L.A. hosted the world’s first-ever Pride parade advocating for gay rights on June 28, 1970, in commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion on Christopher Street in New York City the year prior. But beyond the famous annual festival, the city has an extensive history of advocating for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and promoting a culture of inclusivity.
This month offers the perfect opportunity to discover this rich and moving legacy through the landmarks that created safe spaces for individuals to express themselves fiercely and fearlessly. This list explores the brave individuals who relentlessly fought for equal rights for gay individuals, the culture surrounding the movement, and the venues that helped make that happen.
1. The Factory – The Robertson
This treasure trove of stories and history was initially built as the headquarters for the Mitchell Camera Company in 1929, which revolutionized the film industry with cameras that could record sound. It’s where cameras were designed and built for classic movies like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Singin’ in the Rain. But this unassuming structure is best known for its significant impact on Hollywood nightlife when it became home to the iconic Studio One discotheque in 1974. While developers have threatened to demolish the building, it is currently part of a multi-use project that will restore key sections and is home to The Robertson Nightclub. It has also been successfully added to the California Register of Historical Resources and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Location: 665 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood 90069
2. The Mattachine Steps
This may seem like a nondescript staircase forming part of Cove Avenue in Silverlake, but it symbolizes steps made by the gay liberation movement. They were dedicated to America’s first official gay organization the Mattachine Society in 2012 in memory of Harry Hay who cofounded the group on this very hillside. It was the first official gay organization in America and it was a pivotal force for change in the country.
Location: 2355 Cove Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039, United States
3. ‘Born This Way’ Street Painting
On May 23, 2021, the “Born This Way Day” street mural was unveiled on a crosswalk along Robertson Boulevard at The Abbey. It marks the 10th anniversary of Lady Gaga’s album, which has become the unofficial LGBTIQA+ anthem. Its powerful message reminds us to embrace ourselves and our unique qualities proudly. Gaga also revealed that the album, particularly the top song of the same name, was inspired by Carl Bean, a gay Black religious activist who preached, sang and wrote about being “Born This Way.”
Location: N Robertson Boulevard, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard
4. ONE Archives Gallery
This is home to the most extensive collection of LGBTQ+ archives globally. Browse through the library of art, magazines, photos, books, and new exhibitions throughout the month to gain insight into the wonderfully imaginative world of culture created by the community throughout history. There are tons of engaging free talks and events to get involved in too.
Location: 7655 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90046
5. Black Cat
This friendly bar holds claim to the first peaceful demonstration in the country on February 11, 1967, two and a half years prior to the Stonewall Inn protest. On the outside of the building, you’ll find a mounted plaque that reads, “the site of the first documented LGBTQ+ civil rights demonstration in the nation.” The Black Cat became Historic-Cultural Monument No. 939 in 2008.
6. Hollywood Boulevard
This location that L.A.’s first official Gay Pride Parade took place in 1970, it’s also home to a ‘Black Lives Matter’ street painting with LGBTQ+ flags and it serves as a reminder of the day when 50 thousand protestors took to the street and marched along that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The project is a collaboration between StreetsLA, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and LADOT.
7. Jewel’s Catch One
Catch One (originally Jewel’s Catch One) was the first exclusively gay and lesbian disco for African-Americans in America. Founder Jewel-Thais Williams created a safe space for expression and during its 40 years of running, the venue welcomed legends like Madonna and Rick James. Today, it still hosts exciting musical talent and makes for an unforgettable night out. Find out more here.
8. Los Angeles LGBT Center & Liberation Coffee House
Since 1969 this incredible center has been providing support, training and resources for LGBTQ+ families and individuals. From healthcare to housing services, this organization has become a community cornerstone. While it deals with many serious social issues, that doesn’t stop it from providing some of the best parties, picnics, and other events to simultaneously raise funds and awareness. Even if you don’t require their services, you can always stop by the incredibly trendy and all-new Liberation Coffee shop, where staff are enrolled in their culinary training program that helps move people into permanent employment.
9. Circus of Books
WeHo’s landmark Book Circus first opened in 1960 with the ‘cruisy’ Vaseline Alley behind it and quickly became the Stonewall Inn of Hollywood. In 2020 it reopened as Chi Chi LaRue’s Circus, as it stands today. Circus Bookstore also features an upscale gallery (The Gallery @ Circus) for local LGBTQ artists. Find out more here.
10. Rainbow Crosswalks WeHo
In 2012, these vivid spectrums of color became a permanent part of San Vicente Boulevard and now act as the entrance to one of the most iconic gay neighborhoods in the world. They symbolize inclusivity and the freedom of expression that every living being has the right to.
Location: San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, 90069