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Lesbian Bars Were Dying. Now They’re Making a Comeback

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You’ve at least seen the headlines in passing by now. 21 lesbian bars remain in America. The rise and fall of America’s lesbian bars. Why lesbian bars are disappearing.

It’s true that the once-thriving niche of lesbian bars has dwindled to a small smattering. Most of those that remain are clandestine tourist destinations littered around the heartland. Indeed, these bastions of lesbian community are now few and far between.

But recent developments may be changing that. As easing restrictions allow bars to open back up, grassroots campaigns are poised to save lesbian bars from the brink.

Let’s back up a little.

The origin of lesbian bars

“In Bed the Kiss,” an 1892 painting by Toulouse Lautrec

If you’re a fan of Moulin Rouge (or French history, I guess), you might know a bit about the inception of the modern lesbian bar. Artist Toulouse Lautrec often chronicled the lesbian nightlife in turn-of-the-century France. Bars like Le Rat Mort were owned and frequented by lesbians.

This phenomenon spread to other areas of high society in the early 20th century. In Weimar Germany, lesbian entrepreneur Elsa Conrad owned multiple such bars. Bars for women were a rarity in the US at the time, but the upper-crust Cafe des Beaux Arts, which operated in New York from 1911-1921, is cited as an early example.

Prohibition and its aftermath

Two Minnesota bootleggers, 1921, via Minnesota History Center

When we talk about the modern history of lesbian bars, the clock usually starts after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Bars like Roselle Inn in Chicago and Mona’s in San Francisco opened shortly thereafter.

It’s worth noting, however, that lesbian bars truly started to pop up during Prohibition. Where women had previously been legally discouraged from drinking, the total prohibition of alcohol was ironically an expanding force. Women could drink freely in speakeasies, and even own them.

The lesbian bars that sprung up after Prohibition were the offspring of the lesbian speakeasies that came before, such as Eve’s Hangout, which was shut down after a 1926 police raid.

The golden age of lesbian bars

Lesbian patrons at the Green Door in North Hollywood, 1955, via June Mazer Lesbian Archives

Lesbian bars and communities continued to grow, aided by the growth of cities and economic prosperity that followed WWII. Bars of this era still faced plenty of threats. Gay activity was still criminalized, organized crime was eager to capitalize, and internal debates split the community in twain.

In the ‘50s, de facto segregation and economic inequality kept many Black lesbians out of major lesbian bars. So did rigid attitudes about lesbian coupling built around butch/femme (or stud/femme) binaries.

Gay rights!

Members of the Daughters of Bilitis circa 1956, via Malinda Lo

The first lesbian political organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, was formed in 1955. This was an early motion in the broader LGBTQ+ rights movement, which shone a national spotlight on lesbian and gay communities.

As the movement grew throughout the ‘60s, so did identification with/interest in lesbianism. As lesbian feminism developed in the ‘70s, lesbian bars became activist spaces in addition to social ones. By the ‘80s, there were over 200 lesbian bars nationwide.

There’s just one problem, and it’s a problem that emerges any time social spaces become political ones: politics create conflict. Divisions bubbled over who should and shouldn’t be included in lesbian spaces, from trans women to straight “political lesbians.” This fed into the damaging notion that “lesbian” itself was an exclusionary term.

The slow, painful fall

Homer Simpson at a lesbian bar, from The Simpsons episode “Fear of Flying”

These divisions persisted, but lesbian bars remained fairly prevalent throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. New movements led to new expansions. The Combahee River Collective helped open doors for lesbians of color. The community was ravaged by the AIDS crisis, but activism on that front helped bring the broader LGBT community together. By the mid-’90s, the Lesbian Avengers were bringing lesbian issues to the forefront of the community.

So, what did kill the lesbian bar? 9/11? The recession? Is it somehow Ellen’s fault?

The truth is, there was no one incident that sent lesbian bars into freefall. The more society as a whole accepted lesbians, the more patronage for these tight-knit neighborhood bars dwindled.

Meanwhile, over the course of the ‘00s, people kind of stopped meeting each other in person. The social role that lesbian bars once played could now be fulfilled much more accessibly by online forums, and later social media.

Statistics show that interest in the “lesbian” label itself may have declined in the ‘00s and ‘10s as well. Post-lesbian discourse has tended to frame the label as too exclusive. While the broader LGBTQ+ community grew substantially in the 21st century, the lesbian community didn’t experience the bulk of those gains.

