by Dan Allen
Who says small-town America can’t be exceedingly gay-friendly? Nestled in gorgeous Western Massachusetts just above Springfield, the upper Pioneer Valley is a hip and laidback enclave with a long history of LGBT-inclusivity. Here, the so-called “Five Colleges” (Amherst, UMass Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith) give the area a distinctive arty and educated flair. In Northampton you’ll find the longtime proudly feminist Smith College (alma mater of both Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan), which has been called both the Lesbian Capital of America and the Best Small Arts Town in America. Across the river, Amherst, and its three colleges, has an even bigger student population, giving it an especially young, vibrant, and gay-positive vibe. Just to the south lies Holyoke, where openly gay Mayor Alex B. Morse has presided since 2011.