Community is a word that gets used a lot these days. But what does it really mean? And how do you know if or when it’s missing? For this project, we’re traveling around the country to explore the relationship between community and space, examining that relationship through the lens of the bars, bookstores, art and political spaces where LGBTQ women gather, at a time when many such spaces are struggling to remain open.
ALL WE’VE GOT brings together a documentary film, a web-based application, a national tour of events, and published material to explore some of the ways LGBTQ women form community through the spaces where they gather. Why does physical space matter to any group, but particularly those who are not well-represented in the vast majority of other spaces?
At every step, this project foregrounds the voices and experiences of queer women from around the country. In addition, the project is directed and crewed entirely by queer women.
Some of the Stops Along the Journey
Below is a list of some of locations we have visited for the film, along with some of the people we’ve spoken to:
- Lesbian Herstory Archives, Brooklyn, NY
- WOW Cafe Theater, New York, NY
- Two Organizers of Trans Ladies Picnics, Brooklyn, NY
- Lesbian Connection (magazine) / Ambitious Amazon Offices, Lansing, Michigan
- Wild Iris Bookstore, Gainesville, Florida
- Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, San Antonio, Texas
- Alibi’s, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Private Home, Oakland, California
- As well as specific individuals across the country
In addition, when the film is complete, we’ll be returning to the road to share the project with more communities around the country and to collect more stories.
Why this Project is Important to Me (from Alexis)
This project started when I was looking for a creative way to share a play of mine directly with communities that I felt tied to. From there it grew into a larger project that has allowed me to dig into some of the questions that drove me to write the play in the first place and that continue to come up for me as I participate in lesbian and queer spaces.
Some of the key questions that I’m interested in are:
- Where do lesbians and queer women gather today?
- Why is it important for lesbians and queer women to have space to gather with each other?
- Why does it continue to seem so difficult to create and maintain space for lesbians and queer women? What role do things like class, race, gender identity, and ability play in those difficulties?
- What role do changing politics and identities within queer and LGBT communities play in recent conflicts and closing of spaces?
- How do those who don’t feel like they easily fit or identify with a given sexual or gender identity relate to and participate with these spaces? What about all the people who have always participated in and supported these spaces who are not lesbian, female, or queer?
The above questions are not just intellectual or journalistic, they are questions I regularly ask myself as I move through communities and spaces that I encounter in my daily life, and I hear similar questions from friends, acquaintances, and in conversations online. Also, how I identify myself isn’t just a political choice, it has to do with whether or not I will be visible to the people I want to partner with—in other words, it also has to do with love and intimacy, which adds an extra layer of complexity and frustration at times.
About the Play
Unknown was inspired by the 40-year-old Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY. It offers a portrait of a small community of lesbians that spans four generations, and it asks how we come to know a person as something more than the role they play in our lives or the labels society applies to them. The play follows a handful of characters as their lives intersect at the Archives, and also as they try to figure out why one woman in particular decided to send an entire life’s worth of private writings to a small and idiosyncratic archive tucked away in a Brooklyn brownstone.
This project will strive to be broadly inclusive, as issues affecting lesbians and queer people are not solely focused on sexuality, but also include gender identity, race and ethnicity, class, ability, age, and numerous other individual characteristics and experiences. Further, very few spaces where lesbians and queer women gather are comprised solely of lesbian and queer women. For decades, trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, straight women, and men of all sexualities, have participated in and helped to maintain, or other otherwise helped to support a number of these spaces in a variety of ways. All of this represents some of the complexity of defining and maintaining any space for any group of people, but particularly lesbian and queer spaces that espouse feminist or radical politics.
Meet the Team