Seattle LGBTQ History

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community in Seattle, WA has had a long and rich history as the city has progressed from a small western outpost to the progressive and thriving metro area it is today. At the heart of our community, at different points of the past, has stood a community center to centralize our efforts in creating a safe, vibrant space for LGBT individuals to live, work and play. Here are a few highlights of the history of the LGBT community in Seattle and how community centers have played a part.*

1853 – King County (which Seattle calls home) is named after William Rufus de Vane King rumored to be lovers with his “inseparable companion” President James Buchanan.

1860 – Sarah Yesler, wife of prominent community figure Henry Yesler, for which much of the city of named and who founded the Seattle Public Library, writes love letters to her friend Eliza Hurd.

1930 – A café, pool hall, and card room called “The Casino” opens and gains the nickname “Madame Peabody’s Dancing Academy for Young Ladies.” The Casino was one of the few places where same-sex dancing was allowed.

1946 – “The Garden of Allah,” the first gay-owned cabaret in Seattle was opened by Fred Coleman and Frank Reid opened on 1st Avenue between University and Seneca streets. Vaudeville and female impersonation the main attractions for both gay men and lesbians and was the center of social life for more than 10 years.

1955 – Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin start the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights association, in San Fransisco after meeting in Seattle’s active lesbian community.

1958 – An injunction instructed the city police not to question customers of gay bars unless there was a “good cause” in connection with an actual investigation.

1967 – University of Washington Professor Nick Heer founded the Dorian Society, the first group in Seattle to support gay rights. They published a newsletter about current issues and events in the gay community.

1969 – Seattle Counseling Service opens as the country’s first community mental health agency for the LGBT community.

1974 – Seattle’s first Gay Pride Week, during which the first “Gay Community Center” opened at 1726 16th Ave E, marking the increasingly important role of the Capitol Hill neighborhood as the center of LGBT life in Seattle.

1977 – Seatle Mayor Charles Royer declared an official Gay Pride Week stating “Seattle’s Gay citizens have made important contributions to neighborhood restoration, community life, business, government, and the arts.”

1978 – Votes defeated Initiative 13 which would have repealed City of Seattle ordinances that protected gays from certain forms of discrimination.

1984 – Ingersoll Gender Center was started as a support and counseling venue for the transgender community.

1987 – Cal Anderson was appointed State Representative for Seattle’s 43rd District, becoming the first openly gay legislator in Washington State.

1989 – The City of Seattle extended benefits and leave policies to domestic partners.

1991 – Sherry Harris, a lesbian and an African American, was elected to City Council. Lambert House founded, the nation’s first drop-in center for LGBT youth.

1992 – Bailey/Boushay House opens, the nation’s first residential care facility for people with AIDS.

1999 – “Gender Identity” is added as a protective class in Seattle’s nondiscrimination ordinances.

2006 – After 30 years of activism a statewide gay rights bill passes in the Washington State legislature.

More to come…

* This history was gained from the following sources and may be subject to unintentional error. Please contact us to submit any references that may be more up to date and accurate, thank you.

Email info@lgbtqseattle.org to contribute any information you could add about the history of the LGBTQ community in Seattle, WA.