The Gay Community

Content on these pages was generated by students in HST 371, Southern California History, at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in Spring 2013.

Much like the film industry, the gay community was initially drawn to Edendale because of the neighborhood’s geographical isolation and the overall cultural acceptance by the community of their sexual preferences. The geographical isolation gave privacy that is rather rare in a booming metropolis. It was this sense of isolation that attracted non-natives into this area which in turn influenced the community's values. Lack of external social taboos gave way to a bohemian lifestyle that focused on individual expression and equality between sexes. Making human relationships the center of their community, this provided a foundation for a cultural revolution. (Hurewitz, 86),

This social environment made way for icons like Harry Hay, a leader in the early gay rights movement. By creating the homophile group The Mattachine Society, Hay stressed that sexual identity did not need to be coded, but that is was a full identity unto itself. (Hurewitz, 76) The Mattachine Society promoted sexual identity through political organization and they also were important in the Civil Rights Movement throughout Los Angeles.

On New Year’s Eve, in 1967, police raided a well-known gay bar, Black Cat Tavern, on 3909 West Sunset Boulevard. The raid was triggered after officers had spotted men kissing. The community was outraged by the police action and they responded by hosting the nation’s first gay rights protest. (Dryden) Silver Lake’s community continued to blossom through the 1970s as gay-owned bars and business continued to open throughout the community as homosexuals continued moving into this accepting community. (Dryden)

From the 1960 through the 1980s new working class family inhabitants who did not want to take part in a cultural and sexual revolution moved into the neighborhood. Tensions between these new neighbors and gays erupted into violence resulting in, a number of times throughout the years, several deaths. In the 1980s and 1990s the AIDS epidemic came to Silver Lake, taking its toll on a once thriving counter-culture.

The 1990s brought use of the internet to the LGBT community, drawing social interactions away from the famous Silver Lake gay bars. Today, Silver Lake is a gay a friendly neighborhood; however there is less need for exclusively gay establishments as the area continues to become increasingly diverse. (Dryden)