Queer Coffee at The Relay offers LGBTQ Hamiltonians connection and community

Growing up queer in Chatham, Ontario, local queer event organizer WolfE found it difficult to find like-minded connections and communities. This sense of isolation inspired WolfE to create LGBTQ community spaces for others, now with the help of Relay Coffee Roasters featuring Queer Coffee: a queer-focused social event happening every third Thursday of the month.

The Social started in February 2021 and gained momentum as an online-only event. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, WolfE approached Relay Coffee Roasters to request permission to host the queer social at the King William Coffee Shop.

“My background is PR, I’ve thrown events before, so this one was actually super easy as it’s only once a month,” said WolfE. “My goal for queer coffee is ‘the worst kept secret in Hamilton!’ to be.”

Relay Coffee Roasters co-owner Rachel Hofing helped WolfE organize the event.

“When WolfE approached me, WolfE said, ‘We really need a place to host this,’ which showed me that there really aren’t enough queer events in town,” Hofing said. “It seemed like most people already felt that Relay was a safe and inclusive meeting place, which has always been our goal. I’m so glad that arrived.”

Event coordinator WolfE speaks to people from Queer Coffee Hamilton.

Growing up, WolfE never felt there was a safe place to be openly queer. Having experienced feelings of alienation, WolfE’s goal now is to create opportunities for queer Hamiltonians to meet, mingle, and make friends, something the community coordinator didn’t have the opportunity to do as a teenager.

“There was maybe a queer boy in high school, and he wasn’t popular,” WolfE said. “I also work at St. Joe’s in the Patient and Family Collaborative Support Services division and developed the drop-in peer support group called Alphabet Soup, which is for LGBTQ+ people who also have mental illnesses.”

Event-goers Blaire and Sunny met via social media and expressed how important it is for the two, as non-binary individuals, to interact with Hamiltonians who identify in the same way as they do.

Blaire Rose shows off her tattoo

“I had never met anyone who was non-binary before,” Sunny said. “No matter what situation or community I grew up in, I would always stand out.

“When I come to Queer Coffee, I don’t stand out. It feels really good to just be a person,” Sunny added.

The LGBTQ+ Hamiltonians attending Queer Coffee understand that these events matter and are driving progress for mainstream queer visibility and acceptance, something that is still not universal across the city.

“When me and my roommate moved here, there was nothing,” Blaire said. “I’ve been in situations like Jackson Square where I’ve been called homophobic slurs. A man actually chased me through Jackson once. It’s really liberating to have a space to come to.”

A rainbow heart pin with a gavel and Hamilton on the hat by Blaire Rose at Queer Coffee Hamilton.

Chrystlin, a newcomer to Queer Coffee, identifies as a queer person in a heterosexual relationship, a situation particularly familiar to those who identify as bisexual and/or pansexual, whose struggles for visibility are often dismissed.

“Growing up in Catholic schools, I didn’t even know there might be a queer community that I could belong to,” Chrystlin said. “As a little girl, I thought I was the only one. As I got older and discovered places that don’t exist anymore, like Embassy, ​​it was really overwhelming to meet people who think the same way I do.”

Chrystlin Stones at Queer Coffee Hamilton.

As the political tides shift and hate speech gives way to extremism, members of the LGBTQ+ community work hard to express why they need Pride now more than ever.

“I think if people are still asking why we need Pride, that’s a pretty good indication that we need more spaces like this,” WolfE said. “I know I’ve personally had so many experiences and thought, ‘Oh, I’m the only queer person here.’ That shame stays with you. There are people who can’t come out, so talking about showing up and being loud lets them know they have a community even if they can’t physically be there.”

Event coordinator WolfE speaks to people from Queer Coffee Hamilton.

Current information on Queer Coffee and other events can be found at @queercoffeehamilton. The next Social will take place on Thursday, July 21 from 7pm to 9pm

Sarah Jessica Rintjema is an arts and culture journalist, blogger and podcaster based in Hamilton.

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