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Where the girls are
Where the girls are
by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

I've lived in New York for 18 months now, in a Dominican neighborhood in Harlem Heights - so far uptown that locals sometimes call it "Upstate Manhattan."

In the entire time I've been here, I've seen only one Lesbian couple that I could identify. Gay men are here in scattered numbers and I can pick them out on the street.

But Lesbians? They must be here - but I haven't seen them.

And so I'm moving.

Not permanently, I hope. I actually love my little corner of Manhattan, love that I can see the Harlem River shining in the morning and the Hudson River, crested by the graceful arc of the George Washington Bridge, on weekend walks. I love the cobbled streets outside my brownstone and the historic mansion across the street, with its crocuses and snowdrops shining from the lawn like jewels.

I love the house jazz concerts they've been putting on every Sunday for 15 years in an apartment on the corner; I love the trumpet player across the street who welcomes evening with long, slow melodies; I love looking in on the ground floor apartment where the opera singers trill in their daily practice sessions, and into the window of the small antique bookstore, where the owner sits quietly at his desk late into the night.

I love all these things. It is a neighborhood. But it is a neighborhood where I can't meet single Lesbians in the local green market or strike up a conversation in a casual pub - partly because not only are there no (visible) Lesbians, but there is no green market in my fringe neighborhood, and the nearest bar where English is spoken is 10 blocks away.

And I'm single. And even though I adore my straight friends - and I really do, they are my family - and even though I work at a mostly-Gay workplace, I need to be able to socialize with other Lesbians in a more casual way.

Also, I am constantly having to explain myself in my neighborhood. There are so few of us, that I am always having conversations - with the construction guys across the street, with the young woman at the drug store - explaining that I'm Gay, and not married to a man, and why that's OK. It's exhausting.

So for the spring, summer and early fall - six months - I'm moving to Prospect Heights, in Brooklyn, about a 15-minute walk from the Lesbian mecca of Park Slope (and an hour commute from my office). I'll be apartment-sitting and watching a friend's dog. She's lending me not only her apartment, but also her bicycle - which has panniers on it to bring home groceries from the organic co-op, and a thick lock to protect it during Lesbian softball at Prospect Park.

I never thought I was this person. I loved living in the Lesbian neighborhood of Andersonville when I was in Chicago, loved running into friends on the street (though I was less fond of the running-into-ex-lovers part), but I didn't think a Lesbian neighborhood was that important to me. I've been of the mind that more diversity is better; that I'd rather go to a post-Gay "mixed" bar than a purely Lesbian one, that living in the Gay ghetto wasn't the best thing for my own personal happiness.

But now I'm not so sure.

I miss Lesbians. I mean, I have individual Lesbian friends, none of whom know each other, but I miss Lesbians in groups. I miss the creativity, the in-jokes, the special brand of flirting. I miss knowing everyone's long, interconnected romantic histories. I miss the drumming. I miss the folk singing. I miss the burlesque/drag king/gender play.

I even miss the dyke drama.

Even that.

Which is when I knew I had to move, at least for a while, at least for the summer.

Gay ghetto life isn't perfect, but at least being Queer is taken as a given.

So I plan to have a summer filled with Lesbians. To go to Lesbian bars. To meet other Lesbians walking their own dogs when twilight is misting through the park. To host dinner parties and regular parties where everyone present has slept with everyone else. To watch softball, and go to poetry slams, and spend Saturday afternoons at the Tea Lounge waving at friends.

I'm going to fill up my social calendar and my emotional life and my soul with Lesbians.

And then in the fall I'll see if I'm ready to once again live primarily in the straight world.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. She edits the Gay political blog VisibleVote08.com. E-mail her at jennifer.vanasco@gmail.com

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