Why I Created A New Way to Make LGBTQ Friends in Tokyo

Chelsea Hostetter
Jun 10, 2019 · 5 min read

Having friends who accept you is crucial to your well-being.

The first time I had an LGBTQ-themed conversation with my friends, it was this: I was sixteen years old, hanging out with some close friends. We were doing what most girls our age were doing—having a sleepover. After a night of browsing magazines and talking about our lives, we settled into bed.

“Wouldn’t it be awful if you were gay?” one of my friends giggled.

My voice caught in my throat. “Yeah?” I asked. I hadn’t even considered whether I was or not, but somehow, the words stung.

“Cause we couldn’t sleep in the same room. It’d be gross.”


I could feel a part of myself I never knew I had shutting down. From that point on, we never spoke of it again.

When I was a teenager and still confused about my identity, I learned that there are certain things you cannot talk openly about with just anyone. One being sexuality and another, identity.

What happened if I was having trouble with a partner and I didn’t have support from people who understood? I kept it in. What if I was struggling with my own identity and was around with people who didn’t care who I was, just the role I played for them? I kept it in.

Explanations became confessions. Then, the questions. They may be well-intentioned, but if you’re already in an emotionally vulnerable state these can make things worse. It’s hard to find fellow friends who can support you in complex conversations about identity and sexuality.

Friends like these are hard to find. (artist: Keith Haring)

I was lucky to find queer groups who were supportive and kind. Friendships are important to living a healthy, happy life. From small pick-me-ups like lunches and evening coffees to huge life changes like moving or breakups, a safety net of people in my life catches me when I fall and lifts me up in ways big and small. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to weather the storm of life. I’m grateful for my community.

But it wasn’t easy. And I believe we all still struggle with making friends who understand us.

We need a better way to make queer friends.

LGBTQ support groups provide an essential service to the community. They help unite us as a large group. But I believe we need more — something that unites us both as our identities and orientations but respects us for our individual likes and dislikes.

Throughout history, the LGBTQ community has been united from common oppression. We were, and still are, fighting for our right to be who we are and to love who we love. Outside our community, we have voices as humans, too. We like to draw. We like to cook. We like to play sports. And we want to talk to other people who both see us as a member of the community as well as a fellow human. I’ve seen so many of us who need this. So many of us have queer friends but no one to share our personal interests with, or people whom we share interests with but are so removed from the queer community we worry about coming out or talking about anything not in relation to interests.

So I thought…why can’t we have the best of both worlds?

That’s why we created Hello!Rainbow.

Drawing from my experience in running successful clubs for over eleven years as well as my deep knowledge and experience with the queer community (both as a participant and as a designer), I wanted to make something to help.

Hello!Rainbow is for queer people who want to connect with the community through small, four-person coffee chats. These chats can be organized by anyone, with no set up cost and no commitment to start a formal organization. You can make a grouping for any interest, from general TV and movie talk to talking niche video games. We help you with suggesting topics, selecting a place from our pre-vetted LGBTQ-friendly cafes in Tokyo and reserving a table.

Our site for Hello!Rainbow. Thanks to rawpixel.com for the template.

Imagine pulling up the site and seeing weekly coffee chats on a variety of interesting subjects, all hosted and attended by queer folks in Tokyo. With small groups of four people, it’s intimate enough to get to know one another, but large enough to take off the pressure of meeting new people. And Hello!Rainbow is private and secure—we protect your data, and don’t share it with third-party advertisers.

Hello!Rainbow needs you and your community.

We’re currently growing our community! Throughout Pride month in June, we’ll be holding small “groupings” for people to try out what it’s like to participate in a four-person coffee chat on a variety of topics at our various curated cafes.

One of our curated cafes in Tokyo, PELLS.

Are you queer and want to make your own grouping? Make it in Hello!Rainbow and try it out! Who knows, you might meet some interesting people you never thought you’d meet before.

Are you a queer organizer? Consider posting your event on Hello!Rainbow. We’ll set you up with a listing on our site and help you grow your organization. You can get more exposure for your group to an audience of other queer folks.

If you’re queer or questioning, and you’re in Tokyo, you could meet new people you never even dreamed of meeting. You could make friendships that both see you as who you are as a LGBTQ person and as you want to be seen as an artist, a movie-lover, a runner or a video game geek. It’s a whole new world out there, and we built it, just for you.

We’re looking forward to meeting you.

❤ Chelsea/CJ + The Hello!Rainbow Team

Visit our site at hellorainbow.app to learn more and sign up.
Check us out on
Twitter or Instagram and check out our calendar of events for June (or make your own)!

Chelsea Hostetter

Written by

Design Researcher and UX Designer at @yamaneco_agile in Tokyo, Japan. Former frog and Goodpatchie. I write about design, agile and radical inclusion.

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