Lesbian Spaces are Needed Now More than Ever – So Let’s Build Them

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Lesbian spaces are in a state of flux. With bars and bookstores closing at an alarming rate, there are some who worry that soon there will be no places left for lesbians to meet up and gather together. This is not an unreasonable concern – the fight to build lesbian spaces was and continues to be a hard-won battle, and being made to give up what little ground we have doesn’t bode well. At the same time, there are so many reasons to be hopeful. Lesbians aren’t going anywhere. There are now more generations of women living openly lesbian lives than at any other point in human history.

Whatever existential questions hang over us, lesbians are lucky because the women who campaigned and organized for the rights we enjoy today have given us a blueprint for building lesbian community spaces. At the same time, we have a wealth of new technology that can help us connect with other lesbians on a local, national, and global scale. None of those things can be taken for granted.

The internet has brought many benefits to lesbians women and girls. We can easily look up information about sex, relationships, and health that might not be covered in a school curriculum, enabling us to make informed choices and look after ourselves. Video platforms like YouTube have delivered a wealth of lesbian content. It’s easy to find stories told through a video series, such as the iconic Carmilla or Til Lease Do us Part.

Although the digital tends to be discounted as less important than physical spaces, the two things do not have to be in competition. In fact, they can complement one another. Apps like Her help women find friends, romantic partners, and hookups in real life. Social media has become a powerful organizing tool, too. Lesbian spaces are born through women coming together to protest and fight for our rights.

Setting up a new wave of centers would give women from all backgrounds access to lesbian spaces. Community centers by and for lesbians would also give as an alternative to the male-centric and consumer capitalism values that run riot in the mainstream LGBT movement.

In Britain, the politics of austerity are leaving women in particular poorer. And research shows that lesbians are usually less well off financially than straight women in our peer groups. Since we don’t always have much money, a revival of lesbian centers could be just the thing we need. Spaces where lesbians can learn new skills and information, party together, as well as crafting and building things for little to no money – they could be the answer to the isolation that many lesbians feel.

Setting up a new wave of centers would give women from all backgrounds access to lesbian spaces. Community centers by and for lesbians would also give as an alternative to the male-centric and consumer capitalism values that run riot in the mainstream LGBT movement.

In the age of Amazon, the fate of all high-street bookshops feels precarious. Especially vulnerable are indie bookstores, and doubly LGBT bookshops. Still, Gay’s the Word has been going strong for forty years in London. Their Lesbian Discussion Group has been going for over 30 years, currently meeting every Wednesday. And more recently Glasgow welcomed Category Is, a proud wife and wife run bookshop catering to LGBT readers up north. As consumers, we have the power to support spaces that cater to us rather than lining Jeff Bezos’ pockets.

It’s worth noting that the lesbian bookshops and bars that are so fondly remembered emerged in a time of social and economic struggle. As minorities are made ever more marginal across the west, perhaps the challenges of this era will inspire a fresh round of community hubs.

As we become increasingly vulnerable, lesbian spaces are needed now more than ever. Whatever else the future may bring, I am looking forward to witnessing the wonders that become possible when lesbian women band together. Participating and organizing is vital. As Alice Walker once wrote: resistance is the secret of joy!