Key West is no stranger to coming-out stories, parties or fundraisers. So a coming-out party AND fundraiser for the nonprofit Queer Keys was a perfect fit on June 26.

The event featured live performances by the Glass Cats, 3Sum, Marjory Lee, Vicky the Doll, comedy by Gwen Filosa and hosted by Puddin’ Taine.

Chris McNulty (who also writes Keys Weekly’s horoscopes) and Janiece Rodriguez created Queer Keys in August 2021 “as the youth component for our overall goal of a fully resourced LBGTQ+ center in Key West,” McNulty said. “But we started with youth aged 12 to 18.”

Queer Keys is a weekly, evening drop-in center, where kids of all identifies, orientation and preferences can be themselves, said Rodriguez, a trans woman who wants to see more trans health care available in Key West. 

The group had been meeting weekly at the Key West United Methodist Church, but is taking the summer off, McNulty said, as attendance drops in the summertime.

Queer Keys participants are encouraged to use whatever name and gender pronouns they prefer, regardless of what they use at home or in school, Rodriguez said, adding that a certified mental health counselor is also on hand at the meetings, “due to the prevalence of mental health issues in the gay, queer and questioning community.”

“Our goal is to have a fully programmed LGBT Center with senior programming, trans wellness programming, education, legal resources, training for businesses, a clothing closet, everything. But you have to start somewhere. We started the youth group because those are the people that need help,” Rodriguez said.

The nonprofit Queer Keys’ Coming Out Party and fundraiser on June 26 at Key West Theater features live music, stand-up comedy, drag performances, a silent auction and information about the group’s mission to create an LGBTQ community resource center. LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.