A Queer Woman’s Guide To Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When I moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 after spending a year in Taiwan, five years in San Francisco, and four years in New York, a lot of people—older, native Pittsburghers, in particular—asked me the same question: Why?

Why would I leave such cool, exciting cities for a landlocked place with notoriously harsh winters and a reputation as a polluted, aging steel town?

If you’re unfamiliar with that outdated, less-than-pleasant picture of Pittsburgh, you’re probably younger than 30. The city has spent the last twenty years radically transforming itself, and people have been saying things like “Pittsburgh is the new Portland” for a decade now. Pittsburgh is regularly voted among the most livable cities in the country, and at least one Brooklynite has suggested that perhaps all of Williamsburg should consider relocating to Pittsburgh (which, notably, is one of the few remaining ‘burghs in the country to hang onto its H).

The truth is that I moved here to be near my family. But I wound up staying because I fell in love with this city.In addition to famously burgeoning food and art scenes and enough libraries and universities to make it one of America’s “smartest cities,” Pittsburgh also has a vibrant, welcoming queer community—even if it’s slightly different than the idealized version of gay Pittsburgh portrayed in Queer as Folk.

Young people are boomeranging back here from bigger cities at an impressive rate thanks to Pittsburgh’s incredibly low cost of living, plus the fact that this place is absolutely beautiful—the downtown skyline is framed by our three iconic rivers, and we have more bridges than Venice.

Pittsburgh Blue Hourvia Getty

Actually, there’s also a lot about Pittsburgh that reminds me of San Francisco: The insanely steep hills and easily stumbled upon sweeping views, the feeling of being hemmed in by water (rivers rather than oceans), way too many tech start-ups, and the well-preserved ethnic and cultural heritages of the many small, distinctive neighborhoods that have been stitched together to make up the city as a whole.

If you get a chance to visit, here’s what I recommend: