The gay rights movement will turn 46 (no nip or tuck necessary!) on the last weekend in June, an anniversary so marked to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion in which LGBT New Yorkers fought back against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28, 1969. The event marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. This year’s celebration is likely to be doubly poignant as the Supreme Court hands down its verdict in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that will decide whether or not marriage equality should be granted in all 50 United States. In honor of Pride Month, we celebrate 12 gayborhoods in the US and beyond that shaped the past, present and future of the queer community.
Chicago joined New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in organizing a gay rights marche in 1970 in the wake of Stonewall. Its East Lakeview neighborhood is colloquially referred to as Boystown and in 1998 became the first gayborhood on earth to be recognized as such by local government (note those rainbow-ringed pylons on North Halsted Street). Check out gayborhood fixtures like Sidetrack, Roscoe’s and Scarlet.
The Castro: San Francisco
Formerly known as Eureka Valley, gay men started migrating to this central neighborhood in the 1970s and it’s safe to say it hasn’t been the same since. 575 Castro Street is where slain city supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk operated his camera shop while running for local office. Check out Twin Peaks—the first U.S. gay bar to have glass windows—, grab some grub at Harvey’s and definitely see a movie at the legendary Castro theater.
Those Aussies know how to party, especially come Mardi Gras when 10,000 queer Sydneysiders make their triumphant nighttime march through gay Darlinghurst while thousands more revelers cheer exuberantly. But this happening ‘hood is queer 24/7 and drinking and dancing establishments like the Midnight Shift, Arq, and the Stonewall Hotel are not to be missed. Sexy Bondi Beach is only a short train ride away.
French Quarter: New Orleans
The true LGBT neighborhood in the Crescent City is the Faubourg Marigny, a charming and laid-back area that begins at the Esplanade and is slightly down river from the Quarter, but there’s no denying that the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann is gay ground zero almost any day of the year and especially during Southern Decadence when the gay community engages in a weekend of revelry that leaves the rest of Bourbon blushing.
We liken the Catalan capital to that of the board game Candyland but for adults in that its numerous colorful buildings constructed by Gaudi give the entire city a rainbow swirl. Speaking of which, the LGBT community has planted their flag in the beautiful and lively Eixample neighborhood, but queered it up with numerous bars, cafes and other queer establishments including the homo-centric Axel Hotel.
Ipanema: Rio De Janeiro
Tall and tan and young and lovely, we can’t take our eyes off either the girls or boys of Ipanema, the glittery and gorgeous oceanfront neighborhood where queers gather by day to frolic in the sun at Farme de Amoedo Beach and return at night to drink and dine at the city’s many LGBT-centric bars and restaurants. Near to Ipanema is the lovely and upscale beach community Leblon while on the other side lays classic Copacabana.
Le Marais: Paris
They don’t call it Gay Paree for nothing. Actually, that term originated in the late 19th century during its flourishing Belle Epoque era and has nothing to do with gay rights, but try telling that to the many LGBT establishments that now dot the often narrow and romantic streets of this historic neighborhood. Fun fact: Paris had an openly gay mayor from 2001 until 2014.
It was here that American-born writer Christoper Isherwood resided during the decadent Weimar Republic and penned Goodbye to Berlin (upon which the musical Cabaret was based). Nearly a century later, the city remains a heady gay paradise with nightlife that is practically unrivaled. Much queer action has flowed east to nabes like Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, but no one can deny leafy Schoneberg its status as a global gay epicenter.
Sprawling, brilliant, madcap London is home to one of the largest gay populations on earth. Many of them like to party in Vauxhall, but you’d be hard-pressed to deny SoHo its rightful place in the gayborhood cannon. Not only is this West End neighborhood close to the theater district, but it’s also home to nightlife establishments like G-A-Y and Manbar as well as many restaurants and cafes favored by London’s queer community.
West Hollywood: Los Angeles
According to a recently population study, 39% of West Hollywood or WeHo is comprised of gay men and is home to Los Angeles Gay Pride, Outfest and the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnival. All the action happens along out and loud Santa Monica Boulevard where there are more than two dozen queer bars and an equal number of gay shops and restaurants. Would you believe the entire area is walkable? Not bad for L.A.
Le Village: Montreal
No one can deny Toronto its thriving LGBT community, but we’ve got to hand it to Montreal’s Le Village which packs a mighty queer punch along Rue Saint-Catherine which in the summertime is closed off to motorists and instead transforms into a mile-long paradise of outdoor cafes and pedestrian revelry. Don’t miss the Black and Blue Festival in October—the world’s largest benefit dance party.
West Village: New York
The presence of the LGBT community in the Big Apple can be felt everywhere. Many have settled down in Brooklyn and quieter parts of Manhattan, while the epicenters of gay nightlife are in Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village—and less so these days in Chelsea. Nevertheless, the West Village rules as a historic gay ground zero in the United States including where the Stonewall Rebellion kicked off the modern gay rights movement.