I recently sat down with Georgios Pappas over Zoom to discuss the creation of QuTo, a new sober, queer run space being developed in Glasgow. Although the planning of QuTo is still in its early stages, MindWaves is always interested in supporting all ventures that seek to improve community mental health.
Georgios had the idea for QuTo last summer, a few months into the global pandemic that made any kind of socialising difficult. But for queer people who don’t drink, finding places to socialise in the evenings has always been tricky. Georgios moved from Cyprus to Glasgow for university before settling down, and says “I found it bizarre that there were few options for queer people to socialise without alcohol”. Although Glasgow has a vibrant queer club scene, for people who are underage, sober or simply don’t want to drink, these places seem less than welcoming, and there aren’t many viable alternatives. Georgios put together a community survey to gauge interest and received almost 400 responses, with the majority of people agreeing that a sober space for queer people was heavily needed.
Plans for QuTo started in Georgios’ living room, he recruited some like minded volunteers and got to work making their plans a reality. Since last summer, QuTo has run a successful evening at Southside cafe Patricia’s with a pop up market to spotlight queer artists, a Valentine’s Day zoom event celebrating love in all its forms with local drag queen Lady Rampant, and recorded an anti-racist podcast led by queer people of colour. Due to the pandemic, no premises has been secured for QuTo yet, but in the meantime there is a GoFundMe set up in QuTo’s name that is accepting donations for start up costs.
The need for a queer, sober space is intrinsically linked with mental health. Community spaces specifically set up for marginalised people to socialise safely are important and sadly relatively rare. Georgios tells me that the queer experience can often be a complex one, and when he moved to Glasgow he was dealing with a variety of things such as coming out and establishing his own queer identity. “We have so much anger,” he says “and it’s a really powerful emotion that we can definitely use to make things happen, but what about people who want the positive sides of being queer? The solidarity and support. Where can we find that?” Although QuTo is focused on positivity and acceptance, Georgios recognises the intersection between queerness and poor mental health and shares that, although he can’t speak for everyone, he has suffered with mental health problems throughout his life and acknowledges that poor mental health disproportionately affects queer people. “It’s not our queerness, its how society deals with it. It’s the pressure that we get from the outside. This is why I want a place to heal, a space to share that experience. We want it to be a place for people to celebrate their identity.”
I believe that the ethos of QuTo can be summed up when Georgios tells me “We belong here. We want a space where people can just come in and be.”
QuTo are always looking for volunteers and collaborators and I encourage readers to donate to their GoFundMe and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @QuToGlasgow.