(Screenshot of “What Happened to DC’s Lesbian Spaces?” [external link])
The Washingtonian (external link) recently featured Rainbow History board member Dr. Bonnie Morris in Harrison Smith’s article “What Happened to DC’s Lesbian Spaces?” (external link). In this terrific interview-style article, Dr. Morris discusses the swift disappearance of cultural spaces for lesbians in the D.C. area. She speculates on the causes of the disappearing lesbian spaces, including the growing role of online community, the integration of lesbians and gays into mainstream society, and the waning of the “feminist imperative.” In the face of these factors, Dr. Morris also affirms the importance of maintaining physical spaces for the lesbian community:
Having discussions with people across the country—artists, musicians, activists—we all feel that having a place to go to is very important, say, when there’s a negative event, like a hate crime or a loss, or a celebration. Let’s say the Supreme Court affirms the right to marry; or there’s, say, the murder of Matthew Shepard. People could go to their gay bar or their gay bookstore and immediately start organizing. You can do that online, but being able to hug and cry, jump up and down and party—in a lot of ways, those spaces, although they weren’t maybe meant as “you have to be a progressive activist to come here,” they serve to bring people into the larger meeting of advocacy. I don’t want to say the “r” word, recruit. I mean that you would be moved to be more than just a party animal by encountering people that were there.
Dr. Morris, who teaches women’s studies at Georgetown and GW, has spoken up about this issue at Rainbow History’s recent public panel, Lost Lesbian Spaces, now available as an audio recording in our online collections. She is currently working on a book on the topic, entitled The Disappearing L.