Kansas City’s LGBTQ History
As Pride Month arrives, explore Kansas City’s role in local and national LGBTQ advocacy efforts through the decades.
More than 50 years ago, the City of Fountains hosted a meeting that is often referenced as the first national gathering of gay rights organizers. The National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, held in February 1966 at the State Hotel in Downtown Kansas City, welcomed delegates from 15 individual advocacy groups across the United States. This pivotal meeting signified the first step in forming a national organization dedicated to LGBTQ advocacy.
With the goal of a unified mission and plans for a national organizing strategy in mind, 40 representatives gathered at the conference. Several key tasks were accomplished during the two-day event, including the adoption of a national strategy, the establishment of a legal defense fund plus plans for future demonstrations and the signing of a unified statement, which read in part:
“For too long homosexuals have been deprived of their rights on the basis of cultural prejudice, myth, folk-lore and superstition… it is time that the American public re-examine its attitudes and its laws concerning the homosexual.”
The Kansas City meeting laid the groundwork for the inaugural meeting of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), held later in 1966 in San Francisco.
Shortly after the conference concluded, a KC group of organizers established themselves as the Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom. In addition to highlighting local and national actions impacting the LGBTQ community through publications and events, the Phoenix Society quickly established itself as a leading publishing house for NACHO affiliates across the country.
The Phoenix Society also established Kansas City’s first LGBTQ community center, known as the Phoenix House, in 1968 at 1333 Linwood Blvd. With members of the Phoenix Society heavily involved in regional and national organizing efforts, NACHO returned to Kansas City for the organization’s annual meeting in 1969.
Both the Phoenix Society and NACHO ceased to exist as other national organizations and events grew to prominence in the early 1970s, but events within the local community continued.
Kansas City’s first Gay Pride Festival was held in 1975. Since then, Kansas City Pride events have taken place in variety of formats and locations throughout the area, with today’s KC PrideFest existing as a three-day weekend festival at Berkley Riverfront, featuring local and national performers, athletic tournaments, family-friendly activities and other attractions.
Throughout the year, local events and organizations support LGBTQ history, advocacy and community in the area, ranging from the Out Here Now: Kansas City LGBT Film Festival to regular Queer Bar Takeover events. Explore a full list of local resources for LGBTQ travelers, compiled in collaboration with our partners at Camp Kansas City and the Kansas City Center for Inclusion.