June 10, 2020
In the scheme of things, pride events being cancelled due to COVID-19 is pretty far down on the list of stuff to be upset about. Plus, it’s pretty clear that vehemently protesting police violence and the outright murdering of Black people is way more in line with the spirit of pride than a parade with bedazzled banks and rainbow clad cops.
HOWEVER. There is still a need for joy, for celebration, and for pretty affirming things! Especially if those things are made by and supporting queer people. Extra-especially if they are made by and supporting queer Black people.
For me, pride is about history, resistance, and strength in community, so this June I’m focused on supporting queer and marginalized communities in a variety of ways. If you have discretionary income right now, I suggest you donate to mutual aid and bail funds in your local community, organizations that provide direct relief to Black trans folks, and/or activist organizations working to defund the police and dismantle the prison system.
If, after that, you want something stubbornly joyful to commemorate pride: hell yes! Even better if your pride gear comes from a small queer shop. Target’s pride line is fun, yes, but you shouldn’t be browsing the halls of Target right now anyway! For a lot of small craft businesses, the summer market circuit is where we get a lot of our yearly income (second only to the dread *holiday season*). For brick and mortar stores, it’s when tourists are shopping and locals are out strolling. It’s time to start buying pride swag you can be, well, proud of.
This is of course not an exhaustive list - it’s a living compilation of my personal favorites, with a few recommendations from my followers as well. All of these small businesses are either queer owned, queer focused, or have made efforts to be explicitly queer inclusive and welcoming!
I want to start this off with a shout out to brick and mortar stores. The following two categories - boutiques and bookstores - don’t include the only brick and mortar stores in this guide (also check out the stationery and craft sections!). They are, however, all businesses operating out of a physical shop, that in less COVID-y days beg to be leisurely perused. Some of them are starting to open to the public (with proper distancing, of course), and some of them are not, but all of these stores are offering books and pride gear you can purchase online.
I love wandering through a well curated boutique, finding new and inspiring objects while in a cozy welcoming space. Just being in the presence of real people, being able to feel, see, and smell the goods from all angles - it’s just such a different experience than online shopping (which is also great, obviously). Obviously we can’t do any of that right now (looking at you, coronavirus), but I want to do everything within my power to make sure these places are still around when it comes time to reopen.
Brick and Mortar stores were struggling even before the pandemic, but now they are in even more danger. I’ve had to change this list since starting it two weeks ago because places have since closed. Shops that have been a staple of their communities have scrambled to get their products online if they weren’t already, and switched to entirely new marketing strategies. All while having some of the highest overhead of any small business, what with rent and employees on top of purchasing the actual inventory.
I haven’t been following the QUILTBAG for very long, but I’m confident they are my people. This brick and mortar pride shop offers all the flags you could want, and I love the way they have been dealing with the pandemic. For one, their Home Shopping Channel on instagram tv is hilarious. For another, they are still offering by-appointment-only, socially distanced fittings for gender affirming undergarments (binders, gaffs, bras, packing harnesses, etc). Even without a pandemic, there are so few places you can actually try on things like binders in person. I love that they are able to keep offering this service to their community. QUILTBAG also has a fund to help low income community members access gender affirming products.
Magpie is one of my favorite local (to me) boutiques. It’s not an exclusively queer shop, but it is explicitly inclusive. They support local small businesses and manage to curate a space that just feels so relaxing and safe. They are also where I get all my favorite jewelry.
Recommendations: I bought one of the stationery kits when quarantine first started and I regret nothing.
Listen. I forget how I stumbled across Full Circle on instagram, but they posted about My Vag: A Rhyming Coloring Book and I bought two copies immediately (one for myself and one for gifting, obvi). I’ve never stepped foot in West Virginia but I’ve become a hardcore fan. Noelle, one of the co-owners, has her own ceramic practice and she makes delightful irreverent pottery. Full Circle also is committed to giving back, routinely collaborates with their local pride organization, overall it honestly just looks like a really fun time!
Recommendations: It looks like My Vag is sold out,* but they have a whole collection of coloring books and I love them all. I’m also eyeing these incredible Tom of Finland bandanas - what a way to flag!!
I came for the stationery, and stayed for the tom of finland products and plants. I just can’t get enough of their instagram feed!
Womencrafts is one of the oldest remaining feminist bookstores, and has been lesbian owned and operated since 1976. Situated in Provincetown (the gay beach town at the end of Cape Cod, and a personal favorite) Womencrafts sells books and art, all created by women. Dedicated to justice and trans inclusivity, Womencrafts is not only an important part of our history, it’s also a delightful haven for queers of all stripes.
Where to find: Shop the online store! I’ve also been enjoying getting my beach fix from a distance by following their instagram. If you're in the area, I also recommend stopping by! They just opened their doors (with social distancing in place, of course) and I'm sure would love to see a friendly face.
