Queens raised me. And really, Queens is a conglomeration of everywhere. The NYC borough is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world—about 138 languages are spoken there. It’s home to Jackson Heights—representing the epicenter of Queens’s ethnic diversity—and has been a hub of queer and trans communities for decades. As a gender/queer Latinx kid, Jackson Heights was my West Village, my Castro, a place where queer and trans people of color could both organize and party. This tradition could be traced in the landmarks of queer Queens, places that are well worth a visit when you’re in the borough.
Queens Pride House
76-11 37th Ave
In 1997, activists mobilized to establish Queens Pride House at Queens Borough Hall in the neighborhood of Kew Gardens to serve the community’s LGBTQIA+ population. After a brief move to Woodside, they landed in Jackson Heights in 2006 as the Diversity Center of Queens. With a big ol’ gay flag hanging outside the second-floor offices it shares with the Humanist Center and Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers, Queens Pride House “places special priority on serving LGBT people of color, recent immigrants, transgender people, and the disabled,” offering support groups, movie nights, a library, and comprehensive services to the community. Visitors can drop by the last Friday of every month for a movie night with locals, to check out the extensive library that features the works of queer Queens authors, or to crash one of the many parties they throw to support the space.
85-28 37th Ave
One of the more popular stops along the Jackson Heights gay bar crawl or “strip,” Hombres is known for being more modern and drawing a younger crowd than some of its neighbors—like a Manhattan gay club, but with reggaeton and Queens prices. And since it’s primarily a Latinx establishment, you’ll look busted if you show up in anything other than a crisp shirt, ironed pants, and generous measures of cologne or perfume, though happy hour (every day until 10 p.m.) is more casual. If you’re in the mood to be entertained, come Monday for drag night. For a low-key time with friends, karaoke Wednesdays are fun as hell, or turn all the way up on Fridays for nonstop dancing with gloriously chiseled (and barely dressed) bar-top go-go dancers. On any night, it’s an excellent spot to get a taste of the local scene and chat it up with the guapo bartenders.
The Trans Immigrant Project
92-10 Roosevelt Ave
A program of Make the Road New York, a social justice organization with a branch in Jackson Heights, the Trans Immigrant Project (TRIP) was started in 2008 by trans Latinas in the neighborhood to “organize the LGBT community, specifically trans women of color and immigrants that live here in Queens,” says Bianey Garcia, a TRIP organizer and local resident. In 2012, the project took their work to the streets and organized the Trans Latina March in the heart of the neighborhood, largely in response to the discrimination they face in housing, from the police, and on the street, as well as in response to the erasure they experienced from the largely cis and white gay community in New York City. “Jackson Heights is the most diverse place [in the city], a place where you’ll see a lot of trans people,” continues Bianey, who is originally from Mexico City, “and our main focus is to send a message to the Jackson Heights community, to say, ‘Hey, we’re trans, we’re here to stay, we are a part of your community, and we’re demanding our rights!’” Visitors can join the Trans Latina March in July, which kicks off right in front of Make the Road, but if you’re coming through another time of year, you can drop into the beautiful space and learn about the many projects being organized around LGBTQIA+ rights as well as immigrant and labor issues, all of which greatly intersect in this neighborhood.
Julio Rivera Corner
78th St and 37th Ave
In July of 1990, three men calling themselves the “Doc Marten Skinheads” brutally attacked young gay bartender Julio Rivera in a schoolyard as they shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him. He was heading home alone late at night when the men instigated the horrific crime, and he later died from his injuries. Recalled by many as “Queens’s Stonewall,” the attack and the mismanagement of its investigation by police galvanized the local community to start several organizations, mobilizations, and the first pride parade in NYC outside of Manhattan, Queens Pride (aka best pride!), now in its 25th year, where a moment of silence is observed in honor of Rivera before the festivities begin. In 2000, the corner where he fell was named to memorialize him. Whether you’re queer or an ally, visitors to Queens shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay their respects at this site that speaks to our community’s continued resilience. Why not even use your Insta-presence to educate followers on this important event in queer history while you’re there? It’s in our collective memory that Julio lives on.
76-19 Roosevelt Ave
Formerly known as Atlantis, Club Evolution is basically a Jackson Heights institution: a huge gay Latin dance club with a flamboyant facade that’s been making heteros uncomfortable for over 20 years now. The popular spot usually has lines (and cover charges) on weekends and music so loud you can hear it thumping from three blocks away till 4 a.m. (trust me). Expect thick crowds of sweaty beautiful people, jacked strippers, hype DJs, dance battles, and nonstop flows of liquor.