Celebrating Queer Independent Businesses
Rainbow & Co sells a wide variety of merchandise across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum to help you celebrate your identity with pride, with new collaborations and products being introduced all the time.
Creating new ventures and working alongside other independent businesses is one of the most rewarding ways to support the labour of marginalised entrepreneurs, but sometimes just a simple signal boost and recommendation can do wonders.
So with that in mind, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some other amazing businesses and artists. Here is just a small selection of the wonderful stuff on offer here in the UK & Ireland:
This indie venture has been the subject of media attention in recent years due to bigoted graffiti attacks, but each time the local community has come to the rescue to prove that they will not be beaten by ignorance or fear.
They not only work on a ‘pay-what-you-can’ model, but their entire café puts inclusivity to the forefront by working with the social model of disability. It isn’t just that their venue is accessible and safe, they also hold weekly low sensory days and dog-free days.
They have an entire calendar of events, their website contains all of the information you could possibly need (incredibly helpful for those who are neurodiverse), and their menu boasts an amazing tea selection.
The Queery in Brighton crosses genres as both a book shop and a vegan café, it’s a co-op that is both run and owned by its members with its main focus being on the queer community. “A space for queers, by queers.”
It’s wheelchair-accessible, sober, radical and is also available for hire for “workshops, talks, classes, meetings, support groups, open mics, film nights and more!”
Much like pink peacock, The Queery works with fully transparent ethics, making its documents totally available to the public.
They hold a regular sci-fi book club, boardgames night, pottery workshop, children’s reading and quiz night!
The Queer Emporium
Based in the cultural city of Cardiff, the Queer Emporium is a social enterprise that sells goods from over 20 independent LGBTQ+ creators. With art, jewellery, clothing, books and even bath salts, their shop genuinely looks like a queer wonderland.
They even have a plant-based outdoor street café that features amazing menu items such as a colour-changing “Bisexualitea”, delicious-looking goods from The Pie Box, and coffee from Uncommon Ground Roastery.
They boast an entire calendar of amazing events, from craft circles to “speed friendshipping.”
Gay’s The Word
If you don’t know Gay’s The Word, you must be living under a rock! Based in London, it is the UK’s oldest LGBTQ+ book shop and was founded by a group of gay socialists in 1979, who to this day continue the same business model of investing funds straight back into the legendary business.
For decades queers visiting the capital have made sure to leave time to pop into Gay’s The Word to peruse the goods and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, a gay trip into the city just isn’t the same without it.
Not just a book shop, they hold events and numerous community groups have used the space to host meetings. It’s perfect for both casual bookworms and academics alike.
If you have access to London and haven’t been to Gay’s The Word, it’s definitely a rite of passage.
Category Is Books
If you’d like to visit a more recent establishment, look no further than Glasgow’s Category Is Books, which opened its doors in 2018 and survived the pandemic’s worst time for indie businesses.
This wonderful book shop was opened by self-described “wusband and wusband team, genderqueer dykes” Charlotte [they/them] and Fionn (‘Fin’) [they/them] Duffy-Scott.
The atmosphere in this place is a perfect combination of peaceful and welcoming, whether you want to peruse quietly or strike up a conversation over their incredible selection of pins and badges, it’s a must-visit spot when you’re in Glasgow.
They also feature a ‘pay it forward’ initiative, enabling everyone to benefit from the joy of books.
Back To Books
Back To Books is a Birmingham-based “indie & radical representative bookshop” with a focus on feminist, queer and Black works. One glance at their social media is all you need to see how passionate they are about standing by their ethics, from supporting strikers to pointing out the ridiculous lack of BIPOC representation in children’s books.
Their Bookshop.org bio describes them perfectly;
“Our focus is feminist, queer, Black, Brown, disabled, decolonising, anti-capitalist, liberatory and representative reads, as well as Birmingham books.”
As well as visiting their shop, if you’d like to help sustain this fantastic business, please take a look at their crowdfunder:
This Is Biscuit
This Is Biscuit is a bisexuality, pansexuality and mspec-focused advocacy group, they not only sell an amazing variety of goodies in their Etsy store, but they also engage in bisexual activism through visibility campaigns, grassroots events and panels, and collaborating with other activist initiatives.
(You can also find some of their goods on Rainbow & Co!)
Do you wish to taste the forbidden hard candy? Do you like to hoard the shiny click clacks? Valkyrie RPG has got you covered! Run by queer duo Nicky and Danny, their shop is overflowing with pretty math rocks for all of your TTRPG (Table-Top Role-Playing Game) needs.
They sell both individual dice and full collections in a stunning array of designs and concepts, from just plain sparkly to rainbow layered dice, metal and gemstone dice, sharp-edged dice (maybe don’t put those in your mouth, but look I’m not your Dad), and even dice with tiny ducks inside!
West Queer Art
Founded in 2020 by Shar, a queer activist and artist from Galway, Ireland. “Through their journey of recovery, navigating multiple lockdowns, chaotic pandemic times, and the general woes of 2020, West Queer Art was formed as a sanctuary for their creativity and expression.”
If you love badges, pins and stickers you are in for a treat!
But my favourites of their designs have to be ‘Abolish Golf’ and ‘my existence isn’t Glorifying Obesity i’m just vibing mind your business’.
Deliciously Diverse Gifts and Cards
Whilst it’s great that a lot more mainstream greetings card companies now stock the odd gay design, I know I’d personally much rather give my money to two queer women running their own independent business!
Their cards are full of rainbows, but they also sell lovely little gifts like tealight holders, feminine crystal carvings, trans pride flag-inspired bath bombs, and who doesn’t want a rose quartz vulva?
The Nerdy Queer
It’s a well-known fact that the Venn diagram of queers and nerds is practically a circle, and The Nerdy Queer (run by a wonderfully talented couple) sells everything you could ever possibly need to let your geek flag fly.
From Pokeball pride flag pins to John Carpenter’s “They Live” inspired pronoun pins, their wares let you express both your LGBTQ+ identity and your more niche interests at the same time with perfection.
This final set of recommendations is a list of six separate Etsy shops, and I am truly sorry for your wallets.
Each of these businesses is run by queer independent artists who specialise in everything cute, pastel, colourful, fandom, weeby, endearing, and most of all - queer.
You will be spoilt for choice and suddenly trying to figure out where to put all of these enamel pins and badges, and you know what? I’m not even sorry. It’s time to finally get that denim jacket for pins and patches that you’ve always thought about.
This article was written by Felix F Fern (He/They). Felix is a disabled, mspec and non-binary transgender activist and co-founder of the grassroots activism team Trans Activism UK.