Three years before the Covid-19 pandemic changed our lives in March, LA Weekly ran a series of articles that spotlighted the different burgeoning ‘gayborhoods’ around Los Angeles. From 2017-2019, we explored the gay scenes in DTLA, Long Beach, WeHo, Silver Lake and city-wide. My how things have changed.
Back then it was accurate to write “as equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community slowly becomes the norm across the nation, a beautiful by-product has emerged: there are more places than ever for people of all sexual preferences to come together.”
Covid, of course, has completely changed this, as some of these places have unfortunately closed their doors permanently. While 2021 may bring more uncertainty, pain and loneliness, the New Year also has the promise of hope and human resilience, two things which the LGBTQ community is of course, no stranger to.
Looking back to January and February of this year feels almost like ancient history. Whether it was fan-boying at the Britney Spears pop up near the Grove, or interviewing RuPaul for his new Netflix show, we were blissfully unaware of the impending doom that would come with March. We all were. Even the primary elections back in March feel like an eternity ago (many voted in person after waiting in long lines, a vast contrast to a majority voting by mail in the November election). Once Covid started spreading throughout March and more businesses had to close for what we hoped would only be a short time, we were lucky to escape with some great streaming content. The beginning of quarantine gave us the series finale of Schitt’s Creek, the Netflix documentary Circus of Books about the L.A. landmark or the viral Tiger King limited series, also on Netflix- all of which offered gay themes that were beyond stereotypical.
As the pandemic continued into the Spring, the murder of yet another person of color, George Perry Floyd Jr., at the hands of the police (this time in Minneapolis) set off a wave of protests not just throughout Los Angeles or the U.S., but throughout the entire world. The LGBTQ community was front and center at many protests, as queer people of color and their allies spoke out against continued police brutality against our communities, specifically against our most vulnerable- trans women of color.
Pride Month, aka June, found us all celebrating virtually on the 50th anniversary of the first LA Pride and watching some new LGBTQ shows like We’re Here (HBO), Visible: Out On Television (Apple TV Plus) and Legendary (HBO Max). Speaking of LGBTQ shows, Mama Ru kept our sense of community going with season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which found the final three contestants doing their final lip syncs from home. In a historic first, both of the winners crowned were queens of color (Jaida Essence Hall and Shea Couleé).
When we weren’t escaping to Tuckahoe on Drag Race, LGBTQ icon Lady Gaga gave us a distraction with Chromatica. Gaga returned to her dance-pop roots and gave us the dancefloor she fought for, bringing some of her megastar friends like Elton John and Ariana Grande along for the ride. Her #1 single with Grande, “Rain On Me,” particularly resonated throughout 2020 with lyrics like, “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive.”
For those who couldn’t find their dancing shoes in 2020, Taylor Swift also returned to her roots with a more stripped down journey into the folklorian woods not once, but twice, releasing surprise albums Folklore in July and “sister record” Evermore in December. The end of the year also saw Harry Styles as the first man to cover an issue of Vogue magazine in a dress (a couture gown, to be specific). While some silly people cried out to “bring back manly men,” most celebrated the move by the fashion-fluid singer, whose inclusivity and importance to the LGBTQ community we celebrated back in February, long before his cover boy moment.
Of course no discussion about 2020 would be complete without the historic November elections. The stakes were high for the LGBTQ community and most of us breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were called the winners (by all of the major broadcast and news networks) on the morning of November 7th. While He Who Must Not Be Named (at least not anymore) is still contesting the results and claiming fraud, the grown-ups will finally be in charge again on January 20th when the President-Elect is inaugurated into office. In addition to a vaccine that’s already getting distributed, Biden’s inauguration will hopefully bring with it some much needed support from the federal government, although the pending Senate race in Georgia may affect that.
People joke about how terrible 2020 has been, but there obviously isn’t a magical switch on January 1st, 2021 that will change anything. Currently, Los Angeles is being called “ground zero” of the pandemic as our ICUs have no capacity and thousands are dying from Covid-19 every day. The entire world has a tough road ahead, but our community specifically has faced all sorts of adversity in the past and we’re still here, louder and prouder than ever. We literally survived a pandemic just a generation ago with AIDS/HIV, when we similarly had no support from the federal government. It’s tragic to think of all who were senselessly lost back then, and it’s equally senseless (and infuriating) now.
It may be odd to drive down Santa Monica Boulevard at midnight on a weekend and see a ghost town instead of the usual hustle and bustle. For every Akbar, whose Go Fund Me has raised almost $200k so far, there’s a Rage or Gold Coast, who had to permanently close their doors. Our gayborhoods definitely won’t look the same when this is all over. But just like we have before, we will rebuild and we will persist. We can create new gayborhoods that are even more inclusive and progressive than the ones we left behind.
Two and a half years ago, we wrote about having “a gay ol’ time” throughout Los Angeles, and the same will surely hold true in the new roaring 20s to come. Just as we wrote back then, “here in L.A., queer nightlife has long been a primary source for joyful revelry and creative expression, and promoters and owners alike keep evolving, growing and ‘(gay)me-changing’ beyond social stereotypes, with new hot spots in new parts of town.” Be safe and Happy New Year.