“At the end of the day, queer people are going to need to be there for each other because one day, they might be all that we have left.”
When John Alexander, a fourth-year English major, first had the idea for Queer Coffee Hour, it was a sentiment he held close. So when the opportunity presented itself to make this space a reality, Alexander got right to work.
Pairing with the SUNY New Paltz Honors Program, Queer Coffee Hour was born. The first event was held on Feb. 3 in the Honors Center and the second on Feb. 12 for Valentine’s Day. As the project evolves, more meetings will be scheduled at varying dates and times throughout the semester. This information will be updated through the event’s social media, @queercoffeehour, on Instagram.
In crafting this program, Alexander said, “I was really interested in being the person that I felt that I needed, or better, creating the space that I felt that I needed.”
The objective is to have a community-sustained environment that caters to all who wish to participate. The group decides collectively what the meetings will consist of, whether that be a movie night, playing games with one another, or simply having a chat over some coffee.
For the first meeting, this looked like a brief presentation from John, that gave an overview of how the program works, followed by games and conversation. “Completely organically, out of my control and plan, they came together and started playing this Russian card game,” said Alexander. “So at that moment, I knew that I had succeeded, because that had nothing to do with me. All I did was help hold the space.”
Going into the event there was a fear that no one would show up. Was there enough advertising? Did people have enough notice in advance? Would people show up in the below-freezing weather that Friday night? But the community did show up. 17 people attended the first meeting and more have been reaching out with anticipation for the future.
Although there will be more events, Queer Coffee Hour is not a club as there is no membership or commitment required; it is about friendship and community. There is also no hierarchy of authority with a governing executive board; Alexander is the organizer, not the president.
It is also not a “matchmaking” service. Some queer spaces, such as bars or nightclubs, have an atmosphere encouraging hook-up and dating culture. This space is for enjoying the company of others and creating a sense of unity.
At the end of the first meeting, there was a question posed to the group: What does the queer community mean to you? Participants wrote down their answers on note cards and placed them on the board. Answers ranged from “unconditional support” and “understanding,” to “family” and “freedom.”
“You’re born queer, you’re born LGBT, but you don’t necessarily get a community at birth. You get a culture. You get a background and you get a history, but you don’t get a community,” Alexander said. “And so you have to build that yourself and I think that this is truly putting meaning to the word pride for me.”