San Francisco LGBT History

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San Francisco has long had a reputation for being a tolerant, forward thinking city and when it comes to LGBT, it might surprise you to learn that LGBT history in San Francisco goes way back beyond the 60s. From being the center of Gay Pride to the first legal gay marriage, the city has always been known as an open welcoming society. 

So let’s take a brief look at the LGBT history of San Francisco to find out more.

1908:  the first openly visible gay bar was opened. The Dash was a gay bar that attracted notoriety and although there had been gay bars in the city before, these were largely underground clubs hidden out of site of regular people. The Dash was out and proud! It featured cross dressing waiters who often performed sex acts in the booths for a dollar and although it was quickly shut down by the vice squad, it paved the way for what was to follow.

1955: The Daughters of Bilitis was the first ever lesbian organisation in the USA and was started in San Francisco.

1964: San Francisco was named in Life magazine as the Gay Capital of the USA

1966: The first gay community centre was opened and was host to the National Convention of gay and lesbian groups in San Francisco. The world’s first Transgender organisation – the national transsexual counselling unit was also opened in the same year.

1970: This was the year of the world’s first Gay Pride Parade. It started small – just around 30 people marching down Polk Hill, but the next day a “Gay In” in Golden Gate Park attracted far higher numbers. 

1972: The Twin Peaks Tavern opened. This was a celebrated gay bar that was allowed to open in full view of the public. Previously gay clubs had been required to blacken windows but the Twin Peaks tavern had no such restrictions. 

1977: Harvey Milk was elected as the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Governors. Hard to believe now, but this was an important milestone as he was the first gay official in Californian history. 

Also in 1977, Armistead Maupin published his iconic series of novels, Tales from the City which is all about the LGBT scene in 70’s San Francisco. 

1978: The rainbow flag was created in San Francisco by artist Gilbert Baker who devised the colors of the rainbow to reflect the various strands of the LGBT community. 

1982: The first Gay Olympics takes place at Kezar Stadium. The event attracted over 1350 participants from 10 countries of the world. 

1994: The first official observance of World AIDS Day takes place in the Golden Gate Park. 

2004: The first same sex marriage licenses are issued. The first people to do this were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the founder members of the Daughters of Bilitis. 

2015: Same sex marriage is legalised across the USA and to celebrate this landmark ruling, the 45th Gay Pride march is particularly spectacular. 

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