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Looking Back Queerly

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 …

Generationally Speaking Across Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Historian Marc Stein contends that a sequential narrative of lgbtq history can reflect “the critical study of change over time, with special emphasis on human agents of change” (2005, 623). The narrative of such change has the power to inspire and begin to enact that change. I designed my research to embrace multiple generations of participants and let them share their experiences across and within generational focus groups. Throughout my qualitative interviews with and research into lesbian-queer everyday lives, the issue of generations came up repeatedly independent of my interest in the issue as it clearly framed these women’s life experiences.

I’m keen to explain the generational breaks you are about to see in my future data visualizations. They are far from haphazard. They are based not only on trends and shifts in these archival data, but also from patterns I found among women who took part in my …

Scalar Implications of Lesbian-Queer Organizing

I was sitting in what was a back bedroom of a brownstone in Brooklyn in the winter of 2008-9 and I was cold. Archives are often cold. The bedroom-cum-archives had become a records room that now hosts 11 seven-foot high filing cabinets bulging with the organizational and biographical history of lesbians. Around me, scores of boxes towered over me and a bookcase stuffed with comments, mementos, and original Wonder Women comics (which I read often during lunch) sat to my left. I was at—what else but—a dining room table with my legs nestled between more boxes underneath and wearing a knitted cap when I noticed a very interesting pattern in the organizational records of the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA) I was reviewing for my research. The pattern was about scale.

Not long ago scholars have argued that scale is socially produced (Smith 1992; Marston 2000). In other words, the …

Lesbian-Queer Organizations: Feminist, Women-Oriented, &/or Placed

This is the third in a series of posts on data visualizations I have created based on the complete records of all available lesbian-queer organizations in New York City at the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA). In my reading of LHA lesbians’ and queer women’s organizations’ purpose statements, I noticed a striking pattern of decreasing mentions of feminism in the organizational purpose statements over time coupled with a greater of cross-gender organizations. Furthermore, there was a considerable increase in the number of groups with access to permanent space to perform their work and organizing. While both changes speak to the radical cultural and economic shifts within lgbtq communities throughout this period, they are intriguing to place side-by-side to see our history anew. My statistical analyses of these numbers are forthcoming but the visualization of this data already afford significant insights into the shifts in everyday lesbian-queer life from 1983 to 2008, especially …

Lesbian-Queer Organizations: A History in Openings & Closings

This is the second in a series of posts on data visualizations I have created based on the complete records of all available lesbian-queer organizations at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. One of the key takeaways from my focus groups with lesbians and queer women who came out between 1983 and 2008 was the persistence experience of loss and mourning of key lesbian-queer places, namely neighborhoods and bars, as well as bookstores and other community spaces. At the same time, many women, especially those who had come out in the 1980s and 1990s generations, lived with an expectation that one just created the organization or space they required, often through activism or socializing. When we turn to the actual numbers of lesbian and queer organizations in terms of their totals and their patterns of opening and closing, there is more to these shifts.

The generational social and political shifts explain a great deal …

(Data)Visualizing Lesbian-Queer Space & Time

Over the span of a year, I surveyed the complete collection of 2,300+ organizational records at the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA). This research was originally part of 2008-9 dissertation research and is now a part of the series of books I am writing on lesbian-queer spaces of in/justice in New York City from 1983 to 2008—from AIDS to “The L Word.” In a series of five posts over the next two weeks, I will share the first in a series of interactive data visualizations from my in depth reading of the 381 NYC-based records of lesbian and/or queer organizations spanning 25 years (1983-2008) whose records are available at the LHA. Throughout the summer and into next fall, I will produce even more data visualizations and statistical analyses from these data as well as publications from the same period.

What you see on the left is all 381 of those

Looking Back Queerly, 1996: Space for Gay Men = Pleasure _or_ Danger

Gavin Brown’s 1996 research on the spaces of gay men found they described and marked their spaces in Tower Hamlets, London, as those of “pleasure” or “danger.”  How far have we come to mind the gap to create spaces in between for gay men, and for all lgbtq people?

My research builds on the pioneering work of early lesbian and gay oral historians, but by attempting to record gay men’s cognitive maps of the area – how we negotiate routes between sites of pleasure and danger and how these have influenced our decisions about where to live, shop and cruise – attempts to chart the changing ways in which we respond to and adapt the urban landscape for our own ends. (Brown 2001, 50)


Brown, G., 2001. Listening to Queer Maps of the City: Gay Men’s Narratives of Pleasure and Danger in London’s East End. Oral History, 29(1),

Looking Back Queerly, 1982: about not being out in the academy, about denying lgbtq people as a study group

The place of lgbtq people and studies in the academy was no different than the other shores of homophobia:

Based on 640 responses, the ASA [American Sociology Association] Task Group concluded: “Sociologists and students who are known as homosexuals or, even more so, as activists, run considerable risk, according to the perceptions of department heads and chairs, of experiencing discrimination in being hired or promoted in a sociology department.  Hence, the vast majority remain closeted within the colleagues [sic].  This, in turn, inhibits them from displaying interest in, and engaging in, research, advising, or teaching courses on, the topic of homosexuality” (Huber et al. 1982: 165). – from Newton (2000, p220)

Less than a decade before, the Gay Academic Union (GAU) was founded in 1973 by a meeting of eight academics in a Manhattan apartment ( 2000), and had made significant headway in visibilizing at least a small presence lgtq …

A Reason for LGBTQ Looking Back Queerly

I’ve been thinking a lot about how many lgbtq blogs cover current events, and how much the past–even the recent past–continually becomes absorbed in our outrageous present.  This absorption is also just plain inevitable–we cannot be conscious of all things at all times.  Obviously.  But, since I’m in the U.S. and mostly looking at U.S. source materials, this trend is also due to the American addiction to “progress” narratives: we love to point out to one another and the rest of the world how far we’ve come and in which ways.  There is a real air of hopefulness to these (very American) ways of producing our narratives, too, and I don’t want to discount that or refuse its usefulness.  I’m aiming for mindfulness here.

That said, I do think it’s time to look back not only to remember how far we’ve come, but to come to grips with our lgbtq …