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Stepping Into the Queer Communities of Spokane

They meet every other Sunday, at a bakery downtown, I’m told. I triple-check their Instagram page, where I’m digitally led to a shared calendar. The Rocket Bakery, on 1st, at ten o’clock in the morning. 

My nerves don’t set in until I step out of the shower, but I’m determined to push past the “new girl” fears. I need to make friends here. I need to put myself out there.  


Author Rachel at Wolf Lodge Inn, Rachel Sullvan

I park a block away, unsure if I’ll find anything closer to my destination. I step out into the weather and tighten my coat around me to block the biting chill. Up ahead, a rainbow flag flaps in the morning wind, colorful against the gray sky. I interpret the clouds and colorful flag to be a good sign, a welcoming gesture. 

As a child of wanderlust, and a prior military family member, being new to a town has always felt more normal than not. But from my first visit to Spokane, I knew there was something different about this city that I couldn’t put my finger on. Something special. 

According to my mom, my spark for Spokane is simply the feeling of coming home. “They’re mountain people,” she said, being from Idaho herself. “They’re our people.”

Her grandparents had owned and operated the Wolf Lodge Inn and Campground in Coeur d’Alene when she was a child. Her father was the managing editor of The Lewiston Tribune and a journalism professor at Lewis-Clark State College. Half of my lineage hails from this region, so it makes sense that moving to Spokane felt like coming home.  

But, no, that wasn’t all of it. 

Spokane is special because of its community. A community so strong at its core that differing belief systems coincide together, as displayed by the varying signs in front yards, and flags glued to shop windows, hanging from porches and fence beams.  

Spokane has a little something for everyone. And on this chilly Sunday morning, at a hopping bakery downtown, alive with indistinct chatter, comforting aromas of fresh brew, and the steady clicking of laptop keys, Spokane has a little something for me, the new girl in town.

The strangers I’m meeting sit at a table at the back of the bakery, a group of six or seven. I stand near the front bakery counter, eyeing the people I will soon be making small talk with, as I wait in line for my turn to order. A 16-ounce white chocolate mocha later, I make my way toward the back of the bakery. 

“Here,” a woman says, standing to make room for me and another couple who’ve just joined us. Someone notices a few more stragglers and we decide to put two tables together and pull in more chairs. 

Photo by Rachel Sullivan

Reusable water bottles litter the shifting tables, clanking between mugs, books, and plates of bagels slathered in assorted cream cheeses. The bottles are all different sizes, styles, and colors, but they share a single attribute: they are covered in stickers announcing passions, political opinions, and personal orientations. Rainbows, books, and animals galore.   

After we’ve decided on which arrangement will give us the most seating room, and finish adjusting all the furniture, we settle.

“Yeah,” the woman beside me leans over to say, motioning to my Dunder Mifflin Inc. shirt, “you’re one of us.” She shows me the book she’s reading outside of the book club, a collection of interviews following the LGBTQIA key people of the Stonewall Riots. 

I tell her I’m researching queer European WWII history for a sapphic historical novel I’m writing, and my heart smiles when she knows of the exact piece of little-known British antiquity my novel revolves around.   

I quietly sip my coffee, when the book club leader speaks. “Okay, let’s get started. Welcome to Spokane Queer Book Club.”

We start by going around the two unmatched tables pushed together, sharing our names, pronouns, and astrological signs. When it is my turn, and I reveal my sun, moon, and rising placements, their light-hearted teasing melts my nervousness like a block of ice on a warm day. 

They get me. Weird, triple fire, book-nerd, queer, me. 

It isn’t long before piping hot mugs turn lukewarm and thick copies of the same graphic novel lay open in laps and on the worn tables, as everyone takes turns chiming in on their favorite panels and lines, what confused them the most, and their overall perceptions of the book. 

While there are new people sitting around the two tables, there are no strangers in this bunch. Taking in the ebb and flow of conversation, I am reminded of movie and book scenes where closeknit groups of friends gather around tables, laughing, sharing experiences and ideas and opinions– sharing themselves. 

The give and return of self is what creates community. 

Displayed every other Sunday in a little bakery downtown, is the beauty of Spokane, to this outsider’s perspective. A little something for me, and for people like me. Community. 

By 11 o’clock in the morning, all that’s left of our teas and coffees are bags of sopping leaves and brunette stains at the bottoms of our mugs. Leftover food is offered and shared. Jackets are pulled from the backs of chairs and copies of the dark-covered graphic novels are slid into the cloth bags they came from. 

I say my goodbyes and meander out of the bakery, my need for intelligent discussion satiated, and my more important desire for connection given a new hope. 

I exchanged phone numbers and information with no one, but I did join their Discord group. And I’m already looking forward to our next gathering.

The Spokane Queer Bookclub meets every other Sunday at Rocket Bakery at 1325 W 1st Ave. in Spokane.

Rachel Sullivan

Rachel Sullivan is a self-professed dog-hugger and tree-lover who’s passionate about history, nature, and human rights. She works for the Spokane Public Library, writes empowering novels, and resides in Spokane with her daughter and their pets.

READ MORE FROM RACHEL HERE

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