Concluding Call to Arms

Commemorating Summit/Jack's was a jubilant raucous where our queer pasts reminded us that we need to work together in our local communities to foster queer futures. However, on July tenth, a mere month after our celebration, the landmark structure was damaged, seemingly the result of a deliberate effort to topple down Julia and LuSter's remarkable achievements. 

What does it mean that our exuberant celebration of Summit that weekend, or even the memory of that joy, was so deeply offensive to someone that they decided to topple the landmark not even a month after it was erected? This landmark is not light, someone had to intentionally dismantle the display. If anything, this is a painful reminder as to why queerness existed in the shadows in the first place. This might be a call to arms for us to show up and manifest visibility in our day-to-day lives

Ty concluded his interview by describing the work he does today for a black trans-owned security company, Highland Security and Investigations, and encouraged us all to show up to the Columbus Pride Parade loudly and proudly the next weekend. Acts of violence, such as the one targeting the historical landmark, aim to inflict harm upon our collective imagination. They declare: We will erase you. Your memory is not worth preserving, and you certainly don't merit the distinction of a plaque.

However, the plaque will be replaced. But the fight does not end with replacement. We must not, even for a moment, believe that the battle has been won. This serves as our reminder, as it always does for queer individuals. We must not become overly comfortable, nor should we take for granted the safety that was carved out on the backs of queer people of color, who played a pivotal role in shaping Summit.

That said, Julia and LuSter are working with the Ohio History Connection to get the LGBTQ+ landmark repaired and re-installed. Summit/Jack's was a pioneer in Columbus to receive an LGBTQ+ marker and only the third building in Ohio to be bestowed with this recognition.

Despite the setback, I wish to close this exhibit with a poignant quote from Jen Bonito’s interview that highlights our futures. They remarked that “I don’t know if Summit can be replicated, but I don’t know if it needs to be.” Through the insights gained from these interviews, we came to understand that lesbian-only spaces sometimes created divisions between the L and the GBTQ. However, Bonito's perspective beckons us to consider the emerging spectrum-based comprehension of gender and sexuality as a rationale behind the decline of lesbian bars nationwide. However, embracing the spectrums we all exist upon can be a unifying stance for the LGBTQ+ community.

All of this to say, if we want to regain lesbian bars, we might need to redefine and reimagine the boundaries of what it means to be a lesbian to be more inclusive of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. Whether or not we need to be making more lesbian-only spaces was debated by the interviewees, most split in the middle and not sure how to replicate what they experienced from the 70s-90s safely and economically. If the mantra of “Every Night is Ladies’ Night” was to protect lesbians from homophobia, we must update this meaning to account for all marginalized persons in need of a haven.

While lesbian bars might be dwindling, numerous lesbian-owned bars and establishments cater to all members of the LGBTQ+ community and any allies who respectfully desire to participate. To ensure the vitality of queer spaces, we must actively seek them out and offer support. While this may not entirely replenish the country's lesbian bar scene, it can undoubtedly cultivate brave queer spaces in the future, provided we nurture them and consistently advocate (demand!) for their existence.

Thank you for taking the time to read this exhibit! If you want to learn more about Julia and LuSter’s project, please visit the links below and support however you are able:

P.S.:Incidentally, I ran into Tristen at Pride, jubilantly taking Ty’s advice. Pride transpired without protests and witnessed reduced Columbus Police presence, all thanks to Highland Security and Investigations.

Summit fostered community and imagined a different form of community accountability. Some of that generational knowledge was taught to us about how we can show up for one another infinitely more.  A fraction of that generational wisdom was shared with us, imparting ways we can continually stand up for each other. Summit may have closed its doors, but its essence can persist within us, ensuring the timeless existence of the iconic bar and keeping it alive forever in our memories.