Mapping the Gay Guides
February 12, 2020 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Mapping the Gay Guides aims to understand often ignored queer geographies using the Damron Address Books, an early but longstanding travel guide aimed at gay men since the early 1960s. Mapping the Gay Guides turns these travel guides into accessible visualizations, useful in exploring change in queer communities over time.

The research team behind this project has begun turning the thousands of listings within the guides into usable, functioning data to allow researchers to make connections between historical queer communities. Mapping this data allows for visualization of the distribution of locations and their features over time. The researchers acknowledge that these guidebooks are not a perfect source base and largely understand the gay world from the perspective of a San Franciscan, white gay man. But they are a relatively prolific set of listings that offer insight, however incomplete, into the queer world of the past.
posted by k8lin (5 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
UI tip: if you want to look at the changes in a city over time on the map, choose the city first (in the dropdown), then fiddle with the time slider. Unfortunately they re-do the entire map every time any selection changes so it's hard to compare two different years.

There's no data for California?!

I was just thinking about a project like this when reading this review of a new book Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America. Which sounds like a similar treatment; looking at these travel guides for specific American populations, learning more about the geographies of subcultures.

I furtively looked through the late Damron guides in the 80s as a young gayling. They seemed so exciting; whole cities of places where I could meet other guys to have sex with. Also kinda sleazy, I remember being baffled by seeing nice restaurants and roadside tearooms in the same book.

There's no Wikipedia entry for the Damron Guides, nor Bob Damron! Huh. I was trying to figure out when they stopped publishing the old school little guides. I think I remember seeing them through the 90s. I was wondering if AIDS put an end to the market, or if it survived that and has only declined the same way every other print travel publication has.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

When I drove across country with a friend in 2010, she purchased and brought along a current-at-the-time Damron guide (though maybe it was a women's version, if there was one?)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:28 AM on February 12

This LA Mag article says that the woman's guide was sadly never profitable and ceased publication in 2016. They may never publish any more guides. The 52nd edition was published last year and the sole person left at the company, Gina Gatta, says: "I can’t see how I can do another one":

It’s hard to keep a print book going in the age of the internet. The Damron website doesn’t get a lot of traffic because its listings are buried behind a paywall. A younger LGBTQ generation, one that grew up with Facebook and Grindr, has likely never heard of The Address Book or the Damron Guides. “People that grew up in urban cities did not need my book,” admits Gatta. “You are already comfortable being gay. It was safe for you to be gay. You didn’t need to go find a safe place.”
posted by k8lin at 10:40 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]

Another long-running (since 1973, so not as long-running as Damron) and more inclusive guide is Gayellowpages
posted by larrybob at 11:12 AM on February 12

Looks like Bob's route didn't get to northern latitudes much. Interesting history though.
posted by Twang at 5:48 PM on February 12

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