Hilton Dresden is a queer writer, illustrator, and performer based in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Finding “solace and sisterhood” in New York through the queer social scene, Dresden shares the places and events that have given her a “sense of joy, family, and wholeness, or else thrilled me and taught me something new.” Read below for the best of the best in New York City’s multifaceted LGBTQ+ culture.
This is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in the city. The famous Stonewall Riots took place here, and you can still score a nice happy hour and dance floor at that same, eponymous bar today. It’s also a gorgeous, quiet, tree-lined locale that’s breathtaking to walk through on a sunny summer afternoon.
Most people I know who are in their twenties and queer in New York live in Bushwick. You’ll find hipsters aplenty (ironic tattoos, nose rings, and the tiny sunglasses trend thrive here) with tons of bars and cafes to keep them nourished. There’s some great dancing with fog machines and drag queens to be had in these parts.
If you’re looking for Top 40 hits, sweaty mosh pits, and (surprisingly) great Mexican food, this is the place for you. It’s more homogenous and geared toward gay men—specifically, muscular dudes in jockstraps. If that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, welcome to your nirvana.
While this popular hotel has locations in cities across the country, both Manhattan locales (Meatpacking and East Village) are hubs for queer nightlife. Top-notch drag shows from Drag Race winners like Aquaria happen at these spaces with regularity.
Located in the historically-LGBTQ+ West Village, The Jane is a gorgeous hotel that looks a bit Victorian in its decoration—fringed lampshades and velvet couches multiply in abundance. You’ll find great events here, from comedy shows to wine tastings. It also used to be a sailor hotel, which is pretty cool (and extremely gay).
Fabulous (and queer) actor Alan Cumming owns this staple bar in the East Village. He took what was formerly the gritty and amazing Easternbloc and turned it into a decadent, ritzy (still affordable) space for a plethora of recurring shows. The hilarious Cat Cohen’s Cabernet Cabaret takes place here on Wednesdays, and I’m proud to count myself among the artists who have graced the stage for special musical events.
This book shop is collectively owned and volunteer operated, and focuses on titles in areas like feminism, queer/gender studies, global capitalism, climate, political theory, police and prisons, racial and black studies, and radical education. It also includes a fair trade cafe and activist center.
This thrift store chain has locations around the city and is full of amazing clothing and furniture at affordable prices. It doesn’t hurt that they also are dedicated to fighting “for funding and legislation to ensure that all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to quality housing, healthcare, HIV prevention, and treatment, among other lifesaving services,” according to their site.
Arts & Culture
This all-queer comedy open mic happens every Monday at Mood Ring in Bushwick. Celebrated comedians like Jaboukie Young-White (The Daily Show) and Lorelei Ramirez (Adult Swim) have headlined their specialty events—a real treat to see live.
Queer Soup Night happens about once a month, and is self-described as “a Brooklyn-born queer party with soup at its center.” The location changes each time—I visited during its tenure at a bar near my house, C’mon Everybody, where the potato chowder changed my life.
The Leslie-Lohmann is one of the only art museums in the world dedicated to exclusively exhibiting and preserving pieces speaking about the LGBTQ+ experience. It’s also the home of many community-driven events and is conveniently located in lower Manhattan.
Heaven on Earth @ China Chalet
Heaven on Earth is the name of a monthly dance extravaganza hosted and DJ’d by nightlife staple Ty Sunderland. It’s located after hours in a Chinese Restaurant in the Financial District. Make sure to get there early to avoid the vicious line and bring your Joanne World Tour t-shirt.
This event is described on its website as “a Brooklyn-based dance party and kiki celebrating queer and trans people of color and the folk who love them.” There’s no better way of putting it, and each iteration is always a blast. The party has featured such artists as Maluca, Princess Nokia, MikeQ, False Witness, Juliana Huxtable, Rizzla, and Miss Boogie.
Every year during Pride month, the most exhilarating party to attend in celebration of the LGBTQ+ is Ladyfag’s LadyLand in Bushwick. Last year, Kim Petras belted in the rain and changed our lives. This year, artists including Violet Chachki, Yvie Oddly, and Mykki Blanco are scheduled to perform.