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New web page to document history of Rochester’s LGBTQ community, seeking input


The Landmark Society of Western New York is seeking help in identifying important landmarks in the history of Rochester’s LGBTQ community.

The group is launching a web page and new hashtag, #WNYlgbtqsites, where they can gather community input about these important landmarks and spread the word on social media. 

Larry Francer, associate director of preservation, said the dedicated web page will add to the sense of pride about the part that Rochester plays in the fight for gay rights.

He said just as the city is celebrated for its role in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, it should also be recognized for its contributions to LGBTQ equality.

“Not only were some things done in secrecy, but so many things have changed over the years,” Francer said. “I don’t know that there are many people outside the LGBTQ community that realize that Abilene was Tara’s, the gay bar, for many years. And there were lots of political gatherings there.”

According to Francer, many sites have changed owners over the years, so their importance might be overlooked unless its documented. An advisory committee has already identified some potential sites, including Todd Union at the University of Rochester, where the first meeting of the Gay Liberation front took place. Moving forward, the Landmark Society staff will join the committee to lead the effort, with the help of volunteers from the LGBTQ community.

The Society is hoping the outcome of this initiative will be like that of a similar project that recently linked local African American landmarks.

“Clarissa Street was one of those, and the jazz movement. Corn Hill, in general, was also a very important street. A lot of that is lost, but there’s still the history,” Lancer said.

The Landmark Society is now in the process of identifying and collecting LGBTQ-related sites across the city.

Its partners, ImageOut and The Human Rights Campaign are presenting a fundraiser film screening of Political Animals at The Little Theatre on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. The film depicts the struggle of the gay rights movement.

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.