Is Duluth gay friendly?

I was reading an article in Rolling Stone the other day about the Anoka-Hennepin School Districts and their neutrality policy on GLBTQ students and how this particular reporter feels it has affected students and possibly driven some to have mental health issues and suicidal ideation with some even taking their lives.

Rolling Stone: “One town’s war on gay teens

I’m not trying to debate the validity of this article or the policy of the school district, I just remember while reading it I was pretty shocked to hear so many anti-gay sentiments in Minnesota. I kept thinking to myself: “Really? But Duluth seems so gay-friendly.”

That’s why I wanted to ask PDD: do you think Duluth is gay friendly? I am an out bisexual woman, but a bisexual who never dated a woman during my time in Duluth. I’ve participated in Pride, patronized all the local gay bars (though admittedly they’re in Superior) and have noticed a lot of gay-friendly signage around Duluth’s establishments. Though I never really had an opportunity to suffer any personal discrimination as I’ve since married a man, I still never noticed an air of it in the community.

Now I’m not talking stories about one singular asshole who was heterosexist and said something awful at a bar one night. I’m talking about the general culture of Duluth. What say ye?

21 Comments

duluth14

about 10 years ago

I'd say that PDD is gay friendly and Duluth Area Voices is not. I don't know if that represents a clear dichotomy in Duluth. I'm a student at UMD so I see plenty of pro-GLBT activity. I've worked at a couple places in town and some of the people I've worked with have been fairly homophobic. I guess in my opinion, it's 50-50.

TimK

about 10 years ago

Area Voices is not representative of the community in any way. I have a gay child who is thriving in the Duluth Public Schools, but he does run into homophobic individuals both at school and in the community. I don't think there is as much institutional anti-gay policy or action up here as there is in the 6th District. We all have a long way to go, regardless...

Tom

about 10 years ago

I know you said you didn't really want to discuss that article here...but seriously, do they also have a race neutrality policy, as to not offend the Klan? It's so sad that still today, in the year 2012, people can't even be accepted by school for who they are. It's just sick a school, of all places, won't support a student who is being bullied because they feel the bully has just as much right to be an homophobic asshole as the other kid has to be gay.

I think Duluth is at least more LGBTQ friendly than Bachmannville. ISD 709 at least has a policy banning harassment based on sexual orientation. But, as the other posters have mentioned, there is still a lot of work to do. We're still far from the point where it's "normal" to be gay in the minds of most people. And there is still a small, but vocal crowd around here -- call them the "Area Voices right" -- that worships Bachmann and the Tea Party principles. So I say we're at least better than a lot of cities, but still not where we should be.

Stephenos LaFleur

about 10 years ago

Great question. I'd say, as with most elements of social change, gay friendliness is seen more so amongst younger generations, and in turn, is increasing progressively with time. Personally (& subjectively), I only have a few gay friends, but they don't seem to take gripe. They don't necessarily flaunt there sexuality, but it seems as though they are comfortable expressing themselves as unique and good people. But, in retrospect, I grew up with two (gay) uncles rather than an aunt and an uncle pairing, and the thought of a lack of normalcy didn't even spark up until I was about 16. So my memory of past trends regarding this idea seem to be blissfully ignorant.

To comment on duluth14's response, I'd say: get your critical thinking caps out. Pdd vs. Area Voices, at a 50/50 split is a pure binary argument, and actually, the most generalizing statement one could make, up next to 'all people are gay friendly' or 'no one is gay friendly in the area'. I'm not directly criticizing your opinion (as clearly stated), but I think it is impossible to find any kind of clear dichotomy in this regard. The only thing we can do is ask the non-heterosexual residents - how are you treated? Hopefully the same as everyone else wants to be treated. Please do inform us with your accounts.

hbh1

about 10 years ago

I read that article last week, and I spend a lot of time in schools in Duluth. The question I've been thinking about is... do ISD709 teachers feel like they can openly support gay kids when they are being harassed? I think they do, probably. (Though I'm not sure they do.) Do the local high schools have gay-straight alliances? I'm not for sure on this. (I think it fluctuates year to year.) The middle schools, I know, are a horrendous place to be LGBTQ--but that is true for anyone who's different. 

And, judging by the number of LGBTQ kids who choose to go to the smaller HCIS in part to avoid bullying, I wonder how *they* feel... It's the kids who will tell you what the climate really is.

One thing I can say is that climate for queer kids has changed a lot in the last ten years. What adults here remember is surely not what it's like right now.

hbh1

about 10 years ago

As far as for adults? I think YMMV depending on where you are exactly, just like anywhere. You are unlikely to be discriminated upon in a job (unless you're transgendered, or it's an environment that is populated overwhelmingly by bigots). There are plenty of ostensibly straight social environments here that are frequented by very out LGBTQ people, like bowling leagues and softball leagues, bars etc. I've heard of gay bashings in Superior in front of the gay bars, but not for some years. Anti-queer harassment occurs on an individual level, for sure. 

What most people will probably say is that it's getting better all the time, and I think Duluth is better than many places.

secretseasons

about 10 years ago

Is there a reason why all the gay bars are in Superior, or should I not read too much into that?

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

There is a gay bar in the works for Downtown Duluth. It'll be a while, though.

c-freak

about 10 years ago

Carmody is the only gay bar in Duluth.

