In a city with a solid track record for lesbian nightlife, and a large lesbian population, it’s worth asking — why are there no lesbian bars in Montreal? What kind of social spaces do we want and need right now?Before delving in, I should clarify what exactly I mean by “lesbian.” The traditional answer is “homosexual women,” but lesbian is and has been a contested identity category for decades.
In light of the transphobic views on the word lesbian that exist, I would like to state clearly that trans women are women, and that when I use the word woman throughout this article I am referring to trans women as well as cisgender women.
Lesbian is a self-claimed identity which can be claimed along with a variety of others, and many people choose not to use it. Or the countless marginalized women organizing everyday for our lives?
Still, they were the first spaces of lesbian social visibility, and a critical space of empowerment and collective identity building for working class lesbians.
In the 1992 documentary by Lynne Fernie & Aerlyn Weissman, interviewee Nairobi recalls being one of the only black women (and indeed women of colour) in lesbian bars at this time, while there were many more black women in straight clubs.
There is a certain strand of lesbian culture that flourished in the 1960s-80s which was, and continues to be, mostly white, cis-normative and sometimes blatantly transphobic, and which therefore left many queer women and trans and non-binary people out of its communities and political movements.