The first gay pride marches happened in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago in 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots. Why in those cities? Because they had the largest LGBTQ populations at the time. Military Blue and Dishonorable discharges created concentrations of queer folk in these major cities.

Since the World War II Pacific Theatre, the military would drop off the Blue and Other than Honorable discharged men at the port of San Francisco. These servicemen could not go home to their families in public disgrace and stayed in the SF Bay Area. Over time queer folk found each other and formed supportive communities.

The San Francisco Polk Gulch area became one of the first Gay neighborhoods with bars and bookstores. With “white flight” to the suburbs in the 1950-60’s Victorian home of San Francisco’s Eureka Valley became available at cheap prices. Homosexuals moved out of the Polk, Haight, and Tenderloin areas to the Eureka Valley which later became known as the world-famous Castro neighborhood. Harvey Milk opened Castro Camera on Castro Street in 1973.

Similar evolutions happened in New York’s Greenwich Village, Los Angeles’ West Hollywood, and Chicago’s Boystown. Post World War II also saw queer neighborhoods in Seattle, Miami, New Orleans. Since then queer communities have risen in major cities around the world.

Here is a Wikipedia article on Gay Villages and a list of Gay Villages around the world.

If you think that someone in your tree may have been gay or lesbian, find a street address for them using the census, phone books or other records. Locate their address on a map. Does it fall within the boundaries of a gay neighborhood?  If you can find your research subject living within the borders of a gay neighborhood, this will certainly bolster your theory of their sexuality.

Phone books are an obvious source of finding someone’s address. But image a Gay Phone Book. Finding your ancestor in this source will almost render your theory conclusive.  There have been several gay phone books over the decades, but most can only be found in archives now.  Some active guides include:

Gay travel guides, such as Spartacus, can give you rough boundaries for gay neighborhoods around the world.