You’re standing at the corner of Vermont Street and Pennsylvania Street, where the Circle City Pride Parade has marched by every summer since 2002. The parade is a celebration of the Indianapolis LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community’s decades-long struggle for recognition and acceptance.

Underground in Indy (1960-1981)

Until the mid-1980s, the Indianapolis LGBT community was “underground.” Fearing social persecution, gay men and women met covertly at the old Essex House Hotel, which sat here on this corner until it was demolished in 1994. A dinner at the Essex in 1981 is considered to be the first organized Pride event in the city. At this meeting and others like it, LGBT activists planned for the future of their community and circulated copies of The Mirror and The New Works News, Indianapolis’s early gay and lesbian papers. Perhaps the earliest LGBT publication in the city, The Screamer, dating back to the mid-1960s, features poetry, funny anecdotes, and recipes.

Circle City Pride Festival & Parade (1988-)

In 1988, the first official Pride Festival kicked off at the Indianapolis Sports Center. Attendance that year was only around 175 people, but it would soon grow enormously. In 1990, Pride moved to Monument Circle and attracted over 3,000 visitors. The Cadillac Barbie parade joined the Pride festivities in 2002.

LGBT in Indy Today

The 2017 Pride Festival takes place Friday, June 2-Saturday, June 10, with the parade held on June 10. To page through back issues of Indianapolis’s first LGBT newspapers and explore other memorabilia from the early LGBT scene, visit the Indiana Historical Society. The LGBT community continues to work with its straight allies for rights and recognition in Indiana.