Since moving to South Florida last year, I’ve heard the same refrain from many queer people: we don’t have enough spaces for building queer community.
I think a lot of it has to do with the infrastructure, traffic, and highways. In South Florida, this isn’t a problem relegated to LGBTQ people alone. We all know that sprawl and car culture get in the way of making and keeping friends.
I recently read a social media thread from an LGBTQ foundation related to this topic. They asked a simple question: what new programs do you want to see? The responses mentioned areas of intense need like youth homeless services—in Dade County, no shelter is designated specifically for LGBTQ youth, who represent nearly half of homeless young people. Many responses related to general community building. There are spaces, people commented, where we can meet each other, but they tend to be expensive, intended for particular groups, and concentrated in Miami Beach and Wilton Manors. Organizations like TransSocial and Pridelines are doing amazing work, but they deserve more money. I read these comments with interest, recognizing trends I had observed.
There are often complex reasons why someone arrives in a new city. I moved to Miami from Milwaukee nine months ago to pursue higher education, but if I’m honest, my reasons for leaving and arriving go far deeper than that. Applying to schools had to do with the feeling that my physical location was limiting how broadly I could dream.
Before we moved, one of the first things my partner and I did was to search online for community. We didn’t know anyone in Florida. The Queer Exchange Miami Facebook group was the first one I joined. I began posting questions about mundane moving-related bureaucracies and a stranger named Shane started giving me thorough, thoughtful answers. After we moved, Shane invited us to their house for leftover birthday cake. There were, in fact, three cakes; Shane is an expert baker. We ate in Shane’s living room as they again answered our sundry questions.
We would soon be back at Shane’s apartment for monthly queer brunches. Outside a bar or community center, without grants or business loans, Shane has built community using their own pots and pans. They’ve introduced us to many friends and helped us find community in a place where making sincere connections can feel challenging or even impossible.
Shane has hosted what is likely their last queer brunch in Miami. They’ll soon be moving out of town for their own set of reasons, and I’m sad for us, but thrilled for them. Every leaving is, of course, an arrival somewhere else.
I’m also thinking about that thread on queer community in South Florida. Shane asked me to comment, and now I wish I’d written more. What I want to say is that we’d all benefit from looking to those who create community by using their own living rooms, kitchens, voices, social media accounts, or whatever other tools are available.
S. Bear Bergman spoke at TransCon in March about how important it is to “invite everyone to the party.” Shane jokingly (not jokingly?) asked during the Q&A what you should do when you host queer brunch and it outgrows your living room. (Shane already knew one of the answers, of course: set up a table outside.)
When queer brunch outgrows the apartment, I’d say it’s become a “successful program.” I’ve found a comfortable and welcoming queer space in Shane’s living room, sharing hash browns with new friends and strangers whose names I’m about to learn.