Scaled Generationally: Lesbian-Queer Organizations, Power, & Time

This post is a continuation of a series of posts on my graphic analyses and data visualizations of lesbian-queer space and time with a focus on the 1983-2008 NYC-based organizational record collection from the Lesbian Herstory Archives that I am creating as part of my larger contemporary historical geography of lesbian-queer life in New York City.

In my previous post on the way scale operates with lesbian-queer organizations, I provided a summary glance into how those groups break down across scales spanning 1983 to 2008. Another earlier post on the trends in the numbers of when these groups founded shows a steady increase in these groups being founded through the early 1990s but then a decrease and pleateau. In a recent post, I explained how I carefully marked out these generational shifts, through both qualitative and quantitative analyses. As a result, even as I wrote a detailed post explaining how scale is socially produced and also produces specific geographies and dimensions of power (click here for more delicious scale thinking here), the generational shifts between these women stood out to me as something that should be examined much more closely. What if we put these analyses together to see what we can learn by looking at these scalar breakdowns over generations? I broke this question and data down into two graphic analyses.

When I examined the sum total of these organizations, I previously suggested that most organizations and groups formed at the scale of the city and national/regional/state level because, in the global city and lgbtq hub on New York City, most organizations worked through the city’s power structure or through the national rhetoric of state’s rights to debate issues of inequality. In the visualization above, “Lesbian-Queer Organizations by Scale and Generation, 1983-2008 (Year Founded),” and the same below as a percentage-based stacked column, we see that organizations consistently tended to be founded at the scale of the city and nation-region-state over each period. My reading through my qualitative research suggests these trends continue across generations for identical reasons, and indicate how constant these debates and issues were.

What is even more interesting from a quantitative standpoint, like the summary chart of scale over time, is what is happening at the remainder of the scales. The stacked column chart makes this more obvious, and reveals how a stacker bar chart can miscontrue what we see. The seeming percentages that fill up the bar hide the truly small numbers of most of the other scales of organizations being founded by generation. This is worth mentioning because my participants’ recollections of these numbers often ballooned like the graph below.

However, we also see a few different types of changes over time that are pretty profound and not clear in the previous pie chart breakdown on these groups. First, there is a dramatic decrease in international organizations being founded in the 1990s, from 10 pre-1983 and 15  in the 1980s (1983-1991), to 3 is the 1990s (1992-2001) and 2000s (2002-2008).  In many ways, lgbtq research always returns to the body and embodiment and the scales of the international often seem all too far off from the intimacies of the street and neighborhood. This may be one reason for this disconnect or that such organizations were not developing in NYC, although this speculation seems odd given the location of the UN and other international businesses and groups in the city.

Also, the strong growth in the number of organizations founded in the 1990s generation by borough is striking. The 1990s was the shift of groups as activists to groups as non-profits as the non-profit industrialization complex took its toll on radicalism. But as these groups became part of the everyday social service life of lgbtq people, I would posit they also grew and took on a new scale at the borough level through this legitimacy.

At the same time, we see a surge in the number of groups founded at the nation-state in the 1980s–whatever could that be caused by? The rise of AIDS activisms called for groups to come together at the national scale for the first time in such large numbers. My educated guess is that this change also prompted the rise of other needed national organizations.

Lastly, we see organizations at the size of the city spike in the 1980s and 1990s generations, but flounder before 1983 and in the 2000s when fewer groups were founded or less records were available as most were recorded online, respectively. Why do city groups surge at these times? Overlapping my ideas for the rise in borough and nation-state scaled groups, the two different surges in activisms and non-profit support systems made city-wide groups and agencies a must. This trends reminds me to mention that issues and groups develop interdependently across scales.

All of this said, this is the last of the more basic graphic analyses of lesbian-queer organizational records for a little while. What comes next will be spatial and text analysis. And I am very, very excited for it! Keep tuning in for more posts on rethinking lesbian-queer history.