Why are the dyke bars disappearing? Comedian and executive producer Lea DeLaria seeks to answer this question in The Lesbian Bar Project, a short film documentary about the campaign started by Erica Rose and Elina Street to raise awareness and money in an effort to save lesbian bars from mass extinction.
The lesbian bar has become an endangered species in the U.S., with numbers dropping from 200 in 1980, to 21 in 2021. The Lesbian Bar Project documentary was released three days into Pride Month and serves both as a call to action and a tool to educate people about the vitality of lesbian bars to the queer community.
This 20-minute documentary follows the women keeping these spaces alive and thriving, along with activists, attorneys, and politicians who frequent these bars, finding comradery and acceptance within their walls. Throughout the film, we are introduced to gay women, such as Lisa Cannistrac, the owner of Henrietta Hudson who is looking to cultivate a space that welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; and Rachel and Sheila Smallman, the couple who started Herz, a lesbian bar in Mobile, Alabama. We also learn about Kimberly Mckeand, a civil rights organizer and LGBTQ activist, and Witt Washington, an attorney in D.C. who first started using they/them pronouns at A League of Her Own, their local lesbian bar.
Once upon a homophobic time, gay bars were one of the only places for queer bodies to gather, but advancements in technology and the LGBT liberation movement have provided the community with other options. The Lesbian Bar Project brings attention to the need to preserve our history and, thus, our culture via the support and celebration of these places. For many lesbians in the 90s, bars such as Cubbyhole and Meow Mix were where they met friends, lovers, and found family.
This is a documentary about rebuilding and maintaining community, and the perfect watch for anyone looking to educate themselves this Pride season and donate to a worthy cause. As if you need another reason to support queer businesses this month! You can help by donating at lesbianbarproject.com or by getting wasted at your local lesbian bar.
Top image: screenshot via lesbianbarproject.com
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Leah Overstreet is a rising sophomore at Columbia University majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in Women's and Gender Studies. She is a fan of strong opinions, questionable fashion choices, and independently owned bookstores. She loves to spend her time writing about the queer experience, pop culture, sex, and feminism (hopefully with the company of a snack or two… or three). You can follow her @Leah.S.Overstreet on instagram.