7 Important Locations for LGBTQ Rights Beyond Stonewall

A Harvey Milk mural inside the politician's former Castro Camera Shop.
A Harvey Milk mural inside the politician's former Castro Camera Shop.

On June 28, 1969, protests broke out at the Stonewall Inn in New York City following a police raid targeting gay patrons. Decades later, that incident is credited as the event that kicked off the gay liberation movement, and Stonewall is a designated landmark. The historic bar is arguably the most famous gay rights landmark in the country, but it’s just one of many American locations that hold significance for the LGBTQ community. On the year of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, here are some more important LGBTQ landmarks and memorials worth visiting.

  1. Castro Camera and the Harvey Milk Residence // San Francisco, California

San Francisco’s Castro District is one of the most famous historically gay neighborhoods in the United States. Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay elected official in California, lived there from the early 1970s until his assassination in 1978. Today the house where he lived above his camera shop is a designated San Francisco landmark.

  1. Transgender Memorial Garden // St. Louis, Missouri

In 2015, St. Louis activist Leon Braxton got the idea to plant a garden as a way of honoring and calling attention to trans victims of violence. Around 60 people got together that October to transform a vacant lot in the city into a small park with 34 trees, a butterfly garden, and a community circle. The Transgender Memorial Garden was the second of its kind in the world, following one built in Manchester, England, and it was the first one established in the United States.

  1. Mattachine Steps // Los Angeles, California

The Mattachine Steps in Silver Lake are a distinctive Los Angeles landmark, but many people who recognize it may not be aware of its ties to LGBTQ history. Harry Hay was living next to the stairway when he founded the Mattachine Society in 1950. The organization was one of the first gay rights organizations in the country, and it played an important role in the gay civil rights movement’s early history. The stairs were renamed the Mattachine Steps in his honor in 2012 and today a sign marks the historic site.

  1. Legacy Walk // Chicago, Illinois

The Legacy Walk in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is an outdoor museum that highlights contributions to history and culture made by LGBTQ figures. Twenty rainbow pylons are installed over a half-mile stretch, with each pylon featuring bronze memorial plaques of noteworthy lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals or an important event in LGBTQ history. The 37 plaques feature some famous names, as well as many that have been ignored by history books.

  1. Julius’ Bar // New York City, New York

Stonewall may be the most famous gay bar in New York City, but it isn’t the oldest. That distinction belongs to Julius’ Bar. Built in 1826 and functioning as a bar since 1864, it first gained a reputation as a watering hole that catered to gay clientele in the 1950s. In 1966, a group of gay activists held a “sip-in” at Julius’ to put pressure on New York State laws prohibiting eating and drinking establishments from serving gay people. The peaceful protest is considered a landmark moment in the LGBT civil rights movement.

  1. The Black Cat // Los Angeles, California

Two years before the Stonewall Riots in New York City, protests in Los Angeles secured the Black Cat’s place in LGBTQ history. On New Year’s Eve 1966, plainclothes cops were waiting in the gay bar to catch men kissing at midnight, and when the clock struck 12, they beat and arrested 14 people for lewd conduct. Activists protested the violent incident a month later by picketing outside the Black Cat. The tavern was designated a historic-cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles in 2008.

  1. Bayard Rustin Residence // New York City, New York

Bayard Rustin was instrumental in several social movements throughout his life. He participated in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and even worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize the March on Washington. In the 1980s, he fought for gay rights and drew attention to the AIDS epidemic. The influential black and gay activist lived in the same apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood from 1962 to his death in 1987. Walter Naegle, Rustin's former partner, still lives there, and he's kept it almost exactly how it was in the 1980s. Today the apartment is registered as a national historic place.

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6 Amazing Facts About Sally Ride

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are six things you might not know about the groundbreaking astronaut, who was born on May 26, 1951.

1. Sally Ride proved there is such thing as a stupid question.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. Had she taken Billie Jean King's advice, Sally Ride might have been a professional tennis player.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. Home economics was not Sally Ride's best subject.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. Sally Ride had a strong tie to the Challenger.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. Sally Ride had no interest in cashing in on her worldwide fame.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

6. Sally Ride was the first openly LGBTQ astronaut.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. While Ride's brief marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was widely known to the public (they were married from 1982 to 1987), it wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she is the world's first openly LGBTQ astronaut.