Saturday, June 28, 2014

Miss Lyons Boarding House

48 Doughty Street
Miss Lyons Boarding House

Location: 48-49 Doughty Street, London, England

Opened: At least as early as 1901

Closed: 1923 by the latest

Found a website I absolutely adore, Women and Her Sphere. It is absolutely chockful of the most amazing stories from the English suffrage movement, with each tale more fascinating than the last.

We've posted before on tearooms in general (and more specifically Alan's Tea Room), and the critical role they played in providing women with space to discuss and organize suffrage strategy and tactics.

Now we're going to look at a (mostly) all-women boarding house, and the amazing role it played in the suffrage movement.

The information here is gleaned from a post entitled What Links Charles Dickens, The Rokeby Venus And The Number 38 Bus? And if you love women's movement history as I do, I urge you to read it in its entirety.

So who was Miss Jane Lyons? She was an older woman--born in 1836--and from a large family. Up until at least 1871, Jane worked with her mother and five of her sisters in the family’s stationers shop in Birmingham. At some point after that, she moved to London. In 1881, she was living in a boarding house at 72 Gower Street in Bloomsbury. And then by "1891 Jane Lyons was housekeeper at ‘Brunswick House’, 56 Hunter Street, Bloomsbury.  Here lived 45 boarders – all women – most of whom were working – as teachers, typists, clerks, and artists."

And now to get to the heart of the story:

Ten years later, in 1901, Jane Lyons was the proprietor of a ‘Private Hotel and Boarding House’ at 48 & 49 Doughty Street.  Here, on the day of the census, she had 24 boarders – all women – again clerks, teachers and typists (and a stockbroking nephew). By 1911 Miss Lyons’ clientele had slightly changed – now numbering a good half-dozen men among her boarders.

Mary Richardson (1913)
This image of her was included in the sheet
of ‘surveillance photographs’ of known
suffragettes sent to museums and
art galleries

Miss Lyons, as a single woman running her own business, was very much the type of woman we might expect to support the ‘votes for women campaign’ – perhaps as a member of the Tax Resistance League. But from Mary Richardson’s evidence she went that bit further and gave active support to those who were evading the police. According to Mary, while she was living at number 48 Annie Kenney, who was also on the run, stayed for a time in Miss Lyons’ boarding house. I wish I knew more about Miss Lyons.

Annie Kenney was "an English working class suffragette who became a leading figure in the Women's Social and Political Union. She attracted the attention of the press and the public in 1905, when she, and Christabel Pankhurst, were imprisoned for several days for assault and obstruction, after heckling Sir Edward Grey at a Liberal rally in Manchester on the issue of votes for women."

And who was Mary Richardson?

Mary Richardson was a militant suffragist who got into enormous trouble with the authorities for taking "a hatchet to the Velasquez painting, The Toilet of Venus-known as The Rokeby Venus, while it was on display in the National Gallery in March 1914." In a 1961 interview, Mary "revealed that she had chosen the Rokeby Venus because she hated women being used as nudes in paintings – she had seen the picture gloated over by men, and she ‘thought it sensuous’."

Looking again at Mary Richardson’s story – as she tells it in her suffragette autobiography, Laugh a Defiance -I was interested in a brief mention she made of the house from which she set out for the National Gallery on that fateful day – Tuesday 10 March 1914. It was a house in which she had been given shelter when she was let out of Holloway the previous October under the terms of the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’, after going on hunger strike. She continued to live there clandestinely – as a ‘mouse’ – evading the police.

A bit of background on the so-called "Cat and Mouse Act":

The government sought to deal with the problem of hunger striking suffragettes with the 1913 Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, commonly known as the Cat and Mouse Act. 

This Act allowed for the early release of prisoners who were so weakened by hunger striking that they were at risk of death.  They were to be recalled to prison once their health was recovered, where the process would begin again.

So basically Miss Lyons Boarding House was a "safe house"--a place where the "mice"  hid out from the "cat."

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Ladies Restaurant and Ice Cream Saloon

Three shilling token for the Ladies Restaurant
and Ice Cream Saloon
The Ladies Restaurant and Ice Cream Saloon

Location: 8th Avenue, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: Nineteenth Century

As we have discussed here before, many nineteenth-century eating and drinking establishments barred women, especially women who were not escorted by men. These policies persisted in some cases clear up until the 1970s.

As a result, some enterprising businessmen established dining rooms, cafe's, and restaurants where ladies who were not in the company of men could enjoy a noonday meal, a spot of tea, or something sweet. (Note, however, that men were NOT barred from such places, and even had a tendency to take them over. See this complaint from a woman in the New York Times in 1885.)

The Ladies Restaurant and Ice Cream Saloon was one of the places where ladies could go and partake of some light refreshments. The only reason we know of this place is that they once issued "tokens" to promote their business and solicit customers, and that some of those tokens have survived. The particular token illustrated above was for 3 shillings.

According to the American Numismatic Society, "Tokens and notes for restaurants, bars and hotels were common in the 19th century. The bars were meeting places that often offered musical and theatrical entertainment. The prices for lunches vary between 1 and 5 shillings."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Women-only hotel floors in Denmark

Bella Skye Hotel
Women-only hotel floors

Location: Denmark

Opened: Spring 2011

Closed: Spring 2014

Well, it seems that men's rights advocates and their allies are even opposed to something as innocuous as pink hotel rooms for women travelers. The whole matter may seem rather silly on the surface, but they took it seriously enough to file a lawsuit. Which just goes to show you, even with all the problems in this world, how deeply intimidated and threatened they are about womyn's space.
Any womyn's space.

Even if it's just a bunch of corporate women travelers temporarily congregating on the same hotel floor. Even if the same men don't want or don't need large hairdryers. Even if the hotel offers "ladies style" rooms for men elsewhere. Even if up until now, no men had expressed any interest whatsoever in staying on the ladies floor.

Doesn't matter. It still must be stopped! (By the way, last time I checked, there were NO lesbian bars remaining in Denmark. But there were plenty of bars and events that continued to cater to gay men exclusively.) But never mind all that.

And never mind that this has nothing to do with the objections that 2nd-wave feminists initially raised about men-only spaces. The only reason they had any concern at all is that many of these spaces were important centers of power, where important business and political decisions were made, and women were being locked out. Otherwise, I don't know any feminists who insist of crashing all-male hunting parties or other meaningless male gatherings. But notice that the attitudes do NOT go the other way.

From CNBC:

Women-only hotel floor ruled illegal, discriminatory
Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC

An anti-discrimination ruling by a Danish court may put a crimp in a trend toward women-only hotel floors that offer extra security along with amenities such as large hair driers, complimentary nylons and extra dress hangers.

"We had no idea this product could be remotely illegal," Allan Agerholm, CEO of the company that owns Bella Sky Hotel, told CNBC. "It is a business product we created to differentiate our hotel from others. This is a petty case that should have never been brought. It detracts from real discrimination issues happening in our society."

On Friday, a court ruled that even though the hotel had two ladies-style rooms elsewhere in the hotel bookable by men, the women's-only floor was indeed discriminatory. The hotel has opted to keep the room setups, but open them to anyone. (my emphasis)

Bella Donna room, Bella Sky Hotel
"If for some reason a male guest should find it interesting to stay there in the pink environment, they are welcome to do so," said Agerholm. (my emphasis)

When the 812-room, two-tower hotel opened in spring 2011, the 20 upgraded rooms on the secure-access "Bella Donna" floor were set aside for women only, with feminine touches and amenities ranging from large dressing mirrors to a minibar stocked with smoothies, wine and high quality chocolate.

Rooms on the Bella Donna floor have an upgrade fee of about $28, with occupancy there running slighter higher than the rest of the hotel, said Agerholm.

Shortly after the hotel opened, two men complained about the women-only floor to the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, which ruled the floor was gender discriminatory and illegal. Because the board had no authority to sanction, Bella Sky kept the Bella Donna floor intact and appealed to the Eastern High Court in Copenhagen.

While not very common, some hotels in the United States and elsewhere continue to offer women-only floors, including the Hamilton Crowne Plaza in Washington, D.C., and the Crowne Plaza in Bloomington, Minn.

"Our ladies floor, where we charge a $20 premium, is usually 85 percent occupied or sold out Monday through Thursday and is very popular with female corporate travelers," Charlie LaMont, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Bloomington, told CNBC. "Some like the amenities, but for most, it's the security of the secure-access floor," he said.

The 10 rooms on the 10th floor of the 127-room Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta are set aside for women. In addition to private-access entry, the rooms include upgraded amenities, slippers and use of curling iron and a flat iron.

The hotel charges an added fee of $20 for the rooms, "which are most popular with the female corporate traveler," said Tom LaVaccare, director of sales and marketing. "It's a privacy issue, not necessarily a security issue," he said, "but we're working on adding more amenities."

LaVacarre said no male customer has ever complained about being excluded but "if they wanted to be on a floor just for men, we could accommodate that." (my emphasis)

For several years, the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, has offered 18 Orchid Rooms on a "women-preferred" floor with amenities such as curling irons, flat irons, high-powered hair driers, upgraded Aveda products, satin-padded hangers, nylons and other items at no extra charge.
The rooms were so popular that the hotel recently added a second floor of rooms with the same amenities, and men aren't excluded from those floors, they rarely book there, General Manager Lisa Jackson said. (my emphasis)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014



Location: 1218 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Opened: At least by 2007

Closed: 2013?

Here's how Ten introduced herself:

Indy's largest girls' gay club is discreet, owned and run by a family of women who want to provide a comfortable home for those who might not be comfortable elsewhere. Open mic nights and drag shows are counted among the amusements. Wednesday Karaoke No Cover $1.00 Domestics $2.25 Wells Thursday Customer Appreciation Night $4.00 Cover All Drinks Half Price Before 9:00pm Friday Fabulous Recession Friday $2.00 Cover $2.00 Domestics $2.00 Wells Saturday Hip Hop / R& B $5.00 Cover $3.00 Domestics $3.00 Wells Sunday Open Mic Talent Show $3.00 Cover $1.50 Budweiser Products $2.25 Wells

The write-up at Nuvo, an Indy "alternative" paper:

Finally, one for the ladies! Indy's only club dedicated to lesbians, the Ten continues to offer some of the best dance nights and drink specials in town, as well as great karaoke nights, excellent DJ's and weekly drag shows. Closed Monday Tuesday, check out the open mic talent show on Sundays featuring music, poetry and comedy. DJ Vanillasoul controls the house and the beats Friday and Saturday. Beer is always available for a buck or tow and the crowd is mostly friendly to just about everyone who drops in.

And here is the description from GayCities:

Lesbian dance club with shows Men are welcome, but the Ten is noted as one of the most fun and friendly lesbian bars in the midwest. Karaoke, dancing and drag shows. Drop your attitude and bring your fun.

As usual, customer reviews are a mix. There are six at Citysearch, and they run the gamut from the straight lady who loves it, to complaints about crabs (!) in the bathroom, and all else in between. Here's one:

Indianapolis Lesbian Bar – The Ten is where all the gay girls hangout in Indianapolis. Its def. not the cleanest (the bathrooms) or anything like a Chicago or San Francisco bar based on design or size. Its a hole in the wall place that we all love and embrace. Its nickname is the "dirty dime" haha! They play hip-hop music that everyone gets down to on the small dance floor. If you aren't into hip-hop then The Ten probably isn't the place for you. Its a place where all the different social groups throughout Indianapolis come to hangout. You will see all different styles in one location. Its got the old and the young in one place having a good time. There is a pool table in the back of the bar if you are needing a rest from dancing or just want to practice your game. Thursday night is 1/2 price drink night and the bartenders are super sweet (one is the owner) but sometimes you will be waiting for a good minute for a drink. However, you will 100% be drunk when you leave, they aren't stingy with their drinks. Friday night is Drag Show night. The show usually isn't done until around 12:30. The drag isn't the best place for drag in Indianapolis, however it can be very entertaining with a large group of friends. Once the drag is over everyone is more than ready to start dancing. Saturday nights is the most urban night of the week. If you love the urban style Saturday night is the night for you. The place is usually packed from wall to wall. There is a famous "Dance Contest" on Friday nights. Its fun to watch and the crowed can go wild based on the talent of the dancers...not surprising if a few dollar bills start to show up. It also isn't out of the norm for a fight to break out during some point of the night, however the bouncers are good at clearing out the problem quickly. Can be super funny to watch though! Sunday nights are Karaoke Night/Open Mic Night. Sunday nights are normally not packed at all with the regulars who love to sing and practice their drag.

It is reported on Facebook and at GayCities, Foursquare and elsewhere that Ten is now closed. But there is no date. The only dated reviews are from the customers, and they run from 2007 to 2013, so that's the best we got for opening and closing dates.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Johanna and Lexi Staples (2013)

Location: 5040 Lewis Avenue, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Opened: July 19, 2008

Closed: May 17, 2014

Well, the lesbian bar is now extinct in Toledo. And this last survivor is being replaced by--wait for it--a gay (male) bar. Such a surprise....

From Gay People's

The city’s only lesbian bar, Outskirts, will close for good on May 17 leaving a void for women in Toledo and the surrounding area. The next closest lesbian bar is Stilettos in the Detroit suburb of Inkster (my emphasis). Outskirts opened July 19, 2008 on Laskey Rd. in the building that once was Gilda's lesbian bar. Gilda's had a 3½-year run and then Outskirts moved in. In July 2011, Outskirts moved to its current location at 5040 Lewis Ave. in West Toledo.
Outskirts owners Lexi Staples and her mother, Johanna Staples, are proud of their six years with the club but they are ready to move onto other ventures. Lexi and her partner are planning to get married and want to have a baby. Lexi was recently hired by the Collingwood Arts Center as office manager and events coordinator. She still serves as the president for Toledo Pride Foundation and is director of Pride Center 419.

Tim McCune, owner of the Outskirts building, says that he plans to open a gay bar and restaurant there called the Other Side Bistro and Bar. He wants to create an upscale venue for the local LGBT community to eat and drink, something that has been missing since Blu Jeans closed in 2002.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lost lesbian places in Wellington, New Zealand

Lost lesbian places in Wellington, New Zealand

This list of lost (or mostly lost) lesbian places is derived from a longer list of places cited in the Lesbian/Gay Historical Walk of Wellington.

Queen Victoria by Alfred Drury
Wellington, New Zealand
Queen Victoria's statue. The famous story that she denied the possibility of lesbianism when the Labouchere Amendment, criminalising all same-sex activity, was introduced in 1885 - resulting in lesbianism's omission from the Act - is probably false. More likely is that the gentlemen attending her struck it out rather than even mention it, or feared (as the House of Lords did nearly 40 years later when an attempt was made to add it to the statute) that criminalising it would alert women to its possibility. The story was useful, however, when her statue was made the focus of a demonstration in 1977 promoting lesbian visibility on International Women's Day.

41 Vivian Street today--now the
Phu Thai Lanna Restaurant
41 Vivian St. Site of Club 41 (the first lesbian club). The site was offered by Carmen in 1973 and a group of four lesbians bought the lease and ran it as a women-only club until it closed in 1977, partly owing to licensing problems - it had no legal liquor licence. [We previously posted on Club 41 here.]

Wigan St. Site of the Lesbian Club, September 1984-1985. Shifted to 41 Vivian St upstairs, then to Tory St.

Lesbians went to The Pub, Ghuznee St, 1977-80 - an important meeting place during this period, because Club 41 had closed. (Firebombed and closed 1980)

Mary Taylor
DEKA Building (2012)
Southwest corner of Dixon and Cuba Sts (now DEKA). Mary Taylor (1817-1893), a former lover of Charlotte Bronte (who wrote that she had "more energy and power in her nature than any ten men"), came out from England in 1845 with her brother Waring Taylor and founded a drapery store on this site in 1849, named after herself. It was described as one of the principal stores of Wellington in 1853. Bronte died in childbirth in 1855 without seeing Mary again. In 1859, unable to find anyone here she had anything in common with, Mary sold the store to her assistant, James Smith (who renamed it after himself and later moved it to its present site) and returned to England. In 1870 she collected some articles she had written into a book, The First Duty of Women, "designed to inculcate the duty of earning money on every woman in order to protect herself from the danger of being forced to marry."

Willis Street Village
Willis Street Village, fourth and final site of the Dorian Club c1980-c1987, Outrage (first lesbian-owned private club) 1991-1993, Euroclub 1993

3 Boulcott St, now part of the Majestic Centre, site of the Lesbian and Gay Resource Centre, 1980-1986. In the basement was a drop-in centre, headquarters of the National Gay Rights Coalition, a coordinating centre for Homosexual Law Reform, and the first site of the Gay Switchboard. The Women's Resource Centre and the Women's Health Collective opened here in 1979. Lesbians were employed by all three organisations under PEP schemes. The Pink Triangle magazine was published from here. On the top floor was the first Lesbian Centre, and the first home of what is now the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand, object of an arson attack on September 11, 1986. (The attack seems to have been opportunistic, though homophobic messages were left.)

The Grand arcade, site of the Grand Hotel, "popular with businessmen after work" - John Miller.
The Wakefield, the Panama and other pubs were variously gathering places for sporting lesbians at various times.

Lambton Quay near Whitcome & Tombs (now Whitcoulls) and Cable Car Lane. Third site of the Dorian Club. c1970-c1980. Women accepted as members again.
The Federation of University Women (clubrooms, Lambton quay near Cable Car Lane) and other women's organisations (YWCA, CWI) were useful lesbian networking points, which gave excuses for knowing people.

Bowen House. On July 29, 1993, the Human Rights Amendment Bill was passed here after only a day and a half of debate -- but many, many hours of hard work behind the scenes. After a long and hard struggle by lesbian groups throughout the country, the Human Rights Commission Act is now unique in our legislation in including the word "lesbian" in its definition of sexual orientation.

81 Hill St, Thorndon, studio of Dorothy Kate Richmond, probable lover of Frances Hodgkins, and a mecca for their many lesbian and gay friends.

US Embassy - Wellington
29 (formerly 4) Fitzherbert Terrace (now the US Embassy) Site of Katherine Mansfield's home 1906-1908 (aged 18-20). She was living here when she had her affair with Edith Bendall - who became Winifred Inger in D H Lawrence's The Rainbow - and possibly with Maata Mahupuku [Martha Grace], but she was no longer welcome there, possibly because they had been sprung. Edith Bendall married and lived to 107, dying in 1986, but latterly would not talk about the relationship.

25 (formerly 11) Tinakori Road, Katherine Mansfield's birthplace

Annie Besant
Jerome Spencer House, 1 Collina Terrace. Jerome Spencer was a friend of Annie Besant and helped found Theosophy in New Zealand, and also the New Zealand Country Women's Institutes. She wrote to Elsie Locke that her intention in doing so was to bring women together doing something simple and innocuous. Principal of Napier Girls' High School, she lived with another teacher, Amy Large. Amy resigned to marry Frank Hutchinson. Jerome resigned too, and the three lived together in an orchard in Havelock North, carrying on "the Havelock Work" -- spiritualism, morris dancing, pageants, and The Hermeneutical Lodge (hermeneutics = interpretation), and she said "Frank is a very necessary part of the trio," but her meaning remains mysterious.

Thorndon Tavern. Until 1994, hosted monthly Dykes Out Of Debt (DOODs) dances, fundraisers for Lesbian Radio, Lesbianline, etc.
Thistle Inn

The Thistle Inn. Scene of KM's unpublished lesbian story, Leves Amores. KM had her father's typist Matty Putnam type it up, and it created such a scandal she was first prevented, then encouraged to leave the country.
(The Thistle Inn is now on the corner of Kate Sheppard Place. A suffrage connection: Elsie Andrews, who taught at New Plymouth Girls High School, organised the fiftieth anniversary of women's suffrage. She wrote love poetry to the woman she lived with for most of her life, Muriel Curtain, another teacher at NPGHS. At least 30 Taranaki lesbians, mainly teachers, knew each other in 1910-1930 and willed their property to each other.)

Site of the Railway Tavern. Lesbian gathering place (Friday and Saturday nights) 1981-2, and meeting place for gay men and rough trade. "A great push and shove." - John Miller

Site of Chaffers St Bus Depot (now New World). Lesbian bus drivers pioneered concessions (partner passes) for same-sex partners. In 1979, Mayor Michael Fowler vetoed a notice for bus interiors bearing the dangerously inflammatory message, "Lesbians, Contact Your Local Community, phone ...."

Oriental Parade, site of the Victoria Club, 1979-1992. Its third-floor balcony provided great summer scenery for and of gay men. The few lesbian members were generally older and less political, but it was home of the Lesbian Club in the last year or so of its life.

The following sites are NOT womyn's spaces, but they beautifully illustrate the historic control/regulation of womyn's space. 

Northeast corner of Dixon and Cuba Sts (now The Oaks). Site of The Royal Oak Hotel. The Bistro Bar and the Tavern Bar were notable gathering places for gay men and transsexuals from at least the 1950s to 1979 when the Royal Oak was demolished.

Gay and lesbian gathering was very much under the control of the licensing laws until 1967, when ten o'clock closing was introduced after a referendum. The Bistro Bar was one of the first to bend the licensing laws, abot 1963, by offering a token meal (a bowl of rice for 2/6) and so becoming a licensed restaurant where both women and men could drink until 10pm. Women were not admitted to most public bars at all, and to certain private bars (marked "Ladies and Escorts Only" but commonly called "cats' bars") only with a male escort. This was intended to prevent prostitution. Gay men formed natural escorts for lesbians under this restriction, both finding more interesting company once they were inside.

Cornhill St (near Regent Arcade). First site of the Dorian Club, 1962-c1965. Women were not accepted as members or even visitors at this site.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pittsburgh Dyke March

Pittsburgh Dyke March
Poster from the second Pittsburgh
Dyke March 2007

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: 2006

Closed: 2011

Here's a partial description of the first 2006 Dyke March here in Pittsburgh. From Sue at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents:

Nearly 125 women of all ages, ethnicities, sizes and shapes turned out Friday evening for Pittsburgh's first-ever dyke march, a grassroots effort organized by two local queer women in less than one month.

The event kicked off with a rallyesque bang at the CMU lawn with some spoken word, a few djs and a lot of lady mingling.  We marched from CMU to Pitt and back along the Forbes/Fifth corridor.  The pace was a little fast for those of us who aren't uber-physical, but the energy was high as the parade participants chanted, cheered and enjoyed the delicious feeling of being amongst a crowd of women laying claim to the dyke mantle.

The organizers expected/hoped for about 40 participants especially as they relied mainly on word of mouth to promote the event.  They got well over 100 women, some reportedly driving in from West Virginia to attend.

The event grew out of frustration that most spaces in the local community are defined by men, either the men who attend or the men who own the actual space.  This holds particularly true for PrideFest where some sense that queer women are invisible.  Some women just opt not to participate in the LGBT community or travel out of state to attend dyke-friendly events.  Eli and Khalia, the organizers, chose to create dyke affirming spaces and settled on a dyke march to coincide with PrideFest.

I spent some time talking with both Eli and Khalia to get their perspectives on the value of creating dyke friendly spaces.  I found them both to be articulate, passionate and -- perhaps most importantly -- willing to take action to build the dynamics they think will strengthen the community.

What I did not find was any sense of man-hating or male-bashing or desire to completely disengage from the male homodynamic.  I did an informal survey at PrideFest about the Dyke March and found that a lot of the women who did not attend had heard these sort of rumors about the event and the organizers. Fortunately, they were willing to listen to our experience and expressed a genuine interest in participating in the future once we reassured them that no one was planning to castrate gay boys. 

These women have done a good job creating a dyke-affirming event.  The next challenge is to reach out beyond their circles of genderqueer women to all those dykes who didn't attend, didn't hear about it and are pretty much mainstream.  Their voices should be part of the dialogue because they too are being disregarded by those in power. There are lots and lots of suburban dykes in Pittsburgh complete with minivans, car seats and years of misogeny on thier backs (my emphasis). 

More on that later when I discuss why being labeled an assimilationist is not cool ...

Note that we are already seeing signs of trouble in Dyke March land--even in 2006. Dykes are "mainstream" and "misogynist" if they've ever had a kid or owned a car seat? But "genderqueer" white dudes with eyeliner (on the weekends) working in highly paid STEM jobs somehow aren't? Wow. Just wow.  Not to mention the tremendous anxiety about appearing "man hating." As if mainstream gay guys really give a f*** about woman hating or being inclusive in their bars, clubs, and organizations.

Let's skip forward two years to the description of the 2008 Dyke March. Contrary to the expressed wishes of the organizers, it doesn't sound like they have reached beyond the circles of "genderqueer women" to what are somewhat patronizingly referred to as "mainstream" dykes.

Pittsburgh Dyke March 2008
We will march down 5th ave, make a right on Liberty, right on William Penn Place, then head back around to Mellon Square park *Trans family welcome* *This march will be accessible, we will have a truck for those who would like to ride the march* After party At Donny's and Weezie's Brought to you by THE PINK PARTY PRODUCTIONS! With special performances by: Colelea Bekezela Joey Murphy Smells Like Gina Ya Lioness Homemade/Dyke made teeshirts and bags available Come on out! Let's make some noise and take up space! Visibility! Spread the word! Any questions, please message us at our myspace page The Pittsburgh Dyke March is personal, it's political. We are claiming celebratory feminist space for LBTQ (lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer) wimmin. Our realities and issues have been set to the side of the larger "inclusive" GLBT umbrella, and we've been told we must compromise. We've been told to assimilate to appropriation by corporate advertisers and sacrifice our interests to further the "greater good" of the gay community. As womyn loving womyn we are claiming this loving and political space, not only to celebrate the fierce radical spirit of the Stonewall Riots, but to remind ourselves that dykes are, and will continue to be, a revolutionary force to be reckoned with. How we organize and celebrate with one another matters, our love matters, our art matters, and dyke lives matter

Let's hop forward another two years to 2010. Even though it's still called the "Dyke March" there is reference to the "Dyke and Trans March" organizing committee. Also note, that leader/kick-off speaker is now a transwoman. So much for getting those uncool "mainstream" lesbians  involved. The ones who might have given birth or who have functioning vaginas or something icky like that:

This was one of my favorite LGBTQ events of all time. It was joyful, fierce, unified and humbling to wind our way through Bloomfield yesterday afternoon. 

Miranda Vey at Dyke March 2010
The event kicked off with a call to action from Dykes on Bikes founder, Miranda Vey.  She uses the term "queer patriot" to describe the power within dykes and other LGBT persons to claim their rightful place in society at large as well as the local gay hierarchy. I've heard Miranda speak before and she is very open as a transwoman (my emphasis) to name the privilege she took for granted as a white man before she began transitioning.  She's not afraid to talk about it and she's not intimidated in the least to turn around and call out those who continue to use it to hold down women, queers and other disenfranchised communities.

Miranda has been a longtime supporter of this event, helping to raise funds and bringing the dykes on their bikes to protect the march route when the police failed to show up.  She is a dyke hero, a powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with.

The march kicked off a few minutes before 3 PM and wound its way through Bloomfield, attracting a signifcant degree of attention from residents and business patrons alike.  People took pictures, video and simply stood watching as this colorful, eclectic group of women strode through the streets with signs, banners and a fierce determination to demand they be seen. 

I intentionally monitored the reacton along the sidewalks and it was a mixture of "you go girls" and amusement.  There was very little animosity with the sad exception of a ten year old child screaming "Git out of here yinz bitches." I think most people had no idea what was going on other than a group of very interestingly clad gay women were suddenly visible in a way Bloomfield never experienced.  (There were plenty of signs though).

In 2011, they were still giving lip service to this being a dyke march.

But by 2012, the pretense was dropped.

Pittsburgh Dyke & Trans March 2012

According to our sage LGBTQ&A March organizers here in Pittsburgh, dykes will no longer be granted space at Pride just for dykes. Instead of the Dyke March, we have the Dyke and Trans March. Which to my way of thinking is basically Everybody-Who-Is-Not-A-Standard-XY-Masculine-Gay Dude. Basically a dumping ground for all the "other" people. So much for a uniquely dyke visibility.

Thanks, guys! You want your sandwich yet?

And in this post I finally found out that the Dyke March organizer mentioned above, the one called "Eli," now identifies as a HE.  Not even as a "queer woman."

In 2005, queer activist Eli Kuti helped launch our region’s first-ever Dyke March. It was my first Dyke March and the first time I met Eli – megaphone in hand, urging folks to make some noise all the while keeping a keen eye out for safety issues. Over the years, the march has evolved to include Pittsburgh’s trans community – and is now officially the Pittsburgh Dyke and Trans March. Eli is a pretty awesome activist – he isn’t afraid to stick his neck out (my emphasis) and challenge the “cool” queers when he feels they present a threat of some type to more vulnerable folks in our community. At the same time, he is concerned that the dyke parents attending the march with their stroller and little kids feel safe and welcomed. That’s a good balance and it suggests why Pittsburgh may be one of the few cities in the nation that successfully fuses dyke identity with trans identities and comes up with a positive, powerful event that respects everyone. We aren’t the only city to have a blended type of march, but it is new terrain for many people.

So maybe we should just drop the "dyke" altogether. Because I'm not seeing much dyke leadership (much less dyke respect) in this thing at all. Just a lot of the same old queer rhetoric that once again succeeds in erasing and burying "mainstream" lesbians in the Giant Queer Melting Pot.

And notice how we have  come full circle. The first Dyke March was organized because of "frustration that most spaces in the local community are defined by men, either the men who attend or the men who own the actual space.  This holds particularly true for PrideFest where some sense that queer women are invisible."

And what do ya know. We end of with the most prominent leadership positions being held by a "queer woman" who now identifies as a man, and a transwoman who was raised and socialized as a man.

So much for an alternative.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Vanishing: Why are lesbian places disappearing?

Important article. Lost womyn's space is getting more and more attention...for good reasons.

The Vanishing

Why are lesbian spaces disappearing, and what can be done to preserve our collective history?

The Vanishing
In the past two years alone, many cities have seen their last or only lesbian bar close up shop forever. If you can believe it, London, England, only had one, Candy Bar, and it closed late last year. At the end of last summer, Philadelphia lost its well-known, multi-floor bar, Sisters, after losing the less well-known Roy’s Comfort Zone the year previous. And early this year it was announced that The Palms, the nearly 50-year-old bar in West Hollywood, was closing. More last call stories stretch from Portland, Oregon, to Houston, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois. And yet, Oklahoma City keeps two lesbian bars up and running.

Read the rest here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

New Realities

New Realities

Locations: There were two.

New Realities #1       
1026 Howard Street
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
New Realities #2
Oakview Mall
3001 S. 144th Street #2131
Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Opened: 1990s?

Closed: 2011?

Back in the early 2000s, New Realities was listed as a member of the Feminist Bookstore Network. It was also included in this Stonewall Inn list of Gay/Lesbian/Feminist bookstores, and on many other similar lists.

But when a customer reviewed it at Yelp in April 2010, there was no mention of this being a feminist bookstore. It was all woo-woo New Age:

New Realities, found in the Old Market in Omaha, NE, is a wonderful surprise for shoppers. The store features a variety of holistic, spiritual and uplifting surprises. Among some of the treasures found at New Realities are candles, music, motivational tapes, crystals, dream catchers, figurines, clothing, toys, artwork, cards, jewelry, incense, massage oils and more. Tucked away on the shelves you will find hard to find authors, audio books, rare collectibles and hidden treasures. When you enter the store, you notice the smell of incense or fragrant oils which help you feel relaxed. The sales people are helpful, upbeat, informed and never pushy.

But at least one customer wasn't happy about the transformation. Also from Yelp, but in August 2010:

This place used to be one of my favorite stores in the Old Market Passageway.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  A few years ago, their market was aimed more toward the LGBT community. While they still carry a few of these items, it has primarily become a new age store with a small gay section.

In here you'll find everything from meditation CDs, cards, jewelry, crystals, candles, incense, art, books, and a multitude of worldly religious items.  It's still fun to shop here, but it's no longer what it used to be.  When entering the Passageway, you'll know when you're close... just follow the scent of Nag Champa.

Well I guess at some point it was oriented towards "LGBT," but I can't find any customer reviews referring to this as a feminist or women's bookstore. So I figure that part of the New Realities identity must have been jettisoned years ago--even before it went "LGBT."

Not sure when it closed--but it was clearly gone by January 2012.

Moksha, a clothing store, now inhabits the former Howard Street location.

And the site at the Oakview Mall? It's a Bath and Body Works.