We’re most proud of these historical sites and lively staples, including a world-famous gay bar, a legendary Black disco club and a notoriously naughty bookstore.Less
This Silver Lake gastropub was the site of the very first LGBTQ+ civil rights demonstration in the country (you can find some historical photos in the plush booths). After undercover officers began to beat and handcuff the gay clientele at the bar on New Year’s Eve 1966, what was then called the Black Cat Tavern became the meeting ground for more than 200 people who came to take a peaceful stand for their rights on February 11, 1967.
The LGBT Center is easily one of the liveliest support organizations in the city thanks to its picnic-style parties, outdoor movie screenings and one of the largest transgender Pride celebrations in the country. Its flagship two-acre complex in Hollywood has facilities for seniors and homeless youth as well as affordable housing. It’s also where you’ll find Liberation Coffee House, an adorable, colorful cafe that’s staffed by the center’s culinary training program.
Since its founding in 1952, ONE Archives has built up the biggest collection of LGBTQ+ books, magazines, movies, photos and prints on the planet. You’ll find the organization split into two in-person experiences: The actual library at USC (available online, as well), where you can peruse the impressive archive, and then a WeHo gallery that’s mounted exhibitions on queer nightlife, AIDS activism, women in the leather community and Chicano networks.
Sure, newer spots may attract a more hip clientele, but no gay bar in L.A. has had staying power quite like the Abbey. What was initially a small dry cleaners-turned-coffee shop has expanded both its building and its cultural reach numerous times since its founding in 1991. The Abbey’s many bars make room for kink nights and proudly-sinful dance parties alongside family-friendly Sunday brunch on the patio.
Maybe you know Circus of Books from its lauded Netflix documentary of the same name. Or maybe you know it as your former go-to spot for gay erotica and sex toys. Regardless, this WeHo bookstore was legendary until its closure in 2019. Since then, it’s been reborn and given a fresh coat of paint by drag-diva Chi Chi Larue. It’s a comparatively higher-end space now that boasts art books and a gallery, but don’t worry, there are still plenty of naughty bits to be found here.
Silver Lake’s “secret” staircases aren’t really much of a secret anymore thanks to the heart-painted Micheltorena Steps. But if there’s an incline in the area that we wish got more attention, it’s this one, which marks the site of the founding of one of the country’s earliest gay rights groups. Activist Harry Hay formed the Mattachine Society in 1950 and for the next half-century continued to work toward unifying gay communities and assisting people who’d been victimized.
Touko Laaksonen simply fell in love with L.A. when he first visited in the late ’70s. And as the Finnish homoerotic artist began to stick around more often, he increasingly called this Echo Park Craftsman home. A few years before his death, “Tom of Finland” (as he would sign his striking black-and-white pieces) and house owner Durk Dehner hatched the Tom of Finland Foundation, with the house as the headquarters for his archives as well as a safe space for discriminated against artists.
This photogenic crosswalk is one of the first and certainly the most notable permanent fixtures like it in a major city. The city painted two rainbow crosswalks on San Vicente Boulevard in late 2012, and ever since it seems nearly impossible to imagine the area without them. The intersection with Santa Monica Boulevard marks the longtime home of LA Pride, as well as the Pride Parade route and the gateway to one of the most vibrant gay villages in the world.
Known for four decades as Jewel’s Catch One, original owner Jewel Thais-Williams’s nightclub was simply legendary. It was easily one of the first Black gay dance bars when it opened in 1973, and certainly became the longest running; over the years it boasted performances from the likes of Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer and Madonna. Eventually the club changed owners in 2015 and broadened its scope (but lost a little glamour), though it’s since returned to the Catch One moniker.
In the early 1970s, artist Judy Chicago, graphic designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and art historian Arlene Raven hatched the Feminist Studio Workshop, an independent art school for women that sought to challenge the patriarchal school, museum and gallery systems. Initially located in MacArthur Park, the school settled in this spot on the edge of Chinatown in 1975 where—under the name the Woman’s Building—it remained open until 1991 (and during that time launched a lesbian art movement).