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1970s 1980s 1990s 2000-2009 2010-Present
Pre 1970

Some Native-American peoples, local Luiseno among them, embraced individuals who were male/female, "Two Spirits".

Year 1885

SDHS PhotoHorticultural pioneer Kate Sessions founds her first nursery in San Diego and devotes her life to growing and studying plants. She later sums up her lifelong friendship with botanist Alice Eastwood by saying, "Our friendship developed through flowers – our children, which I am growing and you are naming."  Dedicated to her plants, Kate never married. It’s been rumored that she was a lesbian, but in her younger years she also had a long list of male suitors, included John D. Spreckels.

Year 1887

Jesse ShepardVilla MontezumaMusician, author and professional houseguest of Europe Jesse Shepard (pen name Francis Grierson) lived in San Diego only three years, but lived in style.  Local bankers built Villa Montezuma for him. There he and his male secretary Lawrence Waldemar Tonner  held musical séances and other cultural events. His book The Valley of Shadows, considered an American classic, is still in print.

Year 1917

An ordinance is passed that prohibits sexual intercourse within the city limits of San Diego, unless the participants are husband and wife.


Year 1920s & 1930s

Visitors in search of a legend used to drive to Alpine during the 1920s and 1930s. There they would find Julian Eltinge, one of the world’s most renowned female impersonators. He is remembered more in Europe where he had an accepted and respectable position in the theatre. He also appeared on Broadway in the U.S.  Born William Dalton in 1883, his career began in 1898 and extended through the early 1900s.


Year 1948

Ferris Wheels on "Gay Way" at the Del Mar Fairgrounds - 1948 (click here for a larger image)At the Del Mar Fairgrounds Ferris wheels were erected on "Gay Way" 

Photo courtesy of Historical Society of San Diego.


Year 1958

In the 1950s through the ’70s, homosexuals were not issued licenses to run bars and clubs. Lou Arko, a straight Italian man, opened up the longest running gay bar, the Brass Rail at 6th and B Street in Downtown San Diego.  Six years later, he moves "the Rail" to 5th and Robinson in Hillcrest.  Later he would oprn the Matador, Barbary Coast and No. 1 5th Ave. More info.

Year 1968

Lesbian enlisted person, Diann Pierce (DiNova), declares her homosexuality to Navy officials in San Diego and is dishonorably discharged. After lengthy court proceedings, Pierce’s discharge is upgraded to honorable due to her excellent Naval record.

Show Biz Supper Club opens (at the location of Seven), and Clint Johnson [pictured here] introduces the first female impersonation show to San Diego. Tourists from Mission Valley are bused to the club for three shows a night.


Year 1969

DignityUSA: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender CatholicsThe national organization for LGBT Catholics, DignityUSA, is founded in San Diego by Fr Patrick X Nidorf, OSA. It later relocates to Los Angeles and a new chapter will emerge in San Diego in 1972.


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