Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lesbians! Wacky, Wacky Lesbians!

 Well I did my research, wrote my story, and found out a number of very interesting facts!

1. I was living in the middle of Lesbian Central back in the day. Southeast Portland, man.  All the co-operatives, the communes, the all-gal apartment houses, the bars, the church, everything!  There I was like "I need a beer and a lez'bean!"  And I was knee deep in the things!  The reason I did not realize it was because...

2. The lesbian community was so ridiculously fractured and political and insular that it was more like an archipelago of warring islands than it was a community.  I lived in 'Blue Collar, Prison Record Land, which explains a lot. Up the next couple of blocks was 'Total Separatist Land'. Up past them was 'Pacifist Co-Op Lipstick Land'. Over another few blocks and you were in 'Lets All Live In An Undifferentiated Heap And Eat Brown Rice Land'. Then there was the "Butch As Fuck' apartments and the 'Indian Print Fabrics and Weaving' duplexes. There was one Womens' bookstore and a Food Co-op in the middle of this area (naturally) and they were cruisy in the afternoons, but everyone generally stuck close to home and went to their own bar and store and seldom ventured further.

3. The gay guys all did their thing across the river, and they did it better than the ladies. 

 Downtown Portland is divided into four parts, unlike Gaul, which is divided into three parts. 

North and South are divided by Burnside Avenue, and East and West are divided by the Willamette River.  In the Seventies, the Northwest and Southwest side of downtown was the wealthy white educated area, and the East Side was everybody else plus Lez'beans.  

On the Northwest side,  around the Flatiron Block, and straggling down North of Burnside Avenue were the awesome gay bars (and some freaky ones too, like JR's Cell.)  If you wanted to go out and you were gay and female, you had two choices (if you were me) - go to your local, listen to Hall and Oates, and hang out with grouchy unemployed women who didn't read  -  or go alllllllll the way across the river, and then head waaaaaaay north, to the Pink Triangle, as it was unfortunately called, and go to the fun bars with the good music, where the bathrooms were actually clean, and there wasn't a huge dyke standing by the door making sure you didn't spend too much time in there.  Yeah, that was still done.

This cleared up a lot for me.  I knew that there were a lot of politics going on - and I mean a lotta a lotta politics, all strident, but I simply wasn't meant to live up to the ridiculously strict rules that every little tiny faction upheld.

4. There was another, scary reason that the ladies were so clannish.  You'd go into another neighborhoods' local and get frozen out.  And I'm thinking what the fuck? I'm cute! I'm a fun date!  I'm a blast when I'm out on the town!  So there I was, all butthurt for years wondering what the deal was, until now, I'm sixty, and I find out that the ladies bars were getting jacked up by the police three times as often as the guys were.  They'd send in a female cop and wait for someone to make a move, and then...yeah. And there I was, unfamiliar, not part of the local 'thing' wonder I got the hairy eyeball.  

Well screw you, ladies.  You missed out.  You missed out by two stinkin' inches.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that the minimum height requirement for a woman on the Portland Police Force back then was five feet, seven inches.  I am an adorable little 5-5. So if you're gay and sixty and used to live in Portland, and you saw a girl who looked like Bernadette Peters and dressed like Fred Astaire, that was me, and you shoulda said hi. HMMPF.


anne marie in philly said...

I have been to PDX only once; I had my first starbucks coffee on pioneer square and I got rid of the ex-husband. interesting city history; wonder why the women's bars got raided more often than the men's.

Steve. Because 'Steve' is almost as nice a name as 'Paul'. said...

anne marie in philly: Wow! You've been where I was! When Pioneer Square really was a square of lawn with the Post Office in the middle, surrounded by a beautiful lawn, a couple of trees and a lovely stone retaining wall, I used to sit on that retaining wall and smoke dope! The reason the ladies' bars were more often a target is because that they were an easier target. Less money, less chance of retaliation. It was easier to go up on The Other Side of Midnight (a notorious lesbian dive bar) full of drunk, bummed out women, than it was to go up on JR's Cell (a notorious leather bondage bar full of huge cut and ripped gay men) and chance getting a serious beat down.

Ms Scarlet said...

I don't think we have women's bars in the UK - I don't think we were even allowed in pubs until the 1960's. Of course this is toffee, as I had a great, great Auntie who actually owned a pub in London in the 1800s. History is so distorted.

Steve. Because 'Steve' is almost as nice a name as 'Paul'. said...

I wonder if it might have been a case of meeting at certain houses or clubs before the 'mixed company' pub era. (I read an Elizabethan pamphlet decrying certain groups of women who would attend public events in full male garb, lying on the grass in an unladylike manner, drinking, shouting, trying to pick up girls and engaging in other 'naughty' behaviors!)