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Preserving LGBT History Means Saving These Spaces

Preserving LGBT History Means Saving These Spaces

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Above: San Francisco’s Queer Land-Use Activists (from left): Honey Mahogany, Compton’s District Coalition; Oscar Pineda, the Stud Collective; Aria Sa’id, The Compton’s District Coalition; Mica Sigourney, the Stud Collective; Rachel Ryan, the Leather District Coalition; Nate Allbee, the Legacy Business Foundation

Legacy Business Foundation:

To build on that success and help queer communities beyond San Francisco preserve their culture and history, Allbee has started a nonprofit, the Legacy Business Foundation. “What we are trying to do right now is get ready to spring into action when the next bars are closing and the bars after that, and take what we’ve learned about how to start these worker-owned co-ops — how to negotiate with landlords, how to make sure that the city is providing the support that these legacy businesses deserve—and start saving these bars and restaurants on a citywide scale.”

LGBT culture and history, Allbee believes, is under assault. Not from blind economic forces, but from the machinations of an industry that often sees LGBT spaces as a barrier to their bottom line — realtors associations and for-profit developers. “In some ways there is a concerted and orchestrated effort to work against minority neighborhoods and business districts,” says Allbee. “To realtors and developers minority businesses are often seen as blight. A gay bar or a Latino venue where Latin music is being played or a bar that’s a historic place for African-Americans to congregate: They think they bring down the value of a neighborhood, just by their existence.”

“We’re really in a war with developers and realtors on how to define our historic neighborhoods. We want to keep them queer and realtors want to turn them into whatever will make the most money.” Allbee points to the realtors’ maps used to sell property in San Francisco. “They’ve completely removed the Castro and even Chinatown from their maps. It’s like they’re hoping that people will just forget we were ever there.”

“We need to be legislatively protecting our historic neighborhoods — and that’s dense, complicated work. We want to be a resource to help other queer communities in other cities do that work. And as a national and worldwide community, we need to be investing our money into helping queer non-profits acquire land in our neighborhoods.”

That work is essential, Albee argues, because “queer people don’t just want community, we need community. If you stay in the suburbs, if you stay in cities that are predominantly straight, sure you’ll find tolerance — maybe acceptance — but you’ll always be that gay sidekick who dies first in the horror movie. If you find your community, you can actually be the star.”

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