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Gender and Space: Lesbians and Gay Men in the City
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2009)
  • Sy Adler, Portland State University
  • Johanna Brenner, Portland State University

In the past two decades gay neighbourhoods have become familiar parts of the urban landscape. Although these areas may include lesbians, gay men dominate their distinct subcultures their businesses and their residences, their street life and their political activities. In the city and the grassroots (1983) Manuel Castells argues that the predominance of gay men in the creation of distinctly homesexual urban neighbourhoods reflects a profound gender difference. In relationship to space, gay men and lesbians, he says; behave first and foremost as men and women. Men seek to dominate space, while women attach more importance to networks and relationships having territorial aspirations: 'Lesbians, unlike gay men, tend not to concentrate in a given territory, but establish social and interpersonal networks.' Gay men require physical space in order to conduct a liberation struggle, while lesbians are 'placeless' and 'tend to create their own rich, inner world'

Lesbians are also politically different from gay men, according to Castells. They do not acquire a geographical basis for urban political objectives, because they create a political relationship ‘with higher, societal levels’. Lesbians ‘are far more radical in their struggle …. [and] more concerned with the revolution of values than with the control of institutional power’.

Castells’s analysis makes several assumptions that we question. First, is it true that lesbian; do not concentrate in a given territory? Second, does the absence of a publicly identifiable lesbian neighbourhood reflect gender differences in interests, needs and values, or differences in resources available to gay men and lesbians? Third, do differences in the political orientation of politically active gay men and lesbians reflect gender differences in relationship to space or differences in political alliances, specifically the involvement of lesbians in feminist politics that include straight women?

Publication Date
October, 2009
Citation Information
Sy Adler and Johanna Brenner. "Gender and Space: Lesbians and Gay Men in the City" International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Vol. 16 Iss. 1 (2009)
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