(NEW YORK) — As LGBTQ+ spaces continue to face threats across the country, a growing crop of lesbian bars look to chart a new path.
In 2020, the Lesbian Bar Project sounded the alarm on the slow disappearance of lesbian bars in the United States.
In the years since, new lesbian-led venues and events have opened up around the country, offering safe spaces that hosts say are sorely needed for the queer community.
Dave’s Lesbian Bar – a Queens, New York-based pop-up venue – is evidence of that, according to host Dave Dausch.
The pop-up has garnered hundreds to thousands of attendees at their events, said Dausch. Their events are part-concert, part-market, and part-party – combining the things Dausch loves the most as a bartender and performer.
But they weren’t sure of its potential for success: “I was looking around at my comrades and saying, like, ‘Should I do this? Is this insane?’ They are like, ‘No, we need this."”
“I just think that femme space in general has never been prioritized,” Dausch said. “Men have the money and have been using it for their desires for a really long time. So it makes sense that a marginalized community … have not been prioritized.”
In the 1980s, there were roughly 200 lesbian bars in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 30.
Erica Rose, one of the filmmakers behind the Lesbian Bar Project, said many reasons have been cited for the decline in bars, including gentrification and economic inequality between men and women.
Several of these bars have opened in recent years, igniting hope that the community will continue to have inclusive spaces to gather, even as the country sees a rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation and political rhetoric.
“We’re going through a pattern that we’ve all seen before, where queer people are weaponized and marginalized, especially the trans community and trans children,” said Rose.
She continued, “I think that the evil forces in our society literally want us to disappear. They want to erase us, many of them want to kill us. And I think that what we can do is just keep showing up and being loud and being present.”
The creation and evolution of Dave’s Lesbian Bar has led to Dausch’s “own trans coming out story.”
Dausch said that even though queer rights are being targeted by legislators, their safe spaces where people can celebrate their community have kept them going.
“I have very much been feeling the effect of feeling like the nation is against who I am,” Dausch said. “But I’m relentless, and so are all the other queers around me. And I see what beautiful things – the web of beauty that’s spreading out. And how big that is.”
Stacy Lentz, CEO of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, says that queer bars “are more important now more than ever.”
“Our movement started in a bar – Stonewall was a bar,” Lentz said. “Our activism was born in these queer spaces and in these bars, because that’s all we had … We really need folks to come out and support these places that cannot survive if you don’t show up.”
Learn more about the growing movement to establish lesbian safe spaces on ABC News’ “Perspective” podcast:
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