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BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING Queer Tourism Promotion and Lesbian Social Space in Greater Philadelphia by Marie Cieri

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BETWEEN

BEING

AND

LOOKING


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BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING

Queer Tourism Promotion and Lesbian Social Space in Greater Philadelphia

by Marie Cieri

Previous page: Social space mapped by 50-year-old single lesbian, resident of Philadelphia© Production, layout, images, text and design by Marie Cieri, 2003.



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PHILADELPHIA:

THE PLACE THAT LOVES YOU BACK

THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE

AND SISTERLY AFFECTION

1995 Two gay men working at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) realize that the gay and lesbian travel market is "largely untapped" by their own city and other municipal tourism promoters. The CVB has already launched its "Philadelphia: The Place That Loves You Back" campaign, and these two staff members feel there is clearly a place for the queer niche in this message. They also perceive that Philadelphia can make its mark by being one of the first cities (beyond such queer tourist meccas as San Francisco and Amsterdam) to actively seek the gay and lesbian travel market.

1996 The CVB has been moving into niche marketing anyway, and the two men are able to convince the bureau's president to send them to Sydney to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) convention to pitch the idea of the Philadelphia CVB hosting it next year. (One of the men says "There is a good group of people here [at the CVB], and to them it's business as business. Money is green, it all looks the same.”) At the convention, the two men perform a 15-minute skit, "Driving Miss Crazy," which simulates a gay tour through their city. The IGLTA says, ok, we will come to Philadelphia next year.


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1997 The IGLTA meets in Philadelphia at the Doubletree Hotel for four days in May. The attendees tour around the city as well. They have a package-deal

option of staying on for Pridefest, one of the largest gay and lesbian arts, entertainment and commercial gatherings in the nation. Grey Line Tours of Philadelphia inaugurates a three-day/two-night package for queer visitors to Philadelphia. (It is offered only for a year because of lack of business.) Some Philadelphia hotels (e.g., the Alexander Inn) take on the queer market. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), which was established last year with funding from the city, state and Pew Charitable Trusts, joins the CVB in making queer tourism one of the keystones of its marketing campaign. The CVB and the GPTMC publish the first of two editions of "The Gay Guide to Center City Philadelphia," a map and index of the "places of interest of [sic.] the gay traveler: restaurants, bars and clubs, shopping, theaters, network and community information, transportation, historic and cultural sites, museums and galleries, hotel accommodations." (There are also erotica vendors, a bank, religious groups, gyms, hair salons, gay and general interest bookstores, support groups and hotlines listed.) The guide is distributed free at the city's Visitors Center at 16th and John F. Kennedy Blvd. and by phone request.

  • 1998 The CVB "decreases its work in this marketplace," and this seems to be due to the fact that one of the men who initiated the campaign leaves his job and is replaced by a straight woman who doesn't completely carry on the work. The GPTMC, however, becomes more active in promoting Philadelphia to queer consumers, especially in running ads about Philadelphia in national and regional queer publications, including The Advocate.

  • 1999 The second, updated version of “The Gay Guide” is published by the CVB and the GPTMC. The Advocate runs a short story on Philadelphia as one of the older albeit upstart cities in the US that are aggressively entering the gay tourism market. The Philadelphia Gay News also publishes an article about mainstream promotion of Philadelphia as a queer tourism destination. The remaining gay staffer at the CVB admits that there is little way of knowing what effect the city's promotion of Philadelphia as the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has had on queer visitation or income generation. For the people trying to count, it's usually hard to tell who's queer and who's not, though some polling has been attempted at the airport and at some of the hotels. "The gay and lesbian market is difficult to gauge, as is the domestic market in general," he says. In December, the CVB and the GPTMC were focusing on promotion of Philadelphia’s 2000 Pridefest, especially since it was set to occur immediately after the queer Millennium March in nearby Washington, DC. The GPTMC website highlights Pridefest; Pride Day; “The Gay Guide”; the Philadelphia Gay News; Giovanni's Room gay and lesbian bookstore; the William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center; Millennium Coffee; Afterwords bookstore; the 12th Street Gym; and the mainstays of "Nighttime Philadelphia" as places and resources the queer tourist shouldn't miss in Philadelphia.1


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We realized that there were various niche markets we could reach out to, and we considered the gay and lesbian market to be one that we could let know that this is a very friendly and welcoming place. There's a lot to do in Philadelphia in general, and then there are also many specific gay-friendly places to visit.

