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It’s become almost a running joke now how quick corporations are to switch off their rainbow-colored profiles come July 1st and get back to business as usual post-Pride Month. We’ve come a long way since Absolut introduced their rainbow vodka bottle in 2009 and sparked a wave of Pride-themed items (from Skittles to mouthwash). While more brands have been putting their money where their mouth is, the “pinkwashing” of regular products from big-name companies is still a concern, especially once the spotlight of visibility shifts off LGBTQ issues after June.
As the rainbow-colored merch leaves shelves, Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign says it’s crucial to support LGBTQ businesses not just during June, but all year round. “Supporting LGBTQ-owned brands is an important way to continue to uplift and advocate for our community beyond Pride month,” he tells Rolling Stone. While Pride month may be over, the fight for LGBTQ equality is ongoing.”
Human Rights Campaign has also recently started a partnership with Showtime called “Queer to Stay,” which gives grants to small LGBTQ-owned and serving businesses who have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. But along with supporting local LGBTQ brands, there’s something to be said about how corporations should continue to show their support for the community.
“True corporate allies don’t market to our community, they join our movement and incorporate LGBTQ people and issues 365 days a year,” says Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD. “Corporate allyship must continue through the inclusion of LGBTQ people in ads and public brand communications, and by leveraging a brand’s reach and power to pass pro-LGBTQ legislation like the Equality Act.”
Ferraro says that in a year when anti-LGBTQ legislation was introduced in states around the country at a record rate (especially targeting trans youth), brands should also take the time to review their internal policies for LGBTQ employees, as well as end donations to anti-LGBTQ politicians.
But what can the average person (I.e. you) do to help? Ferraro says there are still ways to continue the spirit of Pride Month, especially by patronizing LGBTQ-owned restaurants, bars, and small businesses, all of which have been hit hard by the pandemic. We’ve rounded up some LGBTQ-owned and founded brands that you can support all year. Give back to the community and enjoy some quality products (with or without rainbows).
1. Ghost Democracy
Ghost Democracy is an inclusive and clean skincare brand founded by Rex Chou, who, after working in big beauty corporations for over a decade, decided to start a company to show that everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable skin products, regardless of gender.
The brand also takes their “cleanliness” seriously, since their collection go beyond the “no sulfates and no parabens” labels you typically see, cutting out other silicones, oils, and fragrances from their products. Using a higher concentration of lead ingredients (aka the good stuff), we love their Starter Kit, which features a deeply moisturizing and quick-absorbing daily cleanser, moisturizer, and serum. Great for all skin types, this is a quick way to get into a skincare routine where you can trust the ingredients (and not just resort to splashing water on your face).
Originally known as “Toys in Babeland,” Babeland was Seattle’s first feminist sex-toy store founded by Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning, which eventually opened several locations in New York. Though, nowadays you can get their best-selling sex toys online, the sales of which have spiked over the last year as people look to self-pleasure as a new form of self-care (or as they’re just getting back into vaccinated hookups).
One of our favorites from the shop is the popular “Club Vibe 3.OH” vibrator, which reacts to ambient sounds and sends a corresponding wave pattern that “grooves” and pulsates to music. Choose from five pre-set pulsations or use “tease” mode, which lets you or a partner manually control the sensations with the included wireless remote (the head is also designed to stimulate the prostate). A single charge gets you up to an hour of play, any day of the year.
Bokksu delivers to your door authentic Japanese snacks, candies, and teas sourced directly from centuries-old family makers. Founder Danny Taing started the monthly subscription box company when he couldn’t find local Japanese snacks and foods in the U.S. after living in Japan.
Not only will you be supporting an LGBTQ-founded business, you’ll also be supporting local snack-makers across Japan. Like your enthusiastic best friend coming back from a year abroad, you’ll get seasonal and regional picks like Hiroshima Seaweed Tempura Chips to Kyoto Matcha Chocolate Cake, for example. You can always purchase individual snacks and teas (even kitchenware) from the Bokksu market, or get a monthly subscription. Each box is curated for a certain theme, and comes with a booklet that explains where your snacks come from, as well as providing cultural facts.
