BRATTLEBORO—The Queer Community Social, a new, free event for members of the LGBTQ communities and their allies, made its debut Dec. 20 at The Flamingo Diner on Canal Street.
It will continue to happen on the third Tuesday of every month at the diner.
“This one was the holiday mixer. Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice — whatever people practice, it’s wedged in there,” said Flamingo co-owner and event host Matt Goddard.
“I wanted something free to the public aimed toward the queer community,” Goddard said. “For a few years I’ve been hosting the Tri-State Gay Men’s event,” which was created when the Brattleboro AIDS Project lost funding for The Men’s Group, “and while I like doing it, it’s exclusive. It’s mostly a certain age group. I thought it would be nice to have a multi-generational group.
“Then I thought, if I do an event for women, what about trans people?” he said, noting the demographics responding most favorably and enthusiastically to the event’s announcement on social media have been women and self-identified trans men.
Making everyone welcome
By opening up the event to all who identify under the “queer” umbrella — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, intersex, et cetera — and their friends, “regardless of their category, this is more inclusive,” Goddard said. “This will allow folks to bring who they like. There’s no one who can’t come to this,” he said.
Goddard, who identifies as a gay man, said, “when I first moved to Brattleboro in 1990, I had the benefit of many social queer venues in the tri-state area that were really inclusive of many different queer factions ... I learned a lot from older gay people when I was younger.”
“I would rub elbows with gay men of many generations, lesbians, transgender people, Radical Faeries (a movement of anti-hetero-assimilationist individuals seeking to redefine queer consciousness through mostly pagan spirituality),” Goddard said. “You’d see many people at the same time, and you could bring your straight friends. We don’t have that now.”
“Now, with heteronormativity, folks can be in their own world, getting married, having kids,” and not bother with the community, Goddard said.
The internet also broke up some of the cohesion, he said, noting, “there’s no need to get together in person.”
While these isolationist trends have developed over a few decades, Goddard said the catalyst for creating the Queer Community Social was the recent Presidential election.
“On social media, I’ve been fielding all these comments and concerns about the loss of liberties from many people in the community, especially queer people,” Goddard said. “People are concerned and anxious. It would be nice to get together on a regular basis in a comfortable, inclusive, social setting, where you can see friends, make new friends, mix, mingle, and feel a sense of family and solidarity in the LGBTQ community.”
A safe setting
Hosting the event at the diner is a natural fit, Goddard said.
Although he has a full bar, the Flamingo Diner “doesn’t have a ‘bar’ feel to it,” he said, noting some members of the queer community are sober, in recovery, or simply don’t want to hang out in an establishment centered on drinking alcohol.
“It’s a cash bar, with alcohol and nonalcoholic drinks like tea, coffee, and soda, but I’m not selling food,” he said. Goddard is donating his time and the diner’s space to the event, and he’s providing “free munchies,” he said.
“I’d like to have a really good turnout for this. It’s not profitable to my business, but I want to do this,” Goddard said.
So far, the event is autonomous, but Goddard is working with the Tri-State Gay Men’s group and Green Mountain Crossroads Executive Director HB Lozito on promotion and outreach.
“This is the time for solidarity, community, and unity,” Goddard said. “Divisiveness in the community is bullshit.”
“You can sit in your living room and office and be online, but there’s something to be said for showing up and having that direct, social contact, for safety. You need to know who’s there for you, in person,” Goddard said. “It helps with some of the anxiety.”