Dyke spa­ces must evolve to sur­vive

Ashleigh Atwell is a queer les­bian writer and or­ga­nizer born and raised in At­lanta, GA.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“Les­bian his­tory isn’t recorded and revered like that of gay men. While gay spa­ces have been able to main­tain their fo­cus and iden­tity, les­bian spa­ces get di­luted by out­siders.”

For the past two years, I have had the honor of lead­ing the Dyke March at At­lanta Pride and I look for­ward to do­ing so in some ca­pac­ity as long as my legs stay in work­ing or­der. Lead­ing that march is im­por­tant to me be­cause it is one of the few times that I ac­tu­ally feel like there’s a space for me as a woman that loves other women. I crave spa­ces that cen­ter on women lovin’ women, and ap­par­ently I’m not alone. Re­cently, Slate posted a se­ries of ar­ti­cles by les­bian writ­ers in which a few of them lamented the demise of les­bian-cen­tered spa­ces.

Older les­bian writ­ers lamented the dis­ap­pear­ance of the spa­ces that wel­comed them when they came out in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. In her ar­ti­cle, Bon­nie J. Davis wor­ried that “as we ad­vance fur­ther into the 21st cen­tury, we are wit­ness­ing the al­most flip­pant dis­missal of re­cent, late 20th-cen­tury les­bian cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly the loss of phys­i­cal sites such as women’s book­stores and women’s mu­sic fes­ti­vals and their ma­te­rial lega­cies (books, jour­nals, al­bums, tapes, mag­a­zine in­ter­views with artists).”

Other ar­ti­cles in the se­ries ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments and they make plenty of valid points. Les­bian his­tory isn’t recorded and revered like that of gay men. While gay spa­ces have been able to main­tain their fo­cus and iden­tity, les­bian spa­ces get di­luted by out­siders. Our busi­nesses are dis­ap­pear­ing at an alarm­ing rate across the coun­try. At­lanta doesn’t have much of a les­bian scene. Our nightlife con­sists of My Sis­ter’s Room and a few in­de­pen­dent party pro­mot­ers. The clos­est thing we have to a day­time meet­ing spot is Charis Books. Still, there’s an as­pect of this dis­cus­sion that ir­ri­tates me.

Jan­uary 6, 2017

As these writ­ers rem­i­nisce about the good ole days, their writ­ing im­plies that the younger gen­er­a­tion isn’t do­ing enough to pre­serve the cul­ture. There’s an im­pli­ca­tion that since mil­len­nial same-gen­der lov­ing women don’t feel re­quired to call them­selves les­bians, it’s a re­jec­tion of dyke cul­ture.

This be­lief is held by scores of older les­bians and reeks of the old right wingers that com­plain about safe spa­ces and frankly, it gets on my nerves. I want dyke cul­ture to sur­vive but in or­der for that to hap­pen, we can’t get set in our ways. One ar­ti­cle men­tioned that young ac­tivists have cri­tiqued the Michi­gan Womyn’s Fes­ti­val with­out not­ing that the event has come un­der fire for only be­ing open to “wom­yn­born womyn,” im­ply­ing that transwomen aren’t real women. Les­bian spa­ces are no­to­ri­ously bi­pho­bic and con­cepts like be­ing a “gold star” pre­serve the idea that some women are more les­bian than thou. This type of think­ing is aw­fully ex­clu­sion­ary and it’s no won­der that younger women are turned off. As long as this type of be­hav­ior con­tin­ues, you can bet your Birken­stocks that dyke spa­ces are go­ing to die.

Rather than try­ing to res­ur­rect dyke cul­ture of old, we need to fo­cus on mak­ing some­thing new and bet­ter. We need to make sure bi­sex­ual, queer and trans­gen­der women feel wel­comed. We need to make a con­certed ef­fort to not only sup­port older busi­nesses but en­cour­age the cre­ation of new ones. El­ders, make sure you talk to us youn­gins so we can know our his­tory and be able to pass it on to those com­ing be­hind us. If we aren’t will­ing to change, these eu­lo­gies to dyke cul­ture are just an­other set of empty words float­ing around the in­ter­net.

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