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Put your money where your hashtag is in support of queer small businesses

//Illustration by Madison Lauterbach | mlauterbach@msmayhem.com

Over the last several years, there’s been a discussion about “Rainbow-Washing,” in which corporations replace their regular logo with a rainbow version and carry a limited stock of LGBTQ+ gear emblazoned with sayings like “Love is Love” for Pride Month. 

In theory, it proves that big companies are becoming more aware of the community’s fight for inclusion. But oftentimes these brands, police departments, government agencies and other organizations offer up their “allyship” during the month of June and continue practices that harm LGBTQ+ folks the rest of the year. 

That’s why we’ve put together this list of local queer-owned shops you can support year-round, not just during Pride Month. Not only does your support of these businesses help people in your own community, but your money is also going directly into the pockets of LGBTQ+ people and not big corporations. 

We’ve listed 10 small businesses that don’t get annual attention from big pride celebrations. In addition, we’ve included three LGBTQ+ nonprofits that are working to provide the Denver LGBTQ+ community with resources. 

Butter Moon Bake Co

As a queer-owned business, the importance of community and mutual aid was built into the model of Butter Moon Bake Co. In honor of Pride Month, the shop is sending funds and products to queer youth, sex workers and queer POC. While owner and baker Ava Truckey supports different organizations and individuals each week of the year, her work is not always broadcasted in order to protect people’s identity. Catch Truckey at City Park Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Queer America Clothing

Founders Kyle Rhodes and Julie West started Queer America Clothing to give back to the LGBTQ+ community within the Denver area. Their vibrant shirts are a product of anger over something the former president said. After meeting while volunteering at The Center on Colfax, the duo launched their business and continues to give back to the community center. Product designs include the Denver International Airport “Blue Mustang” sculpture shooting rainbow beams out of its eyes and rainbow versions of the Big Blue Bear and the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign. This June, they are donating 10% of profits to The Center on Colfax

Wong Way Veg 

Ms. Mayhem covered this little food truck that could at the beginning of the pandemic, and guess what? It did! After a year of socially distanced deliveries, the business has returned to relatively normal operations, including spots at Nooch Vegan Market and City Park Farmer’s Market. In addition to its rotating vegan menu, its two-woman team is offering a Pride treat box including taiyakis, lemon rainbow cake, heart cookies and one pride sticker. Cakes, buttons and stickers are also sold separately, with 10% of proceeds from all Pride items being donated to The Center on Colfax.

Summit Tacos 

Esquites, cochinita, rajitas and enchiladas de mole rojo are only a taste of the bountiful authentic-Mexican fare available on the porch of Summit Tacos. This LGBTQ+ business has made a reputation over the last four years as a popular stop for street tacos and is excited to be opening its outdoor space for summer dining. Edwardo Perea and Alejandro Rodrigues opened the business first as a food truck with the hopes of bringing Mexico City street food and Mexican comfort food to the front range. Happy hour is Tuesday-Saturday from 4-6 p.m and catering is available for what the duo promises to be a truly authentic food experience.

Celebrations Event Planning 

The first thing you want when planning your big day is someone who understands your unique vision. Certified wedding planners Pam Donaldson and Angela Surber have orchestrated Queer weddings for 15 years and work hard to make sure that couples are free to enjoy the celebration of their marriage. The company offers many packages for all budgets and even does social gatherings and corporate events to ensure that all events are LGBTQ+ friendly. The company is a member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, a preferred vendor of Equally Wed and a featured business of EnGAYged Weddings.

Lesbian Couples Institute 

This institute promises to support Lesbian couples through their unique struggles with the use of queer-informed counseling. Many of these couples might not be able to seek advice from family members, friends or resources geared towards straight couples. With that in mind, the Lesbian Couples Institute provides counseling, accelerated programs, retreats and online group coaching. The founder of the institute, Lynda Spann, has a PhD in Psychology and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. For over 20 years she has worked with couples and individuals with the goal of creating sustainable relationships.

Healing Roots Acupuncture

With 20 years of experience in rehabilitating dancers, athletes, veterans and emotional care of patients, Healing Roots now also specializes in queer and transgender care and traumatic brain injuries. Cristina Michaels, the owner of Healing Roots, set out to create a safer place for people like her to receive holistic treatment. The studio offers several pain treatments including acupuncture, cupping, Moxibustion and Shiatsu massage. They also offer discounts for veterans and LGBTQ+ folks.

Above Ground Hair

At Above Ground’s two salon locations, everyone is welcome to be themselves. The owner and founder, Ashe Bowen, has been serving the queer community for more than 20 years. They’ve put together a team of stylists that can service all hair types and styles. Reviewers consistently remark that the stylists are not only skilled with what they do, but incredibly gender-affirming. The salons offer gender-free pricing for services, which include waxing, styling, cut and color.

Optimist Coffee

Couple Hannah and Des started Optimist in 2020 amidst the chaos of the pandemic. They transformed an old Crestline camper, nicknamed “Peach,” into their mobile coffee shop. The camper and the couple’s barista mastery are available to rent for events. They serve all the classics, like espresso, Americanos and Lattes. There’s even a little something for the pups—complementary whip-n’-wags upon request.

Urban Sanctuary

Ali Duncan developed this center for yoga, reiki, meditation and energy workshops with the hope of it being the holistic sanctuary of Five Points. From its opening in 2016, Duncan has worked to ensure the space is a haven for BIPOC folks, especially women, to reconnect with themselves. While supporting the LGBTQ+ community was always a priority, when Duncan’s daughter, Audriana, came out as queer, the two worked together to make it a centerpiece of their vision. As Ms. Mayhem reported in October, BIPOC and the queer community of Denver attend yoga classes for free, including naked yoga, tarot and flow and “early morning quickies.”

 

Colorado Name Change Project

The Colorado Name Change Project is a nonprofit that helps connect trans and nonbinary folks with the resources they need to change their name and gender marker. The organization provides state-wide workshops, pro bono legal assistance and nonpartisan advocacy, to help make the transition process easier. Colorado Name Change Project streamlines the process for those seeking to have their legal identity match their true identity by reducing bureaucracy and financial barriers.

Youth Seen

Youth Seen seeks to empower the social and emotional well-being of LGBTQ+ youth in Colorado. The organization partners with groups that tailor their resources and outreach to young queer and trans BIPOC. They offer mental health counseling, support groups for parents and children, training workshops for organizations seeking to enhance their services and short-term case management for youth with a variety of needs.

Queer Asterisk 

Queer Asterisk offers a variety of therapeutic services for children, teens and adults. All of their licensed mental health professionals identify as queer or transgender, so patients can find someone that has similar life experiences. The organization offers several approaches to therapy and specializes in gender-affirming treatment of dysphoria, trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, grief and loss.

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