By June 08, 2022 Community
Being a long-time resident of Seattle, I have always felt very fortunate to live in a city with such a large number of spaces that were openly welcoming and celebrative of the gay community. While much of Seattle’s gay bar scene is driven towards gay men, Seattle is also home to Washington’s only lesbian bar, The Wildrose; this is also the only lesbian bar north of San Francisco, and one of approximately 21 lesbian bars still open in the United States.
In 2020, The Lesbian Bar Project was created to bring attention to the loss of lesbian bars as a way to both raise funding but also educate about and celebrate these institutions. Fundraising brought in over $117,000 that was provided directly to the bars, helping to provide a source of financial aid during a time of restaurant restrictions and closures. This was followed by a documentary released in 2021, produced and narrated by actress/comedian Lea DeLaria.
What are the reasons for the decline in lesbian bars?
There are a lot of factors that may be contributing to closures, one recent factor being COVID related lockdowns and restrictions. Other factors may include the systemic issues women have historically faced with receiving loans and sources of funding, providing more financial privilege for male-centric gay bars and spaces in densely populated cities. There is also the transition to opening bars that are not specified to specifically gay men or lesbians but instead are attempting to create spaces for everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community.
If there are gay bars, why is there a need for lesbian bars?
Lesbian bars can hold space for lots of different people who fit under the umbrella of marginalized genders, providing community and belonging in a way that many male-centric gay bars don’t always offer. The Lesbian Bar Project makes clear that lesbian identified bars are a place for everyone to gather in a way that celebrates and creates space in a unique way.
From their website:
“We believe what makes a bar uniquely Lesbian is its prioritization of creating space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary folks, and trans men.”
The opening dialogue in “The Lesbian Bar Project” begins with the very important pieces of history and community that these spaces provide and why it is so important that they remain open:
“In queer culture, your bar becomes your family and becomes your friends; it becomes your dating pool. We are often operating from a scarcity mindset. We deserve to have all different kinds of places that celebrate the different kinds of identities that exist.”
What does the future look like for lesbian bars and spaces?
Supporting our local institutions is critical, both financially and through education. Below are a few links that expand on the history and current state of the remaining lesbian bars around the country and the community that is invested in their success.
- The Lesbian Bar Project
- 'The Lesbian Bar Project' chronicles the decline of women's queer spaces (article)
- 'More than just a place': Seattle's Wildrose among lesbian bars benefitting from fundraiser (article)
Donate or Volunteer Locally:
Contributed by Lindsay Jordan (she/her), digital banking assistant manager for Verity Credit Union