Surprises of Seattle’s Early LGBTQIA+ History
October is LGBTQ History Month, and while we all remember the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City, Seattle has seen its share of LGBTQ activism, caring, and culture long before the “Gay Liberation Movement” burst onto the scene in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Do you know where Seattle’s first secretive gay and lesbian dance bar was located? Or why the first openly gay disco was named “Shelly’s Leg”? When did Seattle pass its pioneering anti-discrimination law banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation … and when was it later put to a vote in a November election? Who is Cal Anderson Park named after and why was he famous? When was Seattle’s first Lesbian Resource Center founded in the University District? And what made Seattle’s response to AIDS different from those of New York and San Francisco which were hit by the initial brunt of the pandemic?
These are just some of the fascinating questions you can explore through free resources on local LGBTQ history:
- For a quick overview, check out LGBTQ Activism in Seattle and Washington state timeline from 1893 to 2015 (The Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project, University of Washington).
- The UW also offers “A brief history of LGBTQ Activism in Seattle,” by Kevin McKenna and Michael Aguirre.
- Finally, the UW also offers “LGBTQ+ Activism and History in Seattle,” a 17-minute video with highlights from archived audio and video interviews of early LGBTQ activists.
If you want to dig deep into the juicy details, the book Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging is a 400+ page definitive history that weaves together the many local LGBTQ struggles in the 20th Century into a tapestry that reflects the unique characteristics of Seattle’s settler history as a lumber town, Alaska Gold Rush city, and railroad and port city. The book is available in both print and e-book editions for free at The Seattle Public Library and King County Library System, or for purchase via Amazon or Elliot Bay Bookstore.
Contributor Tony Krebs is an experienced facilitator, writer, technician, user experience designer, technology strategist, and community organizer, and now part of the GenPride team serving LGBTQA+ older adults, with a focus on online events and offerings. For more information, visit GenPrideSeattle.org.
Photo credit: Seattle Gay Pride Parade 1993 photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, accessed 9/27/2022 on Flickr Creative Commons.