Palm Springs and the desert cities have welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people for decades, stretching back to the glory days when closeted Old Hollywood luminaries joined their straight costars as they reveled in the sun and holed up in gated resorts operated by tight-lipped (and, no doubt, well-rewarded) personnel.
The world has changed dramatically, with gay men and women living more open and authentic lives. And the greater Palm Springs area has responded in kind, providing more gay and gay-friendly restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, retailers and other businesses per capita than any other gay destination.
It’s easy to see why so many LGBTs call the desert home. In Palm Springs, 35 to 40 percent of the city’s full-time residents are believed to be gay or lesbian. The gorgeous weather coupled with proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego have enshrined the Greater Palm Springs area as a hospitable haven for a diverse population.
City governments throughout the valley have long recognized the power of the gay vote, and many elected officials, including a preponderance of Palm Springs City Council members, are out. Steve Pougnet, Palm Springs’ openly gay mayor, ran against Mary Bono Mack for the U.S. Congress representing the 45th District with the support not only of a hefty portion of the community, but of his husband and their two young children.
Many desert gays and lesbians are politically active and outspoken, attending rallies against Proposition 8, the voter-initiated amendment abolishing the rights of same-sex couples to legally marry in California, in large numbers. LGBT activist groups, such as Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Equality California (EQCA), and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), thrive in the area’s open-minded arena.
“In my 22 years in Palm Springs, I’ve seen quite an evolution in the gay community as relates to political interest,” says Andy Linsky, who sits on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board of Directors. “As the LGBT population has grown from the influx of those moving in from larger cities, so has the level of political activity. We now have a fully engaged and supportive generation of social and political activists.”
Equally admirable is that a vocal, generous, and resilient group of nongay allies have, for more than 25 years, joined gay men and lesbians in their fight for equality and healthcare. Desert AIDS Project and AIDS Assistance Program are two organizations that work tirelessly on the behalf of all, offering prevention programs and free HIV/STD testing, as well as supporting those without the resources to successfully cope with their illness. Events such as the annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (DAP) and Evening Under The Stars (AAP) mark triumphant fundraising tools enjoyed by all who attend and are underwritten in large part by “straight but not narrow” patrons.
And then there’s the fun. Parties and parades abound in the valley, with annual events such as the fabled Dinah Shore Week and Jeffrey Sanker’s legendary White Party (the nation’s largest gay dance festivity), respectively enticing an international horde of lesbians and gay men to revel under the desert sun. Pride Weekend, Cinema Diverse, and even Modernism Week attract thousands more who come to enjoy themselves while plunking millions of dollars into the local economy.
Enjoying a plethora of successful gay-owned and gay-friendly bars, restaurants, shops, resorts, and services, the LGBT community — full-time, part-time, or one-time — has much to celebrate in the Coachella Valley.
2011-2012 LGBT Calendar
Bars and Restaurants
Azul Bar and Restaurant
Blame It On Midnight
Blue Pear/The Pool House
Bongo Johnny’s Bar and Restaurant
Dink’s Restaurant and Ultra Lounge
Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt
Hunters Palm Springs
Rainbow Bar and Grill
Shame on the Moon
Studio One 11
The Tropicale Restaurant and Coral Seas Lounge
Toucan’s Tiki Lounge
Wang’s In The Desert
The BottomLine / PULP Magazines
Equality California (Palm Springs)
Human Rights Campaign
Coachella Valley Transgender Community Support Group
AIDS Assistance Program
All Worlds Resorts
Canyon Club Hotel
Desert Paradise Resort Hotel
East Canyon Hotel & Spa
El Mirasol Villas
Escape (formerly Chestnutz)
Hacienda at Warm Sands
La Dolce Vita
Pura Vida (formerly Bacchanal)
Tortuga Del Sol
The View Palm Springs
Vista Grande, Atrium, & Mirage
Warm Sands Villas
Queen of Hearts
Retail & Services
1st Community Insurance Services
Q Trading Company
Sept. 22-25, 2011
Palm Springs AIDS Walk & 5K Run
Boldstrokes LGBT Book Fest
Palm Springs ShortFest