Since 2018, Michael Venturiello has escorted guests throughout the streets of New York City with his company Christopher Street Tours in order to dive headfirst into the “Big Apple’s” queer scene and history. Venturiello uses these tours as a way to tell LGBTQ+ stories known to many who have lived under or outside of the bright lights of New York City and to make sure lesser known queer stories don’t become forgotten.
And while tours are relegated to those with the ability to venture out to NYC, his archival LGBTQ+ knowledge expands to anyone with a mobile device. Venturiello’s TikTok account explores queer history in less than 60 seconds. Essentially, we can learn about our “queeroes” while mastering the latest dance craze.
INTO asked Venturiello 5 quick questions on how queer history and culture influenced him.
What’s one obscure queer history fact that most people don’t know?
Most people on tour are most excited to see the Stonewall Inn, site of the iconic Stonewall Riots of 1969. Two Stonewall facts that people might not know: 1) Stonewall was operated by the mafia! And 2) the Riots lasted for six consecutive days.
If we gave you a budget to produce a biopic about your favorite queer icon, who would it be, and what would be the Oscar-winning scene?
I’d love to see a biopic about Larry Kramer, author and activist, and co-founder of two instrumental AIDS advocacy organizations, GMHC and ACT UP (the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, both of which still exist today). He was an influential voice during the AIDS epidemic during a time of heightened government apathy and inaction. The Oscar-winning scene would be his infamous rally cry in 1991, shouting “Plague! We are in the middle of a f***ing plague!” Larry was never afraid to speak power to truth, no matter the consequences, and I admire him greatly for that.
What queer pop culture moment defined your childhood?
I’m a Broadway baby through and through, and I will be forever grateful to the friend in high school who gave me a copy of the RENT soundtrack for the very first time. I was obsessed all throughout my teen years, and still am! Now, I talk about RENT on my tour as an example of education and activism during the AIDS epidemic. In the song “La Vie Boheme” the ensemble shouts out a protest slogan that was used during this time: “ACT UP! Fight AIDS!”
What’s the queerest historical item in your home?
I have a framed copy of a Gay City News from the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall in 1994. It was given to me by my former choir director when I used to sing with the Stonewall Chorale, the very first LGBTQ+ chorus.
You use TikTok to discuss different LGBTQ+ historical moments, helping your followers learn about queer history. How else do you recommend queer youth and young adults learn about queer history?
There are so many amazing resources out there today, but I always recommend starting with your local library. For me, it’s so amazing to see yourself represented in history and in books, and libraries are a great place for that. I’d also recommend your local LGBTQ+ Center, or, if you are in a place that may not have an LGBTQ+ Center, lots of Centers in big cities now have virtual resources available to everyone. Shameless plug for our own social media, but we also post LGBTQ+ history facts and quotes from influential LGBTQ+ people.
“Be bold. Be gay. Be you.”
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