Karen Lewis

Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

Philadelphia Gay News,

July 16-22, 1999

Some metropolises, such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles, are long known as meccas for gay tourists. But increasingly other cities are drawing on their own rich gay heritages to lure visitors....Philadelphia has also been aggressive in portraying itself as a must-see destination....The city is trying to convince gay people that the city's new tourism motto, "The Place That Loves You Back," applies to them too.

The Advocate

July 20, 1999

Site 81, Millennium Coffee

Site 81, Millennium Coffee

There are 139 sites shown within two square miles on the CVB and GPTMC 1999 “Gay Guide” map: 66 restaurants; 2 coffee houses; 13 bars/clubs (2 more in nearby New Hope, PA); 23 hotels/inns/b&bs; 16 shopping/service sites; 11 theaters; 6 “erotica” sites; 1 bank, 2 community centers; 1 gay and lesbian bookstore; 2 general bookstores; 3 gyms; and 2 hair salons. There are also lists of religious groups, support groups, the gay press and a lawyer and a travel agent.


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BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING reach out to, and we considered the gay and lesbian market to be one that we could let know that this is a very friendly and welcoming place. There's a lot to do in Philadelphia in general, and then there are also many specific gay-friendly places to visit.

QUEER GUIDES PROMOTE QUEER SPACE

TO QUEER TOURISTS

Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA

Fodor’s gay city and regional guides

Damron Women’s Traveller

Access: Gay USA

Ferrari guides

Damron Road Atlas

Damron accommodations

the Virago guides

etc.

The Damron Women’s Traveller is one of only a few travel guides written for queer women and is purportedly the most widely used guide of its kind in the United States.


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  • Every time we get another letter like some of those quoted below, we're reminded of what an important resource The Women's Traveller is for thousands of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women worldwide, both for travellers and those in search of community!

  • Gina M. Gatta, President, Damron Company

  • ...Used this guide to find B&Bs in cities

  • where I am interviewing for medical school - - absolutely invaluable! Chock full of friends I I haven’t met.

  • P.R-H.

  • This is my 5th edition. We take it with us

  • everywhere. It's the only one we use.

  • Shirley B.

  • This is the most comprehensive guide

  • I've seen -- this is fabulous!

  • Vicki R.

  • We usually buy [another lesbian travel

  • guide]. Not happy with the latest issue,

  • so we decided to give you a try -- We're

  • very pleased.

  • B.J. & Kim C.2


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ENTERTAINMENT and RECREATION...BOOKSTORES... below, we're reminded of what an important resource

RETAIL SHOPS...PUBLICATIONS...SPIRITUAL GROUPS...

ACCOMMODATIONS...BARS...CAFES...RESTAURANTS...

