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Queer Bedtime Stories: San Francisco’s Queerest, Coziest Event

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Queer Bedtime Stories, is a queer space where you can sit back and listen to readings from a variety of genres, from poet Mary Oliver to the short stories of Anne Frank. Whether covering the joys of rimming, or reflections on polyamorous anxieties, there is something for every queer at this feelings first event. Queer Bedtime Stories (QBS) facilitator, Scott Sessions, has a style that does much to ground the audience and pick up its energy. 

San Francisco’s queerest, coziest event, recently partnered with Castro based gallery, Queer Arts Featured as part of the events expansion from its Zoom and Valencia corridor origins. On March 2, a crowd of forty people congregated at the Castro’s multihyphenate and warmly pink gallery-boutique-event space.

Beneath a velvety olive green curtain, with Queer AF’s current show, “Body of Work,” displayed, the solidly entertaining two hours of sharing was harmonious, and exciting. Sessions said, “It was a really nice way to get in deep with each other.” Present in the audience was a hunger for closeness with the queer past. Which makes sense to Sessions, “Our connection to our queer ancestry wasn’t necessarily given to us as children and we are now taking it on as adults.”

Since its origins as a Zoom event in 2020, its regular scheduling at Milk SF has made QBS a popular, free community event. Sessions is looking to broaden the QBS horizons. He started a Patreon for people who can’t attend QBS, want to find out more about the readings, and support Sessions’ time spent on the event. “There are a bunch of queers coming to these things. I can filter which books and poems are meaningful to them, and then share that with Patreon subscribers,” he said. 

Patreon is just one avenue of expansion. “I’d love to expand out to the East Bay and a couple other locations in San Francisco. LA is a possibility too.” Sessions is most excited to offer an intimate exploration of queer history and identity to organizations and businesses with LGBTQ+ employee groups via QBS. 

Photo of a Queer Bedtime Stories event from the QBS Patreon

Structured to occur in shorter sessions, Sessions hoped that, “At the end of the hour the attendees should be feeling more connected to queer history…and feel more connected to their colleagues, and hopefully [feel] appreciated in a more nuanced way by their employer.” 

Both places QBS has partnered with are a part of a wave of queer spaces that have opened their doors since the lockdowns of 2020. Queer AF opened June 10th, 2022, on Judy Garland’s 100th birthday, no less. Its timing and the historic quality of the space is palpable. QBS’s premiere at the gallery fell on the eve of the 51st anniversary of Harvey Milk opening Castro Camera. 

With its vibrant interiors, 575 Castro is a perfect fit for QBS, just as Milk SF is. Prior to the event, Sessions met with Queer AF cofounder, Devlin Shand, to look over the space. Sessions described the moment to BAS as profound, “It brought a level of gravity and sacredness to it that I don’t take lightly.” The turn out was excellent. Shand said, “He’s built such a beautiful thing at Milk SF and we’re just so grateful to hold it here.” 

As San Francisco “opens up,” spaces like Queer AF have hosted more and more free community events. Shand told BAS that the community response has been amazing. The challenges of opening a small business in San Francisco, however, is impossible to ignore. 

Queer AF’s rent dramatically increased and its founders set up a GoFundMe to rally support and funds to keep the space open. The priority of its programming is to showcase the work of underrepresented and disenfranchised emerging queer artists. Shand said,”We’re hoping to bring as wide a spectrum of the queer community to The Castro as possible.”

The interior of Queer AF. Photo from their Instagram

QBS attendees were clearly taken by Queer AF’s holdings. The space is host to work and products of over 45 queer creators. From fine art, one of a kind jewelry, and hand poured candles, Queer AF’s offerings ranges as much as QBS readers did that night. For Shand and Queer AF, “The support is amazing. The people who love, believe in and continue to come and support this space, many of them are queer artists themselves. It’s hard out here in the Bay Area for artists. Period.”

Queer AF continues to rally support and seek out funds. Its calendar is chock full of community events and future gallery shows. From practicing mindfulness, to drag make up 101, the queer network emerging brings new energy to The Castro, a place historically vital to the liberation movements of queer people. 

Shand reflected, “Seeing queer folks who wouldn’t otherwise find themselves in the Castro, in the same room together, starting to communicate and coagulate and collaborate. Just watching how those connections are spreading out; that has always been, throughout the process of this, the biggest benefit I have experienced from creating this space.”  

Queer Bedtime Stories is also a part of this process. Before it returns to Queer AF, it will continue to gather at Milk SF on select Thursday nights at 8 pm and on Zoom select Tuesday nights at 8 pm. You can find and watch for future dates here. 

The link to Queer AF’s GoFundMe can be found here.

You can follow Scott Session’s work with QBS on Patreon.

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Brendan McHugh

Brendan McHugh

Brendan McHugh is a writer and public historian living in San Francisco. He's written for KQED, The Washington Post, Catapult, JSTOR Daily News, Nursing Clio, The (old) Bold Italic, Lady Science, Contingent Magazine, and The Better Because Collective.