Where do you gather with your community?

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One of the things that I’ve been asking people since this project began is, where do you gather with your community? It’s intentionally an open-ended question. People bring to it a variety of meanings of community. A number of people feel deeply ambivalent about the question, and for some, it pisses them off.

If you haven’t had a chance to answer this question for the project yet, please do so using this form.

The image above is a rough draft of a visualization of the results that I’ve compiled through December 2014 from people I’ve spoken with for the documentary, people who have attended events, as well as donors and supporters of the project. I’ve grouped specific answers into general categories to help simplify the visualization a little bit, and I’m tinkering with how to represent the spaces on a spectrum from very private spaces where you must be invited in to spaces that are entirely open, public spaces.

This is obviously not a “scientific” study in any sense and my sample is highly biased because most of the people who have answered the question have some connection to me or to the project. It’s just an attempt to get a rough sense of where people meet up with people they consider to be part of their community.

Below are some of the responses that aren’t yet represented in the visualization; specifically the ambiguity, the uncertainty, and/or the dislike for the question.

Meanwhile your question brings up more questions, like what is/are my communities at this point?

I don’t seem to actually know more than one or two other gay women here.

Where do I spend time with my community…..

This question resonates and sucks for me because I feel so stretched trying to fit into many communities…

Your question, however, is a little tough. Since I became disabled in 1999, many gathering spots have been off-limits to me…

To answer your survey question, I don’t really “gather with my community.”

Your question is an odd one for me. Essentially, I am an introvert. Yeah, I know when let out of my box I talk a lot, but I need lots of quiet time and tend to socialize one on one rather than drawing together in a community.

I don’t really think about gathering with community much—it doesn’t feel like a big part of my life, to be honest.

Please feel free to use the comment section below to challenge or ask your own questions about how things are organized, categorized, or represented. It’s a work in progress—very much a first draft.

Thanks to Funders & Project Update

We’re very excited that the Hatchfund crowdfunding campaign was a success and want to thank everyone who offered support during the process, financial and otherwise!

Because it was successful, Hatchfund is going to keep the campaign open for an additional 30 days for other donors to join in. So you can still give—every dollar will go towards the film, as the costs for both production and post-production will exceed what we’ve raised so far.

The campaign was fantastic not only for helping us raise some of the money we need for the project, but also in helping to spread the word about it. If you haven’t had a chance to see the press that we got, we’ve posted a round-up of all the press.

Just two days after the campaign ended we headed over to the WOW Cafe Theatre to do a follow-up shoot there with Maria Bauman and Micia Mosely, who brought their insight, personal connection, and thoughtful reflections to the project, plus their humor! You can see a tiny unedited outtake from our interview with them below – the act of clapping at the start of each take took on a life of its own between these two close friends.

Video: (left to right) Maria Bauman and Micia Mosely – Camera: Jeanette Sears

And below are still images of the 12 different members of the WOW Collective that we interviewed there in May.

The WOW Collective is comprised of thousands of people who have participated in the space over it’s 34 year history in a variety of ways. These 12 individuals represent a tiny snapshot of some of the people participating in the collective at the time when we came to film, some of whom were brand new to the space, some of whom had been with it for decades.

WOW is a non-hierarchical collective of women and trans* artists, with a strong lesbian & queer legacy. Some collective members participate just once or twice, while others have participated since the 1980s. Learn more about WOW on their website.

Group 1 Image: (left to right) Julia Havard, Justine Renson, and Sarita Covington (with Sunshine)
WOW Collective Group 1: (left to right) Julia Havard, Justine Renson, and Sarita Covington (with Sunshine) – Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 2: (left to right) CeCe Suazo-Augustus, Hudson Krakowski, and Mariam Eusebio - Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 2: (left to right) CeCe Suazo-Augustus, Hudson Krakowski, and Mariam Eusebio – Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 3: (left to right) Dorene Christmas, JZ Bich, and Gaelle Voltaire - Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 3: (left to right) Dorene Christmas, JZ Bich, and Gaelle Voltaire – Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 4: (left to right) Laura Marie Thompson, Karina Pantoja, and Sharon Jane Smith - Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears
WOW Collective Group 4: (left to right) Laura Marie Thompson, Karina Pantoja, and Sharon Jane Smith – Photo Credit: Jeanette Sears

 

Queer Pilgrimages: Road Trips Past & Present [UPDATED]

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One of the first people I spoke to upon starting the documentary was Alexis Danzig. After mentioning the project to a researcher working at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, I learned that in 1996 Danzig had taken a solo motorcycle journey across thousands of miles of the US. Along the way she made 28 stops (give or take – the copy of her itinerary from the Archives notes a couple of changes of plan). And at each stop she arranged to give a slideshow and talk about the Archives. She did slideshows in living rooms, bookstores, hidden bars, not-so-hidden-bars, community centers, and one hydroponics shop owned by a Lesbian Avenger. You can watch a tiny excerpt from my chat with her here.

Danzig is hardly the only queer person to take to the road in order to search out and share time, space, and community with those far from home, but each time I’ve come across another story of similar pilgrimages I’m struck by how personal and important these journeys have been for the people who took them and for many of those they visited.

Below is just a handful of other projects and journeys I have come across since this project started percolating in my brain.

