The Super Bowl is the most communal event on the sports calendar, with millions of people throughout the country watching the game together at various parties, bars or even the occasional church.
But for lesbian Philadelphia Eagles fans, it’s a reminder of recent seismic changes to their sense of community and the lack of distinct spaces to call their own.
As the Philly lesbian community knows all too well, The City of Brotherly Love now reflects its moniker all too literally and their hometown has been without a lesbian bar since Toasted Walnut closed in 2021.
Which means that lesbian Eagles fans who want to watch their team attempt to take home its second Super Bowl title are scrambling to find venues where they can feel welcome and congregate among their own community.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Tom Gralish, some lesbian sports fans do not feel particularly safe watching Eagles games in the city’s sports bars, describing them as spaces dominated by a pervasive sense of toxic masculinity.
Eagles fan and City of Brotherly Love Softball League Commissioner Jen Brown (who identifies as genderqueer) noted, “When I go to a bar or a restaurant to watch a sporting event, the energy just seems more intense. For me, it can create a little bit of anxiety. That kind of emotion hits a little bit differently in a room that might be primarily heterosexual cisgender men than it is in a queer space.”
In light of Brown’s comments, it’s worth remembering that every time the Eagles win a big game, the city of Philadelphia greases all of its light poles in order to prevent overexuberant fans from climbing them. Because for certain segments of Eagles fandom, “You could just not do that” apparently isn’t an option.
If you put that kind of fan energy under one room and multiplied it by several hundred, you could see why a solitary LGBTQ person might feel a bit nervous.
Sip City Mixer organizer Rebecca Kenton summed it up the problem succinctly: “People want to have a great experience watching sports without it being macho…We don’t want to have people smashing beer cans on their heads.”
Kenton’s comment also implies that in Philly, fans “smashing beer cans on their heads” is what happens when things go well. If the Eagles happen to lose the Super Bowl, that’s really not a room any LGBTQ fan wants to be in.
Despite the current state of affairs, Philladelphia’s lesbian community is attempting to create makeshift spaces in which to gather on Super Bowl Sunday. Sip City Mixer, for example, will be taking over the second floor of Tabu Sports Bar in the Gayborhood to create a free watch party and safe space for women, trans and nonbinary Eagles fans.
But for the most part, the only other options for lesbian football fans in the city are to watch the game at gay bars or create their own Super Bowl parties.
The Super Bowl has underscored the disappearance of lesbian bars—and not just in one city. According to The Lesbian Bar Project, there are only 24 such spaces left in the United States. And for lesbian Kansas City fans looking to support their team, there are none in their hometown either.
It’s a shame. Super Bowls are a time for all sports fans to come together and share in each other’s company. But for the lesbian communities in Philly and K.C., it’s also a day to join up and ask, “What happened to our spaces?”