New Docuseries Traces the Importance of America's Vanishing Lesbian BarsBreaking News
tags: documentaries, urban history, LGBTQ history, Bars, Lesbian Bars
During the pandemic’s hardest, most uncertain days, regulars at Boycott Bar in Phoenix would sometimes show up with a lawn chair, just to hang out for a few hours outside one of the last remaining lesbian bars across the entire country.
In 1987, there were an estimated 206 lesbian bars across the U.S. Boycott Bar is one of fewer than two dozen that remain today.
“One thing that the pandemic made me realize is that we weren’t just a bar, we were actually a community space,” says owner Audrey Corley. “There were people who had nowhere to go, we were interacting with people who had no community and they came to us just for social interaction at that time. Our community made us believe in things again.”
Once again, it’s tragedy that brings a spotlight to the importance of safe spaces for LGBTQ communities. Most recently, it was last month’s mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Boycott Bar held a candlelight vigil to commemorate those lost and affected, directly and indirectly.
LGBTQ spaces face many of the same challenges as other bars across the country: rising commercial rents, rising supply costs, trouble finding enough workers, and so on. But Corley says there’s no question of the biggest threat to the continued existence of lesbian bars in particular.
“Hate and ignorance,” she says. “That is the biggest threat – people who still can’t understand that we are a loving community and we just want to love. We are no different. We are your brothers, your sisters, your moms, your dads. We are in the same communities as you.”
Boycott Bar is one of three lesbian bars featured in the new three-part documentary series “The Lesbian Bar Project.” Filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street created the series partly as a fundraiser to support struggling lesbian bars, and partly to raise awareness after learning about the dramatic decline in lesbian bars across the country. It’s an unfortunate reality that directly affects the filmmakers personally as LGBTQ women.
“There’s one thing to have queer stories, it’s another thing to empower the the filmmakers behind it who are actually representative of that community,” Rose says. “For so long, our stories have been at the hands of people who are not part of our community, and that perpetuates misinformation, mythology and stereotypes about representation.”
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