new Seattle neighborhood, the couple agree that one thought never even entered their minds: Would they have to worry about walking down the street holding hands?
“We’re everywhere in Seattle now,” Whiting says. “I think there might be more gay couples in our new neighborhood than where we lived before.”
It’s hardly an exaggeration.
Census data show the number of same-sex couple households increased in nearly every neighborhood in Seattle between 2000 and 2012.* Citywide, the number jumped 52 percent, bringing the total to about 7,500 households.
The big exception: Capitol Hill. Seattle’s “gayborhood” experienced a 23 percent drop in same-sex couple households in this period.
The Census Bureau does not ask people directly about their sexual orientation. It does, however, collect data on gay-couple households; researchers often use this data as an indicator of overall gay population.
And the data suggest that Capitol Hill is indeed losing gay population: just one out of nine gay couples in Seattle now live on Capitol Hill, down from one out of six in 2000.
“This isn’t unique to Seattle,” says University of British Columbia sociologist Amin Ghaziani. In his new book, “There Goes The Gayborhood?,” Ghaziani explores how traditionally gay neighborhoods are “straightening” in many major U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
With greater acceptance and integration, the need for gays and lesbians to cluster together is fading, Ghaziani says. At the same time, straight women and men no longer have qualms about moving into gay neighborhoods.
Economic forces, including gentrification, also play a role. While both gay and straight people are being priced out of neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, the impact is felt strongest in the gay community; after all, for many decades the neighborhood had been, in a sense, theirs.
So is Capitol Hill in danger of becoming about as gay as Ballard is Norwegian?
Consider this: In 2000, the five census tracts with the highest concentration of gay-couple households in Seattle were all located on Capitol Hill. In 2012, not one Capitol Hill census tract remained in the top 5.
Data show the biggest gains in same-sex couple households occurred in a handful of neighborhoods spread across the city, including: West Seattle, Maple Leaf/Wedgwood, First Hill, Belltown, Wallingford and Mt. Baker.
The suburbs have also experienced a significant increase in gay-couple households, although not quite as dramatically as in the city. In King County, outside of Seattle, the number of gay-couple households increased by 22 percent between 2000 and 2012.
Explore the data for yourself — check out our interactive map of Seattle census tracts to see the patterns of change in same-sex couple households since 2000.
*2012 Census Bureau estimates for census tracts are an average of five years of data, collected from 2008 to 2012.