彩民之家APP

彩民之家APP

Seen, valued, heard: How Queer Haven Books is fostering LGBTQIA+ community

<p>Books on a table inside Queer Haven Books on June 2, 2024. Queer Haven Books, South Carolina's only independent queer bookstore, offers a safe space with diverse books, coffee, snacks, and queer-themed products.</p>
Books on a table inside Queer Haven Books on June 2, 2024. Queer Haven Books, 彩民之家APP's only independent queer bookstore, offers a safe space with diverse books, coffee, snacks, and queer-themed products.

Nestled in the historic Arcade Building of downtown Columbia lies one of the city's newest spaces for LGBTQIA+ safety, refuge and education.

Queer Haven Books sells stories of all genres authored by or written for queer people. It also aims to provide a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Co-owners Baker Rogers and Mattilyn Williams have found that spaces for people to connect, feel safe and be represented are imperative to cultivate community. Outside the bookstore, Williams is a registered nurse and Rogers is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia Southern University. 

鈥淎s a professor, my idea was that I wanted to provide education, and how could we do that? So we thought a bookstore would be a great place for that," Rogers said. "We could create an actual physical space where people can come in and hang out and feel welcome.

In addition to its collection of books, games and gifts, the store aims to foster community through its various events. It hosts Queer Open Mic nights, where LGBTQIA+ writers, performers and allies can share their work, as well as Drag Story Hour with local drag queens. Queer Haven Books also participates in citywide events like First Thursday on Main and Soda City Market

Some of these events are partnered with organizations like CAN Community Health to provide free HIV/STI tests and other resources for the community. Queer Haven Books also partners with local authors for book signings and readings as well as regional events like Park Circle Pride and Upstate Black Pride March & Festival.

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A safe space sign inside of Queer Haven Books on June 2, 2024. Queer Haven Books, 彩民之家APP's only independent queer bookstore, offers a safe space with diverse books, coffee, snacks, and queer-themed products.

鈥淎 lot of people come in here because they don鈥檛 know where the queer resources are in town, so that鈥檚 really cool to be able to point them in the right direction," Rogers said. "鈥業 can go there, and someone will know how to connect me with other resources.'

Williams believes that curating and sharing LGBTQIA+ stories and experiences through Queer Haven Books is essential in helping support individuals.

鈥淧eople knowing they aren鈥檛 alone," said Williams. "You have no question what this store is about. You come in and see you.  

Patrons echo a similar appreciation for the representation found within the store. Chess Sieb, a customer, said Queer Haven Books' selection of stories proved to be more than just books.

"I do appreciate non-fiction books, specifically about queer history, but queer fiction has always drawn me in because I see that as the most important representation-wise because a lot of people do draw so much from fiction," Sieb said. "I think a lot of queer people grow up, especially in the South, feeling super alienated, and when there are queer spaces and queer stories and history, it is easier to accept yourself."

Rogers said they also believe that representation should be a main focus of the store.

鈥淵ou can鈥檛 see it, you can鈥檛 be it. (For) people my age and older, we couldn鈥檛 see people like us, so we didn鈥檛 know how to do that, how to be that," Rogers said. "I think the importance for me is just being able to see it, see other people like you, and find information that has been hidden for so long.

Rogers urges queer people living in the South to explore and find community, as they believe it is the most valuable resource available.

鈥淭here is a lot more here than people know 鈥 it鈥檚 just hard to find," Rogers said. "So finding your people is how queer people have historically, and in a lot of ways still, spread the word about where to go for services, what resources are good for you, where to go to feel comfortable, where to go to hang out even.


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