Charis is another bookstore carrying on the tradition of radical feminist spaces, and also runs a sister non-profit, Charis Circle. While I have not been able to visit this shop in person, they carry my products and I think they are just great. If I’m ever in Georgia you know I’ll be there.
Charis also has a bunch of recommendations and resources pertaining to the history of feminist bookstores and lesiban presses - interesting stuff!
Where to find: Shop the online store directly or purchase a gift card. You can also donate to help sustain their programming work, where they are holding digital book clubs and support groups. Follow on instagram.
Recommendations: Charis has an incredible selection of books for kids and teens, both fiction and nonfiction. Notably, they have a whole list of books for the explicit purpose of teaching children how to dismantle racism. They have a list for white adults on the same topic, and frankly my reading list has expanded exponentially because of it!
Bluestockings is not just a bookstore - it’s also a cafe, community center, and hub for leftist activism. It’s entirely collectively owned, and powered largely by volunteers. They hold regular support groups (now online) and they have a huge range of books, all curated around the values inherent in Bluestocking’s mission.
Recommendations: In my mind one of Bluestockings’ real strengths is their extensive selection of comics, zines, and educational resources. I’m gonna go ahead and recommend anything by Archie Bongiovanni, like Grease Bats or the Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns. I’m just such a fan.
Feminist bookstores have a long history as a locus for community activism, but it’s getting harder and harder to find them. Within this context, I am so extremely excited for this new feminist bookstore! All She Wrote explicitly stocks new and used books featuring female, queer and non-binary authors. It has been operating as a pop-up, collaborating with a ton of Somerville businesses, and will soon be a permanent bookstore and community space. Their brick-and-mortar opening has been delayed due to COVID-19, but is starting curbside pickup at their new lcoation starting June 25!
Recommendations: I really don't think you can go wrong here, and recommend browsing your heart out! Bu,t I'm particularly fond of memoir and have been wanting to read Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story. I also cannot recommend Come as you Are enough - it's an excellent look into the science of female sexuality and the complexities we never learn about.
Tiny Turns Paperie is a brick and mortar stationery and paper shop situated at my fave local (to me) shopping spot - Bow Market. They are not exclusively queer but they do carry a diversity of heartfelt cards - LGBTQ cards included - and in general are just good people! As a stationery nerd, I couldn’t not include Tiny Turns Paperie!
Quirky cards, prints, and enamel pins? A mission to “reflect, affirm and celebrate, all of the ways we humans know how to live, love, and be”? Obviously this entire shop is my cup of tea. Add in adorable illustrations and some of the only cards I’ve found for gender affirming surgeries (besides the ones I made, obvi), and I’m full on obsessed.
Recommendations: Am I angry I didn’t make this Bye Bye Binders card? A little, but only in the best way. Buy everything from this shop, please. I have also absolutely just bought this pray the gay to stay enamel pin for myself.
Anna Parade! Where do I even start? Anna is a brilliant, queer, letterer and illustrator. She is a self described “fat femme with zero chill,” and her dedication to celebration shows through in all her work. Whether its a card, mug, or pin - Anna Parade goods are about honoring the small things, good and bad. Anna Parade is an unapologetically queer brand, equal parts radical, honest, and full of heart.
Recommendations: Stonewall was a fucking riot. Lettered boldly, in rainbow, on a mug. Fuck. Yes. Fuel up, keep fighting. And while you’re at it, support a queer business while advocating for supporting queer businesses with this colorful enamel pin.
Casualigraphy: modern calligraphy with a content warning. The badass owner, Jesse (they/them), hand letters almost every single product Casualigraphy offers (I think the only exception is the stickers, because, you know. Stickers). Casualigraphy illustrates the messy parts of life with humor and candor, and never shies away from the hard stuff.
Where to find: Shop their website and follow Casualigraphy on instagram! I happen to know they have been making a ton of gorgeous hand lettered buttons - with things like pronouns, “black lives matter", and "defund the police" - and that’s where they’ll be dropping! You can also get
Recommendations: Obviously the instagram for the pronouns mentioned above, but I also love this Infinite Love sticker (Jesse and I share a mission to make polyam stuff that doesn’t look like it was designed on a geocities site in the late 90s…) and this I Need More Space sticker. You can also contact Jesse for custom pieces!
LavenderPop is a line of greeting cards by artist and illustrator Otis Richardson. The mission is to “offer a range of cards to celebrate relationships, friendships, love and pride.” SIGN ME UP.
I love that there are e-card options! Also, I personally struggle with figuring out what the inside of a card should say, so I am especially impressed by the downright poetic text inside many of these cards.
Recommendations: I can’t get over this bi the way card. The inside reads:
“How often have I heard
that those of us who love both genders
just can’t decide.
My love is not limited to a body,
but is attracted to the soul.
My world has been made whole
by having you in it.”