GYMS AND HEALTH CLUBS...EROTICA

gym, gay/straight, wheelchair access, gay-owned/run, $79-129, gay-friendly, 1820s townhouse in heart of gay community, full brkfast, $65 and up, gay friendly, kids ok, gay-friendly, gay-friendly, IGLTA, gay/straight, on Society Hill, full brkfst, smokefree, $100 and up, 30 miles out of town, gay-friendly, full brkfst, smokefree, older kids ok (call first), gay-friendly, gay-friendly, food served, gay/straight, located in city center near museums, gay-owned/run, $95-195, gay-friendly, suites, quiet retreat in the heart of the city, gay-friendly, swimming, full bar, wheelchair access, gay-friendly, kids ok, IGLTA, $95-145, popular, mostly gay men, live shows, videos, also restaurant, closed Sun., mostly gay men, neighborhood bar, lesbians/gay men, lesbians/gay men, dancing/DJ, live shows, piano bar, also restaurant, dinner Wed. - Sun., Sun. brunch, wheelchair access, gay-friendly, live shows, also restaurant, clsd Sun.-Mon., gay-friendly, neighborhood bar, lesbians/gay men, dancing/DJ wknds, piano bar, food served, mostly gay men, neighborhood bar, food served, wheelchair access, popular, mostly gay men, dancing/DJ, country/western, dance lessons, 18+ Wed, videos Mon, cover charge some nights, food served, wheelchair access, from midnight Mon-Th, call for wknd hours, mostly gay men, dancing/DJ, private club, cover charge, popular, mostly gay men, 4 flrs, dancing/DJ, leather (very leather-women-friendly), home bar of 'Female Trouble', live bands Sun, more gay Sun, gay-friendly, dancing/DJ, drag shows, cover charge, mostly gay men, dancing/DJ, African-American clientele, also Sun at 1415 Locust, scheduled parties for women by women, call for times & locations, mostly gay men, dancing/DJ, private club, gay-friendly, dancing/DJ, 3 flrs, private club, more gay Fri, mostly women, dancing/DJ, live shows, karaoke, also restaurant, $9 and less, wheelchair access, gay/straight, cabaret theater & restaurant, shows Fri-Sat, 24 hrs, open till midnight, some veggie, full bar, Sun brunch from 10:30 am, full bar, woman-owned/run, $9-17, Jewish deli, lunch & dinner, Sun brunch, full bar, live jazz wknds, $10-16, live shows, healthy American, some veggie, full bar, $6-15, lunch & dinner, bar till 12:30 am, lunch and dinner, some veggie, full bar, $5-12, 24 hrs, popular after-hours, $5-7, lunch & dinner, BYOB, gay-owned, run, lunch, dinner and Sun brunch upscale dining, dinner, some veggie, full bar, wheelchair access, $12-18, lunch and dinner, full bar, $7-18, 'weekly half-hour TV show produced by lesbians, for lesbians, not just 1 day but 1 week of lesbigay pride, lesbigay radio, the last home of America's great & controversial poet, just across the Delaware River, call for hours, open daily, popular, lesbigay/feminist bookstore, Infinite Body Piercing, Thrift for Aids, Travelers Emporium, lesbigay newspaper, women's newspaper, lesbigay newspaper, pastoral counseling available, gay-friendly, safer sex materials, toys, gay/straight, gym, wheelchair access, gay-owned/run, $79-129, gay-friendly, 1820s townhouse in heart of gay community, full brkfast, $65 and up, gay friendly, kids ok, gay-friendly, gay-friendly, IGLTA, gay/straight, on Society Hill, full brkfst, smokefree, $100 and up, 30 miles out of town, gay-friendly, full brkfst, smokefree, older kids ok (call first), gay-friendly, gay-friendly, food served, gay/straight, located in city center near museums, gay-owned/run, $95-195, gay-friendly, suites, quiet retreat in the heart of the city, gay-friendly, swimming, full bar, wheelchair access, gay-friendly, kids ok, IGLTA, $95-145, popular, mostly gay men, live shows, videos, also restaurant, closed Sun., pastoral counseling available, just across the Delaware River, women’s newspaper, call for hours, till 7p.m. Sun., Body Piercing, lesbigay newspaper, gay-friendly, open daily, all colors, safer sex materials, live jazz wknds, by lesbians, for lesbians, Sun brunch, some veggie, full bar, women-owned, popular after-hours, upscale, lesbigay pride, our map, 30 miles out of town, smokefree, call first, near museums, gay/straight, cover charge, popular, wheelchair access, scheduled parties, gay-owned/run, some veggies, in the heart of gay community, gay-friendly, $100 & up, lesbigay/transgender support/social services, call for mtg schedule, gay-themed and adult videos, newsletter, on Society Hill, $79-129, gym, kids ok, gay-friendly, food served, quiet retreat, karaoke, private club, more gay Fri., cabaret theater and restaurant, piano bar, call for times & locations, drag shows, swimming, full bar, African-American clientele, cover charge some nights, located in city center, 24 hrs., mostly gay men, dancing/DJ, scheduled parties for women by women, live shows, dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., dance lessons, healthy American, popular, the voice of Philadelphia’s Vibrant Gayborhood, out, BYOB, toys, pastoral counseling available, women’s spirituality fest, support groups, workshops, $10-20, latest lesbian bestseller, women’s dance bar, gay/lesbian film, gay-friendly, full bar, 18+, lunch and dinner, country/western, mostly gay men, private club, dancing/DJ,


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BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING below, we're reminded of what an important resource

A LESBIAN TOURIST GOES TO PHILADELPHIA


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NOTES: below, we're reminded of what an important resource


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NOTES: below, we're reminded of what an important resource


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Itinerary below, we're reminded of what an important resource

