Could Abraham Lincoln really be gay as some historians have suspected? Was the island of Lesbos really a Sapphic paradise? Much of our history we’ll never really know for sure, but in recent years queer historians and preservationists (and even President Obama!) have sought to preserve our queer history, which has been one of both triumph and tears. Before you die, you must visit these 10 monuments that pay tribute to queer lives.
Stonewall National Monument: New York, NY
The rioting that happened at the Stonewall Bar on the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 when a group of angry LGBTQ people retaliated against a police raid, were hardly the first time queers stood their ground, but it was the first event to capture nationwide attention. The bar still stands today and in 2016 President Obama created the Stonewall National Monument, a 7.7-acre site that includes Christopher Park and will soon include a ranger station and interpretive exhibits. A drink at the bar and a few moments of quiet contemplation in the park are essential to any NYC visit.
Transgender Memorial Garden: St. Louis, MO
Yup, the American heartland is just as essential to the LGBTQ movement as anywhere else in the world. The first garden in the world devoted to the memory of victims of anti-trans violence stands at S Vandeventer and Hunt Aves in the gay Grove neighborhood of St. Louis. Dedicated on Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, 2015, the garden features native Missouri plants and a winding path ending at a community circle. Bring a $5 love donation to the garden each Saturday and practice your downward dog at the weekly queer drop-in yoga class.
The tombs of Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde: Paris, France
Visitors spend hours wandering among the gravestones at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and paying respects to all the artistic giants buried there—Moliere, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Isadore Duncan, Chopin and many others among them. Lesbian icon Gertrude Stein has a lovely grave site there and is buried beside Alice B. Toklas, her beloved companion of more than 35 years. But the most famous grave in the entire cemetery might be that of Oscar Wilde, the author with the lacerating wit who died penniless and reviled, but whose breathtaking tomb is regularly inscribed with fan graffiti.
The Castro District: San Francisco, CA
If the gay rights movement weren’t so young, the Castro could be designated a historic district. The intersection at 18th and Castro in San Francisco is arguably the queerest on earth and there is much to see. Visit the small, but worthwhile GLBT History Museum and 575 Castro Street, which is the site of civil rights leader Harvey Milk’s Castro Camera and now a store for the Human Rights Campaign (a metal sidewalk plaque memorializes Milk). See a queer film at the iconic Castro Theater or take the essential Cruisin’ the Castro tour and let a docent illuminate the ‘hood’s queer past.
Homomonument: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
In Amsterdam, a city known for its celebrated canals and reputation for tolerance, sits a triangle-shaped monument that memorializes all who suffered for their LGBT status under the Nazi regime. The monument consists of three triangles within a larger one and partially juts out onto the water attracting the attention of both pedestrians and boaters alike. All three points of this first-of-its-kind monument are symbolic: One point is directed at the home of Anne Frank, one points to the headquarters of Dutch gay rights groups COC Nederland and one points to the National War Memorial.
Legacy Walk: Chicago, IL
In 1998 Chicago became the first American city to officially designate a neighborhood as LGBTQ with the installation of 20 rainbow pylons that line North Halsted Street, the epicenter of Chicago’s gay life. Flash forward to 2012 and the creation of the Legacy Walk, a series of placards installed at eye level on the pylons that pay tribute to queer icons, including civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, British mathematician Alan Turing, trans rights activist Christine Jorgensen and others. Stroll the strip and then retire to a night of drinking afterward at one of Halsted’s many queer bars.
Key West AIDS Memorial: Key West, FL
The quirky Conch Republic has always welcomed everyone, from the LGBTQ community to Parrotheads. As gay men faced persecution for their HIV status back home, many fled to this tiny island to live out the rest of their lives in peace. Using private funds, this memorial pays tribute to the lives lost (more than 700 of them in just a few short years) and was dedicated on December 1, 1997 (World AIDS Day). See the names embedded on Zimbabwe granite as you approach lovely White Street Fishing Pier at Higgs Beach Dog Park.
The Black Cat: Los Angeles, CA
A piece of living queer history, the 1967 New Year’s Day riots at the Black Cat Bar and Restaurant in the Silver Lake neighborhood in east Los Angeles stand as a testament to LGBTQ resilience and pre-date the Stonewall Rebellion by more than two years. The bar was barely a month old when police raided it in the early hours of January 1, 1967 and started beating up patrons who fought back and eventually organized a protest attracting hundreds of people. Today, the Black Cat attracts both gay and straight patrons, and in February 2017, a 50th anniversary rally was held there.
Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism: Berlin
Thrilling, open and culturally rich Berlin has a long history of LGBTQ tolerance, including the pioneering work of German physician sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in the late 19th century, the queer decadence of the 1920s and its current status as a homo utopia. No surprise that Germans created a monument devoted to queer persecution under the Nazi regime. The large, concrete cube which includes a small opening through which the viewer sees a short video of either two men or two women kissing and includes a commemorative tablet written in both English and German.
Matthew Shepard Memorial Bench: Laramie, WY
Shepherd was just 21-years-old when he was pistol-whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die at the hands of anti-gay perpetrators in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. His subsequent death brought international attention to anti-gay hate crimes and in 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law. Visitors to the University of Wyoming, where Shepard was a student can sit at a bench named in his honor and inscribed with the words: “He continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit here.”