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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bloomington Ranked #1 by Advocate.com

Categories: B-town's Rainbow Flavor

 Magazine ranks Bloomington as the nation’s No. 1 small town vacation destination for gays

By Dann Denny 331-4350 | ddenny@heraldt.com
November 4, 2008

Bloomington, which in recent years has garnered widespread attention as the country’s No. 1 party school, has now grabbed a new honor.

“The Advocate,” a news magazine for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender community, has ranked Bloomington the nation’s No. 1 small town gay vacation destination on its online Web site.

The site says the reason Bloomington registers so high on its “gaydar” is because it’s “an accepting, forward-thinking, progressive college town.”

“Filled with hip cafes and funky stores, Bloomington markets its many merits to lesbian and gay travelers,” the Web site says.

“We’re thrilled,” said Rob DeCleene, director of tourism at the Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has made a concerted effort in recent years to market Bloomington as a community friendly to gays and lesbians. “It’s another affirmation that our efforts to attract the gay travel market are paying off.”

DeCleene said in 2005, the bureau promoted Bloomington as a gay-friendly community by launching a Web site — www.visitgaybloomington.com — and printing 3,000 GLBT visitor guides, which it distributed throughout the region.

“The guides and Web site not only point out the same attractions we market to everyone — things like wineries, museums, art galleries and restaurants — but point out that they will feel comfortable and accepted if they visit here,” he said.

The Web site says Bloomington has the nation’s fifth largest per capita population of same-sex couples, adding that “whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere in between, Bloomington offers something rarely found in this country — a small town with a bold history of openness and acceptance.”

“It’s obvious that gay and lesbians enjoy living here,” he said. “So it would stand to reason that other members of the gay and lesbian community would enjoy visiting here — and spending money here.”

Supplementing the Web site and guides, DeCleene said, have been a number of gay-friendly events and conferences on the IU campus — most notably the annual Pride Film Festival at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, a three-day event feature GLBT-themed films.

“Bloomington gets a lot of national attention because it’s one of the few small Midwestern towns going after this market,” DeCleene said. “There have been many magazine and newspaper articles pointing this out, and Tina Fey mentioned Bloomington being gay friendly a couple years ago on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.”

Doug Bauder, coordinator of IU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services office, said the ranking “speaks very well to the commitment to diversity at all levels in this community.”

He lauded the Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s efforts to capture a larger share of the gay travel market, and said his office also has helped enhance Bloomington’s attractiveness to the gay and lesbian community.

“We’ve been able to include sexual diversity in the diversity dialogue on campus,” he said. “Many people don’t think beyond color when it comes to diversity, and I think we’ve been able to expand their thinking to include sexual diversity.”

Bauder said his office’s efforts have been made easier in a community “where the Kinsey Institute has a noble history of valuing sexual diversity.”

Bauder said his office, which he’s directed since its inception in 1994, has helped transform sexual diversity from a clinical issue into a practical reality.

“We’ve helped people realize this is not just an issue to be studied but a reality in peoples’ lives that needs to be incorporated into the life of the community,” he said.

(article originally published in Bloomington Herald-Times, November 4, 2008)