Maps, Maps, All the Queer Maps

Since starting this  project, I’ve noticed more and more projects to map LGBTQ spaces – even the National Parks Service is getting in on the game. Truth be told, I was even planning to make a map a big part of this project, which may still happen, but it’s also been fascinating to watch as so many others have taken up a similar task.

Here are a few of the LGBTQ mapping projects that I’ve found or been told about, with a particular emphasis on those that highlight queer women’s spaces:

Most recently a friend living up in Maine directed me to sociologist Greggor Mattson’s map of lesbian bars that have closed between 2006 and 2016, which you can view in the embed above and also on his website here.

Though I only came to know about it soon after President Obama declared the Stonewall Inn a National Monument during New York City Pride in the summer of 2016, it seems this map of LGBTQ heritage sites was posted back in May 2015. You can learn more about their map here.

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The OUTgoing project above was created by Jeff Ferzoco, who has done some work in data visualization. It’s an attempt to map LGBTQ bars in New York City from 1859 to 2015. It definitely leans a bit heavily on spaces for men, but, then again, you can’t blame Jeff for that, given that the vast majority of LGBTQ spaces are created by and for other queer men.

What’s tricky about lumping all LGBTQ spaces together is that it can give a picture of a fairly robust number at a given time in history, which masks the sharp disparities in the numbers between bars generally intended for cis gay men, those intended for cis lesbians, and those that welcome or are intended for trans folks of different genders.

Above is a slide deck from a talk given by All We’ve Got National Advisory Board Member Jen Jack Gieseking, PhD. Read more about the talk and Jack’s work to challenge the way we think about the mapping of and narratives around queer space on Jack’s website.

In the above map, some members of the LesbianActually forum on Reddit have placed themselves on a world map. According to the forum’s post about the map, some internet trolls went after the map not long after it was posted and so now, one of the forum moderators is approving each pin that someone places on the map. Comments on the forum would indicate that this was done partly out of an effort for those who physically live near to one another to be able to connect if they wanted to.

The above maps lays out the locations of the Daughters of Bilitis’ New York chapters between 1958-1971. It was put together by doctoral candidate and Lesbian Herstory Archives Coordinator Rachel Corbman. And in this blog entry titled “Problems with Putting Lesbian Organizations on the Map” she talks about the reality of queer women’s spaces being highly transient primarily for reasons of affordability and access.

A couple other examples (will add more as I find out about them):

San Francisco’s Lexington Club Closes

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This post is meant to document some of the media and commentary circulating around the closure of San Francisco’s Lexington Club, also called The Lex.

Below is a post from the Lexington Club’s owner Lila Thirkield on Facebook. (In case the embedded post doesn’t work for you, click here to view a screenshot of it from about a week after it was posted.)

The primary conversation in most of the posts is focused on gentrification, per Thirkield’s concise Facebook comment:

When a business caters to about 5% of the population, it has tremendous impact when 1% of them leave. When 3% or 4% of them can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood, or the City, it makes the business model unsustainable.

Another point that came up in the article by Yael Chanoff for The Bay Area Reporter has to do with the Lex’s embrace of crowds that were not exclusively lesbian. The point is less in relation to why the bar closed and more focused on what might be lost:

[Professor Nan Alamilla] Boyd said that this safe space for gender variance is part of the Lex’s unique place in queer and feminist history. ‘A lot of the early lesbian, trans community formation was in opposition. There was this turf war about it,” Boyd said. “The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is emblematic of that political contest over territory, different queer territory. But the Lex was a place where that didn’t happen … a lot of queer women’s spaces were inhospitable to the trans community. The Lex bridged that somehow, in a seamless way.”

Articles about the closure:

  • “Oh No! The Lexington Club To Close After 18 Years” by Jay Barmann on 23 Oct 2014 at SFist.com (web link | PDF)
  • “On the Closing of the Last Lesbian Bar in San Francisco: What the Demise of the Lex Tells Us About Gentrification” by Jen jack Gieseking on 28 Oct 2014 at Huffington Post (web link | PDF)
  • “Patrons surprised at lesbian bar’s closure” by Yael Chanoff on 30 Oct 2014 at Bay Area Reporter (web link | PDF)
  • “San Francisco Gentrifies Out Its Last Remaining Lesbian Bar” by Kevin Montgomery on 23 Oct 2014 at Gawker (web link | PDF)
  • “The Lexington Club is Closing Because the Mission Has “Dramatically Changed”” by Anna Roth on 23 Oct 2014 at SF Weekly (web link | PDF)
  • “The State of the Lesbian Bar: San Francisco Toasts To The End Of An Era” by Robin Yang on 11 Nov 2014 at Autostraddle (web link | PDF)
  • “Why SF’s iconic dyke bar, the Lexington Club, is closing” article and interview by Marke C. with owner Lila Thirkield on 23 Oct 2014 at 48hillsonline.org (web link | PDF)

You can also watch the video from HuffPost Live (start at 6:00 minutes to get the segment on the Lex) featuring Jen Jack Gieseking: