The impact of lesbian bar ownership on USA lesbian bar geographies: all-gender/straight-integrated LGBTQ places by design

One longstanding explanation for the scarcity of lesbian bars in the United States is the lack of women’s ownership of durable spaces. This study interviewed 15 women owners of lesbian and LGBTQ bars to understand how they conceptualize the queer social spaces they control. Whether they owned a lesbian bar in a big city with a gayborhood or an ‘everybody’ gay bar serving a rural region, no owners prioritized women’s-only places, and all actively refused them. Many nevertheless reported practices to prioritize women in their spaces. Women’s ownership of LGBTQ spaces thus does not produce women’s-only spaces, even in self-described lesbian bars. These findings have three implications for our understandings of the spatial organization of lesbian and LGBTQ socializing. They shed light on the contested decline of women-only spaces, including the congruence between all-gender straight-integrated business philosophies and places that have survived the ‘great lesbian bar die-off’. They underscore the dramatic shift towards all-gender mixed LGBTQ spaces and the decline of gender-segregated socializing. Findings also raise the possible necessity for ‘time-space strategies’ of ephemeral placemaking practices even in erstwhile lesbian spaces due to the erasure faced by lesbians in straight-integrated spaces. Together, these findings underscore the necessary tension in lesbian geographies between a focus on durable places and ephemeral placemaking due to economic and spatial marginalization, time-space strategies that may increasingly be needed by all LGBTQ people in increasingly straight-integrated spaces.

Publicly available copy here; version of record in Gender, Place and Culture

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