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The District of Columbia (D.C.) is one of the most politically and ethnically diverse regions in the United States. The multicultural environment provides female identified lesbian and queer community members with unique opportunities to create diverse spaces. However, D.C.’s high profile community and the gentrified urban layout often segregates, rather than integrates. In addition, the lack of money and physical infrastructure forces lesbian communities to come and go, without record. Labor of Love: The Story of Lesbian Space in D.C. addresses these issues by encouraging women to engage with and support their community leaders. The film hopes to build a future that remembers the past and bring generations together to understand the challenges and struggles women have faced sustaining 'safe' space in an urban environment. And, more importantly, the film itself will help promote the launch of the D.C. Women's Initiative space in March 2013. Labor of Love has three goals: (i) educate members of the LGBTQ community unaware of the challenge, passion, and effort put forth by female LBTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Questioning) leaders, (ii) visualize the history of lesbian communities that have been lost from cultural memory, and (iii) inspire women to improve the way in which LBTQ cultural knowledge can be passed down from one generation to the next. At the film’s completion, the raw footage will be donated to D.C.’s Rainbow History Project and Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center for future scholars, filmmakers, and historians to view and use.
The film is currently being produced as my (Kelsey Brannan's) MA thesis project in affiliation with Georgetown University and Stone Lyons Media. Currently there are three volunteer crew members: Kelsey Brannan (Graduate Student, Writer & Director), Stone Lyons (Videographer and Business Owner), and Lauren Burke (Local law videographer).
While filming the meetings and day-to-day actions of the DC Women’s Initiative, the documentary will also feature historical vignettes of previously existing lesbian organizations, such as the Gay Women's Alternative 1981-1993, Sisterspace, and Lammas Bookstore (1980 - 2000). These vignettes will how how important these spaces were for the foundation of LBTQ existence in D.C. today. More importantly, the film will teach all audiences the challenges female minorities face as they seek a place to call their own. The film will and has interviewed leaders from D.C.'s lesbian past and present, such as Susan Hester (Founder of Mautner Project), June Crenshaw (Local activist and Board Member of Whitman Walker), Ina Alterman (Found of the Gay Women's Alternative (GWA)), Elizabeth Birch (Former President of the Human Rights Campaign), Lynne Brown (Publisher of the Washington Blade), and more. By having leaders and members of the DC LGBTQ community, from both past and present, reflect and (re)tell their stories about creating lesbian civic organization, they will not only better understand their place, both physically and culturally in the community, but the challenges and successes they have faced throughout the process. Kelsey Brannan, the director and writer of the film, has also gained support of several local lesbian community partners: (i) the Washington Blade, (ii) Tagg Magazine, (iii) Mixology, (iv) OmniStudio, and (v) The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. With the help of these community partners, Labor of Love hopes to launch a $15,000 fundraising campaign with Start Some Good on Nov. 15th to help aid the production and distribution process for a film.
Coming to D.C. from California in July 2011 to begin my masters in documentary filmmaking, I found it difficult to connect with other like-minded lesbian women. It was not until I started interviewing contemporary leaders for my ethnographic research project on lesbian communities, that I discovered other women felt the same way. They told me that the reason why it was difficult is due to the lack of safe and uplifting physical lesbian spaces. Lesbians are not like gay men, my subjects told me, they need an alternative to the bar and an alternative to the closet to find their community. I then went to into the archives to discover that D.C's lesbian past was full of blossoming lesbian cultural organizations, such as Sapphire Sapphos, Gay Women's Alternative, and Lammas Bookstore. But what happened to these spaces? Why don't they exist anymore? In order to answer these questions and offer solutions to contempoary leaders, I decided to create a documentary about the history of lesbian space in D.C. From what began on paper in the archives, soon turned into a reality. Since September of this year I have interviewed over 10 prominent lesbian leaders from D.C.'s pastime, all of whom are excited about a project that not only honors their accomplishments, but inspires future leaders to do the same.
By supporting this film, LBTQ women and allies, from both past and present, will recognize the need for a new physical space for women and learn about the struggles women went through to create the society we have today. The money donated will not only go towards production costs (e.g. hard-drive backups, food, transportation, travel, and more), but will help the project locate other women to be included in the film. Clips from the interviews collected will also be posted and tagged on the project’s website. The clip a archive will allow visitors to browse and listen to one another.
The amount of money leftover from the fundraising campaign will go towards establishing the D.C. LBTQ Women in The Arts Foundation. This foundation will work with existing lesbian organizations and the DC Women's Initiative to provide financial support for women seeking to create projects about and for the LBTQ community. The raw footage and film will also be donated to the Rainbow History Project and The Historic Society of Washington to help restore and renew D.C's LGBT cultural memory. Lastly, this film is not just important to the lesbian community, but it is important to all of society. By hearing the personal stories from LBTQ women themselves, people will begin to let go of stereotypes and better understand the intentions of lesbian community development.