Dykehardt: The lesbian history of Leichhardt

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02/20/2022

Queer communities have a long history of carving out private spaces for social and sexual interaction, utilising urban geographies to resist oppression and build a sense of belonging. In Sydney, these gay neighbourhoods can be found around Oxford St and Newtown, and remain integral to many queer identities. However, Sydney was also home to a third, often forgotten gay village that catered specifically to queer women; affectionately nicknamed “Dykehardt”. Occupying urban space in such a manner has historically been particularly difficult for queer women. In order to explore their queer identities, individuals were often required to leave marriages. This frequently left men in a more financially autonomous position, thus allowing them greater financial freedom in placemaking. Women have further been obstructed from entering queer circles by both laws and social norms, which prevented them from entering the “camp” bars established on Oxford St during the 1950s. Nonetheless, as the number of queer venues grew and social attitudes began to relax, queer women began to similarly lay their roots in Sydney’s inner city. The establishment of lesbian bars such as Chez Ivy and Ruby Red’s were paramount in this development, acting as social spaces which helped facilitate the networking and the development of new lesbian identities. Nonetheless, in the 1970’s as gentrification began to take hold, queer women found themselves gradually priced out of the primary gay village of Darlinghurst. This prompted a migration of queer women to the more affordable inner west suburb of Leichhardt.

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