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Flint, MI—A new downtown event could turn into a tradition for Flint’s LGBTQ community.
‘Wednesgay’ has been happening every other week at Flint City Hard Cider since August. A dance party with a new theme every week, Wednesgay has brought in more than 100 participants during its first three events, something its creator Roby Lee said he’s been happy to see as his goal was to create a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community.
A frequent customer at Flint Hard Cider, Lee noticed that among the weekly events happening at the bar, none of them were specifically geared toward people like him. He soon came up with the idea for a gay night and started working on putting it together.
“They always have bands and artists and pop-ups up there so I was like, why don’t we have a gay night or something? Then the idea was sort of floating around and the owners at Flint City Hard Cider asked me to do it,” Lee said.
“I wanted to create a safe space for gay people and allies of gay people. We want to show that there is still a community here. Not many people know that because we don’t really have any places left for our community,” Lee said, adding that he also wanted to bring visibility to Flint’s queer community.
He said that some of Flint’s popular gay bars like Contos Club Triangle and Pachyderm Pub, are out of business and nothing has replaced them, leaving the LGBTQ community without any spaces in the area designed for them.
“My whole stance behind (Wednesgay) is I want everyone to come together for a good time and show that there is a safe space for the gays in Flint,” Lee said.
Giovanni Ireland, a Flint local and early intervention specialist at Wellness Services grew up in Flint as a member of the LGBTQ community.
He remembers going to the Pachyderm Pub with his grandmother and her friends where they would meet with the Genesee County Equality Caucus. There he learned about the importance of representation, advocacy, and community outreach.
Though he personally wasn’t out during the days of Contos Club Triangle, he remembers hearing about it being a safe space for members of the community.
“At the time when it was open I wasn’t identifying in the community so I personally never went but I heard about it and I know a lot of people that used to go there. It was the club that was open and accessible to members of the LGBTQ community. You could go dance, get drinks, dance, meet people and have fun. Nowadays it just seems like there are not many LGBTQ-friendly events, let alone opportunities to hang out somewhere and have a good time. You don’t have a bar, you don’t have a club,” Ireland said.
Ireland added that for members of the LGBTQ community in Flint, the only option someone has “to be in an environment that’s not homophobic or transphobic” is either at a house party or hours away in a different city.
Ireland, who works within the city’s LGBTQ community, explained how the lack of queer-friendly spaces can affect someone’s mental health.
“It’s almost like you’re forced to be in the closet permanently. You’re not allowed to be who you are,” Ireland said. “In theory events like Back to the Bricks and the many block parties and alley parties that happen in Flint are open and accessible to everyone but when you’re in the community, you just know when you’re welcome and when you’re not.”
So far, Lee’s Wednesgays have been beach-themed and cowboy-themed. For Halloween, he’s planning a custom party with a special theme that’s yet to be announced. He hopes eventually the event will go from every other week to weekly and that its consistency will provide members of the Flint LGBTQ community a sense of safety, even if it’s just for one day a week.
“We don’t reall have gay safe spaces in the city and I’m just like, ‘man, I feel like we have to change that now more than ever.’ It’s a community-based town as it is, so why can’t we bring the gay community here,” Lee said.
The next Wednesgay event will be on Wednesday, September 29 at 7 p.m. The theme is yet to be announced. To check for updates go to the Flint City Hard Cider Facebook page here.