Sy Adler & Johanna Brenner “Gender and Space: Lesbians and Gay Men in the City”

Spatial utility differs among various identity groups, and it is no different for gay men and lesbians. Prior research done by Manuel Castells argues that while gay men prefer to share a physical location where business and lives can be conducted in an attempt to find a place among other gay men wear their lifestyle will be acceptable, lesbians, on the other hand, are not concerned with a territory but rather they are “placeless”. He states that lesbians rely on interpersonal networks rather than physical location. But Castells as well as Deborah Wolf also

adler gayAdler and Brenner attempted to replicate Castells research. Using five different sources to locate areas of concentrated lesbians, key informants from the lesbian community, location of lesbian bars and other social gathering places, location of lesbian businesses, and mailing lists of lesbian organizations, they confirmed differences in the way in which gay men and lesbians utilize space. Adler and Brenner found that areas of concentrated lesbians had lower levels of homeownership, lower rent prices, and less traditional family households. This is plausible given that females have lower incomes and therefore are limited to low rent areas, and as purported by Markusen and Gilbert, women with low incomes lack transportation and therefore tend to spatially root themselves close to their networks, and in areas which are beneficial to their children, defining their own spatial areas in this manner. They also found higher concentrations of lesbians in countercultural, or nontraditional, areas. In these areas, there was also a large number of female headed households and women living alone. The researchers found it hard to differentiate whether women chose to live there alone because of the high proportion of women in the area and making this area a “women’s community”, regardless if they’re lesbians or just heterosexual single woman.

adler femalesAdler and Brenner conclude that there are spatial concentrations of lesbians but it is considered hidden as compared to areas with gay males, where there are concentrated areas of openly gay businesses and services run by gay people, for gay people. The lack of lesbian owned business could be attributed to the general lack of capital among females for business startups. There is also a lack of collective organization and community activism within the areas of concentrated lesbians that would heighten awareness of such communities. Differences in political activism and the way the community organizes also varies, most likely because of gender. Whereas gay males organize around homosexuality, lesbians organize on two axes, gender and homosexuality, leading females to be more global in their views than males. Lesbians focus not only on rights for gays and lesbians but also for rights of women, a”double vision” if you will.

It is very interesting to understand patterns of settlement among and between groups. In the three readings this week, I find the theme to be that women are forced to spatially organize themselves and their families in areas because of the negative consequences stemming from dysfunctional social and economical structures that preclude women, especially poor, African American single mothers, from living in an environment of their choosing. We can’t argue this enough, policy changes in the gender wage gap, and a cultural shift to accept females and males as equal in the workplace and in the household, would begin to provide more freedom in mobility for women and their children.



The video ‘Gayborhoods’ Have A Profound Sociological And Economic Effect On Urban Areas provides a few perspectives on the way in which urban spaces are organized.


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