Labor of Love: A Multimedia Ethnography of Lesbian Community Space in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
The purpose of this study is to explore through their own experiences how lesbian leaders create and sustain lesbian cultural organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The thirty-one lesbian leaders who participated in this study each had a hand in creating a community space for lesbians in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area between 1980 and 2013. This multimedia ethnographic investigation reveals the tools and emotions lesbian leaders use to build community spaces in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Two research questions guide this study: (i) how satisfied are lesbians with the current community spaces available to them in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area? and (ii) how can a multimedia ethnography assess and improve civic engagement practices amongst lesbians in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area?A multimedia ethnography research design was used in this qualitative study to focus on a group of lesbian leaders who share the culture and desire to improve the quality and quantity of lesbian community spaces. While filming interviews with lesbian leaders, I identified two important themes that my informants repeatedly referenced throughout each interview: (i) the safety of the community space, and (ii) the integration of lesbian culture within broader society. While the community's perception of the overall safety of the community space impacts the preservation and longevity of the lesbian community space, the integration of lesbian culture with broader society has lessened the need to engage in sexuality-specific community events.The iterative process of this study hopes to educate current lesbian leaders in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area about the needs of the lesbian community in order to assist them in establishing a new inclusive community space. The lesbian stories recorded by video are made public via the documentary-video portion of the project, entitled Labor of Love, which was screened to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) community during two offline events. Through these screenings I came to understand the contested views of what lesbian community space means and whether or not the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is in actual need of a new space to support women of the LGBTQ community. Finally, this multimedia ethnography demonstrates that the potential use of a new community space for lesbians will change depending on the needs of each lesbian, which are rooted in their ethnic background, social class, and friendship networks.
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