9 LGBT Friendly Places To Live In Tennessee
Whether you’re looking for your next place to call “home” or wanting to experience an LGBT-inclusive neighborhood through renting, you will want to soak in all that living in Tennessee has to offer.
While Tennessee may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of LGBT culture, this vibrant state is home to many towns and cities that are LGTB-friendly with unending pride. Tennessee’s top LGBT areas offer Southern hospitality with a little extra glitter thrown in.
If you’re looking for LGBT culture, events, businesses, and more, you’ll find some. Throughout the state in big cities, smaller towns, and everything in between, you will find a welcoming place to call “home” or looking to meet like-minded people in your area. We’ve put together a list of the 9 most LGBT-friendly places to live in Tennessee. So, prepare to get vibrant, be out and proud, and have fun in one of these Tennessee locales.
How To Determine If A Neighborhood Is LGBT Friendly
When you’re in an LGBT-friendly neighborhood, you feel the warm hug of welcomeness. However, identifying a gay-friendly locale from the outside may not be as easy. In order to create our list of the most friendly, inclusive, and open places for LGBT individuals to live, we looked at pride events, gay-friendly businesses, LGBT non-profits, and LGBT organizations. We even chatted with locals.
There’s no need for Nashville to come out as gay-friendly. This hotbed of art and music has been a hub for queer communities in Tennessee for decades. While many people refer to Nashville as the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” others have renamed it “A shining liberal buckle on the tired Bible Belt.” This is because Nashville has an extensive liberal and progressive population.
With more fun and culture than most new residents can experience in under a year, you likely won’t be surprised that Nashville offers many unique gay experiences such as Suzy Wong’s House of Yum and Cafe Coco.
Nashville even has its own gay publication, Out & About, which you will find at all the local libraries. Nashville also hosts an elaborate and exciting pride parade and pride festival each year. And Music City also has a wide array of smaller gay pride events throughout the year.
Many of the area’s gay and straight residents volunteer and support the many non-profits in the area that support struggling gay youth and other queer people in need of a helping hand. PFLAG, Nashville CARES, and Oasis are the most well-known in the area.
What neighborhoods in Nashville are the most gay-friendly?
Memphis is a haven for Tennessee's LGBT population. This expansive city embraces both art and its residents, no matter how they identify. And they’re ready to step up and help LBGT youth, trans people, and other LGBT people. In fact, Memphis has the highest number of LGBT non-profits in Tennessee.
Memphis is home to many gay bars in and around its downtown center in the Midtown area. Here you will find a Wrangler’s-and-cowboy-boots aesthetic, but you don’t have to wear spurs to have fun. The Pumping Station and DRUS Bar are some of the most happening places for LGBT nightlife.
Like Nashville, Memphis has a widely circulated LGBT publication, Focus Mid-South, which keeps the community up on the latest events and happenings. The Memphis Gaydar is also a fun way to stay apprised with gay news, events, and more in the city and surrounding areas.
OUTMemphis is an exceptionally effective and large non-profit that centers its energy and efforts on helping all LGBT people in the Memphis area. They are a resource for the community and cultural events along with health and wellness and preventing homelessness.
Knoxville exclaims its inclusivity with the motto: Y’all Means ALL. And Knoxville came in at number eight for the gayest cities in American according to Advocate in 2012.
As a university town, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Knoxville remains committed to pushing equality and investing in the arts while protecting the civil liberties of its LGBT residents. It’s not uncommon to stumble across a march downtown in support of LGBT rights or other forms of activism. If you’re in the area, you have to check out Keep Knox Queer or one of the other major gay pride events hosted in the city. In fact, Knoxville’s 2018 Pride Festival helped the city set the record for the largest Pride Fest in Tennessee.
This medium-sized city has a sizable queer population with businesses to boot. In fact, Knoxville rivals Memphis in its number of gay bars, despite being about half the size. The Edge and Club XYZ are two local favorites when it comes to letting your hair down and having a drink in a gay-friendly bar.
Other highlights that make Knoxville a great place to be out and proud include that it was one of the first cities in the south and the first in Tennessee to have an LGBT liaison for the Knoxville Police Department and the Mayor’s administration. There are also many LGBT rights non-profit organizations in Knoxville, including Knox Pride.
We let the cat out of the bag with this one. While many people drive through Chattanooga on their way from Atlanta to Nashville, few stop. And far fewer LGBT people stop. This may be because of the ominous crosses you’ll see as you travel I-24, but we are pleased to say that Chatanooga is a hidden gem when it comes to gay culture and acceptance.
Throughout Chatanooga, you will find self-identified gay-friendly neighborhoods. The most notable of these is the North Shore district where diversity is queen, and neighbors are neighborly, no matter your color, creed, or identity.
