Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Gay Dinners

Even in San Francisco — the queer mecca of the world — gathering around with like-minded kin to break bread can be hard; I want to change that.

For me, the absolute best part of eating is the communal aspect of it. It still feels like one of the few activities that can bring people together — it’s how you catch up with friends, makes business deals, falls in love. Human history is filled with important moments centered around a communal meal. In an oversaturated society, one marked by a growing number of short attention spans, taking the time to linger over the meal feels is a way to be present that doesn’t require bumping into strangers in the dark. 

This should mean that the end-of-year holidays are an exciting time for me; it hasn’t been. Every queer person’s journey with self-acceptance and acceptance from their family members is varied, but mine roughly amounts to tolerance.

I have made firmer boundaries for myself, especially since living through 2020 and finding the need to appreciate and respect my own being. Since drawing the line in the sand that I will not be attending any events unless I can bring the ones that I love, my end-of-year holidays have generally been quieter, smaller events. I manage to find a way to spin my wheels and make increasingly difficult meals for myself to make, but they sometimes feel like they are missing the loud chatter of a full table, and the noisy clinking of too many glasses. 

Enter Deluxe Queer, my dinner pop-up business, where I get to create an atmosphere filled with connectedness. This time it’s even better though; I get to create these experiences with the people I love; Regen and Jonathan collaborate with me and dream up food that transcends what I can think of, Anthony helps me approach visual stylings and marketing with far more patience that I possess, and David keeps me grounded in the eye of the storm. 

It was truly a storm as my kitchen and living room groaned to accommodate 24 people for Queersgiving. As our second-ever event, and the first with paying customers, there was immense internal pressure to need to succeed. Also, how were we going to make this event as inclusive as possible? If we’re really going to be reaching out to as many queers as possible, who also might not have an enjoyable family experience to go back to, how are we going to do it?

Answers emerged that serve as key tenets to how we will run all of our events. Sliding scale pricing is so important to us; even as many people advised that we aren’t charging nearly enough considering the market we work in, we want to leave flexibility and opportunity to those who might not get the chance to try. Providing non-alcoholic drinks is also so important – even though every good dinner is overflowing with drinks (and how us cooks sustain ourselves while people eat), the fact that queer nightlife and community building is so heavily reliant on drinking culture makes things hard for the sober community or people who just don’t like alcohol (like my partner David!).

Most important of all, making sure we’re actually reaching our intended community. Part of the reason we’re named Deluxe Queer is to make it explicit:  We are here for queer people first and foremost. Like many, I am haunted by the Colorado Springs shooting, yet another violent attack stemming from aggressively worse rhetoric and attitudes that fester. All I can provide is a space that I make as such as possible for my community to be unapologetic and to be joyous.

When it came down to the moment, as the guests all trickled in, cackling with joy and pouring their first drink, I felt such an enormous sense of relief and also an out-of-body experience. We did it! People are here, queer and happy! Each course flowed into the next and blossomed into post-dinner chatter as friends and chosen family old and new mingled together. As I reflected on the night while begrudgingly cleaning dishes,  I knew that this is what I need to be doing, and what I can bring to the world. Please come to dinner; we can’t wait to have you be part of the family. 

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