The ravages of COVID-19

Articles about the dramatic decline in lesbian bars started to pop up in the late ‘10s. In 2019, it was estimated that only 15 such bars remained (in fact, there were 21). A string of closings occurred throughout the ‘10s as business dwindled and rents went up.

When COVID hit, activists like Erica Rose and Elina Street sounded the alarm. Rose and Street started the Lesbian Bar Project, a campaign aimed at fundraising to keep the remaining bars open.

Lincoln, NE’s Panic Bar closed in November 2020. In Philly, Toasted Walnut shuttered in February 2021. Even as Lesbian Bar Project and other campaigns shined a national light on the issue, it seemed like the institution was quickly becoming a thing of the past.

But wait, there’s more?

A confluence of factors led to increasingly dire conditions for the country’s remaining lesbian bars. Pandemic-era restrictions were the final straw for many. But then, something shifted.

See, the pandemic may have kept us apart from each other, but it also reminded us how much we miss sharing a space. As restrictions were lifted, grassroots movements started to form dedicated to providing new, in-person social spaces for lesbians.

The lesbian bar revival

Via Doc Marie’s on Instagram

As the tireless work of the Lesbian Bar Project kept the remaining bars afloat, social groups and pop-ups started to form across the country. Lesbian Social Detroit. SHELiFE in Miami. Sip City Mixer here in Philly.

These groups coordinate regular events that go beyond the narrow scope of a bar: picnics, beach parties, sporting events. At the same time, they reflect a growing, vibrant, and (contrary to the popular stereotype) inclusive lesbian community nationwide.

As You Are in DC began as a pop-up series, but has now set up a permanent home. The Sports Bra, the first women’s sports bar, is now open in Portland, where another lesbian bar (Doc Marie’s) is opening just this week.

You can thank Lesbian Bar Project for their tireless work keeping remaining lesbian bars alive. You can also thank the internet which, once thought a detriment to the lesbian label, has now invited a new generation of lesbians to flourish.

Looking ahead, more of these pop-ups are trying to set up brick-and-mortar locations. Dave’s Lesbian Bar in Queens is fundraising at its monthly events; so is Hot Donna’s in LA.

Thanks to a renewed focus on community organizing and mutual aid, things are finally looking up for the humble lesbian bar.

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Lifestyle

10 Best Camping Gear in 2024

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camping tent

Spending more time outdoors improves our mood and brings many physical and mental benefits. Ensuring an outdoor overnight hiking or camping trip is paramount for the enjoyment of the entire group. Getting the best camping gear for your adventure is key to instilling unforgettable experiences. If you’re a beginner in camping, here are the 10 best camping gear for a safe and memorable adventure. 

1. Big Agnes Spicer Peak 6 (Camping tent)

This is the best camping tent that offers fantastic weather protection. It’s durable and spacious, making it ideal for family camping. It offers a double wall suitable for car camping or trailhead campgrounds. If you’re a family of six, the Spicer Peak 6 is recommended for you. It has two large doors, two vestibules, and some mesh ventilations to bring in more breeze during hot summer nights. Entering and exiting is also quick and easy.

2. Nemo Dragonfly OSMO (Backpacking tent)

nemo dragonfly osmo

If you’re going on a backpacking trip, this is the best tent to buy. It’s incredibly lightweight, making it an excellent tent to carry around if you want to go hiking and camping. If you’re also big on environmentally friendly materials, this tent is for you. It offers massive storage packers, a sturdy vestibule shape, dual-tone privacy mesh, and more! The only drawback is it might only be for one to two people as it’s comparatively narrow. Another user complaint is that getting the tent into the stuff sack is challenging. 

3. White Duck Regatta Bell Tent (Canvas tent)

Here’s another option for your canvas tent. The White Duck Regatta Bell Tent is famous for its expansive interior and durability. It offers excellent ventilation and quick setup, too! This tent is made with a fabric called “Dynaduck,” an army duck cotton canvas. It’s mold-resistant, water-repellent, and UV-resistant. The best part is it has a portable heater that keeps you warm all day and night!

