Halifax’s 2SLGBTQ+ community is calling new spots home | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Halifax drag queen Elle Noir (Chris Cochrane) stuns an audience at The Garden as she does a costume reveal.

Halifax’s 2SLGBTQ+ community is calling new spots home

After losing a local 2SLGBTQ+ treasure, some local businesses are stepping up for the community

It’s been more than a year since Halifax’s last bar dedicated to the 2SLGBTQ+ community, Menz & Mollyz, announced its doors were closing for good. The north end gem took to its Facebook page last April to publicize its shuttering, and Halifax has been lacking in queer-centered spaces ever since.

For 15 years, Menz & Mollyz had been the heart of Halifax drag and a cultural hub for the city’s annual Pride festival—it was even the final destination of the annual Pride parade. But as it closed, hundreds of 2SLGBTQ+ people lost their second home. Several performers and drag artists had nowhere to perform in person once pandemic restrictions were lifted.

The lack of queer-centered spaces has been a bit of an issue for this year’s Pride festival; the problem only intensified after Pride’s organizers severed ties with the Halifax Public Libraries earlier this year over an anti-trans book. Still, some local business owners have stepped up to support the community—and 2SLGBTQ+ people continue to persevere.

“This is what we do; we come in and make our presence known and we take up space,” Brad Keeping-Myra, who performs as drag queen Zara Matrix, says. “We find spots. That’s always been the deal.”

Some of those spots include restaurants such as downtown Halifax’s Grafton Street Dinner Theatre, M&J’s Eatery on the Bedford Highway and The Garden on Queen Street. While these spaces aren’t specifically queer-focused like Menz & Mollyz and don’t fill the void that losing the city’s last gay bar leaves us, they have opened their doors and welcomed the 2SLGBTQ+ community at a time where safe spaces are limited, helping the community continue to create and perform as the city’s venue crisis roils on.

Keeping-Myra says one of his personal goals is to facilitate stages where performers and drag artists can put on shows, especially during this year’s limited Pride festival. Last year during the onset of COVID-19, he reached out to The Garden about producing drag events.

It was an idea that owner Kourosh Rad completely accepted and believed fit in line with The Garden’s mandate of creating a space for the community to “come in and come as they are.” As a first-generation immigrant from Iran, Rad says he aims to support and make space for all marginalized communities.

“We’re definitely trying to be as inclusive as possible,” he says. “We’re focused on what we can control, which is good quality food, good quality drinks, a beautiful atmosphere and we’re opening the doors to the community to come in and help us shape the future of Halifax.”

click to enlarge Halifax’s 2SLGBTQ+ community is calling new spots home
The Garden
X, a “Them Fatale” drag artist, took centre stage at The Garden during a show in July.

He says the city has drastically changed over the past year and that he wants The Garden to be at the forefront of local businesses presenting a new version of Halifax.

“We’re just talking to the community to see how we can work together, to build back better,” he says. “We keep hearing this ‘build back better,’ but what does that mean? ... Building back better means building back with the community.”

“The greater community of arts and culture and performances may not necessarily be as visible,” he adds. “So the opportunity to build back with them is a privilege that we’re celebrating.”

Even though the pandemic forced many local businesses to go under, Halifax isn’t a total wasteland in terms of spaces dedicated to the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Glitter Bean Cafe and a new, entirely queer-centered venture on the peninsula are trying to fill the prominent gap of safe spaces that’s been felt amongst many 2SLGBTQ+ people. It’s only a matter of time before the community marks its rightful spot in Halifax.

Chris Stoodley

Chris is a general reporter at The Coast covering everything from social issues to city matters that affect Halifax. He's also a photographer and freelance writer, and his work can be found in Paper Magazine, VICE and This Magazine.
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