Friday, 12/3/99

11 a.m. Interview with Philadelphia lesbian

1 p.m. Interview with Philadelphia lesbian

2 to 5:30 p.m. Phone calls, touring the city

6 p.m. Interview with Philadelphia bisexual woman

7:30 to 9 p.m. Lesbian book reading at Giovanni’s Room bookstore

9 to 10:30 p.m. Touring the city

Saturday, 12/4/99

10:30 a.m. Interview with Philadelphia lesbian

1 p.m. Interview with lesbian who grew up in Philadelphia and recently

returned

2:30 to 4 p.m. Phone calls, touring the city

4 p.m. Interview with Philadelphia lesbian

5:30 to 10 p.m. Touring the city

10 p.m. Sisters nightclub and Ladies 2000 dance party at the 2-4 Club

Sunday, 12/5/99

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone calls, touring the city

2 p.m. Interview with Philadelphia lesbian

3:30 to 5 p.m. Touring the city

5 p.m. Interview with 4 lesbians, two from the city, two from the suburbs

6 p.m. Touring the city

7 p.m. Movie at the William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender

Community Center

9 p.m. Interview with suburban lesbian

Monday, 12/6/99

10 a.m. Interview with Convention and Visitors Bureau staff member

11:30 a.m. to Touring the city

1:30 p.m.


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NOTES: below, we're reminded of what an important resource

Sisters, the only women’s bar/dance club in Philadelphia


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An alley in the part of Center City “where the girls are”

-- Damron Women’s Traveller

Woody’s bar in Center City. Clientele is mostly gay men. Listed in both “The Gay Guide” and Damron Women’s Traveller.


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Sightings: are”

Friday (all Center City; mostly went to places listed in the guides)

12:45 p.m.: Lesbian crossing the street with another woman, 7th and Chestnut.

3 p.m.: Lesbian couple eating late lunch in Reading Market.

4:30 p.m.: Young lesbian gave me the eye when she came into Spruce Street Video,

listed in “The Gay Guide” as an “erotica” site. (There was also a nun in the store.)

5:30 – 6 p.m.: William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. A fair number of gay men. One lesbian (maybe).

6 - 7:15 p.m.: None in the Doubletree Hotel, where I was doing an interview.

7:30 – 9 p.m.: About eight lesbians at reading at Giovanni’s Room gay and lesbian bookstore.

9:30 p.m.: Two very young lesbians with shaved heads at Afterwords book and gift shop.

10 - 10:30 p.m.: None at Millennium Coffee.

Picked up Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) inside Reading Market. Other newspaper drop box sighted at 12th and Spruce.

Saturday (Center City, Olde City and Rittenhouse Square)

None in the jewelry district where I had an interview in the morning.

1 p.m.: Saw none at Xando coffee house except the woman I was interviewing.

3 p.m.: Saw one lesbian (maybe) at 5th and Market.

3:15 p.m.: Four lesbians, two holding hands, on 2nd St. just north of Market.

4 p.m.: Saw none at the pizza place across from Giovanni’s Room where I did an interview.

5:30 p.m. – Saw two on Broad St. north of South St.

More PGN boxes: 9th and Chestnut, 9th and Spruce, South and 8th.

6:15 pm – No one in the Waldorf Cafe

6:30 – 7:30: Judy’s Cafe. Lesbian-owned. Holds about 50. One lesbian couple, but maybe not. A lot of gay men, including those who work there. Two lesbian couples came in later.

8 - 10 pm: None on the street in Center City or in Rittenhouse Square

10 - 10:30 p.m. Only a handful at the Ladies 2000 party at the 2-4 Club. A few more at Sisters (too early for a crowd?).


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Sunday are” (Mt. Airy, Germantown and Center City)

Noon to 2 p.m.: none seen in Mt. Airy or Germantown.

4:30 p.m.: One coming out of William Way Center. None in the lobby, though.

4:30 p.m.: One shaved, tattooed young lesbian on Spruce St., near William Way.

4:30 p.m.: Four lesbians sitting together in the Cheap Art Cafe. Lots of tattoos and piercings.

4:45 p.m.: Four more lesbians walk into the Cheap Art with four kids.

None anywhere else, driving around to find parking or taking photos in the gay district

8 pm: One at the William Way movie. No others in the public areas of the building.

Monday

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: None sighted in Center City.

