On the night of New Year’s Eve in 1967, a tragic occurrence, plotted by diabolical policemen, took place at the Black Cat Tavern on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Knowing that this particular bar was considered a welcoming safe space for queer individuals, policemen went undercover to ‘catch them in the act’ and have the opportunity to brutalize these innocent beings when the clock struck midnight, after they naturally exchanged their New Year’s kisses. This raid triggered movements against the social injustices and governmental brutalities including “an organized a protest of police brutality outside the Black Cat bar. Four hundred demonstrators… protested police brutality at six locations” (Armstrong). The topic of homosexuality has always been considered taboo and immoral in the eyes of society due to the influence of religious beliefs. Christians deemed homosexuality as sinful and a ‘crime against nature’ (Slovenko). With these beliefs being held up to the highest standard in Europe, it was difficult for individuals to identify as a homosexual years prior, during, and after World War II, especially in Germany and Britain. With strict laws in order, and the ubiquitous eyes of government officials, queer individuals were forced to contain their sexuality to the fullest extent possible whilst in fear of being persecuted. With similar belief systems regarding the immorality of homosexuality being concurrent in America, queer individuals started to fight back during post-war years. They fought against communist stereotypes that were placed onto them by President Truman which resulted in job losses, unjust investigations and prosecutions, and a damaged reputation as a community. Additionally, and most importantly, they fought for their individual and fundamental rights as a queer community. Despite the inevitable homophobic attitudes and biases that were omnipresent in the 1950’s, queer individuals lionized Los Angeles as a progressive community due to civil rights protests, gay representation in the entertainment industry and publications, and access to queer affiliated associations.
One of the primary reasons why Los Angeles was recognized as a welcoming region for queer individuals was due to the protests that fought against the intolerances of their being. With a more liberal environment starting to form within the area, the appearance of queer individuals didn’t seem to be as eccentric, which helped contribute to the emigration of queer aliens to the city. Although the public started to have a more liberal perspective of things, the police continued to have a steadfast image and prejudice against queer individuals. In the eyes of government officials, homosexuality was seen as an illness alongside intentional immoral living. Looking for any excuse to detain queer individuals, “the LAPD continued to raid gay and lesbian bars throughout the 1960s” (LGBT Historic Context Statement). Despite these unfortunate incidents, Los Angeles was still sanctioned as a safe space because of the aftermath of these incidents. With occurrences like these leaving the LGBT community distraught, they decided to use the circumstances in their favor by bringing light to these dark moments and fight against the inhumane actions towards them. Events like these helped give them a platform to speak their truth and to help show the harsh reality of being queer. Overall, no matter how much society tried to belittle and intimidate the queer community, unlike other places in the world, they didn’t abide to these attempts in Los Angeles, they fought back.
Apart from the revolts against the inequalities of queer individuals, Los Angeles was perceived as a safe space for queer individuals because of queer representation and acceptance in the entertainment industry. “The changes in American society emboldened many LGBT people to live completely openly, including many in Hollywood” (LGBT Historic Context Statement). The LGBT community had a huge impact on the image that Hollywood is known for. With Hollywood being the ‘home’ of television and filmmaking, queer individuals migrated to Hollywood in search of opportunities. Because of the welcoming and accepting atmosphere that Hollywood offered to the LGBT community, queer individuals were able to find success and comfort in the industry. In addition to queer acceptance and representation in Hollywood, queer individuals were drawn to queer publications within newspapers and magazines. The first openly gay magazine in America was ONE magazine. ONE was known for publishing various forms of “queer related content such as poems, news, fiction, and even essays written to the magazine” (Loftin). Queer individuals used ONE as an outlet to express their gratitude for publicizing queer content, as well as to ask questions and to be informed about queer lifestyles. Alongside ONE, another source of queer related subject matter was The Advocate newspaper. Founded in 1967, The Advocate provided “non-fiction material, including news stories, editorials, and columns” (Streitmatter). “The Advocate sought to give voice to a segment of the population that had been denied access to standard mass communication outlets. Likewise, the early Advocate's goal of ending discriminatory treatment of gay men and lesbians was comparable to the central goals of other advocacy presses” (Streitmatter).
Lastly, in addition to the protests and queer liberation presses that flourished in Los Angeles, the city was admired by queer individuals due to its availability of queer affiliated associations. Two well-known associations include those who fought against the prosecutions of the Lavender Scare, as well as the Mattachine Society. During the early years of the Cold War, the ‘Lavender Scare’, which infiltrated the idea that all homosexuals should be under suspicion due to their ‘deviant status’ was influenced by the ‘Red Scare’, the suspicion of anyone different due to the fear of communism being spread throughout America. Queers were seen as threats to the government “because they were susceptible to blackmail and because they were already morally debased” (Troops). These attempts to paint the queer community as criminals “would eventually be instrumental in the later movement for equal rights for homosexuals” (Troops). The Lavender Scare took a huge negative toll on the queer community, such as job losses and a diminished reputation as a group. However, this helped build a pedestal for them to band together and fight against these allegations. In addition to the gay rights advocacy that took place due to the Lavender Scare, a group called the Mattachine Society formed to fight against homophobia. The Mattachine Society argued that “homosexuality was not merely a sexual orientation. Rather, collectively homosexuals were a minority group with a unique culture” (LGBT Historic Context Statement). Their goals as a group were to unify the gay community to “educate both homosexuals and heterosexuals” and “to lead forward into the realm of political action” (Meeker). They wanted to change the perception of the public eye to what the LGBT community was really about.
In conclusion, queer individuals lionized Los Angeles as a progressive community due to civil rights protests, gay representation in the entertainment industry and publications, and access to queer affiliated associations. All of these factors are relevant today because they all helped contribute to the more open-minded and liberal society that we live in. The LGBTQ community has more of a safe space to live in because ideals have and still are slowly changing and becoming more accepting.