Inside Kentucky’s Lesbian Scene

Queer women asked where to meet each other in Kentucky, and two women answered with an epic monthly party.

A young woman sits outside of a cafe, dressed in a white ribbed tank, loose black pants, and Adidas Superstars. She is reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Pleasantries are exchanged with the cafe owner. Queer women begin to arrive in droves. The young woman takes a sip of her beer, closes her book, and waits for her potential sapphic love to come and sweep her off her sneakers. 

This could be the lead-up to the meet cute of a forthcoming lesbian rom-com, but instead it’s the opening IRL scene of an evening at central Kentucky’s popular lady gathering: Lexington Lez Night. 

Lexington Lez Night is a women-loving women event aimed at building and supporting community for queer women in Lexington, Kentucky, a blue dot in a red state. The monthly event began because Sarah Brown, owner of Lussi Brown Coffee Bar, noticed some of her friends and patrons kept asking, “How do you meet queer women in this town?” 

Lex Lez Night started in 2019 and occurred a few times where word-of-mouth spread the news of a sapphic get together that included games of flip-cup before the COVID pandemic shut things down. Brown, of Lussi Brown, and Rebecca Richter, owner of queer dive bar Crossings Lexington, brought it back officially in May 2022, and it’s been growing ever since. The gathering takes place the second Thursday of the month and starts around 7pm at Lussi Brown where ladies can order coffee or cocktails and socialize. The Lussi Brown portion of the evening also invites local LGBTQ+ businesses organizations to pop-up in the back of the coffee bar. Each month features a different pop-up, and has included organizations like the Faulkner Morgan Archive, Treehouse Compost, Frontrunners Lexington. At 10pm, Lussi Brown closes and the festivities continue with live entertainment a block and a half away at Crossings Lexington. Lex Lez Night is 21+ and advertises as “everyone welcome, ladies encouraged.” 

courtesy of Lex Lez Night

On a Wednesday afternoon, I popped into Lussi Brown to talk with the queer women who steer Lex Lez Night. We gathered in the back of the coffee bar, and right away the friendship and respect the founders have for one another was clear. 

They joked and jabbed at one another but also turned serious when talking about what they’ve created together. Brown leaned on a bar stool while Richter, who was just about to begin her business day at Crossings, stretched her legs across from me at the table.

“That’s the beauty of [Lex Lez Night]. It is ever evolving. This is cool what we have right now, but in a couple months, we may add something else, we may change, and I think being open to that is important as well,” Brown told GO. Lex Lez Night avoids becoming stagnant, but also aims to “not do too much. It’s important to level out. It’s meant to be a community and meet people…the point is to get together. We don’t want to run before we walk.”

They’ve made space for the event to evolve as needed. “We tried for a long time to keep the pool tables [at Crossings] open, but now the event is so popular it’s clear we need a stage for the performers,” Richter added.

Another point of growth: in July, BurLEX, a community collective centered around burlesque and led by Kayti Träshique, joined as the entertainment coordinator. Brown says she felt like that happened at just the right time where they needed someone at the helm of the entertainment portion. There’s also been the addition of “low-key Lez Night,” a sapphic chill on the last Friday of each month that doesn’t include entertainment, photos, or pop-ups. Both of these additions have helped to create more accessibility and representation for the community. Träshique noted the ways BurLEX’s performances try to highlight not just the beauty of femininity (both within drag and burlesque) but to also make space for performers like drag kings in order to show different variations of queer representation.

courtesy of Lex Lez Night

Inclusion is the cornerstone of Lex Lez Night and has been since the beginning. It’s important that sapphic women have a space where they can meet other women, whether that’s for dating, friendship, or networking. The founders make it clear that everyone is welcome – except Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (aka TERFs) – but they also emphasize the importance of a space centered on women, especially since the number of lesbian bars continues to decrease across the country. Brown said, “Yeah, queer things are great, but telling sapphic women, ‘you are welcome here’ is very important.” And Richter pointed out that there’s a difference between being accepting and being affirming, and the affirmation of the event being for sapphics is key. Brown likes the term sapphic because, even though that word is associated with lesbians, it has become an umbrella term for queers attracted to women, including lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, nonbinary, trans, mascs, and cis women. 

courtesy of Lex Lez Night

There aren’t any other regular events for queer women in Lexington, and one of the surprises that has come from Lex Lez night has been the number of women who travel hours to participate. Brown and Richter both noted that women from Louisville, Cincinnati, and different parts of eastern Kentucky travel not just once, but monthly, to be part of the space and community. The event has also inspired others in places like Louisville and Cincinnati to create their own events, and Brown is intentional in helping promote those events through Lex Lez Night’s social media. 

For August’s Lex Lez Night, I put my introvert tendencies aside and ventured out to see what the ladies were up to. The summer heat had waned, and the light breeze and the shade of the buildings around Lussi Brown meant it was lovely outside. The reader from earlier had tucked her book away to greet some friends and mingle. As more patrons started to arrive, I heard passing shouts of “Hi, Barbie,” a reference to this summer’s feminist blockbuster, echo down the street. Many of the women appeared to be in their 20s or early 30s, but you can’t rule out the 40, 50, and older crowd. The attendees at Lex Lez Night ranged from presenting high-femme to butch to hipster to artsy to maybe unsure of how or where they fit, but all were there and trying to meet people. Brown checked IDs at the door to Lussi Brown before patrons could order drinks. A couple of photographers took photos and chatted with everyone to make sure they were okay with having their photo taken – it’s totally fine if you prefer not to be photographed. Friends gathered in groups and were joined by the occasional gay man. I met a couple of people who identify as trans or nonbinary, and they told me they come because they feel safe. To me, that is key. I’m a soft butch and in predominantly straight spaces, like work or even on date night, I usually feel very out of place because I am not feminine enough. Often in queer spaces, that are usually filled with gay men, I feel like I’m not queer enough. 

Lex Lez Night is doing exactly what it set out to do: be a welcoming and affirming community space for sapphics. At Lex Lez Night, I felt like I was enough in my muscle tank and jeans. Maybe it’s because several women were dressed similarly. Maybe it’s because there were so many people in various forms of queerness. Maybe it was the nice weather or the sound of all the ladies talking or the exclamations of joy when a patron walked up with her tiny dog in tow. Or perhaps it was simply knowing that the event was for and about queer women. Whatever the reason, I felt like I belonged. 

Learn more about Lex Lez Night on instagram @lexleznight

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