4. Yakima SkyRise HD (Rooftop tent)

If you’re looking for a rooftop tent, get the Yakima SkyRise HD. It features a softshell material that is extremely waterproof and easy to install. It’s also perfect for campers looking for a convenient shelter and reliable tent for rain protection. Its high-quality 600D ripstop material offers a nice feel and finish. It also has a 2.5” high-density foam mattress that feels nice and comfortable. Moreover, this mattress also keeps you warm underneath the cold floor. 

5. Sea to Summit Pro Hammock Set (Camping hammock)

sea to summit pro hammock

If you prefer a breezier sleeping cot, set up the Sea to Summit Pro Hammock! It’s easy to set up, lightweight, and durable. It’s perfect for sleeping outdoors or hanging out in your backyard. It’s also spacious, giving you freedom of movement while lounging. It comes with a custom Sea to Summit accessory kit. 

6. Klymit Wild Aspen Rectangle (Camping sleeping bag)

If your camping tent doesn’t have a sleeping bag, this could be a good component! It’s compact, warm, and comfortable. It’s an excellent choice for people who want to spend most of their nights under the stars. You can stretch your legs in its spacious design. Plus, it offers a durable polyester shell that resists moisture. It also features a full zipper draft tube that blocks chilly winds. Last, you’ll sleep better due to its synthetic insulation that provides warmth and comfort. 

7. Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat (Camping mattress)

This is the camping mattress you need if you want warmth and comfort in one package. It’s self-inflating and perfect for couples! You’ll feel a luxury sleeping experience when using this mattress. It offers four-inch thick inflatable material and might even fit in the back of your truck. The quality construction of this camping mattress makes it one of the best camping gear you must have in 2024. The only downside when using this for a few nights is that it usually self-inflates slowly. However, you can always blow air by mouth to maintain a comfortable sleeping experience. 

8. Fiskars Chopping Axe (Camp axe)

fiskars chopping axe

Your whole camping experience won’t be complete without a camp axe. You can use this durable axe to split wood and start a fire outdoors on cold nights. This camp axe chops three times deeper than other camp axes. It also has a perfect power-to-weight ratio and balance. Plus, it features an unbreakable PermaHead insert-molded head that never loosens. The best part is you get a lifetime warranty when buying the Fiskars Chopping axe!

9. NEMO Helio Pressure Shower (Camp shower)

Don’t miss out on the best camping gear for this year’s adventures—a portable camp shower! Having one is excellent for road trips and camping, with pressurized water for washing yourself after a whole day outdoors. The NEMO Helop Pressure Shower is the perfect companion; you’ll never have to worry about finding a proper shower room again! It’s packable, offers good pressure, is durable, and is highly versatile. 

10. Surviveware Small (First aid kit)

Never go on camping adventures without a first aid kit. This Surviveware small first aid kit ensures you stay prepared and minimize escalating dangerous situations. It’s compact and well-stocked, making it easy to bring around wherever you go and stow in your backpack during your hikes. It weighs about a pound and is organized and streamlined. One of the drawbacks we’ve noticed is the tight pockets, making it quite difficult to remove some items. 

Final Words

Going on regular hikes or camping trips is the best way to spend time with friends and family and connect with nature. However, safety and comfort are the top priorities when camping. That said, ensure you bring the best camping gear for a memorable experience. 

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Lifestyle

10 Best Outdoor Backpacks in 2024

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woman in the outdoors

Choosing the best outdoor backpack is crucial for a successful and comfortable hiking or backpacking adventure. You must look into the key factors that should match the length of your trips and the amount of gear you carry. Comfort is essential, so look for a well-padded hip belt, shoulder straps, and an ergonomic design that distributes weight evenly. Durability is another priority! High-quality materials like ripstop nylon ensure the pack withstands rough conditions. Other top-notch features, such as ventilation, organizational pockets, and hydration compatibility, can significantly enhance your experience on the trail. Not sure where to start? We’ve done the testing for you! Here are 10 best outdoor backpacks we found in 2024!

1. Osprey Atmos AG 65

osprey atmos

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 excels in comfort and ventilation thanks to its innovative Anti-Gravity suspension system! This is also all because of its suspended mesh back panel and hip belt. This design maximizes airflow and reduces pressure points, making it ideal for extended hikes and warmer climates. The pack’s plush shoulder straps and well-thought-out pocket arrangement add to its comfort and usability. However, there may be better choices for carrying loads over 40 pounds.

