The 28th Annual Central Valley & Fresno's LGBT Pride Parade and Festival will take place on
SATURDAY, June 2nd 2018 in the Tower District between 10am and 3pm.
“Raising the Bar” is the theme of the 28th annual LGBT Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival. The theme this year has a double entendre for us at pride.
Its first meaning for us, is that we, as a community are continuing to rise or set the bar in terms of our human and civil rights, accepting nothing less then full equality.
The second meaning has to do with the actual Bars, the LGBT Bars, that offered individuals a place to be themselves. When being yourself was illegal and dangerous.
Long before, we were the LGBTQ community, we were just queer, an old term for our community was the homophile movement, and there were gathering places that favored homosexuals and have operated for centuries. Way before there were political, activist, advocacy, or even social outlets there were the Bars. The places that offered queer people a chance to meet others like themselves, to find comradery and even love. A place to be among others that were like them. A place to let your hair down and relax, if only for a few moments.
For better or worst the Bars have been a part of our lives and our culture. There have been good aspects and bad, such as the high rates of substance uses and abuse within our communities. And dare I say it, just the often “messiness” of social interactions.
But within all of this came the ideas and the sense of what a community could be for us queer folk. Within a year of the Stonewall Riots we became a COMMUNITY. Political activist groups grew, community centers opened, LGBT publications came out of the shadows and changed began to happen.
Fresno Rainbow Pride has chosen to honor the space the BARS have had and continue to have in our communities.
This year’s theme, “Raising the Bar”, has brought our community back full circle to the beginning and Fresno Rainbow Pride will be honoring every Bar, and their owners, that have ever served our community here in the San Joaquin Valley as our 2018 GRAND MARSHALS of the 28th annual Fresno LGBT Parade.
How you can help.
We are searching for information on any and every Queer Bar that operated in the Valley, who the owners are or were, who worked at these establishments, and what they were known for. We are looking for memorabilia such as pictures, business cards, flyers, advertisements, matchbook covers, ashtrays, shot glass, t-shirts, with the bars logos or names, etc and your own oral histories.
We are looking to put together a history written and photographic history of the Valley’s Queer watering wholes for the parade’s pride program souvenir booklet. The Pride Parade and Festival is this coming Saturday, June 2, 2018. If you can help please contact Jeffery Robinson at or call (559) 266-LINK (5465)
Some Queer Bar History
A gay bar is a drinking establishment that caters to an exclusively or predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clientele; the term gay is used as a broadly inclusive concept for LGBT and queer communities.
Gay bars once served as the centre of gay culture and were one of the few places people with same-sex orientations and gender-variant identities could openly socialize. Other names used to describe these establishments include boy bar, girl bar, gay club, gay pub, queer bar, lesbian bar, drag bar, and dyke bar, depending on the niche communities that they served. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Reports from as early as the 17th century record the existence of bars and clubs that catered to, or at least tolerated, openly gay clientele in several major European cities. The White Swan (created by James Cook and Yardley, full name unknown), on Vere Street, in London, England, was raided in 1810 during the so-called Vere Street Coterie. The raid led to the executions of John Hepburn and Thomas White for sodomy. The site was the scene of alleged gay marriages carried out by the Reverend John Church.
It's not clear which place is the first gay bar in the modern sense. In Cannes, France, such a bar had already opened in 1885, and there were many more in Berlin around 1900. In the United Kingdom and the Netherlands gay bars were established throughout the first quarter of the 20th century.
There are many institutions in the United States that claim to be the oldest gay bar in our country. Since Prohibition ended in 1933, there are a number of places open and continuously operating since that date:
The Atlantic House in Provincetown, Massachusetts was constructed in 1798 and was a tavern and stagecoach stop before becoming a de facto gay bar after artists and actors, including Tennessee Williams began spending summers in Provincetown in the 1920s.
The Black Cat Bar, founded in 1906 and operated again after Prohibition was ended in 1933, was located in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood and was the focus of one of the earliest victories of the homophile movement. In 1951, the California Supreme Court affirmed the right of homosexuals to assemble in a case brought by the heterosexual owner of the bar. This is also the Bar that Jose Sarria performed her parodic operas in drag and became know as the “The Nightingale of Montgomery Street.” Jose is better known as The Grand Mere, Absolute Empress I de San Francisco, the Widow Norton, founder of the Imperial Court System, and the first openly Gay candidate to run for public office in the US.
The Black Cat Tavern opened in November 1966 and was one of many LGBT bars to be raided, which happened on New Year's Day in 1967. It is now considered a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
The Double Header in Seattle's Pioneer Square is claimed to be the oldest gay bar on the North American West Coast, operating since 1933.
Esta Noche was the first gay Latino bar that opened in 1979. It was located on Mission Street and 16th Street. Closed down in 1997 as one of the last gay Latino bars in the Mission District.
Cafe Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans, dating back to 1933 and the end of Prohibition, claims to be the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. Cafe Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, opened in 1933, has a storied past, replete with ghosts and celebrities.
Maud's Study (961 Cole Street San Francisco), featured in the film "Last Call At Maud's", was a lesbian bar which was founded by Rikki Streicher in 1966 and closed in September 1989. At closing, it claimed to be the oldest continuously operating lesbian bar. It closed during the AIDS crisis when a "clean and sober" mentality drove down a lot of bars.
The White Horse Inn in Oakland, California, also operating legally since Prohibition, but likely during the period where sales of alcohol were banned in the U.S., also claims to be the oldest gay bar in operation.
In New York City, the modern gay bar dates to Julius Bar, founded by local socialite Matthew Nicol, where the Mattachine Society staged a "Sip-In" on 21 April 1966 challenging a New York State Liquor Authority rule that prohibited serving alcoholic beverages to gays on the basis that they were considered disorderly. The court ruling in the case that gays could peacefully assemble at bars would lead to the opening of the Stonewall Inn a block southwest in 1967, which in turn led to the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Julius is New York City's oldest continuously operating gay bar. The Stonewall Inn in New York City was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which have come to symbolize the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement in the United States.
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