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'Queer Circle City' seeks to preserve and showcase Indy's LGBT history

queer circle city
Posted at 7:21 AM, Aug 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-31 07:21:42-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A Hoosier is trying to make Indianapolis’ LGBT history more accessible to you.

Hunter Vale is the creator of Queer Circle City — a digital project that highlights queer businesses, organizations and people from years past.

By day, he works in the hospitality industry.

But in his free time, Vale runs the Instagram account, focused on preserving and showcasing the history of LGBTQ establishments, movements and people right here in Indy.

He says using social media as the vehicle to tell these stories makes the information more accessible, digestible and appealing to a generation who did not live through this history and may not be educated about it.

“I really hope this exists to highlight the work that other people are doing. I’m really only a middle man. I’m only making it more accessible. There are people doing extensive work and really preserving this in the right way," Vale said.

Vale insists he’s not a historian, rather a lover of history.

He started the project in 2020, taking photos and profiling current standing gay bars that were shut down during the pandemic.

Today, he pulls from collections like the Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives or The Works Magazines, anecdotes sent to him and his own personal collection.

“I search every day. If I see something, I get it," he said.

His collection includes about 100 local and national magazines, a couple of dozen pieces of memorabilia like posters, fliers and even a matchbook from 1952.

The items can range in price from $15 to $150.

The blog has always centered around telling the stories of Indy’s gay bars.

From the 1960s to the early 2000s, Vale estimates that more than a dozen of these spaces existed across the city.

At that time, these cultural hubs provided some of the only safe places for members of the community to meet, socialize and be themselves.

With queerness becoming more socially acceptable and the advent of online-dating, these spaces are harder to come by.

“Do queer people want that space still? And if they want that space still, then what do they want from it? That’s the main question. What do we want from a gay bar?”

Vale’s current series on the blog called ‘Memories from Here’ — where folks send in a photo and provide the story behind it.

“It’s one thing to talk about AIDS and go okay well, in the 80s, that’s all you could do is survive. But they also lived. They made gay bars. They got married, before marriage was legal. There was a life before that in the 1970s and 60s. Talk to the people and get to know them. The reason we have such privileged lives, is because of the struggles they went through," he said.