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Missouri Historical Society’s ‘See STL’ program offers a new LGBTQ walking tour

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Rainbow St. Louis flag with signatures from 2012 PrideFest at Tower Grove Park. Photo courtesy of Missouri Historical Society Collections.

The Missouri Historical Society’s See STL tour program has launched a new walking tour exploring the history of the LGBTQ experience in St. Louis. The “Gay Liberation in the Gateway City” walking tour explores the Central West End as a hub of LGBTQ community life and political activism.  

The “Gay Liberation in the Gateway City” walking tour consists of 9 stops around the Central West End. Much of the tour focuses on the Central West End’s heyday as a gay neighborhood in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, but also touches on little-known stories about queer people in the neighborhood during the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression. Stops include the boyhood home of Tennessee Williams, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge which was the original site of Miss Fannie’s Ball (an annual drag ball held around Halloween and one of the longest-running traditions in LGBTQ St. Louis), the site of the fabulous 1970s era nightclub Herbies, and more.  

Upcoming Dates for the See STL “Gay Liberation in the Gateway City” Walking Tour 

The walking tour costs $20 per person and $15 for Missouri Historical Society Members. Register online.  

In addition to the new See STL LGBTQ history tour, the Missouri History Museum (which is operated by the Missouri Historical Society) has a Pride keynote lecture titled “As I Am” Music with Musician Tre G, planned for Thursday, June 9, 2022. In 2019 musical artist and creative director Tre G released the album As I Am, a pop/R&B celebration of authenticity in both his sound and his life. In embracing his own path, he has also inspired others to do so—not only through his music but also through projects such as WerQfest, an event to make space for and rejoice in Black queerness that he helped create. Through both an interview-style conversation and an intimate musical performance, Tre G will share his story as an artist and how he has worked to encourage representation of Black LGBTQ communities.  

Also available this Pride Month, the Missouri History Museum is one of several area organizations hosting the traveling banner show, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights” which was developed by students at the University of Missouri  — Kansas City. The banner show is on display in the Grand Hall of the Missouri History Museum now through June 30, 2022.

Don’t miss the Missouri History Museum’s October 20, 2022, Thursday Nights at the Museum event, “Some of My Best Friends Are”: A Musical Reunion. St. Louis playwright Joan Lipkin wrote, directed, and produced the theatrical exploration of the lesbian and gay experience. With music and lyrics by Tom Clear, it was the first theatrical work of its kind in Missouri. The sold-out performances of Some of My Best Friends Are were held in the basement theatre of the St. Marcus Church in 1989. The production was widely featured on television and radio, and it changed St. Louis’s cultural and political landscape. This one-time program will reunite much of the original cast and crew to reflect on this groundbreaking work, and the audience will have a chance to share their memories too. (This program is associated with Gateway to Pride, presented by the William A. Kerr Foundation and AARP St. Louis.) 

The tour and other LGBTQ history programming is part of the Missouri Historical Society’s larger Gateway to Pride Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to showcase the complexity, creativity, and diversity of St. Louis’s LGBTQ communities through four phases: an ongoing collecting initiative, a digital exhibit that launched in 2021, a major exhibit gallery opening in 2024, and an LGBTQ endowment. MHS is gathering oral histories, artifacts, photographs, and more to add to its permanent collections. Share your own story or event from St. Louis’s LGBTQ history or submit an artifact donation request at mohistory.org.  

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