New Brunswick

What does it mean to lose a safe space? Moncton's LGBTQ community knows

A new generation of LGBTQ youth in Moncton are turning away from the traditional bar scene in search of new places to meet and be themselves.

New generation of LGBTQ youth searching for support in new places

Eureka Love used to perform at Triangles Night Club in Moncton. The gay bar closed in September 2018. (Submitted by Rob Arsenault)

A new generation of LGBTQ youth in Moncton are turning away from the traditional bar scene in search of new places to meet and be themselves.

Past generations relied on refuges, like the former night club, Triangles. It was city's only gay bar.  But with more young people coming out as transgender, and stronger laws protecting the LGBTQ community, many people don't see the same need for designated gay spaces.

Cass Ward, 17, is a transgender student at Bernice McNaughton High School. He came out to his mother three years ago and was too young to look for social support at bars.

Social media led him to a program called Safe Spaces, hosted at Youth Quest by Ensemble Moncton.

"We were searching for places in Moncton that I could go to find kinda like my people," said Cass.

Cass Ward, 17, discovered the program Safe Spaces after coming out as transgender to his mother three years ago. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"Walking in there and seeing people that looked similar to me and acted similar to me … it was just a wonderful moment of everyone accepting me. It just felt like love."

Cass says they made crafts, talked and watched TV together. Spending time with the group helped him feel secure in who he is — so much so that he stopped going, and joined the drama program at school instead.

"I had found a spot and I knew that I had it. So in that same sense, it's like a kid leaving home, knowing that they have everything that they needed."

Like Triangles Night Club, a safe space can be imperative for a time, but people and times change.

"It's the awareness that possibly the spaces aren't as necessary, [because] there is more of an acceptance rather than a tolerance in Moncton and people just feel open to exist outside of these basement places," said Cass.

End of an era

Triangles was Moncton's first and only gay night club, located in the basement of an office building on St George Street. It opened in 1995, and closed Sept. 29, 2018.

The club's swan song was marked by hundreds of patrons — young and old dancing and cheering on drag Kings and Queens, who performed well into the early hours of the next day.

People came from near and far to reminisce and show their appreciation for the support many found at Triangles.

Hundreds of people packed into Triangles Night Club the evening it closed for good. (Submitted by Rob Arsenault)

"I used to sneak down from the Miramichi and party my arse off and then sneak back up and nobody was the wiser for years," said one of the night's emcees, Eureka Love.

Now living in Halifax, Love said Triangles was the one place she could be herself.

"I'm from Saint John, just down the road, but here is where I feel like I'm gay from."

She said it took a solid support system to be able to come out of the closet. Places like Triangles and the people who went there offered that kind of support.

This week on the program we're considering what it means to lose your safe place. The one place you can be yourself. Triangles Nightclub was that place for many people in Moncton's LGBTQ community. When the bar closed its doors last year, Tori Weldon looked into what Triangles meant, and what, if anything should replace it, in her documentary Downstairs: Closing Triangles NightClub. 26:10

That's why losing LGBTQ spaces like Triangles is important, according to Love.

"I feel like maybe more now than ever, because they are the last few bastions of what we had."

"We need to hang on to those spots … Once they're gone, they're gone."

Different needs

But the younger generation has different needs, according to Dominque Leger, a River of Pride board member. Triangles was the first bar she legally entered as a 19-year-old, and she commemorated its closing on the final night.

"I was obviously devastated because it's the only designated queer space in Moncton, but the last couple years before it closed I and many other queer people in Moncton were kind of not really satisfied with what Triangles was offering." 

Dominique Leger, a board member at River of Pride, said she wants to see more sober queer spaces created. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"Just in terms of the space, it's a basement, very dark, and it wasn't very inviting, and I guess I'm part of the generation where being queer and gay is very accepted and we're like loud and we're proud and we're trying to live the best life that we can in Moncton."

Leger said she has a "masculine-presenting appearance," and feels comfortable being in the world. But she's had moments where she didn't feel completely safe.

"There's not a lot of opportunities for people in the LGBTQ community to like mingle and hang out together in a sober space, so that's something that I would love to see happening."

A coat of pink paint

Leger said she appreciates what Triangles was, and what it represents, but she's glad to see it take on a new name and a fresh coat of paint.

Triangles was packed during its grand opening in 1995. (Submitted by Triangles)

Joel David Fowler bought the bar, and is calling it Pink Flamingos Cabaret/Lounge. He said he is aware of the importance of carrying on in a place that means so much to so many.

"We just need a space for like the LGBTQ-plus community to feel welcome and not to feel judged," said Fowler.

He brings in different bands, hip hop artists, and still hosts Drag Shows.

"What I focus on is everybody," said Fowler.

Different space, safe place

Eureka Love was hopeful that when Triangles closed, she and her colleagues would still have a place to perform.

"We aren't accepted everywhere … so the fact that you can walk in a freak show and leave a super star is wonderful."

Her wish came true.

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.