Huge strides have been made for LGBTQ+ rights in the last century. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy. From Stonewall to the legalization of gay marriage, the fight for LGBTQ+ equality is still going strong.
And what better way to learn about the struggles and the successes of the LGBTQ+ movement than to plan a pilgrimage to some of the community’s most historical sites? While America is home to many, here are a handful of LGBTQ+ landmarks worth exploring.
The Black Cat Tavern, Los Angeles, CA
Nestled along the famous Sunset Boulevard, the Black Cat Tavern played an important role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement when it acted as the backdrop for an undercover police raid during a 1967 New Year’s celebration. That February, the tavern was home to one of the earliest known demonstrations in support of LGBTQ+ rights when hundreds of activists gathered in protest of police brutality and discriminatory laws, eventually leading to the first court case where gay men were defended as equal under the constitution.
Today, the Black Cat Tavern is recognized as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, it’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat or to enjoy a signature cocktail.
Henry Gerber House, Chicago, IL
Take a stroll through Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and you might stumble upon the Henry Gerber House, a Chicago Landmark famous for its history as the Society for Human Rights, the first American gay civil-rights organization. At the helm of the group was Henry Gerber, a German man who emigrated to Chicago at the age of 21. Gerber faced much adversity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community spending time in an internment camp and even a mental hospital for several years. It was these experiences that inspired him to establish the Society for Human Rights from his home on 1710 N. Crilly Court.
Tours of the Henry Gerber House are not allowed at this time, but travelers can snap a picture of the historical home from the street.
Darcell XV Showcase, Portland, OR
Established in 1969, Portland’s Darcell XV Showplace is one of the oldest drag venues in the United States. The club — which Owner Walter Cole likes to point out, is older than both Starbucks and Powell Books, two Portland icons — is the longest continuously running drag show on the west coast. And as of 2020, it’s also listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places for its, “history of supporting and demonstrating different concepts of gender as a venue that consistently featured gay and trans performers, developing the American economy as a long-running business, creating social institutions and movements as a nightclub accessible to and beloved by a community, expressing cultural values as the home of Darcelle and Roxy’s drag show and many other drag performance competitions.”
Another fun fact, Cole is the Guinness World Record holder for the title of “World’s Oldest Performing Drag Queen” and travelers can catch shows hosted by Darcelle (Cole) and the gang each week.
Earl Hall at Columbia University, New York, NY
The Stonewall Inn, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Julius’ and more, Manhattan is home to several famous LGBTQ+ establishments. Amongst these historical spots is Earl Hall, a building on the campus of Columbia University where the U.S.’ first gay student group, the Student Homophile League, gathered. Although the group faced resistance from the university at first, national advocates including Franklin Kameny and Barbara Gittings encouraged students to fight and overcome the administration’s objections.
By 1970, the Student Homophile League changed its name to ‘Gay People at Columbia’ and began hosting regular dances in the Earl Hall auditorium. The dances quickly became one of the most notable gay social events in all of NYC and attracted a huge crowd of LGBTQ+ folks from across the city (sometimes 1,000+ people). Today, Earl Hall is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Women’s Building, San Francisco, CA
Founded in 1971, The Women’s Building (TWB) in San Francisco is well known for its efforts to secure social justice and gender equality for women and other minorities, including LGBTQ+ folks. TWB is one of the longest-running women-founded, owned and operated community centers in the United States and is an essential leader in women’s issues, the LGBTQ+ movement and racial empowerment in the San Francisco region.
TWB is also known for the MaestraPeace Mural, a massive art piece that was painted in 1994 by several notable Bay Area muralists. The piece pays homage to the contributions of women throughout time and around the globe, attracting the attention of tourists and locals alike.