San Francisco is known by many as one of the world’s ‘gay capitals.’ It’s no surprise that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues have become an important part of the city’s history and culture. The LGBT community has many expressions of arts and culture; these are a few to check out.

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

AIDS Memorial Quilt at Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral
1100 California St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 749-6300 

The AIDS Memorial Quilt, overseen by the Names Project Foundation, was started in San Francisco in 1987, when a group of friends wanted to create a memorial to friends and loved ones who had died from AIDS. Activist and San Francisco resident Cleve Jones wanted to find a way to visually represent the huge impact of the disease – he found that by 1985, over a thousand San Franciscans had died from AIDS. Jones created the first panel in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman, and helped organize the Names Project Foundation to allow others to contribute.

The quilt has been displayed all over the world. It has been seen by over 18 million visitors and has grown to over 47,000 panels. If all panels were displayed together, it would take up over one million square feet. A portion of the quilt is currently on display at Grace Cathedral’s Interfaith Chapel in San Francisco.


GLBT Historical Society and Museum
4127 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-1107

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society aims to preserve the history of GLBT people and collect artifacts and archival materials that illustrate that history. The GLBT museum is the first of its kind in the U.S., and its exhibits illustrate various aspects of the GLBT experience in San Francisco. You can get a full synopsis of the museum’s collection with an audio tour that can be transmitted through your personal cell phone. However, if looking for a more personalized experience, sign up for a group tour where you can ask questions along the way. Events and lectures are frequently held at the museum for further GLBT exploration. In addition, the GLBT Historical Society’s archives are open to members as well as the public. Get involved by volunteering, sponsoring or donating to the museum.

Related: Best San Francisco Arts Programs To Support


Queer Cultural Center
934 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 935-5984

The Queer Cultural Center, or QCC, organizes a month-long National Queer Arts Festival and highlights local arts events taking place in the Bay Area. Its Creating Queer Community Program has commissioned a variety of work from Bay Area artists. You can see a diverse compilation of art from the GLBT community, giving them the praise that any respected artist deserves. Check out the exhibits to find your new favorite creator to support. The lineup for the 2012 Queer Arts Festival will be announced in June.


145 9th St, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 703-8650

Frameline, the San Francisco LGBT film festival, will be celebrating its 36th year this June. The event, held from June 14-24, brings the best in LGBT cinema to theaters across the Bay Area, and is the longest-running LGBT film festival in the world. In addition, Frameline co-presents at other film festivals, such as SFIFF and the San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival, and helps fund independent filmmakers in the LGBT community. The lineup for the 2012 film festival will be announced nearer to the event dates; members (minimum price $50) receive discounted tickets to the festival.

Related: Best Movies Set in San Francisco

Check out CBS Local’s Guide to Celebrating SF Pride

Laura Tarwater-Scharp is a freelance writer, editor and historian. Originally from the Midwest, she has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. Her work can be found at