Many moons ago, I wrote an article titled Lesbian Heaven Exists detailing my deep love of Louisville’s former lesbian bar, Purrswaytions. Since the space closed in 2019, my search for a queer femme community has been an ongoing journey. From throwing our own parties with Gayborhood Events to following popular DJs around dance spots in town, many events filled a gap and brought joy, but each scene had its own particular vibe. In all of my searches, I realized that one of the key components missing was age and social diversity.
Enter: The Lesbian Tea Dance.
Founded by three friends, Fawn Wujick, Sara Havens, and Elizabeth Jent, Louisville Lesbian Tea Dances started as an idea fuled by drinks and a desire for more community. While the three loved spending time at places like Big Bar or in intramural sports leagues, they often found themselves the only queer women in a sea of gay men. Add in traditionally age specific groups, and it was clear what the region was lacking: a safe, femme-centric space to meet, mingle, and build inter-generational friendships.
Tea Dances have a long history within the queer community. Dating back to the early 1900’s, these events — often held during weekend afternoons — served as daytime alternatives to late night parties. While drinks still flowed and music still filled the air, the focus of Tea Dances was social connection.
In September, I attended my first (and absolutely not my last) of the Louisville Lesbian Teas. Not knowing what to expect, I arrived at Baxter’s 942 right on time, assuming I would be the first to arrive in the typical queer party timeline. To my surprise, the place was already packed. Queer women lined the entry way filling out name tags with stickers indicating their status: “available,” “taken,” “it’s complicated,” “just here to make friends.” The bar was already filled 10 minutes into the event with the joyous sounds of women having a good time.
Unlike many of the previous queer events I’ve been to, the age diversity was staggering. From fresh 21 year olds to the 70 year old who greeted me with a hug. The stereotype of the shy lesbian was nowhere to be found. These women actively walked up to each other with outstretched hands and a desire to make new connections.
After securing my nametag, I took a seat in the corner hoping to observe. To my surprise, I was immediately greeted by both familiar faces and strangers, all wanting to talk or catch up. The energy was palpable — people were here to enjoy themselves.
This beautifully femme space is unique in Louisville queer scene in that men or male ideneifying people are asked not to attend. In fact, one of the founders joked that their sea of gay male friends would likely show up the moment the party ended to join in on the fun. But, for 3 hours, once a month, this space was dedicated to us. The founders made sure to stress that this rule is in no way out of a desire for exclusion of our lovely male counterparts, but rather a hope for monthly inclusions for queer women to feel at home.
The dance floor quickly filled as DJ Simone played hits from every decade. Womxn requested their favorites as the energy pulsated from Madonna to ABBA to Hayley Kiyoko. Dance circles formed as others slipped away for private moments with newly made acquaintances. Stories of lesbian history and debates over queer culture filled the room. There was a tangible excitement of being in such a safe and inviting space that opened up the crowd to the newness of the experience. Women from all over had come in for the event, including groups from both Lexington and Cincinnati who made their way to Louisville specifically for this Sunday party. Everyone I spoke with was just happy to have a space to be themselves in a majority.
When the party finally came to a close at 4pm, some exchanged numbers, some made dinner plans, and almost all agreed to see each come October’s Tea.
Louisville isn’t the only Lesbian city bringing back tea dances. Lexington has been hosting Lex Lez Night for almost a year. The event is hosted by Lussi Brown Coffee Bar and Crossings Lexington and is the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. (21+) Lex Lez Night is a women-encouraged but everyone is welcome event.
Lexington’s started in June 2018 as a lesbian pre-Pride game night starting at Lussi Brown that went to Crossings afterwards. The group made their tea dance seasonal in 2019, took a winter hiatus and planned to return spring 2020, but obviously COVID had other plans.
May 12, 2022 was the reinstatement of the event post-pandemic. The event started as a way to create a community with lesbians in Lexington that really didn’t have a reason to go out on the town. Going out and meeting other sapphic women is not easy — this was a way for them to find and meet each other while also supporting lesbian-owned downtown businesses.
The Louisville Leabians team plans to continue hosting the events one weekend a month and is only open to femme and woman identifying folks, so please leave your emotional support gay men at home for these few hours.
For more information, you can follow the group on Facebook and Instagram where they regularly post updates and create community connection.