Earlier this August I was a vendor at the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference, and it was an amazing experience. On the business side of things it was an unprecedented success - I got such great feedback on my art and even sold out of so many things! Mind. Blown. And on the personal side of things? Even more of a success. I connected with so many people, and felt so seen, supported, and humbled. I came face to face with my cis privilege, and I think (hope?) handled it pretty dang well. More than ever, I am feeling my mission here at Our Back Pockets in my bones: to celebrate everyday queer lives.
These are my three main takeaways.
1. Serve the queer community. Explicitly.
Queer people are everywhere, but inhabiting a space that is explicitly centering queer and trans experiences? My goodness. It is so, so important to have these spaces. Even just being in the convention center was like a breath of fresh air. I have been lucky this year to be in not just one queer space, but multiple. There's pride, of course, but there are many other types of intentional spaces that center marginalized experiences of all kinds, including queer experiences. There are co-ops, community centers, even coffee shops. Earlier this year I went to A-Camp, an adult summer camp explicitly for queer women (and women-leaning) people. These spaces are radical, and freeing. To be able to put down your defenses, for even a moment, is an earth-shattering experience. It's honestly not even always a safe one. There is some serious whiplash upon re-entry, especially if an event garners the attention of nasty people. Still, I believe that it's an experience worth protecting and expanding.
I will keep doing "mainstream" markets because queer people are everywhere, and we need to see our lives celebrated and normalized. But, the conference solidified my resolve to put my queer customers first, and to funnel most of my energy into supporting and showing up to events that are explicitly, unapologetically, for queer folk.
2. Reach out to other people serving the same communities.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was connecting with service providers who wandered over from the "professional track". I met with people who wanted bulk orders of cards for their patients, or larger versions of designs for their office walls. They were actively looking for ways to make their professional space inviting and reflective of their values. They want to support their patients and fight transphobia in ways both large and small, and we felt kinship.
What am I doing about it? I am working on larger iterations of some of my current designs, and am going to start offering original art in addition to prints (stay tuned!).
Also, starting right now, I'm offering wholesale/bulk prices to service providers. Are you working to better serve queer people in your profession? are you interested in cards, stickers, pins, or wall art for your patients? Email me, tell me a bit about what you do and what you're looking for, and I'll give you all the deets.
3. I'm allowed to round up to being cis, and still serve the trans community.
So here's the deal. I'm a woman. I was assigned female at birth. I'm cisgendered. But there are still...things...about being a woman and female bodied that make me feel all cringey on the inside. They're personal and murky, but I am coming to peace with the grey area. I think of myself as rounding up to being cis. That's allowed to be weird and fluid and also be a position that awards me privilege.
But that doesn't mean I can't show up and serve the trans community. If anything, it makes it even more imperative.
To my cis friends: Show up. Listen. Don't be weird, be a friend.
To my trans friends: If I mess up lemme know. I'm just gonna keep making stuff for you for as long as possible, because you are my friends and my family.
We all deserve to pause and celebrate the important milestones in our lives. The things we want to celebrate may not be a section in a hallmark aisle, but we can sure as hell lift each other up and share our joy.