Herland: Providing Community
Founded some 30 years ago, Herland has been a staple of the 39th Street District longer than most. What once started as a for-profit bookstore that specialized in lesbian literature, Herland has molded and evolved through the years.
Back in the 80s, queer literature was hard to come by. There were no LGBTQ sections in Barnes and Noble—no Amazon, two-day shipping for books—so, Herland found its niche. Originally dubbed La Salle de Femmes, Herland began by selling literature for the local lesbian community and music soon after, focusing on the “women’s music” genre. For those unaware, women’s music was in fact a bonafide genre described as “music by women, for women, and about women.”
In 1984, the focus shifted and the nonprofit, Herland Sister Resources, was born. Instead of selling books, the growing collection became a lending library. Along with the lending library, the new organization began producing concerts, a newsletter with over 1000 subscribers, and became an activist organization for women.
Herland has since partnered with The University of Central Oklahoma to donate its extensive library, more than 4,000 books over time, to UCO’s BLGTQ+ Center along with a collection of all past Herland newsletters, which have been scanned, archived, and uploaded online. A partnership that has resulted in a documentary about Herland, which is currently making its rounds in queer film festivals around the country.
In addition to housing this extensive library, the center hosts educational and social programs for those interested to address issues of concern for the BGLTQ+ community and sponsors student organizations that serve BGLTQ+ students and their allies and provide leadership opportunities for members of the BGLTQ+ community.
Herland participated in the March for Women’s Lives in 1992 and the March for Gay Rights in 1993. (A protest that led the human rights commission in Oklahoma to disband rather than grant protections for the LGBTQ community.)
In 1996, Herland Sister Resources was involved in the Oklahoma Supreme Court case Fox v. Fox. Herland helped raise the legal funds for Donna Jeane Fox, a mother who was initially declared unfit only because she was a lesbian. Fox lost custody of her children but regained custody on appeal. Herland’s assistance earned it the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma Human Rights Award in 1997.
Today, things at Herland are still evolving. Under the leadership of Ginger McGovern, Herland has become a place for women to meet and have fellowship with other women through its various workshops and occasional women’s retreats.
Herland has also recently begun a partnership with local, youth-focused community group “The Q Space” by providing resources and a venue for the organization.
Headed by Kris Williams, who calls herself “a youth pastor minus Jesus,” The Q Space is an organization devoted to supporting the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to be their true authentic selves. Through its weekly meetings, The Q Space is dedicated to creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to socialize and build community in a non-bar setting. The Young Adult Support Group (ages 18-25) meets on Wednesdays from 6:00 - 10:00 PM (meeting starts at 7:00 PM). The Teen Support Group (ages 13-17) meets on Thursdays from 5:00 - 9:00 PM (meeting starts at 6:00 PM). For more information check out The Q Space on Facebook.