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.”
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.”
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.