‘Out’ in The Valley


Building on previous work by Castells, and Adler and Brenner, I explore the public character of a lesbian concentration in the Connecticut River Valley region of Massachusetts. From the late 1980s this area has gained national media attention for its lesbian population. Using a number of data sources I examine how lesbian residences and services are distributed in the Valley. I find a strong service core in the small city of Northampton, but residences, while showing some clustering around Northampton, reach well into a rural hinterland. In these rural towns lesbians live at low physical densities while forming relatively high proportions of the towns’ populations. Unlike previous studies of gay male and lesbian space that have tended to focus on center cities, this paper starts to chart this space on the low‐density, semirural edge of a metropolitan area. Previous studies of residential concentrations of gay and lesbian persons have also found highly visible gay male territories ‐ sometimes with a lesbian minority ‐ but showed lesbians forming social networks or somewhat underground concentrations. Several parts of the Valley area are different; comprising a visibly lesbian space. This paper contributes to analyses of diverse populations in contemporary metropolitan and exurban regions and to discussions of methods in research on lesbian and gay populations.