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lesbian bars: the situation


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From the Lesbian Bar Project:   "We believe what makes a bar uniquely Lesbian is its prioritization of creating space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary folks, and trans men.  As these spaces aim to be inclusive of all individuals across the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, the label Lesbian belongs to all people who feel that it empowers them.  In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 200 Lesbian bars across the country.  Now there are thought to be just 21.  These bars are disappearing at a staggering rate and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout of Covid-19."

(Then they demonstrated their belief with a PSA campaign featuring a short documentary narrated by Lea Delaria, all featured on the link.)

Well, AMEN to all of that, WE would say.

But someone else might wonder, even before the pandemic . . . why so much extra struggle for lesbian bars?  

If they can't reliably support themselves, maybe that's evidence they're no longer needed?

And if they're SO seemingly destined TO struggle, maybe we should forget about them plus "lesbian bar" as a whole concept and just . . . move on already?

We'd say no.  

Or at least, that's NOT the future anyone LGBTQIA+ but NOT a masculine gay man should be hoping for, not if they actually know what's happening.

While many popular lesbian bars served their communities well, most eventually struggled economically anyway largely due to gentrification of their once-affordable neighborhoods.  Affordable but still well-populated neighborhoods are where lesbian bars had to go in the first place to sell enough drinks (or other low cost items) to pay enough rent.  

But then rents in most of those neighborhoods increased dramatically.

JD Samson travels across the country in a documentary for Broadly:  Searching for the Last Lesbian Bars in America.  In that video, Lila Thirkield, the owner of the (sadly now shut) Lexington says their purpose was "accessibility through affordability, and we always kept our drinks very affordable, and we never ever charged a cover.  Like, there's no barrier to being in here and being a part of this."

"A lot of things have changed.  Rent pretty much doubled.  You know if half (your customer base) no longer lives in your neighborhood or even your city, what am I gonna do, be like, come over the Bay Bridge to have like one beer on your way home like you used to do when you lived two blocks away, it's not gonna happen!"

Katie Herzog agrees:  "There’s also the economic challenge of catering to a tiny slice of the population in fast-gentrifying cities. This is what took down The Lexington, an infamous dyke bar in San Francisco’s Mission District where the tagline was “Every night is ladies’ night.” The Lex closed in 2015 after nearly two decades, and where it once stood is now a cocktail bar that serves a Cocoa Puff-infused Negronis for a mere $24."

. . .

So why not just Inclusive Bar?  Queer Bar?  LGBTQIA+ bar?  Or in other words . . . why don't we all just go to the Gay bar?  There sure are a lot more of them, aren't there?!?

While inclusivity is awesome extra especially when it comes to providing resources to folks who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized . . . "inclusivity" that targets a large number of masculine gay men often eventually means most everyone else feels devalued, "cold-shouldered," and ultimately excluded again.

Sorry about it, but it's a real trend.

Despite the optimistic labeling and likely warm intentions, many spaces or places or events billed as "queer" or "LGBTQIA+" or "inclusive" . . . in reality eventually end up mostly for masculine gay men.  Anyone naive enough to avoid realizing this is either very masculine themselves or hasn't attended many of these events.

So bars and events for masculine gay men remain bars and events for masculine gay men, while newer queer/LGBTQIA+/inclusive bars and events are more often than not . . . still mostly for masculine gay men who tend to repel other demographics with inhospitable interpersonal behavior.

NO NO NO, NOT all masculine gay men (please don't message us that there's a hashtag for that, but still NO NO NO, NOT all masculine gay men), but enough of them, reliably, according to most women we know.

. . .

So why not just do it all online?  Meet whomever for whatever all online and then . . . you're done, no need for lesbian bars after all!  Isn't that possible and probably better because probably cheaper?

And maybe you'd even think WE would think that, since we're running this site and all?

But we'd still say no. 

If you have something going on or you're in that kind of mood or you're experiencing the sort of life stress where you'd suddenly appreciate some community-style company RIGHT EXACTLY NOW?

You're not going to take a class, sign up to volunteer with a local organization, look for a regular book or hiking or poker group or even sign up for lesbotronic and wait for us to let you in . . . no.  Not right exactly then.

Sometimes you need something more immediate at a stable, known, physical location where somebody friendly shall reliably be on an ongoing basis.  There's just no substitute for that.

According to out.com:  "This social panic is valid: Lesbian bars have served as refuges for queer women seeking safety, solidarity, friendship, and sex; they’re veritable fortresses against both misogyny and homophobia. Despite some notable doors shuttering in recent years — like The Lexington Club in San Francisco and Sisters in Philadelphia — a small but mighty group is still alive, innovating, and serving their people."

. . .

So what lesbian bars are operating now?  Here's our attempt at an ongoing list, we'd love it if you chimed in:

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  • 1 year later...

I believe we need women to create more spaces for us. It would be nice to have more spaces for lesbian women to hangout and enjoy coffee, drinks and live music by local artists.  I would love to create such a space, but it would cost a lot in this city (Toronto, Canada)!  But networking might help to find partnerships to create spaces...

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There is a great documentary that recently aired on the Showtime Network,focusing on this topic.It's called The Lesbian Project,and its content was quite informative.____ In recognition of the noticeable decrease in Lesbian Bars and Public Gathering Places,the dynamic LGBTQ Brothers and Sisters,who created this outstanding Documentary,are on a mission to reverse this social drought.__ Showtime,which is a strong advocate for the Queer Community,will more than likely air this great program again.If I find out about a re-air,I will certainly let you guys know.____ The program even features Lesbian Hangouts,nationwide,that are not just surviving but also doing very well.____ a must see program,for sure.

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