By Katy Ray
From queer owned businesses and restaurants, to local queer media and LGBT resource centers, supporting and interacting with our local queer community is the bedrock of the LGBTQ rights movement. Local queer coffee shops have long served as safe grounds to ignite some of the most influential ideas of our LGBTQ writers and advocates; local queer owned businesses and bars like The Stonewall Inn of New York City gave birth to some of our greatest historical moments and movements. As a nation, we owe so much to local businesses, shops, restaurants, community centers, and bars—-but are we, as a nation, abandoning our queer community in search of mainstream acceptance?
Considering the recent flop of ABC’s When We Rise, which only averaged about 640,000 views per episode, to the cancellation of Doubt, which boasted lead trans actress Laverne Cox, it appears as though the gay community isn’t showing up for its big debut on the national television stage. Is it because we’ve lost our momentum? Is it because we’ve fell under the facade of mainstream integration with positive LGBT portrayals in shows such as Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and Will and Grace? Have we, as a community, become too entitled that we’ve forgotten the importance of support? It’s time to fall back in love with our queer community.
Just as with television ratings, people are paying attention to where we, the LGBTQ community, spend our time and money. Being a conscientious consumer is an integral part of supporting the success of LGBTQ persons in markets that are increasingly difficult to survive in—let alone thrive in. From the gay owned coffee shop competing with the Starbucks next door, to the LGBTQ bar down the street competing with the busy straight bar with better selections and cheaper specials, queer-owned businesses are losing visibility as our community continues to shift toward integrating straight owned businesses. In our quest for acceptance, it seems like we may have lost our loyalty.
And that’s not to say you can’t, or shouldn’t, support straight-owned businesses. But stop for a second and make a mental list of all the businesses you frequent in a week: How many, if any, are queer owned? How heavy does the scale tip toward the straight?
Now, make a list of all of the television shows you watch: How many of them are written by queer people? How many of them explore the narratives of queer people, or contain positive portrayals of queer people, trans people, or QTPOC? It may be time that we, as a community, come together under a collective conscience to revive our queer spaces and ensure that they continue to thrive as we move toward expanding our fight for equality.
As we approach Pride 2017 season, we encourage you to support your local LGBTQ businesses now more than ever. And you can start by downloading LGBTQutie—a queer owned dating app—that puts you in touch with LGBTQ persons right in your community. As you connect with potential dates or network with friends, be intentional about the spaces in which you agree to congregate. Find that queer owned coffee shop and make it your home. Find that gay bar and support it, even on the nights when everyone else is at home snuggled on the couch. Meet up and watch that queer documentary. Take the time to support the people whose services were created specifically for you, because that’s what a community is called to do.