Anyone who has recently attended a Pride event may have a hard time believing that identifying as part of the LGBTQ community doesn't always feel like a constant party. But a peak in the rainbow-colored rearview mirror reveals decades of discrimination, danger, and tireless work by grassroots activists and allies. Behind the glitter and glam are dozens of places recognized by the National Park Service as LGBTQ Heritage sites—and the fight for equality continues today in legislatures, organizations, and private homes around the country.
During Pride Month and beyond, you can play a game of drag bingo on Fire Island, get kinky at the Leather Archives and S&M Museum in Chicago, or pay your respects to the more than 105,000 individuals memorialized in the 54-ton AIDS Memorial Quilt. Here are some of our favorite stops on a cross-country road trip celebrating and honoring those who fought for the freedom to love and be fabulous.
Alice Austen, born in 1866, was one of the first female photographers in the U.S. to work outside of a studio. For 53 years, Austen was in a committed relationship with Gertrude Tate, and the two of them lived together in what is now the Alice Austen House Museum for 30 of those years. The photographer was known as a rebel who went against the expectations of women during the Victorian era, and her work provides a rare glimpse into lesbian relationships in the late 1800s.
117 Sandusky St, Pittsburgh, PA, US
Celebrate the life and art of Pittsburgh-born pop art icon Andy Warhol. He’s so iconic that the Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to a single artist. A popular gay figure in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, Warhol’s work attracted the likes of Hollywood celebrities and socialites. View a live feed of his gravesite (and the Campbell’s soup cans left by fans) or take an artist-led tour on the last Saturday of every month highlighting Warhol’s significant contributions to the queer community. The museum, one of four Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, also hosts performances by LGBTQ artists throughout the year.
The museum is located across the Andy Warhol Bridge and down the street from Randyland, gay artist Randy Gilson’s colorful house-turned-museum.
6418 N Greenview Ave, Chicago, IL, US
Not for the overly modest, Chicago’s Leather Archives & Museum is dedicated to leather, fetish, and BDSM history and culture. Chuck Renslow and Tony DeBlase, two icons in the Chicago gay community, founded the museum in 1991 as a way to preserve items relevant to the leather and kink scene. Many of these artifacts were lost during the AIDS crisis, and the museum plays a big role in safekeeping this important part of LQBTQ history.
856 Stanyan Street Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, US
June 5, 2021, marked 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the U.S. The National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park started as a way to honor the lives lost to the pandemic (more than 700,000 to date in the U.S.), and it continues to offer healing to survivors and fight against stigma and hate.
Castro St & Market St, San Francisco, CA, US
1220 University Ave, San Diego, CA, US
2157 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, FL, US
Home to one of the largest gay archives and libraries in the U.S., the Stonewall Gallery National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, honors the LGBTQ movement sparked by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, but has no direct link to the historic bar. The nearly 50-year-old museum offers an annual schedule of exhibitions and public programs pertaining to LGBTQ themes.
1912 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL, US
The former Pulse Nightclub is now an interim memorial to the 49 victims of one of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. The site will eventually become a permanent memorial and museum, spearheaded by the onePULSE Foundation, which was founded by the nightclub’s owner, Barbara Poma, to help honor the lives lost on June, 2016. Visitors can reflect at three viewing areas or leave flowers and mementos at the offering wall. The site also includes a ribbon wall of photographs, a digital guest book, a survivors’ grove, and a place to write a message on the nightclub’s original sign.
1801 E St SE, Washington, DC, US
Historic Congressional Cemetery was the first national burying ground in the U.S.—predating Arlington by at least 50 years. The cemetery's "gay corner" comprises the graves of more than 30 LGBTQ veterans and activists including Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Leonard Matlovich. Matlovich's black granite stone—reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—is engraved with the words “A gay Vietnam veteran,” and a heart-wrenching epitaph (carved below two pink granite triangles): “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one.”
180 bayview walk, NY, US
Since at least the 1940s, two Fire Island hamlets—Cherry Grove and The Pines—have been known as safe havens for the LGBTQ community. Visitors are welcomed to the island by two enormous flags flapping fiercely in the breeze: one rainbow, and one traditional stars-and-stripes. Tame, white-tailed deer far outnumber the year-round residents (about 15), but in the summer the population of Cherry Grove swells to 2,000. The town has 250 homes, 2 miles of beaches, bars, theaters, restaurants, and small shops. The Cherry Grove Community House and Theatre—the oldest continually operating LGBTQ summer theater in the country—was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States
Provincetown (affectionately known as P-Town) is located at the very tip of Cape Cod and has welcomed LGBTQ travelers for nearly 100 years. The town’s galleries, bars, shops, theaters, seafood restaurants, and coastal landscape make it an ideal summer destination. Known for its fun-loving atmosphere, Provincetown hosts LGBTQ events and festivals, such as Pride and Carnival, throughout the year.
159 West 10th Street, New York, NY, US
Operating as a bar in New York City's West Village since the late 1800s, Julius' was a popular speakeasy during Prohibition and began to attract members of the LGBTQ community in the 1950s. Three years before the Stonewall riots, on April 21, 1966, four activists staged a "sip in" at Julius' to draw attention to New York State's regulation prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving homosexuals. The cozy space was a prominent filming location for the 2018 movie Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.
At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, eight police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, which, at the time, was the largest gay establishment in the U.S. Pennies, bottles, and bricks were thrown—everything inside of the Stonewall had been destroyed, but a movement was born. Over the years the space has been host to a bagel sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant, and a shoe store. The bar reopened in 2007 under new management and currently hosts drag shows, trivia nights, karaoke, bingo, private parties, and fundraisers. The 7.7-acre Stonewall National Monument, located in Christopher Park across the street from the bar, was designated as such in 2016.
Banner Photo Credit: via Wikipedia