Among the rainbow-hued and eye-rolling shenanigans that companies roll out during Pride Month in support of the LGBTQ community are campaigns promising $1 from every purchase will go to a LGBTQ-centered nonprofit. That sounds nice, until one realizes the amount of donations is often capped and simple math reveals the company has reaped far more in profits through piggybacking on Pride Month sentiment.
Yes, we’re emerging from a pandemic, but not everyone is flush with newfound cash. To be blunt, we’re talking table stakes here, as more anti-LGBTQ legislation, especially laws targeting the transgender community using the same old arguments, keeps rolling out of state capitols across the country.
There’s a better way to show support for any community, including LGBTQ citizens – and that means buying from an LGBTQ-owned business directly.
While many LGBTQ business owners and entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future, the past year has been one full of hurt. According to one survey, 32 percent of LGBTQ small business owners said their revenues cratered by half during the COVID-19 crisis. As for the U.S. federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), 35 percent said they were not able to access them; 28 percent revealed they received some assistance, but not as much as they said they had requested.
So how can you show your support of the LGBTQ community with your wallet, while avoiding any risks of falling into the “pink-washing” trap? One option includes what are already curated lists of suggestions from various bloggers, from this one by Meredith Viera to one focused on queer Black entrepreneurs posted earlier this year by Nicole Akoukou Thompson.
For example, Northern California-based Equator Coffees, which dates back to 1995, ticks off many boxes. The company has been proud about its LGBTQ origins and has gone the fair trade and B-Corp routes long before other businesses jumped aboard those bandwagons. For those living afar, the company offers subscriptions for its various roasts.
And an afternoon’s drive south on I-5 in Los Angeles, Suay Sew Shop isn’t only talking about the circular economy – it’s cutting, sewing and shipping it. The company says it has diverted many tons of unwanted textiles from landfills, and have given them new life as apparel, home goods and even masks. And if money is tight, there are even no-cost threads on “The Free Rack” – available for shipping for no charge, an effort supported by the company and its customers who chose to round up or leave a tip upon online checkout.
So maybe the online shopping and shipping thing isn’t for you. Other ways of supporting LGBTQ businesses include simply taking a walk in a neighborhood and frequenting such shops and eateries; the NYC LGBT Historic Sites, project, for example, is documenting locations important to local and national queer history – a great idea if you happen to be in New York and you want to go beyond exploring the Stonewall Inn.
Finally, there is the old standby – enjoying a nightcap, or even a morning-cap, at a gay bar. That is, if you can find them. For a bevy of reasons, including the rise of online dating and apps like Grindr and Scruff (which some dispute), the number of gay bars across the U.S. has been in a freefall, with COVID-19 accelerating that trend. For the uninitiated, local gay business, chambers of commerce or event sites can keep you posted as to when venues finally open – drag bingo nights were a mainstay before pandemic hit, and in most cities they aren’t scheduled too late at night. The reality for many of these places is that despite everyone’s yearning to get out and party, it will be tough for many places to regain their business, and cash flow, as quickly as it disappeared last year.
For lesbian bars, the numbers have faced a steeper decline – in the late 1980s, there were over 200 across the country: at last count, there are now only 21.
Image credit: Paul Felberbauer/Unsplash