For centuries, LGBTQ people were forced to lead invisible lives. You couldn’t find them in the pages of history books. No one erected monuments in their honor.
Throughout history, defiant social reformers made visibility one of their chief concerns in the fight for LGBTQ rights. In 1978, Harvey Milk shouted, “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out!” During the AIDS epidemic, the LGBTQ community stopped traffic in city streets while holding signs that read “Silence = Death.” Today, trans marches are erupting around the world in response to the violence and prejudice endured by the transgender community.
Visibility, the antidote to intolerance, goes far beyond flesh and bone, however. That’s why monuments dedicated to the LGBTQ community are crucial in fostering societal acceptance. Long-lasting memorials celebrating queer identities reduce stigma and stop discrimination among current and future generations.
For LGBTQ individuals, queer monuments are of even greater importance. As the gay author and activist James Baldwin once wrote, “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” Nine of the LGBTQ monuments on this list honor where LGBTQ people have been, and one, to be unveiled in the coming years, provides hope for a limitless future. Together, they tell a visual story about queer life around the world connected by one common thread: the enduring capacity for resilience.
Here are 10 remarkable LGBTQ monuments worth checking out.
1. Pink Triangle Monument — Sitges, Spain
Sitges, a coastal Catalan town 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, is an internationally celebrated queer summer enclave, but in 1996, the local community wasn’t so accepting. That year, local police officers began targeting beaches used as meeting places for gay men, inciting protests from the LGBTQ community. In 2006, the city erected a four-foot pink triangle along the promenade overlooking Alberto Beach in memory of the events. A plaque below the triangle reads Sitges contra la homofòbia — Mai més (“Sitges against homophobia — Never again”).
2. Legacy Walk — Chicago, Illinois
Christine Jorgensen, Cole Porter, Margaret Chung, and James Baldwin are only a few of the 40 queer icons you’ll spot along this half-mile stretch of North Halstead Street in Chicago. Here, bronze plaques dedicated to LGBTQ individuals whose contributions had an immense impact on society decorate the sidewalk. The plaques, affixed to 20 rainbow-striped pylons from Belmont Avenue to Grace Street, are part of the first outdoor LGBTQ museum and the longest collection of bronze biographical memorials in the world.
Located in the city’s historic gayborhood, Boystown, the Legacy Walk is an accessible way for people to connect with queer histories often missing from educational texts. A new memorial plaque is added to the roster annually on National Coming Out Day (October 11). In 2021, the city plans to open a visitor center as a way to showcase new markers added to the installation. Visitors can join guided Legacy Walk tours between March and November.
3. Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism — Berlin, Germany
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi personnel arrested approximately 100,000 gay men. Around 50,000 of those men were convicted, and roughly 5,000 to 15,000 ended up in concentration camps. With no available data, it’s unclear how many died. The regime also targeted lesbian, bisexual, and trans individuals, but with a lack of hard data chronicling their plight, estimating the number of those impacted is impossible.
In 2008, Berlin unveiled this memorial to commemorate the thousands of LGBTQ individuals persecuted under Nazism. The cold concrete cube tucked away behind a thicket of oak trees within the city’s expansive Tiergarten invites visitors to look inside a small window where a video of a same-sex kiss plays on repeat. The effect is hauntingly romantic — even in the darkest of places, love wins.
4. Gay Memorial Stone — Paris, France
On July 6, 1750, Frenchmen Bruno Lenoir and Jean Diot were burned alive for the crime of being gay. They were the last two men in France executed because of their sexuality.
In 2014, the city of Paris unveiled the Gay Memorial Stone at the corner of Rue Montorgueil and Rue Bachaumont, where police caught the couple. This unassuming plaque may only be a simple marker on the sidewalk, but the weight it carries is immense. There are still nearly a dozen countries around the world where homosexuality is punishable by death. While it took almost two centuries to publicly condemn the gross injustice, it is a signal to other nations that, in the 21st century, discrimination is intolerable.
5. Homomonument — Amsterdam, Netherlands
In 1987, Amsterdam made waves by unveiling the world’s first monument honoring homosexuals persecuted by the Nazi party. Located on a waterfront square along the Keizersgracht Canal, thin lines of pink granite form a large triangle — the symbol gay individuals wore in Nazi concentration camps. Within each of the triangle’s three points, a smaller triangle acts as a compass leading to other related monuments. One points to the National War Memorial where gay activists laid a lavender wreath in 1970 and sparked the idea for the Homomonument. Another faces COC Nederland,