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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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.