Downtown Extended Families

Downtown Extended Families

In addition to biological families, Greenwich Village offered informal kinship systems that welcomed people like Agosto Machado. He arrived there in the late fifties after growing up in some rough New York neighborhoods, such as Hell’s Kitchen, where he heard schoolyard taunts like “Ooh, you’re so queer you should go to Greenwich Village.” “People came from different parts of the city to express yourself in the Village,” Machado said. “I didn’t really feel I was part of the majority culture, which is why so many people who were trying to find themselves gravitated there.” Just being gay made one a criminal and an outsider. In the early 1960s, a man still could be arrested for wearing women’s clothes in public, so Machado and his friends would carry their drag finery in shopping bags and then change once they hit a critical mass. After the sun went down, they promenaded up and down the street—sometimes gathering by Gay Street, which intersected Christopher, down the street from where Harry Koutoukas lived at 87 Christopher. “Honey, where are we? Gay Street!” they’d all shout. It was safety in numbers. “The queens, all the way down Sheridan Square, would have an audience,” Machado said, “people walking by, people on the stoop. And as the evening wore on, they got a little louder and grander—showing their new fabric they got, or a new wig. It was a street society, and you could walk around and feel that your community would protect you.”

From Chapter 1 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


87 Christopher Street
87 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014