To put it mildly, Tacoma's selection as America's most gay-friendly city by The Advocate, the nation's leading LGBT journal, was a stunner to everyone - especially those of us who know Tacoma.
Back in the 1970s, Olympia had a thriving gay scene - and community - as did Seattle. Tacoma was known, by word of mouth, and every creative, alternative and youth-oriented journal as the place to avoid or, at best, a place to be, ahem, discrete.
But Tacoma has always been full of surprises. Who would have imagined that little old gritty downtown Tacoma would be home to a cluster of destination-worthy museums (including our great children's museum), a well-respected university, a school of the arts, and multiple unique and independent boutiques, breweries and high-end restaurants?
Many of us remember all too well the outward migration apparently led by urban planners and city leaders whose goal seemed to be to make Tacoma's urban core as ugly, empty and isolated as possible. We remember the relentless flight from downtown by Weyerhaeuser, Sears, Rhodes, Peoples, J.C. Penney and even The News Tribune.
Somehow, in spite of itself, Tacoma keeps re-emerging. But this incarnation might seem the strangest of all - even though some of us have been talking about it for years.
I'm not gay, or even particularly interested in gay issues, but I have noticed that few people in Tacoma even knew we had a predominantly gay neighborhood - even those who lived in it.
You might call this phenomenon "Queer eye for the straight neighborhood."
I won't give the name, but which neighborhoods come to mind when you think about those with the most disposable income and leisure time? The annual tours of homes and gardens of Tacoma? The best selections of gourmet, organic and imported foods?
Where do you see the results of time and money invested in restoring and rehabbing vintage craftsman homes? Which neighborhoods have - and attract - energetic, determined visionaries?
Call them the "creative class"' or any other term, but you can bet that, for whatever reason, gay rights is important to them.
I like to attend gatherings of every political stripe. I've noticed that, more and more, Republican gatherings tend to feature primarily what Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., calls "angry white men" who dream of a mythic world that never was, while Democratic events tend to attract everyone else; Hispanics, Asians, women, young people, gray-haired radicals, college students and, of course, the LGBT community, who dream of (and work toward) a world of fair access and mutual respect.
And also a few practical improvements for our community. One of these is a clean, affordable, efficient transportation that links Tacoma with the rest of the world. One idea is the STP - a Seattle-Tacoma-Portland high-speed rail system.
Our founding fathers knew that any great city needed to be connected to the other great cities. The train terminus literally put Tacoma on the map, and a full connection with the airport and surrounding cities is even more crucial now; "connectivity" is not just a computer term.
People of vision then, and now, know that a solid linkage with the rest of the country - if not the world - is essential for any would-be world-class city.
Tacoma's time as a cultural, educational and economic backwater is long gone.
Perhaps we could call our new urban policy "Queer eye for the straight city."
M. "Morf" Morford of Tacoma is a former reader columnist.