Not only does Chattanooga offer small-town charm, but it also has an abundant array of places to enjoy the arts and culture. For some nightlife, many local LGBT people head to Alan’s Gold Discotheque or Backstage Bar.
What about those crosses? Yes, Chattanooga is part of the Bible Belt, but many churches are open and affirming of gay members in their congregations. New Covenant Church is one of the most popular among gay Christians.
If you want to live in a gay-friendly city with unlimited outdoor activities, you cannot beat Chatanooga.
Tucked into the northeast corner of Tennessee, you will find Johnson City. This small town may only have about 65,000 residents, but it is the ninth biggest city in the state and one of the warmest when it comes to LGBT neighborliness.
What makes this city such a gay-friendly anomaly for a small Southern town? Its gay-friendly atmosphere may be due to its four colleges and universities, or it may just be that residents of Johnson City just tend to embrace everyone with open arms. Either way, this quaint, quiet, and picturesque town is a great place to be out and proud.
Johnson City just started hosting a Pride Fest, but their very first one attracted happy participants from all over. In fact, over 10,000 people showed up for the inaugural Johnson City Pride Parade and Festival–That’s one-sixth of the city’s population.
As for gay nightlife, the New Beginnings and The Crow Bar are two local favorites. And this lovely city has the fifth largest population of LGBT people in the state according to the 2010 census.
As for non-profits, you will find the Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities, which continually increases the visibility of the gay community and advocates for gay rights. They also support gay youth in need and bring attention to gay-owned businesses.
Overall, if you’re looking for a close-knit community away from the hustle and bustle, which also embraces LGBT people, it is difficult to beat Johnson City in Tennessee.
Halfway between Nashville and Memphis, you will find Jackson, Tennessee, a small city that is wholeheartedly committed to providing all residents with the best. Similar in size to Johnson City with just under 70,000 residents, Jackson has made large strides toward inclusivity.
Equality Jackson has been a driving force in increasing LGBT visibility. They also assist LGBT people in crisis, help connect LGBT people with gay-friendly churches, and organize events. Out Jackson is an organization that has encouraged LGBT people to be open about their identities to reduce the stigma and normalize being gay.
As far as community atmosphere, most people would describe living in Jackson as like living in Mayberry. This may scare some LGBT people given the idea that most small towns are not accepting of LGBT people. However, neighbors in Jackson welcome others with open arms, and much of the city has participated in the “I love Jackson and I support LGBTQ equality” campaign. The purpose of the campaign has been to break the stereotype that small towns are homophobic. And, so far, it’s been a huge success.
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
When it comes to the small resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, many queer folks feel quite welcome and content. Just a stone’s throw from Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, these relaxed and hippie-like towns are known for prioritizing creating an inviting atmosphere for all.
While you won’t find many gay nightclubs or bars in the area, you will find many gay-friendly accommodations and businesses galore. With events like Gay Day at Dollywood, we anticipate more and more visibility for LGBT people in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area.
Dolly Parton plays a major role in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg communities. She donated quite a bit of money for relief after the Gatlinburg Fires, and because Dollywood has been a major contributor to the local economy most locals pay her a lot of respect. As a major advocate for equality in Tennesee and gay icon, Dolly Parton’s attitude has spread throughout these small towns. And most residents offer a warm welcome to gay people.
Brentwood & Franklin
Franklin and Brentwood, Tennessee are located just south of Nashville. And just as South Nashville bleeds into Brentwood, so do the forward-thinking and LGBT-positive attitudes. While these cities do not have quite as large of a network of gay organizations, they do have residents with positive attitudes and many places of worship that are happy to invite LGBT people into their congregations.
Franklin does host its own Pride Fest and has its own PFLAG organization. Many gay residents of the area drive north to Nashville for fun nights out at bars such as Trax. They also join Nashville LGBT organizations to promote and expand visibility and equality throughout the Middle Tennessee region.
About an hour northwest of Nashville, you will find the fifth biggest city in Tennessee, Clarksville. This small city is home to Austin Peay State University and borders Fort Campbell. These institutions can feel like opposing forces when it comes to acceptance, at times. And the city still seems to be in flux when it comes to progressive attitudes regarding LGBT rights. However, Clarksville is headed in the right direction.
Clarksville has its own Pride Fest and an active group of advocates that run Equality Clarksville. As far as nightlife, many gay Clarksville residents make the trek to Nashville where there are plenty of gay bars to choose from.
In response to a recent national survey that rated cities based on their LGBTQ equality, Clarksville has recommitted energy and funds to improve the city for queer people. Community leaders have been vocal about their support of the Clarksville LGBT community and want their LGBTQ neighbors to feel welcome.
Our Final Thoughts
LGBT communities offer welcoming, open, often artistic settings for LGBT families, young professionals, couples, and individuals. If you’re moving to Tennessee and wondering where you can find acceptance and celebration of your LGBT lifestyle, any of these cities would be a great choice.