This Saturday’s Queer & Trans Night Market is likely the Seattle area’s biggest-ever market featuring exclusively queer, trans and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QTBIPOC) vendors. Hosted by VietQ, a grassroots group of LGBTQ+ Vietnamese organizers, the Queer & Trans Night Market takes place August 28 from 6 pm to 9 pm at White Center Heights Park at 10208 7th Place SW.
Featuring music by DJ Kween Kay$h and free food while it lasts from the Salvadorean Bakery and Vietnamese deli Gõ Seattle Grab & Go, the market will showcase about 45 all-QTBIPOC vendors. The market invites everyone to shop offerings from a wide range of artisans, makers, and small business entrepreneurs, including:
And, I'm told, many more vendors. Follow VietQ’s Instagram account to check out all the vendors. Masks are required, as well as following social distancing guidelines.
This is the second Queer & Trans Pop-Up Market hosted by VietQ, organized after the overwhelmingly positive response from their first market on June 12. The June market took place in the afternoon and featured 22 all-QTBIPOC vendors — and free bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea for the first 50 guests.
VietQ launched the first pop-up as pandemic restrictions were lifted. “We wanted a reason to come together,” said Tony Vo, one of the organizers and founding members of VietQ. “And we just wanted to create a space because we knew businesses were facing very difficult challenges during COVID, and this was a way to support and extend our resources and networks to the larger QTBIPOC community.”
The June market drew around 200 people, many asking when the next one would be. While VietQ didn’t necessarily envision hosting regular pop-ups, the enthusiastic reception from the first market inspired a second one, this time in the evening.
“Night market culture is so big in Vietnam and a lot of Southeast Asian communities,” said Tran Tonnu, one of the organizers at VietQ. “We thought it would just be really fun to pay homage to our culture and just share that with the community.”
The night market also preserves vital space for QTBIPOC communities in a rapidly gentrifying White Center. Since the opening of the gay-owned Lumber Yard Bar in 2018, visitors and new residents have touted White Center as “the new Capitol Hill,” even if that sounds a little, well, wrong. Lumber Yard was followed by the queer bar The Swallow in 2019, which closed a year later. The queer-friendly Boombox Bar has since taken its place. Then there’s also Unicorn’s imminent 15,000 square foot second location, coming eventually. The Lumber Yard was devastated by a July 5 fire that investigators are now calling an arson, but the bar has plans to reopen across the street from their old location.
“White Center historically has a lot of immigrant and refugee communities, and a huge POC community,” Vo explained. “As it’s becoming more gentrified, there’s a lot more white-owned LGBTQ+ businesses, but this [pop-up market] was specifically catered towards queer and trans BIPOC people, and to reclaim space in a way.”
About half of VietQ’s members hail from White Center, and since their formation in 2017, the organization has been supporting queer and trans Vietnamese people in the Seattle area. Tonnu joined VietQ in 2019 after hearing about Vo’s work with the group and wanting more connection to the Vietnamese queer community. “Washington has, I think, the third largest [American] Vietnamese population. We also have a lot of queer people. I was like, ‘Where are we?’” Tonnu remembered asking.
When Tonnu joined VietQ, they helped organize the Ban Conference in February 2020, Washington state’s first LGBTQ+ Vietnamese conference. Ban is a word used by Vietnamese families to mean “friend,” but with the connotation of “partner” in a queer context. The one-day event at the Asian Counseling and Referal Service drew over 150 people and included keynote speakers, panel discussions on queer Vietnamese identity, art workshops, and healing circles. “It was a really great infusion of healing and cultural connectedness,” Vo said.
VietQ found virtual ways to stay connected throughout the pandemic through live-streamed events, like Vietnamese cooking classes, drag makeup tutorials, a queer Viet literary showcase, and virtual karaoke. They mailed out over 100 care packages over the holidays, and launched a gender-affirming name change support fund at the beginning of this year. Now with their QTBIPOC pop-up markets, VietQ is expanding their resources to an even greater network.