Queers Without Borders Collective

LGBT-café is a non-commercial event organised once a month in Helsinki, for sexual and gender minorities. The café is targeted at asylum seekers, refugees and migrants living in the capital region. At the LGBT-café events, newcomers and locals can meet and get to know one another in a safe environment. The café’s goal is to create a safe space, where everyone feels welcome regardless of their different cultural or linguistic backgrounds.

The café events were first organised in January 2016 by a group of anti-racist, queer activists. Asylum seekers soon numbered amongst the café evening participants and continue to do so. Café organisers were blown away by the number of participants at the first cafe event, as not many were expected initially. The small gallery space where the events are held, was quickly filled and over the course of the evening, there were more than thirty participants.

Other places and events in Helsinki aimed at the LGBTQ community, such as gay bars and nightclubs, are more commercial. These places are often expensive and many do not accept reception centre ID cards as valid proof of identity, which means that nightclub doors are closed to asylum seekers. Some other concerns and issues that have been raised in discussion with asylum seekers are: instances of bullying at the reception centres, the difficulty of getting to know Finns, and the worry about having to move away from Helsinki; where many have already established friendships.

The café evenings do not have a set agenda, rather, the idea is to simply spend time together and make sure that everyone finds someone to talk to. The atmosphere is always warm and happy, and the feedback received from participants has been positive. Participants can also find out about other LGBTQ events and places in Helsinki.

There is no one organization behind this event, rather the LGBT-café has demonstrated that coordinating this type of event does not require vast resources, dealing with excessive bureaucracy or previous experience. Due to generous donations the café has so far been offered free of charge to all participants. The large number of participants and positive feedback received has proven that there is a need for this type of event and it is intended that the café will continue to be regularly organised and developed.

For more information about the café’s activities please contact: [email protected]