The Supreme Court gave the LGBTQ+ community something to celebrate during June’s Pride month this year when they handed down a landmark ruling protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination. We were inspired by the good news and investigated the history of LGBTQ+ rights in Virgin Hotels cities.
Chicago is a trailblazer of the LGBTQ+ rights movement with Illinois the first state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961. It was also ahead of the curve in recognizing same sex civil unions the year before the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage nationwide in 2015. Today, you can visit Boystown, the country’s first officially recognized LGBTQ+ neighborhood, which has hosted a Pride parade since 1971. Stroll through the neighborhood’s Legacy Walk where more than 35 monumental rainbow pylons commemorate the legacy of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and its heroes, from James Baldwin to Audre Lorde. For something a little kinkier, head to Rogers Park for the Leather Archives & Museum where you can explore the history of fetish culture and the queer community through their collection of erotic art and their Dungeon exhibition with S&M and bondage equipment.
Dallas was quick to show its pride in LGBTQ+ equality, holding its first march in 1972. Around that time, the Oak Lawn District emerged as a popular “gayborhood,” home to many gay-owned businesses, bars and restaurants. Today, it continues to thrive with must-visit spots like Lucky’s Café, Round-Up Saloon & Dance Hall, Dallas Woody’s and Sue Ellen’s, a lesbian nightclub with live music that’s been around since 1989. A point of pride in the LGBTQ+ community, from 2005 to 2017, Lupe Valdez, a Latina lesbian, was Dallas sheriff before becoming the gubernatorial Democratic nominee in 2018. For a special history and unique perspective, re-watch 2013’s Academy Award winning Dallas Buyers Club based on the true story of a Texas man (played by Matthew McConaughey) whose AIDS diagnosis in the height of the 1980s epidemic prompted him to smuggle experimental drugs to help treat the virus.
Nashville is a shining beacon of inclusivity and progressivism in a largely conservative state. LGBTQ+ travelers will feel welcomed in Nashville, from Broadway’s honky tonks to Church Street’s thriving gay nightlife scene where hotspots include Play, Tribe and Lipstick Lounge. You won’t want to miss Drag’n Brunch at Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, helmed by Nasvhille native and Top Chef competitor Arnold Myint, featuring a dazzling drag show and sizzling specialties from sushi to chicken penang “yum bowls.” For those interested in the history of Nasvhille’s LGBTQ+ community, the Nashville Public Library’s Special Collections Division is home to oral histories focusing on life in the area before the modern day gay liberation movement sparked in 1969 by the Stonewall Riots in New York City. When it comes to a gay-cation in Nashville, there’s really nothing more fabulous than the Grand Ole Opry, cowboys and country icons like Dolly Parton.
Written By: Shayne Benowitz