Clare Hand is a self-described flaming London lesbian. Since October, she’s been working the door at queer women’s events in London. She documents the atmosphere, music, fashions, vibe (are you going to get laid or make new mates), the public’s response to queer women’s priority spaces and the people behind the nights. When she first conceived of the project, she wanted to take it international — and this that’s exactly what she’s doing here at GO Magazine. In May, she crossed the Atlantic. She started in San Francisco, then LA, then she will be heading to Bogota and São Paulo. After this, she is off to NYC for WorldPride | Stonewall 50. These are her Lesbian Door Diaries. Catch up on her previous entry here.
I’d been invited last minute to the National Centre for Lesbian Right’s annual Anniversary Party by some people I met at Jolene’s. “OMG, you have to come to NCLR’s party tomorrow,” they said. “All the San Francisco power dykes will be there!” How could I refuse?
I assumed that I’d turn up, eat some canapés, chat to people about NCLR, and try not to embarrass myself in front of America’s leading queer lawyers. I thought I’d write a piece on the organization in general, not it’s ability to throw a party.
I rocked up to the City View at Metreon at 8pm. I was wearing my most power lesbian attire, though I soon discovered that I was effectively wearing pyjamas in comparison to everyone else’s outfits. There were feather boas, towering high heels, black and white patent brogues, sequined gowns, tuxedos, bow ties, bow ties, and more bow ties.
“People look so dapper,” I said to someone.
“Yeah, well, this is the unofficial lesbian prom,” they replied.
“Great,” I thought, as I trotted my arse to the bar to drink for two.
The atmosphere was really warm—one thousand people celebrating, laughing, and drinking, with the words “Lesbians for Good: written on the projector behind. I flitted around, played pool (queer women in America love a game of pool), paid multiple visits to the donut wall, and admired the view from the venue’s window-wall. It was a drizzly, foggy Saturday evening, causing an atmospheric mist to nestle between lit-up tower blocks.
After a while, I made my way to the dancefloor. Within a few moments of being there, I knew I had to document this event. I’ve never experienced such synergy between couples on a dancefloor. Pair after pair of all ages, races, backgrounds, body-shapes and gender identities moved with palpable symmetry and connection. The way they danced and cradled each other, the way their bodies slotted together, the way they laughed; each demonstrated the perfect knowing of the person they were with. If I were feeling sentimental, I’d use the word soulmates.
Prince, Diana Ross, Sylvester—classic tune after classic tune was delivered attentively and mixed superbly by DJ Emancipation and DJ Lady Ryan. Behind the decks, a rotating series of psychedelic projections played, adding to the majesty of all that couples’ chemistry. I suppose this is exactly why NCLR exists: to fight tirelessly to ensure that people are able to love who they want and live how they choose.
The organization launched 42 years ago so they could defend lesbian mothers who were losing custody of their children when they came out. Their mission has evolved over the decades; they now work with all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think of it as horizontal and vertical,” NCLR’s Elizabeth Lanyon told me, “so we cover the whole rainbow of LGBTQ+ folks. And then we cover different issues, like housing discrimination, employment, relationships, reproductive justice, and incarceration,” she says while slicing through the line like she’s chopping a carrot.
NCLR are fighting for queer asylum rights, making sure gay couples don’t get separated in retirement homes, ensuring that transgender people get appropriate medical treatment in prisons, and ending conversation therapy nation-wide (they’re in 17 states so far).
I spoke with a handful of NCLR staff. Each oozes the vitality that comes from doing work they adore for the community they belong to. It is clear they work with heart and mind, and, as Elizabeth puts it, “they don’t come here every day just to push paper around, they come because they are invested in making change on a larger scale.”
Activists, lawyers, space-creators, and community-builders from all walks of life were at the party. Donna Hitchens, who co-founded NCLR, was rubbing shoulders with Jolene Linsangan of new queer bar Jolene’s. Arzo, who runs an eponymous queer hairdresser salon in Hayes Valley, queued for drinks with Nicole Lim, who’s attending every lesbian festival in the country this year.
Back to the dance-floor. Roller skaters scooted around, burlesque dancers on stilts drew everyone together, and zero f*cks were given. Occasionally I’d pop out to the venue’s balcony to let it all soak in. I’d send a little note of gratitude out there to the hazy skies over San Francisco’s city lights and then turn around and send another note to those inside the building. A little thank you for how their activism has taken our community so far and where it will continue to take us for decades to come. Yes, I guess sentimental is sometimes all you can be.