Back in the spring of 2008, a couple months after I moved back to Ottawa, I was looking for places to go where I could connect with queer women and meet new people. I had just broken up with my fiancée, and I was sorely in need of community and fun.
An old friend of mine, who had moved back to Ottawa from Montreal a couple years before me, suggested I check out the monthly meet-ups hosted by the Lesbian Information Xchange (LIX).
When I arrived at Swizzles — a basement-level bar on Queen St that served as the venue for the LIX Coffee Meetings at the time — the whole room was bubbling over with friendliness. There was a greeter at the door who said hello and introduced me around. After 20 minutes of mingling, everyone was invited to sit down and introduce themselves to the group.
It wasn’t exactly a small group — about 40 women, ranging in age from early 30s to late 60s — so we passed around a wireless mic to be sure our voices were heard above the hubbub. Each of us took a minute or so to introduce ourselves, saying whatever we wanted about our lives, our work, our businesses or our pets (it is a lesbian group, after all).
There was a lot of laughter and teasing that day, and a bit of flirting, too. I left Swizzles with a few new friends and the feeling that things might be looking up. I decided I would definitely be back.
When the LIX meet-ups went on hiatus in 2009, it left a palpable gap in the social scene. But, as of this month, they’re set to relaunch in a new gay-friendly venue: Café Michel Ange in Hintonburg.
Slightly industrial, the location is part coffee shop and part roastery, so a rich coffee smell is always hanging in the air. The café is spacious without feeling cold and, from all accounts, the coffee is out of this world.
When LIX organizer Lucy Chapman first discovered Café Michel Ange, it was love at first sight. She says she also clicked with Louise Rousseau, one of the owners of the café and knew she had met a good partner in crime for the monthly event. Rousseau was immediately enthusiastic about hosting LIX and offered to open her doors for whatever gatherings the group wanted to host.
“It’s a harder thing than it would seem to find the perfect place,” says Chapman. “The café has to be willing to give you the space to yourselves and, because it’s coffee, it’s not a huge money-maker. For them to have staff people [on] and be open at night may not be what they want. And then there’s parking and bus routes to consider. It has to be downtown-ish. All that stuff.”
Chapman says the space is great for the group and one fun surprise is its projection screen, which can be used for movies.
“At the first coffee meeting, we’re going to get input from the women in attendance as to how they want to do this,” says Chapman. “We’re trying to find out what people want to do and what’s missing. What we hope to do with every third or fourth coffee meeting is to do something else, like run a film night.”
New ideas could be great for the LIX attendees, but Chapman is quick to add that the usual elements of the meet-ups, no matter the activity, will continue.
“It’s a loose structure, but there’s always some sort of mama dyke watching to make sure that everybody’s greeted, at least, and introduced. So that no one ends up feeling like, ‘Well, nobody talked to me,” says Chapman. “It works. Lots of friendships have been struck up, lots of relationships and several marriages. People meet each other in a way that’s really casual and comfortable. It’s not a bar, so you can have a conversation. It’s not set up for cruising, but a good amount inevitably goes on. We are human.”
LIX Monthly Coffee Meetings
Third Monday of each month
Next meeting: Mon, Jan 16, 6:30pm
Café Michel Ange
35 Laurel St