Preservation of LGBTQ Places

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Preservation of LGBTQ Places

Last month, I hosted a SaSS salon dinner where the discussion topic of the evening was the preservation of LGBT places. After sharing a pot luck meal with a mix of people from backgrounds spanning civil engineering, urban planning, sustainability and advocacy, we talked philosophically about what defines an LGBT place. The conversation evolved to produce insightful ideas on what we can do as a community to preserve LGBT history and foster inclusive environments for LGBT citizens of all ages. Below, you will find some key takeaways from our discussion. – Joseph Vandenorth

What defines an LGBT place?

For many, the first thing to come to mind are bars, which traditionally served an important role in bringing together LGBT citizens, however, we are fortunate Seattle has many inclusive places for LGBT folks to feel at home. Other considerations include ownership, patronage, and inclusive atmosphere. Can you think of stores, institutions, health centers, and other places that cater to the LGBT community?

Why is it important to preserve these places?

Seattle’s inclusive atmosphere makes it easy to overlook some of the struggles faced by fellow LGBT citizens living in less accepting parts of the world. Many outsiders, especially LGBT youth, are looking for acceptance and refuge. By preserving some of Seattle’s LGBT institutions, we can ensure future generations see Seattle as a leader in equality and protection of LGBTQ citizens. By bonding with fellow LGBT people, we gain the mental strength needed to overcome struggles and empower a community of  equality.

What are some LGBT places in Seattle worth preserving?

Capitol Hill is known as the center of LGBT culture in Seattle; however, there are communities in other parts of the region with a healthy LGBT community. Some are concerned with the gentrification of Capitol Hill and how rising rents could marginalize gay and youth populations. While some feel Capitol Hill is “gayer than ever,” others see new LGBT centers emerging to supplement Capitol Hill.

A great point was made about Cal Anderson Park to justify the importance of recognizing LGBT heroes in the public realm. By naming a central park after Washington’s first openly gay congressman, Seattle solidifies its acceptance of LGBT public figures. While many visitors won’t know who Cal Anderson was, others will ask and become familiar with his story and the struggle for equality.

Why is Seattle unique?

Seattle can be a steward for the LGBTQ community as a capitol of acceptance and celebration for the community. We can inspire LGBTQ people who visit Seattle with the level of visibility for our history and importance as citizens of this city.

Do people care about history?

While some think the general population no longer care about history, visibility is very valuable to the LGBT community. It is what helps bring issues to the forefront and stops the othering of LGBT lifestyles. People often want to know a good story, but not just facts and dates.

As we approach the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington state, we have a great opportunity to document the oral histories of this moment. What will the next movement be in our community?

How can we capture and showcase the LGBT history of Seattle?

While it’s hard for any business to be preserved over the years, there are measures we could take to raise awareness of historic LGBT places. Some ideas that came to the forefront included creating a walking map of LGBT landmarks and businesses that served the LGBT community through times of discrimination, or reclaiming the alleys of Capitol Hill by naming them after local LGBT heroes. Another idea is to mark famous building with plaques that dedicate its status as a historic LGBT place.

There is an initiative called the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project, which was formed in 1994 to capture and share this history of the LGBT community in the Pacific Northwest. Much of their archives are based on oral histories. A renewed interest in their mission might help raise awareness for Seattle’s LGBT history and bring it to the forefront.

Salon Attendees:

  • Alex Brennan
  • Gerod Rody
  • Jeff Kinney
  • Joseph Vandenorth
  • Maggie Humphreys
  • Melanie Coerver
  • Mike Kent

Sustainability and Society Series (SaSS) Salons

A Sustainability and Society Salon is an intimate private gathering of 5-10 individuals discussing a specific topic, whether it be the health impacts of air quality or the legal and social implications of rezoning. They are not controlled by OUT4S, but are rather organized by people or organizations in our network. The host works with OUT4S to pick the right people to be in the room, ideally a mix of perspectives and skills related to the topic. The host then facilitates a group discussion, supported by tools from OUT4S. The goal is to produce some shared understandings, and to note differences in opinion, then report that out for all to learn from.

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