A friend of mine here in New York is working on an upcoming performance and used Facebook to crowdsource the names of lesbian and queer bars past and present. An avalanche of responses poured in, and with her permission, I am embedding her post so you can see people’s replies.
And feel free to add more in the comments on this site if you like. I will pass them along.
Click on the image below to visit the live post:
I’ve also done a screengrab of the full list of 250+ replies that Damien got as of 10.30am EDT on 16 June 2015. Click the thumbnail below to view that screengrab.
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:
The number of bars intended specifically to serve lesbians in the US is decreasing. This decrease seems to relate to a variety of societal shifts: the economic downturn, the growth of online dating, and broader shifts in how women, queer, and trans individuals identify and gather socially.
(Click purple icons to get name and address information. See full list of 2014 bars with addresses and links below map.)
Lesbian Bars in New York City in 1994 (Total: 9)
Lesbian Bars in New York City in 2014 (Total: 4*, as of Feb 15, 2014)
* As of this writing, the bar Cubbyhole appears to serve a primarily mixed crowd (no longer majority lesbian) as well as a significant non-LGBTQ clientele, so its identity as a lesbian bar is currently in flux.
NYC Lesbian Bars in 2014
Sources for Historical Information
- The Lesbian & Gay Pink Pages, New York, Winter/Spring ‘94. Published by DAC Marketing, Inc., Chicago, IL.
- Betty & Pansy’s Severe Queer Review of New York City: An Irreverent, Opinionated Guide to the Bars, Clubs, Restaurants, Cruising Areas, Bookstores, and Other Attractions of Lesbian and Gay Manhattan. (Various/multiple authors.) Published by Bedpan Productions, San Francisco, 1994.
NOTE: I found these resources and others at The National Archive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History housed at New York City’s LBGT Community Center.
Sources for 2014 Information