The William WayL/G/B/T Center


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If one were to completely believe what’s in “The Gay Guide” and the Women’s Traveller, one would expect to see dozens of lesbians at all hours and days of the week in the streets and establishments of Center City. 139 sites on “The Gay Guide” map and 87 listings in the Women’s Traveller! A field day for the lesbian tourist. But being and looking in Philadelphia for four days in December 1999 was a bit disappointing when measured against the boosterism of my two guides of choice. I did see queer women and went to a few establishments and events that cater to them, but, in truth, the sightings were sparse, and I didn’t especially feel that I was in lesbian space except, perhaps, when I was at Sisters nightclub or at the 2-4 club, but there weren’t a lot of “sisters” at the time in those places.

One of the things I found out is that “The Gay Guide” and map is the work of one gay man and a very subjective one at that. He alone identifies the sites he thinks to include, visiting them to make sure they still qualify as gay space before putting together new editions of the guide. So, at this point, mainstream promotion of queer space is being shepherded by the CVB and GPTMC through the work of gay men and straight women. Little wonder, then, that I didn’t see many queer women at sites I visited that are listed in “The Gay Guide.”


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The Women’s Traveller Guide” and the was a little better, pointing out some floating “sites” that are said to be important to queer women, like the Ladies 2000 parties or Dyke TV or Sisterspace, which, among other things, sponsors an annual weekend in the Poconos for queer women. But in other ways it was as off the mark to me, the lesbian tourist, as “The Gay Guide.” It’s the boosterism of it, I think, as well as the focus on party girls and what appears to be a small bar scene -- the latter just covers a slice of lesbian and bisexual consciousness. But, what do I expect? Both the Women’s Traveller and “The Gay Guide” are essentially promoters of commercial activities within a queer framework, not necessarily geographers of multifaceted lesbian lives. That’s why they focus on Center City Philadelphia to the exclusion of other parts of the city where lesbians might live and work.

(Then again, following a tip from a friend who lives in Lancaster, PA, I visited the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, said to be a real center of lesbian life in the city. Didn’t see one women that I’d guess was a lesbian. Could it be true that

LESBIANS ARE INVISIBLE

-- many people

Well, I think it’s more a matter of not knowing where to look.)


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Greater Philadelphia: Superimposed Maps Guide” and the

by Six Lesbian and Bisexual Women

29-year-old lesbian who grew up in Philadelphia, recently moved back, has a partner.

37-year-old lesbian who has lived in Philadelphia all her life. Her girlfriend is in Brooklyn.

Single lesbian in her late 40s, lifelong Philadelphia resident.

33-year old single lesbian, lives in the suburbs, comes to the city several times a week.

Middle-aged lesbian with a partner, Philadelphia resident for many years (used to live nearby in NJ).

59-year-old lesbian with a partner, lifelong resident.

Places in memory, no longer exist.

BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING


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Center City Philadelphia: Superimposed Maps Guide” and the

By Eight Lesbian and Bisexual Women

29-year-old lesbian who grew up in Philadelphia, recently moved back, has a partner.

30-year-old suburban lesbian, has a partner

26-year-old urban lesbian with a girlfriend

23-year-old urban lesbian with a girlfriend

Single lesbian in her late 40s, lifelong Philadelphia resident

21-year-old partnered, suburban lesbian

Middle-aged lesbian with a partner, Philadelphia resident for many years (used to live nearby in NJ).

33-year old single lesbian, lives in the suburbs, comes to the city several times a week.

Places in memory, no longer exist.


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I interviewed 12 lesbians and bisexual women over the long weekend. I also asked them to illustrate their ideas about queer space on maps of the city that I provided. Some made notations while they were talking, while others later drew summaries of what they had just spoken about. These are composites of what the 12 mapped for the city and environs as well as for subareas they clearly viewed as more lesbian than others.

AND SOME QUOTES:

There are lesbians everywhere. Maybe not North Philly, butfriends otherwise everywhere.

In Center City, there is no place where they don’t live.

There are lesbians living in Center City, and they are more scattered than the men, who tend to be lumped together east of Broad, between Spruce and Pine, around the gay bars. Lesbians live wherever they feel like.

Mt. Airy, Center City and West Philly are the places.

Mt. Airy has lots of lesbians, but it’s almost the suburbs, so you wouldn’t necessarily see lesbians if you went there.

At the coop in Mt. Airy, about half the members are lesbians.

I only know one lesbian in Northeast Philly, which is very white and conservative.

I wanted to live near Center City because it’s a happening area and an okay area to be gay. I wanted to be near things going on, and Germantown is just too far -- I would have to commute to activities.

The typical thing is that you’d meet a girlfriend in West Philly, move to Mt. Airy in your mid- or late 30s, and have kids.

