The month of June is the time for celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride, but it is also a time for commemorating places, people, and events in queer history. While most are aware of the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 in New York City, it was not a solitary event in the queer community's fight for equity in the U.S. The foundation for LGBTQ+ visibility and pride was laid in many places throughout the country.
Six LGBTQ+ History Walking Tours Nationwide
Queer history walking tours are an excellent opportunity to learn about, and thereby honor, the strength and resilience of the previous generations. These are six LGBTQ+ history walking tours that may be experienced throughout the U.S.
Detroit Historic Pride, A Walking Tour explores the history of the city's LGBTQ+ community and is led by urban planner Michael Boettcher, AICP. This tour explores the downtown spaces that welcomed the gay community during the era of World War II before the migration to Palmer Park, known as "Michigan's Gayest Square Mile" in the 1950s. The tour departs on select weekend days. Registration and a fee are required.
Ithaca, New York
The Ithaca LGBTQ History Walking Tour seeks to keep the memory of queer folks in Ithaca alive, preserve their stories, and celebrate their place in Ithaca's history. The tour has more than 30 stops, including city hall, where Ithaca became one of the first municipalities in the U.S. to codify into law the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. At Ithaca College, participants can view one of the first public declarations of the bisexuality movement made in the U.S. The tour even offers a Spotify playlist, curated by student employees at the Ithaca College Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services. The tour is self-guided (app optional).
The city of New Orleans has long been home to the queer community. The LGBT Queer History Tour, offered by New Orleans Secrets, celebrates LGBTQ+ visibility in the city, specifically the French Quarter and the four-block stretch within it known as "The Fruit Loop." From the Cafe Lafitte In Exile, which is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States, to the site of the tragic UpStairs Lounge fire in June of 1973, this tour also explores the highs and lows of LGBTQ+ history in New Orleans. Registration and a fee are required.
Legend has it that in 1995, at Philadelphia's Outfest, David Warner playfully stated, "It's a beautiful day in the Gayborhood," and residents have called the area between 11th/Broad Streets and Pine/Chestnut Streets the Gayborhood ever since. The Philly Gayborhood and LGBTQ History Walking Tour explores Philadelphia's Gayborhood, exploring the impact of local LGBTQ+ activists, murals, and the Camac Street row of historic gay bars. The tour also includes a visit to the Philly AIDS Thrift, the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ+ bookstore in the country. The tour departs on select days. Registration and a fee are required.
Since 2016, the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project has offered monthly walking tours. The project currently has three different LGBTQ+ tours in the area: Downtown Roanoke, the Old Southwest Gayborhood, and the Salem Avenue Historic District. The Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project is a community-based initiative. Tours are free and are offered monthly.
The childhood home of Tennessee Williams is one of the stops on the "Gay Liberation in the Gateway City" walking tour. Led by the Missouri Historical Society, the tour primarily explores the Central West End of the city which is home to a robust community of LGBTQ+ residents from as early as the 1920s and beyond. The tour also visits the site of St. Louis' long-running tradition in the Black queer community, Miss Fannie's Ball. Registration and a fee are required.
All the tours demonstrate the importance of community and places helping to create a sense of identity.
Top image: Philadelphia street sign at 13th Street at Sansom. iStock/Getty Images Plus - flySnow.
About the Author
Dina Walters is part of APA's Prioritize Equity team.