Virginia may be getting first LGBT historical marker in Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A local group wants to get a historical marker in Roanoke. And it'd be the first of it's kind if they can pull it off.

The historical marker would be for The Trade Winds, a restaurant that held the area's first gay bar.

Randy Turner says he came out at Trade Winds and though it was rough, it was an integral part of the Roanoke's early gay scene.

"It was shady, but it was fun. It was different and it allowed us as gay people living in the city of Roanoke a place to go and hang out to be with her and kind. You know it was your form of expressing yourself back in the day, being true to yourself is what I was believed it was," Turner said.

Turner joined a small group of people to start the process of getting a historical marker on the corner of Franklin and Elm, at the empty lot across from the fire station. They have to go through a few hurdles for the aluminum sign. The 100-word description has to go through factual vetting, a review board, and then the organizers need $1,600 dollars.

"We just think that this is a very important part of Roanoke history that has been kind of forgotten or ignored because people may be uncomfortable talking about it. But now we feel in 2017 that it's time to put a historical marker in place," Dr. Gregory Rosenthal, of the SW Virginia LGBTQ History Project, said.

Even though there's no guarantee this sign will make it to existence, Turner says he still surprised to see the amount of progress the LGBT community's made so far.

"I think it's awesome I really do. I really feel even though a lot of people want except it and believe it, but the gay community has really actually done a lot for the folks around it," Turner said.

The historical marker program was started to bring attention to Virginia's involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. There are more than a thousand signs for those topics. But it was only recently that the program expanded to cover other topics. To put it into context, there are only 15 markers that mention civil rights and just seven for suffrage. This would be the first LGBTQ sign in the state, if it gets approved.