The Trib on Pittsburgh Lesbian Scene – Huh?

OK, this just strikes me as weird.  The Tribune-Review sent a reporter to OUTrageous Bingo to do a story on the lack of a lesbian scene in Pittsburgh.  “Lesbian scene” should always be read as “no lesbians bars,” but we'll get to that in a moment.

OUTrageous Bingo is a mixed event – gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered men and women, old people, young people, etc.  Why not send a reporter to an actual lesbian event (or a queer women's event) where it more likely you'll find a diverse group of people who are a little plugged in and can say with some authority what's missing? 

Anyway, I personally get really tired of people moaning that there is no lesbian bar in Pittsburgh.  Good grief.  Of all the types of lesbian-friendly places I can conceive, one covered in smoke soot and encouraging women to consume alcohol is not high on my list of lesbian friendly ideals.  I could take us on a little trip down the wonderful world of lesbian health to see the disproportionate impacts of alchol abuse and nicotine addiction in the lesbian community, but I'll restrain myself. It always strikes me as ironic that women who so enthusiastically support the ESTHER project, a lesbian health project, are the ones complaining about the bar situation. 

Now that I got that off my chest, I have to say that the women profiled in the story made some excellent points about many projects and events being dominated by gay men, the small group of the same people who show up for everything, etc.  And it is interesting how the younger women are picking up the mantle to get new kinds of things with an old twist organized.  Sarah Claire, for example, organizes dance parties at the smoke free Ava Lounge in East Liberty.  Cool.  Ehrrin Keenan organizes lesbian book club and game nights.  Very cool.  Kat and Rowan got the potluck up and running smoothly.  Awesome.  We need to keep that kind of initiative flowing.

Now see Ledcat and I would do all of those things.  Except we haven't.  Because life gets in the way.  Maybe part of the issue is that women have pretty full plates so a once a month or once every other month outing to a lesbian-centric event is enough.  Maybe we've integrated as lesbians into society enough that our social needs can be filled outside of a lesbian bar.  

Maybe its no longer about retreating to a lesbian-centric space as claiming our own spaces as lesbian-centric.  Isn't that what we've been struggling for all these years?  I'm not saying we don't need lesbian oriented places.  But maybe they aren't bars.  Maybe it's the fact that I can walk into Cafe Beleza on teh Northside, holding Ledcat's hand and call her honey without thinking twice about it.  Or maybe that we can go out to dinner at the Square Cafe, staffed mainly by lesbians, and do the same thing.  Or fly a rainbow windsock on my porch on a street with one other gay couple.  Or that I have her picture on my desk at work.

Maybe this is an opportunity to generate a new sense of space and community.

To be fair, the article missed some pretty big things, namely the Dyke March and Celebrate the Night.  It missed the queer performance events and the queer arts scene almost completely.  It completely missed the Burghosphere.

It also missed the ongoing tension between gay men and lesbians over power and control of LGBTQ resources.  This dynamic is at play whether its bar owners complaining about lesbians who drink water all night or the debate about the misanthropic content of drag queen shows. 

The sidebar article sums up why this piece was not a hallmark step forward for the lesbians in Pittsburgh.  The editor helpfully included a list of contact information for the events described in the main story, which is especially good for those lesbians in the hinterlands that aren't sure how to go about finding these resources.  Kudos to the Trib.  However, the title of that sidebar?  Where the girls are.

'nuff said.


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  • i think you may have been a little harsh in your criticism of lesbians wanting a club scene, “bar,” as you refered to it, that caters to women. it would be nice to know that there is a place where we can go to dance, and this does not mean that it has to be covered in “smoke soot,” or that we will or need encouragement to consume alcohol, which does not make us alcoholics or nicotine addicts. there are programs for lesbians that unfortunately struggle with those issues. but pittsburgh does, in my opinion, lack an enviroment that is is nice, clean and consistently open, where we may enjoy a women friendly enviroment. i am glad that you and your partner can enjoy the scenarios you discribed, i found the same to be true with my partner, unfortunatley ex-partner now. i have been single for about 8 months and have only recently felt like i maybe interested in dating and meeting other single, or for that matter not single women to network with. honestly, it is tough, i think until you actually find yourself in that position, being a single gay women in the burgh, you really don't understand just how limited your options are. yes, you can, with good intentions rattle of a “list” of events that would enable one to meet other gay women, but schedules, families etc, sometimes make it hard to attend the limited number of such events. it would be nice to have a “bar” to go to when my schedule permits it. just because it is a bar, doesn't make it an unnessary median for women to meet, nor does it make a harmful to women because alcohol is being served, rather than the interpretation that it is encouraged. most if not all of our gay friendly eateries encourage alcohol consumption, wether they advertise as byob or you are asked if you would care for anything from the bar before ordering. so be kind, not all of us want to smoke like fiends or drown ourself in alcohol, but rather sip a nice glass of wine and take in the beautiful sights around us. rlg

  • I think there are two different needs we've identified — having something to do as a lesbian and having a place to be.
    There is plenty to do. It just involves some effort to get the information and then dealing with whatever personal stuff might become a blockage. Easier said than done, I realize, but often what keeps us from finding “something to do” is not a lack of opportunity, but something internal.
    The places to be, however, are changing. Today's LGBTQ community is more mixed … especially in the younger generation. So I stick with my claim that the new “lesbian places” look differently than they did 15 years ago. The bars have been replaced by coffee houses, cafes and volunteer programs.
    I didn't do my “gay growing up in a bar so perhaps that's why the nostalgia can annoy me so easily. I like a comfortable gathering place, but my experiences at CJs and Donnys are anything but. I found the “regulars” to be unfriendly and cliquish. CJs was in a locale that subjected women to verbal gay bashing from the locals. They were/are dingy. But I didn't want to be there so that probably taints my perspective.
    I recognize that not everyone who would like to visit a bar is a nicotine addicted alcoholic. But truth be told, those are the folks who keep the bar in business. There's no lesbian bar in Pittsburgh b/c the local lesbian community cannot/will not make it financially viable. Hence, the nostalgia.
    You can sip a nice glass of wine as the Square Cafe in Regent Square and enjoy lots of beautiful sites, plus a great meal with some entertainment on the weekends. You can sip a nice glass of wine at most Art from Chaos events which are packed with sisters. You can sip a nice glass of wine at the Hardwood summer concerts (albeit surreptitiously) which also pack in the lesbians. GLENDA, the volunteering organization, even has wine tastings! You can sip wine at the Ava Lounge.
    I guarantee there is an opportunity to sip wine in the company of lesbians every weekend of the year. It's the location that changes.
    I didn't mean to offend all bar attendees. I didn't mean to offend any of them. It is the industries that produce alcohol and tobacco and those who make a profit selling vast quantities that I want to offend. Lesbians are a specific target audience and have much higher rates of addiction to both substances than heterosexual women. That's a very big problem and has everything to do with hiding out in bars to escape the reality of being a lesbian in today's world versus spending your weekend packing food at the food bank and getting to know some really nice ladies you might want to hang out with. We are being preyed upon by the industries and the last thing we need to do is create new venues for the battle.

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