Pride 2021: What 'building safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ folks' truly means?

Published June 25, 2021, 11:59 AM

by John Legaspi

Food For The Gays Cafe’s co-owner Nariese Giangan on queer-friendly spaces and rainbow capitalism

Food For The Gays Cafe

Apart from the annual colorful march and the stories media outlets have been releasing, you’ll know that it is Pride season when brands are putting out their best rainbow-tinted products showing their support for the LGBTQIA+ Community.

While the effort is admirable, one should ask the question if that is a form of solidarity or just another marketing stunt exploiting what the community is about. Pride is a protest that brings to the table the concerns and issues LGBTQIA+ people are facing. It aims to create conversations and solutions, and also to build safe spaces in the community where queer folks can thrive without prejudice and harassment. Now, if the yearly Pride offerings of brands don’t contribute to that or even support LGBTQIA+ causes, then you know what they are for.

From public comfort room debates to establishment discriminations, the Philippines has yet to create more safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ Community. Luckily, a new spot in the metro emerges, giving queer folks a new item to add to their short list of safe places to be, not to mention its good food.

Located at 13 Ave. in Cubao, Quezon City, Food For The Gays Cafe (FFTG) is proving to be a new home for Manila’s LGBTQIA+ individuals. In observance of Pride Month, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chats with one of the cafe’s owners, Nariese Giangan, as she shares how FFTG started and her view on “safe spaces” and rainbow capitalism.

Nariese Giangan

How long has FFTG been operating? What is its story and who are the people behind it?

Food for the Gays started April 2020 online but we opened our cafe last Feb. 10, 2021. The owners are Nariese Giangan and Chippy Abando.

I started Food for the Gays because I had to earn money during the start of the lockdown last year. I sold pastries, bread, and sauces at first. My girlfriend, Chippy, helped out eventually. Then last December we started planning to put up a cafe. We looked for investors, we found a location, etc.

Can you tell us something about the name of the restaurant and how did people react to it?

Since I was only selling pastries before, I wanted the name to be related to our products. Then I remembered the dessert Food for the Gods. I decided to change Gods to Gays because, like I’ve said before, I believe that we are supreme beings. People actually loved the name! Nakuha ko yung interest nila so they tried it out!

Rainbow grilled cheese and iced coffee shakerato

What should people try from FFTG’s menu? Are people loving your rainbow grilled cheese sandwich?

Everything! Haha. People love our different banh mi and pizza flavors! Our carbonara is one of our bestsellers, too! And, yes, they love our rainbow grilled cheese sandwich! People always look for bread and pastries everytime they come here. Everyone should try our iced coffee shakerato because it’s a crowd favorite!

Banh mi and carbonara

Why is it important for the LGBTQIA+ Community to have safe spaces and how does FFTG give it to them?

It’s important because some LGBTQIA+ folks don’t feel safe in their own homes, workplaces, schools, etc. We all need a place where we can go anytime because we know it’s safe to be ourselves, to have fun, to be free.

Some people can’t come out yet so we want to provide a space for them where they can go on a date and hang out with their friends. We have a “You Are Valid” statement on our wall because we want people to always remember that. We make them feel welcome, we talk to them, exchange stories, hang out.

I used to think that safe space only means LGBTQIA++ people are allowed inside an establishment. Pero mas may malalim na kahulugan na siya sa’kin ngayon. Hindi lang sapat na sasabihin mong safe space ang lugar na ‘yun, dapat ikaw mismo maging safe space nila. Dapat ikaw mismo maiparamdam mong kaya mo silang protektahan at ipaglaban. Kaya dun papasok yung mga bagay na pinapaniwalaan at pinaglalaban mo (But it now has a deeper meaning for me. It is not enough to say that this place is a safe space, people too should be safe spaces. We should make people feel that we can protect them and fight for them. That’s where your beliefs and what you’re fighting for enter). You shouldn’t be part of the problem. Dapat in your own little ways, maiangat mo ‘yung mga naliligaw at hindi tanggap ng mga pamilya at lipunan (you can uplift those who are lost and not accepted by their family or the society). Maparamdam mo dapat sa kanilang they belong somewhere and that place could be FFTG Cafe.

What do straight diners say about your cafe and your food products?

They always ask us first if straight people are allowed in the cafe. Syempre naman (Of course they are). As long as they are not homophobic, basta hindi sila problematic. They love our food! We have regulars that are straight allies.

Let’s talk about rainbow capitalism? What should LGBTQIA+ people look into brands and corporations that say they are allies of the community?

When brands go to me during Pride Month, I always check their track record when it comes to supporting and voicing out their support for the community. Kasi hindi naman sila dapat maglalabas lang ng rainbow-themed products during Pride Month lang e. Dapat ‘yung pagsuporta ay buong taon palagi (Because they shouldn’t just release rainbow-themed products during Pride Month. Their support should be felt throughout the year). It’s better to support LGBTQIA++-owned businesses instead.

What are you marching for this Pride Month?

I march for those who can’t yet. I march to celebrate with my brothers and sisters in the community. I march for those whose lives were taken away from us. I march so we can continue our fight for equality.

Check out more of FFTG on Instagram.