With no existing safe space for the QTIPOC community in Honolulu, the Contingency created its own and named it Kings, Queens and Inbtwns.
Text by Andrea Lee Photos by Lala Openi, Justin Audemar and Kekua Uemoto
Unfamiliar with the acronym QTIPOC? Pronounced “cutie pock,” it stands for Queer, Trans, Intersex People of Color. This is an inclusive term, so not all of the above are required. Lala Openi, Jared Perez, Megan Kaleipumehana Cabral, Jasmine Gatlin, and Taryn Cunningham all come from different places and identify in different ways, but gather under the umbrella of QTIPOC. Together, they are the Contingency, and they are putting their identity at the forefront of their new enterprise: Kings, Queens and Inbtwns, a QTIPOC dance party.
Defining themselves is only one part of being themselves. Being QTIPOC also means feeling like outsiders in just about every space they enter, even in Hawai‘i, the most ethnically diverse U.S. state. “There’s a lot of ways we don’t seem to fit the traditional societal construct of gender or representation,” Perez says. “When we walk into a heteronormative space, people try to figure out where we fit in, and we don’t.”
While self-expression is important for the marginalized, being among kindred spirits can be just as affirming. The Contingency’s desire for a QTIPOC-specific space culminated in Kings, Queens and Inbtwns. Every month at the Chinatown venue Manifest, QTIPOC and invited allies can leave their identity politics at the door and have a good time. Something as simple as walking into a club without worrying about aggressive comments or groping is difficult for QTIPOC. “Everyone we talked to, they were like, ‘Yes, hell yes, we need this space,’” Openi says. “Being in a space that’s not queer, there are elements of exclusion—the environment in itself, and how people are interacting with each other, even representation in the music.”
The group spread the word about the event through social media and fliers, and other LGBT groups gave shout-outs. Turnout was big for the first Kings, Queens and Inbtwns, which took place in July. Manifest was packed. Guests described a sense of comfort that they never felt in other spaces, especially in a club scene. “The party was all positive vibes. I worked the door on and off, and it was all smiles coming in,” Cunningham says. “People were so appreciative that we created this space specifically for them.”
For the Contingency, the best part is seeing its community come together and form bonds that outlast the music. “I think having an event like this is important because it allows people to be free and genuinely themselves, allowing barriers to drop,” Gatlin says. “In an environment conducive to that, conversations occur, relationships are made, and a family is created, which is ultimately what I’d like to see happen.”
The Contingency has been mindful of its effect on the queer community. It aims to make clear that its need for a safe space does not diminish other safe spaces. It provides educational outreach about QTIPOC identity. It schedules its events to not coincide with other LGBT events, and gives kamaʻaina and RSVP discounts to ensure accessibility. The group’s founders decided on its name, the Contingency, for the meaning of “contingent”—a group of people united by some common feature, forming part of a larger group—although “contingency” was chosen because it rolls off the tongue better. It reflects the intention to coexist and connect with the larger community, while also claiming a space for those who identify as QTIPOC.
The Kings, Queens and Inbtwns dance party is just the beginning for the Contingency. Its members hope to put together more QTIPOC-safe spaces and events, like fundraisers or beach days. And they are open to collaborating with other queer groups. “Folks came out to support from other LGBTQ-plus events too, which is dope, because we want to help build up our community together,” Cabral says. “Kings, Queens and Inbtwns has definitely been a kākou thing, and I look forward to seeing how it, and our community, continues to evolve.”