Skazi19

about 10 years ago

This is an interesting question. I am bisexual woman who is usually seen as being straight to the general public. Duluth is much more gay friendly than some other places I've been, but there are still issues with some people. For example, I work for a large organization and there is not even one person that I am aware of that is openly out. I know there are at least a handful of GLBT people, but it is not an accepting place to be gay. I wore a "Gay? Fine by me." shirt to work one night and didn't hear the end of it. At the same time, if I wear that same shirt out in public, I never hear a word about it (or even notice and dirty looks). So I guess it's all in where you go and who you interact with.

Conrad

about 10 years ago

Hahaaha. Area Voices isn't just anti-gay, it's anti-everything. Its hard to believe that many negative focused people live in Duluth.

I think Duluth makes attempts at being open and gay friendly but American culture as a whole, has a lot more to go.

hbh1

about 10 years ago

I don't know if teachers are generally comfortable with being out in ISD709, though obviously they exist. I think it's kind of still a don't ask-don't tell sort of situation for a lot of people, since in today's job climate, you don't want to draw attention to yourself and give them an excuse to get rid of you. 

I do think that queer-friendly teachers feel okay with discussing, for instance, the fact that gay people exist in history, literature, and the world. I have even been in an elementary classroom where gay marriage was briefly mentioned in the context of a discussion of constitutional amendments. It was very matter-of-fact and neutral and the kids didn't bat an eye. I have witnessed kindergarten boys hold hands and announce to the class that they were "partners" and there was no disruption (though it did become sort of a trend for a few days!). I have witnessed small boys reading books (Barbie!) and play computer games (dress up! makeup!) that were designed for girls and get no harassment as a result.

speechie

about 10 years ago

Duluth News Tribune: "Minnesota school district ends neutrality policy blamed for bullying"

Anoka replaced the policy with an improved version. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

Sam

about 10 years ago

C-Freak.  I hadn't heard that Carmody was a gay bar.  Is it thought of as primarily a bar for gay people, or is it more like that it is a bar that is friendly to all, including members of the GLBT community?

Makoons

about 10 years ago

To comment a little on the questions regarding the school district (as I used to work there) I knew of some gay employees who weren't openly gay but would admit to it if asked. I guess you couldn't accuse these people of "advertising" or openly talking about their lifestyle in school but if a student who was also gay opened up to them or asked they wouldn't lie to them.

I also worked with teachers who sat around and gossiped about students' love lives and talk about seeing same-sex couples kissing in the halls. One teacher in particular who I won't name was very snotty about it and I made sure she knew it was inappropriate. From the general  student body, however, everyone spoke of gay/lesbian students openly and as though it were perfectly normal. At least with me they did, but when you're an employee you don't always see what goes on outside of class.

Anywho, thanks to everyone for the answers. There's always work to do when it comes to acceptance and understanding but I felt as though Duluthians were better off than those in the Anoka-area. Anoka has had a pretty harsh reputation since *I* was a kid for being intolerant of anyone who wasn't a white, middle class, heterosexual student.

De man

about 10 years ago

Carmody is a friendly place to people of all walks of life (as long as you have $$). We joke frequently that is "the only gay bar in Duluth," as there are no other choices. 

I would like to take the time to mention my high school experience that I really appreciated at the time. I had a health teacher named Dukes Knutsen. He was a virgin (at 40ish), very christian and very right-wing. He, if he could have, taught abstinence as the only option. But he couldn't. So he taught all sides of things. He seemed fairly balanced to me and frequently would say in class that we all would just have to agree to disagree. 

One class he had 8-10 openly gay, lesbian, bi students come and talk to every class he taught that day. We had a very open forum and I think everyone learned a lot from each other. 

I think Duluth has a long way to go in terms of 100% acceptance, but I think the vast majority either accept openly or think it is none of their business whom others choose to love. 

We did pass a resolution to not support any same-sex marriage bills. That's pretty cool.

De man

about 10 years ago

*He would have, if he could, taught abstinence... sorry.

adam

about 10 years ago

I see the Anoka-Hennepin School District hasn't changed a bit since I was there.

bfinstad

about 10 years ago

I lived in Superior and worked in Duluth as an out gay man (I now live in Minneapolis) and I can honestly say I had no problems living up there.  In many ways, I find the gay community up there way cooler than what I find in "the cities" as it is truly a "community" and not just a large collection of individuals or sub communities.  I've always wondered why Superior had so many gay bars and Duluth had none.  My theory is that at one time when being gay was more stigmatizing, the gays went to Superior because Superior has always been seen as the place where the "marginalized" of society go (one of the reasons why I think Superior is so freakin cool).  Even though that is not necessarily the case today, it established the pattern of where those places were located.  That's just my theory though - it would be interesting to pose that question to Bob Jansen as he was the first on the scene with the Main Club.

BadCat!

about 10 years ago

I think Superior has more gay bars, as Superior has more bars in general. Superior laws & regulations are a little more "drunk friendly," so if you're going to open a bar that doesn't cater to the majority of drunken frat boys, you might want to locate in Superior to better your odds.

adam

about 10 years ago

Minnesota and Wisconsin have different dram shop laws. On top of that, it is comparatively "easier" to open / run a bar, bar (no food) in the city of Superior than it is in the city of Duluth. Also, Superior's North End used to host the area's red light district.

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