Friday, March 9, 2012


Candace Gingrich (1995)

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: ?

Closed: 1994

With The Newt boasting a pretty high profile as of late (you know, through the bizarro circus known as the Republican primaries), I thought it would be fun to see what his sister Candace was up to these days.

That's how I found out about D-Gem. And it's only through Candace that there is any information about D-Gem on the Internet at all.  Such are the strange and mysterious ways that "lost womyn's spaces" get preserved for posterity....

Back on March 7, 1995, the Advocate did a cover story on Candace Gingrich, and her somewhat belated introduction to political activism:

Until her brother was elected House speaker, Gingrich lived a quiet existence in Harrisburg. Although she describes her political leanings as "as far to the left as Newt's are to the right," she says she's given little thought to politics, devoting most of her time to working two part-time jobs as a shipper at United Parcel Service and as a computer technician for the state's education department, where her boss is her sister Roberta Brown.

Gingrich spends her spare time with her family and playing rugby on a women's team in Harrisburg. In June she broke up with a girlfriend whom she met seven years ago while attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she received a degree in sociology. Candace says she has yet to begin dating, in part because the city's only women's bar, D-Gem, closed last year. leaving her little opportunity to meet other lesbians in Harrisburg.   

A year later, in September 1996, Candace published The Accidental Activist: A Political and Personal Memoir.  In the subsequent review published in the New York Times, we once again see mention of D-Gem. But now we see how a lesbian bar like the D-Gem functioned as more than a place to find sex, intimacy, and a possible mate. We also see how it served as a "second home" or place of refuge, and as a center of community activism:

After the '94 elections, she wasn't surprised when the A.P. reporter ''guessed'' she was a lesbian, but she was surprised when Human Rights Campaign Fund representatives approached her. What, she wondered, did those ''well-heeled gay white men'' who held ''exclusive black-tie fund-raisers'' want with ''a blue-collar rugby dyke like me?'' What they got, and presumably came to like, was a young woman who wanted to be more than a thorn in her brother's side, who wanted to make ''some special contribution'' to gay rights, and who decided the way was to remain true to her ''blue-collar roots.'' She figured the large national gay rights organizations had plenty of sophisticated, inside-the-Beltway strategists; in fact, that is what made them seem nearly as removed as her brother from the kind of homosexuals she knew, the couples who have to rent apartments with an extra bedroom they can't afford, ''for show.'' Although alien to the black-tie crowd, she knew that small-town gay bars served their communities the way black churches served theirs, as places of refuge and, when mobilized, as centers of activism. She could be the rights campaign's ambassador to places like the D-Gem, for years Harrisburg's only lesbian bar and Candace's ''second home.''

For two years now, through 51 cities, she has been doing just that, serving as liaison between Beltway and barstool and, more recently, as the spearhead of a voter registration drive that might help undo the accident that propelled her to public attention.

Unfortunately, here we are fifteen years later, and the big brother is just as much of a homophobic, misogynist freak as ever....

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