by Kim Marks and the As You Like It Team
Being queer and running a business is a complex experience. I have always believed that being “queer” is more than sexuality — queerness is about disrupting hetero-patriarchal spaces and challenging the status quo. And I have spent most of my life creating change and supporting others to be empowered in their own change-making journeys.
When I first started thinking about opening this business, I was excited about all the possibilities of where change can occur. I wanted to run a truly “queer” business. I saw queerness not only as a personal identity, but as an ethical framework that would inform everything, from how I try to create a comfortable and supportive space for customers, to how I invest in the training and development of my team. I wanted it to extend my queerness to what companies I supported and whose products I would bring into my space. As I was writing my business plan, I developed my own procurement policy with a focus on body-safety and inclusion. And as an ecosexual queering my love for the earth, I wanted to keep my carbon footprint low by sourcing regionally as much as possible.
Above all, I wanted to balance the needs of people and the environment as I worked to create a safer space for people to be able to be who they wanted to be and explore their own unique sexual journey of healing, connection, and forging new pathways for pleasure.
Pride is a complex concept. It is not fixed, but rooted in action and change. As the years passed, Pride became less of a call to action and more of a party. I don’t mean to suggest that celebration is a bad thing; this shop exists because we know that pleasure and joy are some of the most powerful weapons we have against oppression!
But it is also important to take action. Our community is back under higher scrutiny and attack, more so than it has been in a while. Pride to me is not only about being out and proud but also about being aware and taking care of each other. That is the goal of my shop: to take better care of my community.
This June, I asked some of my staff who identify as LGBTQ+ what
Pride means to them in today's world. This is what they shared:
by Win (it/its)
Pride to me will always be, first and foremost, a riot and a refusal. A right hook from a limp wrist, a kneecapping by a size 13 stiletto, the scream of an endless legacy of our voices saying enough, enough, I will never be like you even if you kill me so let me be me.
Pride means perseverance, it means a refusal to disappear, to assimilate. The first brick at Stonewall wasn’t thrown so that we could get MasterCards with rainbows on them, it was thrown because queer and trans people were tired of the violence. Because we didn't want to be a part of the heteronormative American Dream. We have our own queer dreams and will fight for them no matter how many times they’re posed as nightmares.
Over and over again we get asked the questions ‘Why are you still fighting? What are you fighting for?’ and the answer is infinitely complicated and so simple at the same time.
We fight for joy; for ourselves and everyone we love to be safe and happy and together.
We fight to be able to be ourselves, authentic and strange.
We fight because we are sick and tired of being afraid and alone.
We fight because we have to, because no one else is going to save us until we save each other.
We fight because what the hell else is there to do? Give up? Not an option. And in the end what we’re really fighting for is to have community. To live, laugh, love in our own weird ways, safe and queer and together.
by Jackie (they/she)
I came out at 18. A few years later, Obergefell v. Hodges — the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality — was decided, one day after my twenty-first birthday. I grew up in a world where it felt like being queer was, at the very least, begrudgingly accepted by the majority. I had been told that Pride was a riot, but in my experience, it felt more like a corporate-sponsored party. I knew my queer history, but I naïvely believed that enough progress had been made that I would live a life likely accented by individual unpleasant interactions, but that society at large understood the need for equal protection under the law.
But it has become obvious that our struggle is far from over. Progress begets backlash. Hate crimes are rising. Queer and trans people are under attack from cowards who are threatened by our joy. And in recent years, we have seen an attempt to legislate the erasure of queer and trans people on all levels.
I now understand more than ever why Pride truly matters. Pride is not just a month where there are rainbows in the shop windows, or a reason to go out and dance with your chosen family. Pride can absolutely serve as a reminder of our history, and a way to honor all those who fought tooth and nail to get where we are. But it has to be more than a celebration of the past. Pride must also be a call to action in the present. To truly embody Pride, we must fight every day for the world we deserve. Pride is an unfriendly reminder to all who fear our joy that we are still here after all their attempts to erase us. And no matter what they do, we will always be here.
by Melissa (she/her)
As the straight presenting, actually bisexual, platonic life partner of a butch lesbian, Pride means making sure to always be hyper femme and straight acting whenever my BFF and I are in public. We moved to the Left Coast from Kansas about 13 years ago and when we visit home, we prefer to drive. But that means 3 days of cross country bathroom stops in dangerous states, including everything east of the Cascades in our home state. I let the midwest accent slide into a more southern drawl if we head south. I do all the talking at restaurants, gas stations and hotels. I do my best to make it clear that we are not a couple, but best friends. We go to the bathroom together because it is less likely she will get hassled if she walks in with me than if she walks in alone.
All that said, Pride means constant vigilance, looking out for my queer people, and being ready to de-escalate a situation or put myself in harm's way because I look like a straight cis woman. I would love to say that Pride is a day of celebration for the victories of the Queer Rights Movement. But honestly, the last 5 years have been a huge backslide. So Pride is back to being a call to action instead of a celebration. Hopefully in the next 5 years we can push back the rising tide against us and get back to celebrating all things Queer with Drag Shows, Pride Parades, and Gay Proms.
To me, Pride is, above all else, an expression of freedom. Many people use the concept of freedom to cover up homophobia. They will claim religious rights as the reason that they should be allowed to treat us as second-class citizens. But what about our freedoms? What about our right to live our lives as we want to? What about freedom from discrimination in housing, employment, and healthcare? What about our freedom to create families, or to care for our partners in emergencies? In some places, we have already lost the basic freedom to tell our stories. In some places, we have already lost the basic freedom to even walk down the street.
I have never infringed upon anyone else’s freedoms. I have never told anyone else how to live or what to believe. Yet a large number of people are convinced that my very existence infringes upon their rights. But I actually believe the opposite to be true: that the people who seek to police the behavior of others according to their personal religion don’t actually care about freedom.
Which is why, now more than ever, I think Pride serves as an affirmation that in spite of those who may believe otherwise, our freedoms matter just as much as theirs.
by Helen (they/them)
Growing up intersex, genderqueer, and pansexual in a community of religious abuse, I didn’t have the courage to come out of the closet — not even to myself. As long as I pretended to be religious and cisgender, my pansexuality allowed me to play straight enough to avoid the hatred being diverted my way. Although passing for cis/het did give me some privileges in this world, being trapped in the closet is absolutely not a privilege.
Even after leaving the church, it was years before I accepted in my own heart how pansexual and gender nonconforming I was. For a long time, I felt held back thinking I wasn’t “gay enough” or “trans enough” to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I was definitely more than a little gay, but too inexperienced to feel certain. The label of “woman” had always felt wrong, but taking on the identity of “man” didn’t feel right either. I was never fully “this” and never fully “that.”
As I gained an understanding of the nuances of “queer”, “trans”, “nonbinary”, and “pansexual”, I came to embrace my sex and gender expression. It was only because of the pioneering work of activists, performance artists, and scholars that I had access to these terms and concepts. Without them, I might have withered in the back of the closet forever, never blossoming some of the best parts of myself.
Now I am a performance artist, educator, and public speaker. I’ve been privileged in this life to be able to set an example for others and hear directly from them that knowing me helped them understand themselves a little better. The field of LGBTQIA2+ theory didn’t end with marriage equality. Fortunately, we still have an endless amount to inspire within each other.