LGBT culture in Metro Detroit

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Congressman John Conyers speaking on stage alongside Alicia Skillman (l) and Curtis Lipscomb (r) during Hotter Than July 2013 in Detroit's Palmer Park

The LGBT community in Metro Detroit is centered in Ferndale, Michigan, as of 2007.[1] As of 1997, many LGBT people live in Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak.[2] Model D stated in 2007 that there are populations of gays and lesbians in some Detroit neighborhoods such as East English Village, Indian Village, Lafayette Park, and Woodbridge and that the concentration of gay bars in Detroit is "decentralized".[3]


Before World War II, Downtown Detroit served as the center of the LGBT community. It later shifted to New Center.[4] Around the 1970s the gay community in Detroit was centered in Palmer Park.[1] Due to crime occurring around Palmer Park in the 1980s, the LGBT community moved to Ferndale.[4] Wendy Case of Metro Times said "Ask three different people what happened to Palmer Park and you'll get three different answers. But all will eventually agree that crime is what dismantled Detroit's opportunity to have a gay renaissance akin to those of San Francisco and New York."[1] Craig Covey, who later became a member of the city council of Ferndale, said that most of the former gay residents of Palmer Park "tended to move up Woodward Avenue and they settled in Ferndale, Royal Oak and Birmingham depending on their economic abilities. The middle-class folks came to Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, as I did."[1]

Ferndale received the LGBT community because housing prices were higher in Royal Oak and typically LGBT communities move into lower priced neighborhoods which are then revitalized. A law against discriminating against homosexuals was enacted by the City of Ferndale. Covey first ran for a city council in the City of Ferndale in 1995. He won a city council seat in Ferndale in 1999 and later became Mayor of Ferndale.[4] In 2003 the Farbman Group, a real estate company renovating loft apartments in the inner city, began targeting lesbians and gay men in an effort to get them to move into the complexes.[5]


LGBT Detroit (formerly KICK) is an organization that serves LGBT African-Americans.

The Gay Liberation Front had a chapter in Detroit.[6]

Affirmations is a community center located in Ferndale. Affirmations is Michigan's largest LGBTQ community center and one of the 10 largest LGBTQ community centers in the country. The organization hosts a 15,000 square foot community space, art gallery, educational programming, health and wellness programming, cafe, youth center, and a resource desk.[7]

The Ruth Ellis Center is a non-profit organization located in Highland Park that provides short and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning youth.[8]

Many of the local universities, including Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, and University of Michigan, have on-campus LGBT resource centers.

Equality Michigan (formerly the Triangle Foundation) is a statewide political advocacy organization located in Detroit working towards the LGBT community's social, cultural, political, and economic wellbeing.[9]

SAGE Metro Detroit (formerly the LGBT Older Adult Coalition established in 2010) was established in 2015 "to build awareness and promote change so that LGBT older adults may age with dignity and authenticity".[10]

The Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce is located in Detroit and its mission is "to promote and empower our Metropolitan Detroit LGBT, allied business members, non-profit members, corporate partners and their employees through leadership, advocacy and education".[11]


Motor City Pride is held annually in Detroit.[1] Ferndale Pride is held in Ferndale.[4] Motor City Pride moved from Royal Oak to Ferndale in 2001,[1] and it was held in Ferndale until 2011, when it moved to Detroit. Ferndale Pride was started that year.[4] The "Hotter Than July!" annual LGBT festival, catering to black LGBT people, is held in the park Palmer Park in Detroit.[1]

In 1940s many gay men in Windsor, Ontario, went to Detroit as it had several gay bars, such as "Gay Paris". Some police officers in Windsor doing police work crossed the border and entered Detroit gay bars.[12]

Ruth Ellis, a black lesbian, held house parties at her residence, "The Spot". It became a socializing place for black lesbians and gay men, allowing them to avoid heterosexism and racism in their society. Ellis, who was featured in the documentary Living With Pride, was the oldest known black woman who identified as a lesbian until October 2001, when she died. She lived in Detroit until her death.[13]


The newspaper Between The Lines and the website PrideSource, published by Pride Source Media Group, LLC (PSMG), are headquartered in Livonia. The company opened in 1995.[14] A collective named the Gay Liberator had formed itself from the Gay Community Center and the Detroit GLF; this collective published the Gay Liberator.[6] An LGBT film festival, Reel Pride Michigan, ran from 2002 through 2008 in Royal Oak. Hotter Than July has hosted a film festival since 2008 as part of their annual festivities.[15] The film festival continued through at least 2016.[16] In 2017, a film festival for queer filmmakers, Trans Stellar Film Festival, was founded.[17]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable LGBT people who have resided in the Metro Detroit area include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Case, Wendy (May 30, 2007). "Affirming Ferndale". Metro Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  2. ^ Gallagher, John (June 24, 1997). "Location, Location, Location: The Most Livable Places in America". The Advocate (736): 60. ISSN 0001-8996 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Supergay (April 24, 2007). "Where the Gays Are". Model D Media. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Rupersburg, Nicole (October 13, 2011). "From Blue Collar To Rainbow Flags: How Ferndale Got Its Gay Groove". Metro D Media. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  5. ^ Gates, Gary J. & Ost, Jason (2004). The Gay & Lesbian Atlas. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press. p. 40. ISBN 9780877667216 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b Rivers, Daniel Winunwe (2013). Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II. Gender and American Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 117. ISBN 9781469607191 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Community Activities and Events".
  8. ^ "ABOUT - Ruth Ellis Center".
  10. ^ "About SAGE".
  11. ^ "".
  12. ^ Brode, Patrick (2009). The Slasher Killings: A Canadian Sex-Crime Panic, 1945-1946. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780814334485 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Hornsby, Alton Jr., ed. (2008). A Companion to African American History. Wiley Blackwell Companions to American History. Malden, MA: Blackwell. p. 418. ISBN 9781405137355 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "About Us". PrideSource. Retrieved April 14, 2014. Mailing address Pride Source Media Group Between The Lines Newspaper 20222 Farmington Road Livonia, Michigan 48152
  15. ^ "Cass City Cinema Hosts the 4th Annual Hotter Than July Film Festival". Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  16. ^ "July Film Festivals 2016". Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  17. ^ "Mission - Trans Stellar Film Festival". Retrieved November 19, 2017.

External links[edit]