THE SEA COLONY 52 WEST 8TH AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY OPEN 1950-1960s (NOW ART BAR, PICTURED) “The Sea Colony was basically two rooms, in the front room was the bar and tables for tourist, the back room was where the illegal activity took place which was called dancing. A red light flashed to alert us when police were coming so we could sit down at our tables and not touch each other. Another image I keep alive is the bathroom line, before Stonewall there was the bathroom line. These bars were run by organized crime who made lots of money off of us so the bars had to negotiate legitimacy with the police. They created a rule – we’d only be allowed into the bathroom one woman at a time. Because they thought we were so sexually depraved, if two of us went in we’d probably make love, and that could bring the vice squad.Every night, a short, handsome, butch woman with toilet paper wrapped around her hand, had a job to allot us toilet paper. The bathroom line went from the back room through a narrow hallway to the front room to the toilet which was behind the bar. This butch woman would stand at the front of the line and we each got two wraps of toilet paper. When I stood on that bathroom line, I could’ve been drunk and when you drink you have to pee a lot. I was dressed as a fem, not a high fem but I had on tight sweaters and wore lipstick. Feminism actually made me more fem. Everyone at the Sea Colony knew who I was and what I wanted. It was the sixties, I was in my early twenties, and I was active in the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and I’m a freak on the weekends. I had the knowledge that people could liberate themselves, even freaks. I’d stand on that bathroom line and look around me. The women who went to the Sea Colony were not rich women, many were sex workers, and ‘passing women.’ Society would call us scum of the earth, but I loved those women. My mother taught me that when you are judged as unacceptable, something important is happening. It took me a long time to realize that while I was fighting for all these other causes, that it wasn’t okay for me to get my allotted amount of toilet paper. I could see the courage of everyone around me including myself as a young girl, taking on all this stuff just because I wanted someone to make love to me. That image, of this allotted amount of toilet paper is at the center of my life’s work – paying homage to that community of women who stood on the bathroom line, the mix of desire, politics, oppression, and resistance. It was a wonderful education in complexities because on that line, even though we were controlled, no one was a victim. Everyone was laughing and flirting and a big joke was to beg the butch woman to allow lovers to go in together.” (Joan Nestle, Ripe Magazine, 2001)

THE SEA COLONY 52 WEST 8TH AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY OPEN 1950-1960s (NOW ART BAR, PICTURED) “The Sea Colony was basically two rooms, in the front room was the bar and tables for tourist, the back room was where the illegal activity took place which was called dancing. A red light flashed to alert us when police were coming so we could sit down at our tables and not touch each other. Another image I keep alive is the bathroom line, before Stonewall there was the bathroom line. These bars were run by organized crime who made lots of money off of us so the bars had to negotiate legitimacy with the police. They created a rule – we’d only be allowed into the bathroom one woman at a time. Because they thought we were so sexually depraved, if two of us went in we’d probably make love, and that could bring the vice squad.Every night, a short, handsome, butch woman with toilet paper wrapped around her hand, had a job to allot us toilet paper. The bathroom line went from the back room through a narrow hallway to the front room to the toilet which was behind the bar. This butch woman would stand at the front of the line and we each got two wraps of toilet paper. When I stood on that bathroom line, I could’ve been drunk and when you drink you have to pee a lot. I was dressed as a fem, not a high fem but I had on tight sweaters and wore lipstick. Feminism actually made me more fem. Everyone at the Sea Colony knew who I was and what I wanted. It was the sixties, I was in my early twenties, and I was active in the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and I’m a freak on the weekends. I had the knowledge that people could liberate themselves, even freaks. I’d stand on that bathroom line and look around me. The women who went to the Sea Colony were not rich women, many were sex workers, and ‘passing women.’ Society would call us scum of the earth, but I loved those women. My mother taught me that when you are judged as unacceptable, something important is happening. It took me a long time to realize that while I was fighting for all these other causes, that it wasn’t okay for me to get my allotted amount of toilet paper. I could see the courage of everyone around me including myself as a young girl, taking on all this stuff just because I wanted someone to make love to me. That image, of this allotted amount of toilet paper is at the center of my life’s work – paying homage to that community of women who stood on the bathroom line, the mix of desire, politics, oppression, and resistance. It was a wonderful education in complexities because on that line, even though we were controlled, no one was a victim. Everyone was laughing and flirting and a big joke was to beg the butch woman to allow lovers to go in together.” (Joan Nestle, Ripe Magazine, 2001)