Courtesy of Legacy Project
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In Manchester, England, a commemorative statue dedicated to 20th-century mathematician Alan Turing makes up one of 18 key sites within the city’s LGBTQ Heritage Trail.
Public memorials honoring figures from the LGBTQ community say a lot about a city’s culture and serve as a reminder that coming out can be its own heroic milestone.
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Ever since October 11, 1987, when half a million people marched for LGBTQ rights in Washington, D.C., the fall date has marked the observance of National Coming Out Day in the United States. The annual LGBTQ awareness day celebrates the bravery of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals who have come out and lived openly, no matter the risks.
Right off the heels of the Stonewall 50th anniversary in June—which marked a half-century since the LGBTQ uprising took place in Greenwich Village during 1969—plans were announced to construct a New York City monument honoring two such brave souls: trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. When it’s finished in 2021, the Johnson-Rivera monument will stand as the world’s first permanent public artwork dedicated to transgender women. It will join a small handful of LGBTQ heritage markers in the city, including the Stonewall National Monument, the Gay Liberation Monument, the Alice Austen House, and the James Baldwin House, which in September was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Here are a few other permanent LGBTQ monuments around the world that are worth coming out to visit.
In Chicago, LGBTQ history doesn’t get a single monument—it gets 20. The Legacy Walk is a half-mile-long series of rainbow-adorned bronze pylons lining both sides of North Halsted Street in the Boystown neighborhood (from Belmont to Grace Streets). Each freestanding column features two memorial plaques commemorating the life and work of LGBTQ individuals “whose achievements helped shape the world,” says Victor Salvo, founder and executive director of the Legacy Project. Salvo describes the Legacy Walk as a dynamic, outdoor history exhibit tied to the importance of National Coming Out Day, which is when the walk’s first 18 plaques were dedicated in 2012. In June 2019, the Walk was officially designated a Chicago landmark district.
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To honor the world’s innumerable queer heroes, plaques are periodically replaced with new markers; while the older ones join the Legacy Project’s archives for a planned future museum and use in the traveling Legacy Wall exhibit (which has been on display in locations beyond Chicago, including St. Louis, Missouri, and Bloomington, Indiana). Currently, visitors to this LGBTQ walk of fame can learn about international legends such as Oscar Wilde, Audre Lorde, Christine Jorgensen, Billy Strayhorn, Margaret Chung, and many more. Meanwhile, the Legacy Project works closely with the city of Chicago to protect and maintain the Walk and to ensure LGBTQ history is part of local school curriculum.
In the middle of Manchester’s Sackville Park, a bronze representation of Alan Turing sits patiently on a bench, apple in hand. The plaque at his feet reads: “Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice.” The 20th-century Englishman—whom many learned about when Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed him in 2014’s The Imitation Game—was prosecuted and chemically castrated for homosexual acts during the 1950s. Located near the city’s Gay Village district and the Beacon of Hope HIV/AIDS memorial, the statue was erected in 2001, though it gained greater fame after Queen Elizabeth II posthumously pardoned Turing in 2013. The commemorative statue in Turing’s honor is part of Manchester’s LGBTQ Heritage Trail, also called the Out in the Past Trail, for which small rainbow mosaics are set into the pavement to mark 18 key historic sites.
One of the nation’s most significant LGBTQ leaders once resided in a modest brick house in the Palisades neighborhood of the U.S. capital, where he welcomed other activists to help plan protests that would define the modern gay-rights movement. This leader was Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, an astronomer who lost his federal post in 1957 because of his homosexuality and in return devoted his life to fighting for LGBTQ civil rights. Kameny, who was the first openly gay person to run for U.S. Congress (and later became the District’s first out gay official), was still living in this house when it was designated a city landmark in 2009. Sadly, he died on October 11, 2011 (on National Coming Out Day)—just weeks before his home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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The pink triangle is recognized globally as a powerful emblem of the LGBTQ community, having been used by the Nazis as a marker to identify homosexual men, while the black triangle marked lesbians. Today in Sydney’s Darlinghurst neighborhood, the pointed LGBTQ symbol serves as a larger-than-life tribute to queer victims of the Holocaust. Located in Green Park (near the Sydney Jewish Museum), the memorial—a pink, enameled-steel prism— is embedded in the earth and overlaps with triangulated black columns, which together form a fractured Star of David. The triangle’s glossy surface is reflective by day and emits a soft glow by night, as if lighting the way to hope and life.
A fertile, urban greenspace is a vibrant way to grow community, something the Transgender Memorial Garden in St. Louis has been doing since 2015. The Grove neighborhood site, located at South Vandeventer and Hunt Avenues, is the world’s first garden to memorialize victims of anti-trans violence and to celebrate transgender lives. It’s planted with native Missouri trees and wildflowers, cultivated by volunteers, and supported by the Metro Trans Umbrella Group—a local nonprofit organization that marched collectively as grand marshal of the 2019 St. Louis Pride Parade.
Berlin is home to a stark monument that commemorates the thousands of LGBTQ lives lost to Nazism before and during World War II. Since 2008, the memorial has stood among other somber tributes in Tiergarten (the city’s central park), inviting visitors to peer through a window within a giant concrete cube to glimpse a video that showcases a same-sex kiss. In addition to this memorial—and Berlin’s impressive Shwules (Gay) Museum—travelers can visit other monuments that commemorate victims of LGBTQ persecution across Germany. In Cologne, Frankfurt, and Nuremberg—all cities that celebrate Pride annually—similar memorials honor tragedies of the past and remind that the fight for human equality continues.
On the bank of Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht Canal, three pink granite triangles (each with sides measuring 10 feet) are positioned on a small plaza near the waterfront, connected by lines that form one greater triangle: the Homomonument. Unveiled in 1987, the installation was the world’s first public monument dedicated to the LGBTQ community, honoring victims of persecution and violence, both past and future. The three triangles point to the city’s National War Memorial, the Anne Frank House, and COC Netherlands LGBTQ advocacy organization. One of the triangles protrudes onto the water (built as steps ascending from the canal), one is at installed at street level, and another rises from the plaza like a groundswell of hope and courage.