2. REI Co-op Flash 55

This backpack is known for its durability, making it a standout in its price range. It’s comfortable up to its 30-pound capacity thanks to a well-designed suspension system and medium-thickness padding. The unique Packmod system allows for customizable storage, and the roll-top closure adapts to bulky gear. However, the pack’s 100D fabric requires careful handling to avoid snags, and the shoulder straps don’t ventilate as well as the back panel. Despite minor drawbacks, its performance-to-price ratio is impressive!

3. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55

Are you into minimalist backpacks? This backpack’s ultralight Dyneema construction offers excellent durability and weather resistance. This pack features a large main compartment, side water bottle pockets, and a front pocket with nearly waterproof taped seams. Its roll-top closure and side straps enhance compression, while reinforced pockets add durability. The only disadvantage is the price. It’s more expensive, and the white color quickly shows dirt. Despite these drawbacks, its robust design and fantastic load transfer make it ideal for rugged terrain and longer trips. 

4. Gregory Baltoro 75

The Gregory Baltoro 75 offers excellent comfort and durability for heavy loads with a customizable fit system. It’s ideal for extended trips, featuring numerous organizational pockets and easy access to the main compartment from the top, bottom, and side. Despite its weight and variable capacity across sizes, it remains comfortable and efficient. However, it lacks a lifetime guarantee like some competitors. Overall, it’s a reliable choice for serious backpackers.

5. Osprey Exos 58

osprey exos

This is a heavyweight backpack’s counterpart. It’s a lightweight backpack with outstanding ventilation and a streamlined design, perfect for those aiming to minimize pack weight without sacrificing comfort. It features high-quality materials, an easy-to-adjust torso length, and enhanced sustainability with PFC-free DWR coating and recycled materials. Despite being slightly heavier than some ultralight competitors, it offers excellent carrying comfort and durability. The Exos 58 is versatile and available in multiple capacities and women-specific designs.

6. ULA Circuit

The ULA Circuit is a favorite among ultralight backpackers, offering an ideal blend of weight, durability, and load-carrying capability. With a total storage capacity of 68 liters, it accommodates trips ranging from overnights to extended 10-day hikes. The Circuit handles loads up to 35 pounds comfortably, though it can manage up to 45 pounds if needed. It features light but adequate padding and customizable fit adjustments. Despite weighing just 41 ounces, it includes about 7 ounces of easily removable weight.

7. Deuter Aircontact Core 65+10

The Deuter Aircontact Core 65+10 is celebrated for its comfort and adjustability, making it a top choice for long hikes. It features a robust frame and a breathable back panel, ensuring support and ventilation. The pack offers extensive organizational options with multiple pockets and three access points to the main compartment, including a sleeping bag divider. Though it only comes in one size, the adjustable torso length and plush cushioning enhance fit and comfort. Despite its weight, this affordable pack could be an excellent entry-level outdoor backpack.

8. Gregory Paragon 58

gregory paragon

The Gregory Paragon 58 is a versatile and comfy backpack, boasting features like a side access zipper and rain cover, making it suitable for various backpacking adventures. Its lightweight design incorporates user-friendly features, ensuring supreme comfort without unnecessary bulk. However, concerns about long-term durability, poor back ventilation exist, some unnecessary features, and minor design flaws exist. Nevertheless, its out-of-the-box comfort and precise fit make it a top choice for hikers of all levels, from casual overnighters to dedicated long-distance trekkers.

9. Granite Gear Blaze 60

This best outdoor backpack offers lightweight construction with durability and comfort—all in one package! It features large hip belt pockets and a supportive frame, which is ideal for long-distance hikes. This load hauler excels in comfort and functionality, boasting a well-designed structure for heavy loads without sacrificing weight. It’s suitable for various wilderness expeditions with ample storage options, including a removable lid, side water bottle pockets, and versatile compression straps. However, its small buckles may pose challenges, especially when wearing gloves. 

10. The North Face Terra 55

The North Face Terra 55, tailored for women, ensures excellent load distribution and comfort with features like Dyno Lift load lifters and multiple external pockets. Although lacking innovative technology, it offers simplicity and affordability. It’s straightforward, with an intuitive design and a budget-friendly price. However, its design may not accommodate varied pack loads, and some extra pockets are less practical. While heavier than competitors, its durability and versatility suit weekend trips or as a travel pack.

