Update April 12: The organiser has disabled new donations and announced that all GoFundMe donations will be refunded.
With lockdown having forced many queer spaces in Ireland to close temporarily, it has highlighted a need for more designated LGBTQ+ venues outside of the club scene; particularly for those aged under 18.
Waterford native Jade Louise Donnelly aims to change this, by creating ‘The Gay Café’ – a late-night, alcohol-free, all-inclusive safe space for the community.
What started as a joke on Twitter has quickly garnered support from the four corners of Ireland.
“The Gay Café idea came about from one of my tweets, saying how I wanted to drop out of college and open up my own café,” explains Jade. “Other people on Twitter replied to it saying how much it’s needed and that I should do it, so I am!”
Jade hopes that the café – which is still in the planning stage – will be much more than just a purveyor of delicious (gluten-free, vegan) treats. Aiming to host live music and spoken word poetry events, in addition to selling LGBTQ+ artist’s work in-store; the message of The Gay Café is the very self-same of iconic predecessors such as Pantibar and The George – to give the Irish queer community a safe space in which to support each other and to express themselves freely.
Ok so after getting a kick up the hole I’ve made my gofundme to help make The Gay Café come to life. I can’t wait to have an inclusive safe space for LGBTQ+ members & allies and I hope I can get some help to make it happen? please share? https://t.co/vaYkGz2Lpu
— henry’s ma (@jadelouiiise) February 24, 2021
More importantly, however, the café will be a place for LGBTQ+ teenagers – whose age restricts them from accessing traditionally queer spaces – to meet people as part of the community.
Having only come out as a lesbian in recent years, Jade believes that having access to LGBTQ+ spaces as a teenager would have helped her come to terms with her sexuality much sooner:
“I really do believe that if I had a trendy, cool place to be, like what I hope The Gay Café will be, then I definitely would have accepted myself sooner and realised it’s okay to be gay. I would have been able to meet people like me without feeling judged.
“As a teenager the most important thing is to feel like you belong somewhere, which helps you figure out who you are and with that comes acceptance and self-love, I want to help people of all ages reach that,” she elaborates.
However, starting a business is a costly endeavour and an especially difficult one mid-pandemic. Jade has set up a GoFundMe page for those who wish to donate to the project and has already raised over €3,000 of the €10,000 target since it was launched in late February.
Additionally, the queer-owned small Irish business Coven Crafts is launching a rainbow-themed candle collection on March 26 in support of the café, with 50% of the proceeds going towards the GoFundMe page.
The fundraising page is already filled with messages of encouragement:
“Growing up there were no LGBTQ+ friendly spaces for those under 18 so to see that there is going to be such a space for those of all ages that isn’t centred around alcohol means so much to me. Thank you for making this happen and paving the way for more under 18 friendly spaces for those in the community,” commented one donor on the page.
“Considering how, even today, Ireland can be quite closed-minded in regards to LGBTQ+ people, a café, a space we know is completely safe and for us, is a lovely idea and I want to support that, much love,” added another.
It is clear that an LGBTQ+ café like the one Jade is trying to create is much needed, and would undoubtedly be much loved – but she needs help in making this dream a reality.
For more information about The Gay Café fundraiser, visit GoFundMe.
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