June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the United States, a time to celebrate people who identify as gay and bring the community together. Queer Fort Wayne, an organization run by Casey Stanley and Lagoon Myers, is doing just that.
Queer Fort Wayne’s Instagram account (@queerfortwayne) passed into the hands of Myers and Stanley in May. Since then, they have used it as a space to recognize and celebrate LGBTQ+ owned and inclusive businesses in the Fort Wayne area.
“There are so many talented people out there,” Myers says. “The idea is to bring them together, so that we all feel less alone.”
Queer Fort Wayne aims to highlight “safe” spaces in and around Fort Wayne.
Queer Fort Wayne aims to improve “safe” spaces in and around Fort Wayne. Among the “highlight” reels on his Instagram profile, he has a list of safe businesses that have been shared with them by followers. He also regularly updates his Instagram Stories with upcoming Pride-related events in the Fort Wayne area. The city’s Pride Fest will take place July 22-23 at Headwaters Park.
One of the first business owners to be featured by Queer Fort Wayne was Olive the Hairapist. Olive Huffman is a non-binary hairstylist who is dedicated to making her salon an inclusive space for everyone and eliminating gender from hair.
“A haircut can be such a powerful moment, especially for queer people, but it can also be stressful and intimidating,” Huffman says. “I aim to exist as a safe space, so people of all genders and sexualities can come see me and relax and be validated.”
Olive Huffman is a non-binary hairstylist who is dedicated to making her salon an inclusive space for everyone and eliminating gender from hair.
Huffman embeds inclusivity into her work, not only existing as a proud queer stylist, but also pricing haircuts based on length rather than gender and affirming people’s gender identities and pronouns. clients. They work in an independent studio to allow for more privacy and less overwhelming stimuli.
Olive Huffman works in a freelance studio to allow for more privacy and less overwhelming stimuli.
Huffman also aims for inclusivity beyond the LGBTQ+ community. They have a lounge chair that can accommodate a variety of body sizes and can support a much higher weight limit than the standard chair. They’ve learned to work on a variety of hair types and textures, and they offer choppy toys or quiet dates for people who can be easily overwhelmed on a date.
“Being inclusive is more than just including a group,” says Huffman. “We all do our best to exist happily. I don’t want to add stress or fear to anyone’s experience, so I do my best to include everyone, which should be the norm.
Huffman embeds inclusivity into her work, not only existing as a proud queer stylist, but also pricing haircuts based on length rather than gender and affirming people’s gender identities and pronouns. clients.
The Sassy Vegan, a vegan and gluten-sensitive bakery also featured on Queer Fort Wayne, also preaches inclusivity in its industry.
“I’m already vegan, so expanding that in my kitchen to include gluten, so more people could enjoy my food was an easy decision,” says owner Rachel Smith. “I think the same applies to me being pansexual, so obviously I want to welcome people of all genders and all sexualities as well.”
Rachel Smith, right, owns the Sassy Vegan.
Smith grew up in a community where being anything other than straight was not an option. As a result, she is dedicated to ensuring that her business is a safe space for everyone.
“LGBT youth see my stall at the market with pride flags and stickers and know it’s a place where they can be themselves,” she says. “Any backlash I may receive for being so open is worth continuing to be a place where everyone can feel safe.”
Stickers by the Sassy Vegan, a vegan and gluten-sensitive bakery.
Beyond identifying safe spaces, like Huffman’s Living Room and Smith’s Bakery, Queer Fort Wayne wants to start hosting a bigger event in Fort Wayne to connect members of the LGBTQ+ community called QUEEIRD.
QUEEIRD is an art market “welcoming all the weird queers in Fort Wayne, made up entirely of LGBTQ+ vendors and entertainment.” From live musicians to indoor and outdoor booths run by some of the same local businesses featured on their reel, QUEEIRD is designed by LGBTQ+ people to support other LGBTQ+ people and create a place to be free and happy.
“There need to be more low-pressure places for queer people of all ages to be free,” Myers says. “Gay bars exist, but we need more of them. Hopefully QUEEIRD is the start of something like this.
Pride cupcakes by the Sassy Vegan, a vegan and gluten-sensitive bakery.
The upcoming QUEEIRD market is designed to be the first of many. It is scheduled to take place the day after Fort Wayne Pride, July 24e 2-7 p.m. at the Wunderkammer Company, a contemporary art center in Fort Wayne.
“Ultimately, Queer Fort Wayne reminds us that queer people have always existed and always will exist,” says Myers. “We just want to promote places where we can exist and experience queer joy.”