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The Vanishing Act of Queer Third Spaces: A Reflection on Our Disappearing Sanctuaries

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Jan 11, 2024

The Vanishing Act of Queer Third Spaces: A Reflection on Our Disappearing Sanctuaries

Growing up in the sprawling suburbs of San Diego, my idea of community spaces was limited to shopping malls and the occasional Starbucks. It wasn’t until my move to the bustling streets of New York City that I stumbled upon what I’d later understand as ‘Third Spaces’ – those communal realms that exist outside our homes and workplaces. Yet, even in this urban paradise, I noticed a disturbing trend: our queer sanctuaries are vanishing, swallowed up by the ever-churning machine of late-stage capitalism and its allies.

As a child of the suburbs and now a New Yorker, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the dynamics of suburbanization and commercialization erode these crucial spaces. In the suburbs, isolation is spatial; communities are fragmented, with commercial areas often segregated from residential ones. This division starves the potential for organic third spaces where people can naturally gather and interact.

But don’t be fooled – the urban landscape, despite its density and diversity, is not immune to these losses. The culprit? A relentless tide of gentrification and commercialization, hallmarks of late-stage capitalism. These forces transform our neighborhoods but often at the cost of small, community-focused businesses – the very entities that traditionally nurture third spaces.

In cities like New York, the trend is glaring. LGBTQIA+ bars, once the heartbeat of queer social life, are increasingly rare, victims of skyrocketing rents and the omnipresence of big-box retailers and chain establishments. These spaces, which once offered a haven for expression and connection, are being replaced by homogenized, commercial entities. The result? A profound loss of unique, culturally significant third spaces.

The digital age, with its online platforms and social media, promises connection but often delivers isolation. We’re building networks in the digital ether, but at the cost of physical, tangible community spaces. The irony is stark – in a world more connected than ever, our physical spaces for genuine interaction are dwindling.

This loss is more than just a sentimental nod to the past. It’s a critical issue for the well-being and cohesion of queer communities. These third spaces are not just venues; they are sanctuaries where we can exist without the masks we wear in other areas of our lives. They are where our culture, history, and identities are celebrated and preserved.

As someone who has worked with HER for a year now, I’ve seen the hunger for connection and community in the sapphic world. Our digital platforms can start the conversation, but they cannot replace the irreplaceable – the warmth of a shared space, the solidarity of a community, the vibrant pulse of a culture lived and breathed in person.

The vanishing of these spaces is a call to action. We must recognize the value of third spaces, not just as amenities but as vital components of our social fabric, particularly for marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community. It’s time to resist the forces that threaten these spaces, to champion local businesses, fight against gentrification, and advocate for inclusive, diverse urban planning.

Our third spaces are more than just buildings; they are the soul of our communities. Let’s work to save them, for our present and our future.

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Taylor Gobar is the indomitable force behind HER's marketing strategy. Hailing from sunny San Diego, CA, Taylor's heart is set on Berlin, a city that pulsates with progressive values and politics. But for now, you'll find them shaking things up in the NYC political scene, passionately pushing for socialist policies in the Lower East Side. And if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Taylor's musical prowess at the city's karaoke bars, where they're known to belt out a tune or two. Because who said revolutionaries can't have a little fun?

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