4. Private Policy
Private Policy is a trend-setting, genderless streetwear brand founded by Siying Qu and Haoran Li. with capsule collections that integrate (and are inspired by) themes surrounding racial and LGBTQ justice. They feature everything from casual loungewear, pieces you’d wear to a cool downtown party, stand-out accessories, and even activewear. But every piece feels neutral enough for anyone to wear, unlike some other ‘gender-neutral’ collections to come from bigger corporations.
The latest line celebrates the goddess of self-love and beauty, Aphrodite, after a year of self-isolation due to quarantine. They’re a bit on the pricier side of brands on our list (this is high fashion, after all) but there’s never a better time to throw some coin to support an LGBTQ-owned brand.
5. Alder New York
Looking for vegan-formulated skincare that’ll also get the job done? Alder New York is a queer and woman-owned independent skincare brand making products that give a plant-powered clean to all skin types, no matter your age, gender, or ethnicity. David J. Krause and Nina Zilka passion for wellness lead them to create an uncomplicated, unfussy skincare that we honestly can’t get enough of.
Besides having some seriously soothing face masks that’ll give Lush a run for their money, if you’re looking for a basic routine (or don’t know where to start), you can’t go wrong with their Everyday Skincare Mini Set — get maximum results in as little steps as possible with their facial cleanser, enriching face serum, and free radical-fighting moisturizer (basically just a barrier against pollutants). Bonus: if you travel a lot, this set is TSA-compliant and can fit easily into a carry-on bag for high-quality skincare on the go.
6. Equator Coffees
Equator Coffees is run by Helen Russell and her partner Brooke McDonnell, who started the coffee company nearly 26 years ago. Sustainably harvested and consciously produced, you can order bags of their specialty blends, single origin beans, espressos, instant and cold coffees, and even decaf. If you’ve got the brew, but not the gear, Equator Coffees also has a section where you can get brewing equipment like grinders, filters, mugs, and tumblers.
Purchase 12 ounce, two-pound, or five-pound bags on their own, or get a customized order with a coffee subscription. You can choose your curated coffee plan based on what type of bean you’re looking for, or pick one of their popular blends like their Tigerwalk Espresso. Then, simply pick your grind, bag size, and how often you want it delivered (weekly or up to every four weeks) and let your cup of joe come to you.
The first Lockwood location opened in Astoria, Queens in 2013, where owner Mackenzi Farquer lives with her wife and kid — which makes sense, since Lockwood’s online store feels like finding the best Mom & Mom corner shop online. The site features collections of affordable lifestyle goods, focusing on local makers and up-and-coming brands, and it’s great for if you have an upcoming wedding or baby shower to go to and don’t want to end up panic-buying a gift on Amazon last minute (though we won’t judge).
But we love their curated gift bundles, which make a thoughtful gift for anyone in your life, or just to yourself if you’re in desperate need of some R&R. For the summertime, order the Picnic Bundle and head to the park for a great warm-weater date night, complete with pre-mix cocktail packets, BBQ popcorn, playing cards, and most importantly, mosquito repellant.
Made for commuters, dogs, and commuters who love their dogs, Roverlund is a gear brand founded in 2019 by Vogue alum Jamie Knowles. Along with their line of popular airline-friendly durable pet carriers, Roverlund has also released a line of Out-Of-Office bags that are as rugged as they are stylish.
The Carry-All bag takes a page from weekender-style suitcases of the Sixties and is great for long getaways, commutes, and yes, weekend trips. While these bags aren’t particularly made for camping (they’re airline compliant, though), they are made with the same kind of outdoorsy sensibility, using marine-grade, waterproof polyester material and mountain rope. The designs match with the pet carriers, so you can take your little buddy with you anywhere in style.