A Queer New York is both a forthcoming book and a website created and maintained by Jack Gieseking. This website will host a series of data, maps, and other data visualizations regarding the lesbian and queer history of New York City from 1983 to 2008 that will be published in A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers in 2020 by NYU Press. The book draws on this and other archival research as well as interviews with forty-seven self-identified lesbians and queers who came out in NYC between 1983 and 2008, and a year’s worth of archival research in the Lesbian Herstory Archives of Brooklyn, New York. I use “lesbian-queer” as an adjective to describe my participants and their places, as I focus on the experiences of non-heterosexuals assigned female at birth. (For more on identity terms, click here.) While much media focuses on New York City as a epicenter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) history–particularly at the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and often by obscuring the LGBTQ history beyond a handful of cities–it is important to note that much of NYC’s lgbtq history, too, is yet unwritten: A Queer New York will be the first lesbian history of New York City.
The map you see contains over 1,500 places mentioned with an address in any of the lesbian publications that I found and selected from the Lesbian Herstory Archives. I conducted my multi-generational research project in 2008 and 2009, so that the places on this map span 1983 to 2008. Because a place could be mentioned one year but not the next, many places could have been open but are not listed. To that end, this map is serves to extend some of my arguments in the book about the range and diffusion of urban lesbian-queer places, including and beyond lesbian bars and feminist bookstores. Lesbian bars are one of the few places to be called “lesbian,” and much of the everyday experience of lesbians and queers–i.e., women, trans, and gender non-conforming people more broadly–is made invisible. For a thoughtful, detailed map of lesbian bar history in New York City, see Gwen Shockey’s Addresses Project here. For a map of LGBTQ nightlife, see Jeff Ferzoco’s OutGoing NYC which includes 150 years of LGBTQ bars, parties, clubs, and pubs.
Over time the map will be updated with more data that I acquire from archives and interviews, but for now the map serves as a broader representation of lesbian-queer experience in New York City.
To produce the map, I (Jack) sorted these 1,500+ places into eight categories to ease map readership. I created the categories by drawing on my expertise as an ethnographer and archival researcher of lesbian-queer New York City. Because of their popularity and given the dearth of sites actually marked as “lesbian,” I categorized “LGBTQ Bars” and “LGBTQ Businesses” (businesses excluding bars) first. “Political,” “Services,” and “Socializing” followed as categories, marking first any LGBTQ political group or action, followed by LGBTQ support services, and then marking regularly occurring LGBTQ social spaces, respectively. “Events” define those places that gathered from 1 to 3 times, such as a concert or spoken-word series. Finally, “Bars” and “Businesses” are primarily those non-LGBTQ specific spaces that were mentioned or advertised in lesbian publications but did not hold lesbian-specific gatherings (like a monthly party) or identities (a s an often-mentioned lesbian-queer gathering locale).
I labeled LGBTQ support services, and then marking regularly occurring LGBTQ social spaces, respectively. “Events” define those places that gathered from 1 to 3 times, such as a concert or spoken-word series. Finally, “Bars” and “Businesses” are primarily those non-LGBTQ specific spaces that were mentioned or advertised in lesbian publications but did not hold lesbian-specific gatherings (like a monthly party) or identities (a s an often-mentioned lesbian-queer gathering locale).
These publications were primarily from, by, and about New York City; if a New York City-based publication was not published that year, a national lesbian publication was used. The publications I drew from are all located in the Lesbian Herstory Archives of Brooklyn, New York, and include Big Apple Dyke News (BADNews) (NYC, 1983-1986), WomanNews (NYC, 1987-1991), Deneuve (now Curve) (national, 1991-1996), HX: For Her (NYC, 1996-1999), Curve (national, 2000-2001), and GO NYC: A Cultural Roadmap for the City Girl (NYC, 2002-2008). Since I included any address mentioned in these publications, places range from being listed in monthly event listings and feature stories to advertisements.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of my project–and any mapping project that relies on published information–is that it highlights the spaces and experiences of primarily white and/or middle-class LGBTQ populations who had the privilege and finances to publish, advertise, and be advertised to in such publications. I hope that future archival and ethnographic research will find ways to truly queer the maps of LGBTQ history across races and classes.
This map was created by Lindsey Funke (MA student, UKY Geography) and envisioned by me. I am equally grateful to Gina Stalica (Bowdoin ’17) who created a fully-typed list of these addresses, and to Erin Siodmak (CUNY PhD) for collecting more addresses from organizational records. Thanks to Gibbons Fellow funding from Bowdoin College, and research funds from Trinity College (Hartford) and the University of Kentucky.