I first learned about Kwohtations a few years ago, right around when I had first started Our Back Pockets. I saw her “Yay, You’re Gay!” letterpress card in a local shop and stopped in my tracks. An LGBTQ card that I didn’t hate!? Especially then, that was extremely rare. I immediately looked up Kwohtations and found out that there wasn’t just one LGBTQ card - there were many! And LGBTQ didn’t just secretly mean gay! A line of cards that included all kinds of queer experiences, celebrates chosen family, and was joyfully trans inclusive? Obviously I’m a fan.
Besides loving the inclusive nature of Kwohtations cards (both in terms of gender, sexuality, and race), I also love that Janine (the person behind the brand) is open about experiencing her own life-changing grief. Kwohtations has some of the most loving, nuanced, and honest cards around grief I’ve ever come across.
Recommendations: I absolutely adore this card for people who are switching or adding new pronouns to their arsenal, and honestly I would recommend checking out the entire LGBTQ section. I also truly can’t get enough of these stickers full of affirmations and ideas for self care. I put them on everything.
Ash + Chess is run by Ashley Molesso (she/her) and Chess Needham (he/him), self proclaimed queer and trans power couple (an assesment I heartily agree with!). They have some of the most bright, fun, perfectly retro LGBTQ greeting cards on the market. They never shy away from making their politics known, and speak out loudly against racism and transphobia. They also just put out a book on queer history!
Oh hey, it's me! If you're here you probably know my deal, but just in case: Our Back Pockets was created to celebrate queer lives and everything that encompasses. Our Back Pockets is founded on the concept that all of our milestones deserve recognition and unbridled celebration (hormoniversary or gender confirming surgery, anyone?), and on the tradition of queers using material culture to find and support each other. On a personal note, nothing makes me happier than seeing things that I made elicit a knowing laugh or facilitate deep supportive connection. Thank you for being here.
Recommendations: I am inordinately proud of all my stickers (they are clear and SO NICE), but these confident queer critters are especially dear to me. It's pride month so I gotta include the Be Gay, Do Crimes card (PS if you are like "huh?" I go into a bit of nerdy internet/activist history here). For allies and loved ones of all kinds, I also want to offer this card that's perfect for someone who's just come out to you.
Crafty Queer Studio carries extremely cool jewelry and pins, all various kinds of pride themed, all hand made. They even recently launched some more subtle (but still queer!) jewelry, for those that are proud but maybe don’t like being so loud. I also want to point out that this jewelry is appropriate for a whole range of gender expressions - it can swing either femme or mask depending on how you do.
Recommendations: A BUTTON THAT SAYS “YAY! I’M GAY!”. WITH A BAT. IN A PARTY HAT. Need I say more? No. But I will. All of the earrings are so good, but I especially like the galaxy background pronouns (which you can mix and match, btw), and the ones that say dyke.
I’ve been a fan of Wild Fancy for ages, and their sassy bronze jewelry has a special place in my heart. This is another handmade jewelry company that caters to queer folks across the gender spectrum, with their vibe being a little more witchy, ornate, and femme (in a genderfucky way, of course). They specifically talk and think about the history of queers and self expression through fashion, which you know I love.
Recommendations: This fisting pin is in the running for being my favorite enamel pin ever, which is saying something. I also wish I wore more button downs these days just so I could wear so many of these collar chains, and I recently purchased this both/and necklace for myself, because it’s both the hardest and most important thing for me to remember.
All enamel pins*, all social justice, often featuring prominent Black leaders. IN ADDITION, a portion of the proceeds goes toward community organizations. The founder got into lapel pins as a med student (excellent way to show solidarity on a lab coat!), and was frustrated by the lack of diversity and apolitical nature of so many enamel pins available. So she set out to change that. . This company is run by Black women with a serious mission.
Recommendations: This is a large pin of Marsha P. Johnson with 3D acrylic flowers. MARSHA “PAY IT NO MIND” JOHNSON. 3D FLOWERS. That’s hard to beat, but I’m also digging this pin of Lena Waithe with her iconic met gala pride cape.
Gender gems is run by a queer, trans artist and their specific mission is to provide positive representation for trans / nonbinary / gender nonconforming folks. Their pins range from simple to complex, and are certainly never boring. Shawn is open about dealing with chronic conditions, and news on the ‘gram is that these Queer to the Bone spine pins are coming back. If you have a friend whose identities are situated at the intersection of disability and queerness, I bet this would mean the world. If YOU are that friend, welcome to your new favorite queer spoonie artist.
Recommendations: The titular gender gems (pronoun pins in the shape of gems!) are just fantastic, and the design on this non-binary pin blows me away. As mentioned, I’m also 100% obsessed with their new Queer to the Bone collection, including this rib cage/rainbow heart combo.
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October 22, 2020
July 22, 2020
Today's story is about how I came up with the concept for Our Back Pockets (stationery to celebrate queer lives, heyyyy), as well as how I came up with the name Our Back Pockets.