Mobile Homecomeing Project

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I learned about this project back in 2012, while reading an issue of Bitch Magazine and stored it away in my mind, catching up with it now and again since then. According to their website, “Mobile Homecoming is an innovative and loving response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection.” In early 2011, Julia Wallace and Alexis Pauline Gumbs headed out on the road in an RV to visit a variety of people and communities in order to gather herstories focused on “black women, trans men, and gender queer visionaries who have been refusing the limits of heteronormativity and opening the world up by being themselves in the second half of the 20th century.” They have created a variety of media documenting their travels, some of which you can view here. You can also have a look at some of their itineraries here. And, as I’m learning, like many queer travelers, they have developed a deep and abiding attachment to their particular mode of transport, so be sure to learn about their Revolutionary Vehicle here.

Heels on Wheels Roadshow

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This project I learned about while volunteering at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls when someone else invited everyone to one of their local events. Co-produced and founded by Heather Acs and Damien Luxe in 2010, this ever-evolving group of artists has now completed five road trips and out of that has grown a monthly artists’ salon in Brooklyn, NY. According to their website: “Our mission is to use theatre to incite wonder, joy, critique, and dialogue; to bring visibility and complexity to diverse experiences; and to strengthen LGBTQ cultural communities in NYC and across the USA. As a multiracial & working-class led queer organization, we commit to anti-oppression and activism as art, as well as in our art.” And they too have developed intense love for their mode of transport. Luxe has even written a zine about it titled VANIFESTO: A Meditation on Van Lust, which you can download for free here or purchase print copies of for $5 by reaching out here (for possible roadtrippers, there is very helpful and very detailed info about how to buy and maintain used custom conversion vans in this zine).

Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution

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This film was screened at the Lesbian Herstory Archives a little while back. When I and a handful of others arrived it was already too full for more people, so they did a second screening for the rest of us that same night. In it, the creator of the film, Myriam Fougère, takes a journey from Canada down through the US, retracing some of her experiences and relationships from the lesbian separatist movement that began in the 1970s, looking back at a movement that continues in some ways today but is very different for the passing of time. She combines both footage and imagery from her past travels with contemporary interviews and road footage. Learn more on the film’s website (available in both French and English).

The Van Dykes

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By way of Damien Luxe’s van zine I came to learn about the Van Dykes, a traveling band of lesbians who not only decided to dedicate their lives to living and traveling in their vans from wimmin’s land to womyn’s land, but also adopted, at least temporarily, a new surname honoring their choice. Read more about them in this New Yorker article by Ariel Levy.

Solo Road Trips

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I’ve heard about a large number of solo road trips since starting to think about this project, from people hoping to someday travel to the home of their queer icons to those striking out in order to claim power, agency, and space for themselves. The website Autostraddle has offered a platform for a number of queer people to chronicle their travels. One of my favorite Autostraddle travel chronicles begins this way: “I have peed on sacred ground and no deity has struck my hot trans* ass down.” Read the full travelogue, titled “Leaving a Mark on the American Heartland With My Solo Queer Trans* Woman Roadtrip,” here.

Lesbian Avengers’ Pride Ride, June 1994

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This one I learned about while reading the book The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart of Lesbian America by Lindsy Van Gelder and Pamela Robin Brandt, which is itself a travelogue of the authors’ own road trip (a book I have to admit feeling a little conflicted about, but that’s a discussion for another time). The main point is that they joined along for part of the Lesbian Avenger’s June 1994 Pride Ride. From the Avengers’ website: “One of the most ambitious joint actions, Avengers from all over the country converge on New York for the International Dyke March and Stonewall 25. One caravan of Avengers crosses through the Midwest from Minneapolis via Lansing and Pittsburgh staging visibility actions on the way. Another caravan takes a southerly route, originating in Austin.” Again with the vans, but this time rentals, and with much less love.

Fall (In Love and War)

This project I came to know about only recently and it isn’t represented much at all on the web as of yet, so I don’t have any links to share. A friend connected me to the creator, Kyla Searle, after he heard me describe my own journey. For hers, Searle ventured away from California around the time of Proposition 8 with serious and personal questions about whether or not there was such a thing as a “gay community” after hearing so much talk in the media and elsewhere about the “gay community” wanting marriage rights. She spent a couple of months on the road collecting interviews with a wide variety of same- and multi-gender-loving people (to borrow her language), most of whom identified as female at the time she interviewed them. And from those interviews she has since created a play titled Fall (In Love and War). As more information about the play becomes available, I will post it here.

This collection of trips only just begins to scratch the surface of a much larger and longer history of queer pilgrimage, and so I have a feeling it won’t be my last post on the subject, but it’s a start.

Where would you go on your queer pilgrimage?

 

UPDATE

Many of the posts above focus on the upside of road trips, but it’s also worth mentioning that traveling is not so easy for a lot of queer women. This post from Autostraddle contributor  talks about some of the challenges and, to borrow her word, “perils” of traveling as a trans woman.

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“Please Step Over Here: The Perils Of Traveling As A Trans Woman”

Sample Footage: Alexis Danzig on Identity

Activist Alexis Danzig has been involved with a variety of LGBTQ groups and organizations from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) to the Lesbian Herstory Archives. In this rough cut of sample footage, Danzig reflects on her queer identity in the context of lesbian and woman-led groups and spaces.

Lesbian Bars in NYC, 1994 & 2014

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

Sample Footage: Alexis Danzig’s 1996 Road Trip

In 1996, Alexis Danzig, then an active volunteer at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, took a motorcycle trip across the US. As she went, she made over 20 stops to share a slideshow about the Archives in a variety of lesbian, feminist, and LGBTQ spaces, ranging from homes to bookstores to bars.

In this rough cut of sample footage, director Alexis Clements shows Alexis Danzig the archival materials (held at the Archives) from her trip. Danzig had never seen the archives of these materials before.