Being Queer in Los Angeles
There are queer neighborhoods and pockets everywhere. As a whole, Los Angeles is super queer-friendly. As a queer man who publicly holds hands and kisses my partner on the street, you shouldn’t be afraid to express PDA! However, while you might think all folks under the rainbow banner could find a place for themselves in a city as large as Los Angeles, gay—specifically the white gay presence—is the most outward-facing and accommodated due to West Hollywood’s notoriety. For instance, there are remarkably no lesbian bars; The Palms closed in 2013, and Van Nuys’ The Oxwood Inn closed in 2017.
The City of West Hollywood is considered the historical home of L.A.’s gay community. All-male saunas, movie theatres, tacky bars with crowded dancefloors, and gyms which moonlight as cruising spots line Santa Monica Boulevard, the area’s main artery. In the gay Angeleno imagination, a queen from “WeHo” is a white, vain, crew-cut-and-purple-tank-top-wearing individual frequenting places like Fubar, Mickys, or The Abbey (which recently had a lawsuit alleging patrons were drugged). LGBTQ+ POC may not always see their communities represented equitably.
In East Hollywood, watering holes like The Eagle (which caters to leather and bear communities) and Club Tempo (a Latinx cowboy dance club with drag performances and banda music) welcome a more diverse clientele. Silver Lake’s Akbar is a favourite, with Moroccan-style interiors, a lively dance floor with a great soundsystem, and during summer, the site of Bears in Space, an outdoor party. The Black Cat Tavern, just down the street, is a shrine to the Gay Liberation movement, known for its protests in 1967 which preceded Stonewall by two years. In Downtown, La Cita, former home of legendary queer party Mustache Monday’s from the late Nacho Nava, boasts an energetic dance floor and labrynthine patio. There’s also Precinct, a large club whose patronage ranges from leather to twink, relaxed to raver; the crowds spill into the street on weekends. The inimitable New Jalisco Bar, an electric dive with cheap drinks, pumps reggaeton and cumbia on the dancefloor, and is notable for its drag performances of Latinx legends like Juan Gabriel.
The LGBTQ centres—notably in Hollywood, West Hollywood, South L.A., Boyle Heights, and Trans Wellness Centre in Macarthur Park—provide multiple services for treatment, aiding houseless LGBTQ individuals, STI testing, mental health, legal services, and more to the community, and are valuable resources for locals and visitors alike.