The gayborhood (between Walnut and Locust and Pine between 11th or 12th or 13th and Broad) means to include women. That’s where the preponderance of clubs and bars is. I’ve seen gay men there.

Men have a better financial position. That’s why they’re more visible, always have a voice.

There are gay-friendly bars and restaurants on Germantown Ave. in West Mt. Airy, but I don’t go often because it’s a hike. A tourist would have to drive. It’s closer to go to Jersey.

“You’ll see a million lesbians there.” Well, seeing them is probably not the word, but I perceive that they’re there. The lesbians [where] I work [in Mt. Airy] talk about the lesbian things they do in the area. They tend to be older than me, more settled, a little more family-oriented, have children. They do lots of outdoorsy things, sports things, which I’m not into.

All my friends live in the suburbs. But I would never live there. The suburbs have no culture. I want to go to the opera, ballet, great restaurants, bookstores. If I lived outside the city, I would go to Jersey. Some places, like Collingswood [NJ], have a huge gay and lesbian community, lots of gay-owned restaurants.


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Lesbian-friendly space in Center City has expanded over time. I see more women being affectionate on the street, young ones walking arm in arm. I never felt uncomfortable with my girlfriend in Center City or West Philly.

My girlfriend doesn’t see lesbians, though she sees a lot of gay men. She wants to know where they are.

I’m out everywhere down here [Center City], meeting and dating women. I mostly am here because of homophobia elsewhere. After the Matthew Shepherd incident...it’s really a question of safety.

I like to hold hands with my girlfriend when we go out wandering. In Boston, we did it whenever we felt like it. I’m very sensitive here to where and when to drop her hand. We don’t do it in our own neighborhood. It doesn’t feel friendly to that.

I can’t remember the last time I went to a lesbian bar. I’ve never been to Sisters.

Except for Sisters, I’m not aware of going to any place that seemed particularly lesbian to me.

We went to Sisters one night and it wasn’t very crowded. We went to dance, but there were only three people on the dance floor, so we drank and checked people out.

There used to be more women’s space. There’s not one place I can think of now, except maybe Sisters.

Sisters is owned by a man.

I don’t like to meet people in clubs. I’m not a drinker. So I stopped going to them.

I’m not much of a bar-goer. I mostly met people through political activities, and then through friends that I made. I had a pretty extensive network. It’s smaller now. People move, and it’s harder to make friends when you’re older.

Dancing and socializing in a club here doesn’t have any attraction for me. The lesbian community is really small, very white. There’s not the music I want to dance to. I have no problem keeping company with white women, but if I want to party, that’s not where I would go.

I just want a shot and beer bar, but it’s not like that anymore.

I read in the Philadelphia weekly last week that two of the best gay and lesbian bars are up here [just north of Center City] -- Shampoo and the Palmer Social Club. But I can’t find them....I go to bed early anyhow.

I never go to the William Way Center.

I haven’t been to the William Way Center, but it’s on my agenda. Just to check it out.

Sometimes I go to Giovanni’s Room. Women go there pretty much.

You can probably see lesbians at Giovanni’s Room, but I don’t hang out there. Lesbian books and music bore me.

Giovanni’s Room used to be more of a community space than a store.


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I’ve been to Judy’s. My perception of it was gay male, though I was told it’s a lesbian hangout.

I’ve seen the CVB map. I probably threw it away.

There are more places to meet people now than there were five to seven years ago, more organized functions: the Gay Pride Parade, National Coming Out Day, Pridefest. A lot of people go.

I don’t know many lesbians here.

I pick up the papers, but every time I do I say, “Why bother?”

Here, people socialize more in their homes.

When we socialize, we usually go out to dinner.

This is a very segregated town. There’s conservativism that exists in the bricks. In Olde City, you see those cobblestones. It emanates from there.

I socialize where my friends live, and I go to the movies and to dinner, like everyone else does. That’s typical of people my age.

We hang out in restaurants more than bars because you can actually talk.

Sometimes I see some lesbians. Not in any particular place, maybe pumping gas. It’s nice, refreshing.

Not that much in our lives is that specifically queer or lesbian. We’ve been together 18 years -- we’re not out looking for anything.

Lots of things happen in churches. It’s intermittent, depending on how liberal the pastor is.

The Reconstructionist Seminary turns out more lesbian rabbis than anywhere.

