Home to Chicago, Abraham Lincoln’s house and Route 66 – Illinois is already a major hotspot for tourists visiting the US. But there’s something else about the state that’s attracting LGBTI people in droves.
Whether it’s the legendary gay districts or the network of LGBTI-owned and supported businesses, people in the queer community are consistently choosing Illinois as the place to be.
But don’t just take this as given knowledge – it’s a fact. People are obsessed with Illinois and these spectacular stats prove it.
LGBTI in numbers
One of the easiest ways to determine whether a place is LGBTI-friendly is to find out how many people from the community actually live there. In this, Illinois is a cut above.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, of the state’s total adult population of 9,875,430 people, LGBTI people account for 385,142 of them. This is 3.9% of the adult population. Even better is that 16.6% of this population are raising children.
Breaking it down even further, Chicago’s Public Health Department profiled the city and estimated a total of 7.5% of its total adult population identify as LGBTI.
This accounts to 146,000 adults, with 138,000 adults identifying as lesbian, gay and bisexual, while 10,500 identify as transgender.
Same-sex marriage champions
Illinois led the way nationally on same-sex marriage reform. The law officially changed in 2013 and came into effect in 2014. Since then, thousands of people have flocked to the state in order to marry.
In 2014, same-sex marriages accounted for about 17% of all marriage licenses in Cook County. This leveled out to 7% the following year. Between the years of 2014 and 2016, Lake County issued 382 licenses and Kane County 360.
The 10,000th same-sex marriage license was given out in Cook County in 2016, having reached the number in just two short years.
Chicago – the LGBTI superstar
Any LGBTI person knows that Chicago is basically a gay paradise. From Boystown, to major events like Northalsted Market Days, it’s a beacon of queer goodness.
According to the Office of Tourism Illinois, 7% of the visitors to Chicago identified as LGBTI in 2017. This amounts to four million out 53.73 million visitors.
Compare that to 2015, when 4% of the leisure stays in Chicago in 2015 were LGBTI people. So out of the 39.3 million people visiting Chicago, 1.6 million of them identify as LGBTI.
This is even more impressive when you consider that the total percentage of LGBTI visitors to the US is 3%. Meaning Chicago has consistently beat the average of the entire United States.
The state of Illinois – Amazing for All
While it’s easy to focus on the Windy City, the rest of the state has built up a strong contingent of LGBTI tourists.
A massive 5% of the visitors to the state identified as LGBTI, which adds up to 5.57 million people. That’s a whole 1.5 million more than Chicago itself.
Again this is a huge increase from 2015. 2% of all leisure visitors were LGBTI, meaning 1.8 million out of 90.2 million identify as part of the community.
The state has a reputation as one of the most friendly states for gay people, even beyond Chicago, but how has it attracted so many people?
Well, it’s bursting with fun things to do for any tourist. The iconic Route 66 highway isn’t just one of the most Instagrammable tourist activities in the country. It’s also a unique way to visit the diverse LGBTI spots across the state, from local gay bars to historical spaces. Or if you like your exploring a bit more natural, there are amazing wildlife spots. Look for the Garden of the Gods or Shawnee National Forest.
Good for business
Illinois’ businesses are just as diverse as its people, too, which means people are much more comfortable visiting these establishments.
The Office of Tourism tracked a whopping $566 million in hotel revenues from people that saw LGBTI media online – meaning LGBTI people contributed a gigantic portion of money to Illinois’ economy in 2017.
With an abundance of romantic spots and hotels throughout the state, it’s easy to see why. From LGBTI owned countryside escapes in Inn at Irish Hollow and beautifully designed, LGBTI-friendly spots like Emil Bach House, people are magnetized towards it.
In total, visitors spent a massive $39.7 billion in Illinois in 2017, contributing to 337,100 jobs. Chicago and Illinois have continued to draw LGBTI people from around the world. So more and more LGBTI people are discovering how great the state can be – and fueling the economy, ensuring Illinois stays Amazing for All for longer.
Illinois Office of Tourism is a partner of Gay Star News.