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Mapping the Gay Guides

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D.C. is a city with a rich gay geography. There are multiple organizations dedicated to mapping the queer community’s historic sites here, but as of early this year, a new project has turned an attentive eye to the history of gay space in the city. Mapping the Gay Guides, an academic research initiative, examines the Bob Damron Address Books—travel guides for gay men—that were published between 1965 and 1980. The Damron books cover the entire U.S., but there are a wealth of entries in and around D.C.; after the initial batch of data from the South was released in February, our city was the next release. On the interactive site, you can see where the guide marked locales like affirming churches, gay bars, and cruising zones. The Damron guides aren’t a comprehensive look at queer life; they were written for and by affluent White men. As a result, they leave out the spaces frequented by trans people, lesbians, and Black people, to name a few, but as the project says, they “offer insight, however incomplete, into the queer world of the past.” It’s also exciting to see so many of their contents online—as one of the researchers told Slate last week, a year and a half ago, the only place to see the complete run of Damron guides was the University of Southern California. Most of the places mentioned over the 15-year span of the project no longer exist, but some do, like Annie’s Paramount Steak House, which is honored on the site as a “forever listing.” In 1998, City Paper profiled Annie Katinas, the restaurant’s namesake. How’d the restaurant become so popular among gay people? She told writer Brett Anderson “We don’t advertise as a gay restaurant. A majority of our clientele is gay because they come here, they feel comfortable, and they can be who they are.” The project is available at mappingthegayguides.org. Free. —Emma Sarappo