It has to do with our age. I used to love to go out and play pool.

When I’m not working, I do most of my hanging out in New York. The community is much bigger and spaced out. Different women into different things. And my lover is there.

Hanging around with gays and lesbians is not a focus of our lives.

Social life for lesbians here is made up of lots of circles of friends that overlap to some degree. There’s not that much public stuff going on anymore, so it might be hard to be here without having a circle of friends.

I don’t have that many lesbian friends here. Over the years, it has solidified into a few. The older you get, the more limited your time and patience. There’s no room for you.

When I was coming out, the group houses were important for social and political activity. Younger lesbians are just not that political now.

I would guess you’d see some at the gay community center. I went twice. It just seemed like support groups and therapy and...[sigh]...I’ve really stopped looking.


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NW Philadelphia and Center City: though I was told it’s a lesbian hangout.

Superimposed Maps By Three Lesbians

45-year-old single lesbian, longtime Philadelphia resident

50-year-old single lesbian, longtime Philadelphia resident

59-year-old lesbian with a partner, lifelong resident.

Places in memory, no longer exist.

BETWEEN BEING AND LOOKING


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Hepburn’s_Sneakers_Mamselle’s Gatsby’s_upstairs at the 2-4 Club_ restaurant in Germantown

South St._Rodz_Backstage_Dee’s Hepburn’s

Hepburn’s_Catacombs_Smart Place

A Space_Movement for a New Society lesbian collective households_women’s coffeehouse at Calvary Church women’s night at Mermaid Bar Alexandria’s Bookstore_bookstore on South Street_the bookstore at 11th and Pine_black bar at 54th and Chestnut_women’s center in Germantown_women’s school at Calvary Church

“There aren’t as many places as there used to be. In the early ‘80s, when I first came out, there were four women’s bars. There was a big one in Cherry Hill then too. Now there’s just Sisters.”

“If you say lesbian space to me, my mind goes back -- to Sneakers, for example.”

“Dee’s on South St. between 4th and 5th was the best women’s bar in the city. Dee was adamant that women should feel safe in her bar, so she had private security. You could walk in by yourself or with a huge party of people, but then South St. got rougher, and she couldn’t keep up with the money needed for security.”

“Rodz used to have a club, and a year or two ago it had an all-women night with a female DJ. It had a very different feel -- not a pick-up kind of thing.”

“I used to go dancing at Hepburn’s and at a lot of men’s clubs because the music was much better...and I never felt isolated at a men’s club.”

“There was a great place called the Catacombs at 12th and Walnut in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It was an after-hours club in the basement, no sign outside. The music was really good, started at midnight and went until 6 or 7. Then the building was sold and it closed.”

“’A’ Space in West Philly was an anarchist hangout. Then there was Movement for a New Society, also in West Philly, and a lot of collective lesbian households.There was a women’s coffeehouse in Calvary Church that operated for 17 years. They had a women’s school there too. Several women’s bookstores have come and gone -- Alexandria’s was on Chestnut around 21st, there was one on South and another at 11th and Pine. None of them were open more than three or four years, and the last one closed five years ago.”


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  • 1 the 2-4 Club_ restaurant in Germantown Most of this information came from an interview with Christopher Guidone of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau on December 6, 1999. Supplementary information was taken from 1999 articles in The Advocate and the Philadelphia Gay News and from the GPTMC website at http://www. gophila.com.

2 excerpts from the 1999 Damron Women’s Traveller, inside cover, published by the Damron Company, Inc., San Francisco

3 Ibid., p. 380.

All maps, drawings and photographs except those on pp. 1,22,23,27 are by Marie Cieri.

“Between Being and Looking: Queer Tourism Promotion and Lesbian Social Space in Greater Philadelphia” ©2003 Marie Cieri

A fuller, clearer picture, composed from 12 different points of view. Memories from some of the older women, and echoes of what we might hear from lesbians in any other town. Maybe bars and clubs are not the important landmarks of lesbian social space that they used to be. Maybe lesbian social space is much more diffuse and multifaceted than it was in the past. Or perhaps it has been this way for a long time. Maybe lives that are outlined by one identity out of many defy spatial definition when the question is asked. And it’s all in flux anyway.

For the CVB, “it’s business as business,” calling for solid definitions in commercial space. For queer women, residents and tourists alike, it is more about being as well as looking in spaces without clear bounds that are continually changing.

Where the girls are?

Maybe here (for now):


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