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Lifestyle

10 Best Cold Plunge Tubs

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bathtub

Although cold plunges date back to the Renaissance era, their popularity quickly makes waves in spas, gyms, and homes. From reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation to boosting mood and reducing muscle soreness, cold baths are sometimes a go-to for athletes and gym buffs. With prices between $30 and $100, some prefer a cold plunge at home for cost efficiency. However, choosing the best cold plunge tub is challenging. There is no way to test and return the item if it doesn’t sit with you. But don’t fret. Our team has tried and tested these 10 best cold plunge tubs!

1. Sun Home Cold Plunge Pro

If a top-of-the-line cold plunge bath is what you’re looking for, then look no further. The Sun Home Cold Plunge Pro reaches temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is one of the coldest plunge temperatures we’ve tried! It’s also easy to use with a “plug and plunge” design. Its stainless steel construction lets you retain water temperatures better than acrylic or plastic. However, buying one of these might break the bank!

2. Ice Barrel 400

ice barrel 400

If you’re more on the taller spectrum, we suggest getting the Ice Barrel 400, designed for people up to 6’6” tall. As the name suggests, it’s a barrel-style plunge tub with a step stool to make it easier to enter and exit. It also has a lid for when you’re not ready for the plunge yet. At a 31-inch barrel diameter, anyone can comfortably enter and exit without issues. The only disadvantage is having to refill water every one to three days!

3. Polar Monkeys Brainpod 2.0

This is the versatile cold plunge tub for your hot and cold plunges! It offers a robust chiller and heater, generating different temperatures for multiple needs. The drain offers a hose hookup to drain the water quickly. You can also choose from various models with different sizes, materials, and prices. It’s also essential to know that this cold plunge tub may require too much space due to its size. 

4. Plunge

The Plunge tub is sleek and has a unique and powerful cooling system, making it best for outdoor and indoor spaces. It’s also easy to set up and use. It has an insulated cover that keeps the water clean all the time. It also comes with a built-in filtration system that makes it easy to maintain. As with any other cold plunge tub, you can use the same water for six months, provided you give it proper care. 

5. Nordic Wave Viking Tub

nordic wave viking tub

This is the best cold plunge tub for small spaces. It’s relatively small and comes with an efficient cooling feature. The compact design is what sets this apart from other cold plunge tubs. It also has multiple colors you can choose from with a two-inch thick insulation. The only minor issue we had was that it required 120-volt power. 

6. The Cold Pod

If you’re tight on the budget, try the Cold Pod cold plunge tub. This is the most budget-friendly option on the list. It’s also an excellent entry-level cold plunge tub if you’re a neophyte in cold baths. Expect this cold plunge tub to come with basic features, lacking a chiller for temperature regulation. You must buy bags of ice if your water isn’t cold enough. However, this can be a good option if you want to do cold plunges while traveling due to its collapsible feature.

7. Redwood Outdoors Yukon Tub

Here’s another option for a portable cold plunge tub. The Redwood Outdoors Yukon Tub is an inflatable model that is easy to stow away and carry wherever! It weighs about 35 pounds and can be carried in your backpack! It also comes with two chilling and heating options. However, a few drawbacks would be a longer setup time, which may take up to 30 minutes. Also, it can be a challenge to drain the water out manually. 

8. Inergize Cold and Hot Plunge Tub

inergize cold and hot plunge

The Inergize Cold and Hot Plunge Tub has convenient maintenance features, such as a debris net and filter, to ensure the water stays clean. Compared to other inflatable cold plunge tubs, this takes only about four to six minutes to inflate. However, filling this tub with water will take about 15 minutes for 60 to 70 gallons. Don’t buy this if you’re doing cold baths after bodybuilding, as it might take some time to set up.

9. WEY&FLY Portable Bathtub

The WEY&FLY Portable Bathtub offers a built-in pearl insulation layer design to better maintain water temperature. This type offers better features, such as heat preservation, sound insulation, moisture resistance, and better overall flexibility than other portable tubs. It’s also made of high-quality PVC materials, which is also environmentally friendly. This can be used for both indoor and outdoor settings. 

10. Redwood Outdoors Alaskan Cold Plunge

If you’re looking for the best cold plunge tub for commercial purposes, grab the Redwood Outdoors Alaskan Cold Plunge. This tub is famous for its durability and is made with high-quality materials. It also lets you drain water quickly. This tub is excellent if you’re looking for an outdoor cold plunge tub for home ice baths. The only drawback we found was not being able to control the ice bath temperature.

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