For members of the LGBTQ community, living authentically has been historically out of reach. This affects not just a sense of self and overall happiness, but the opportunity to start businesses that celebrate and serve the community of which they are a part. Revisiting the origins of Pride reminds us of how far we’ve come.
On June 28, 1970, the very first Pride events took place in cities across the United States, marking the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Also called the Stonewall Rebellion, this event was the result of ongoing police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a historic LGBTQ bar in NYC’s East Village. Every June, people across the world honor the legacy built by those who led the LGBTQ community for the right to exist authentically and openly as themselves.
At the time of the Stonewall Uprising, for decades after it was not safe to be openly queer, forcing countless individuals to live in the margins of society. Queer people, particularly trans women of color, still face legal battles and social biases, and are uniquely impacted by the effects of climate change.
But today members of the LGBTQ community are the leaders and entrepreneurs leading industries and movements across the globe, many starting in their own communities. So this June, we’re celebrating queer-owned, vegan, and sustainable businesses that are making a positive impact on their communities, on animals, and on the planet.
For every community, restaurants are the heart center—safe spaces to build connections, share stories, and make memories. Sharing food was, and still is, a meaningful part of LGBTQ history. In the 1950s, potlucks became a cornerstone of queer women’s spaces when the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian organization, began holding secret meetings over coffee in San Francisco, Regina Gattuso wrote for Atlas Obscura. Over the next few decades, queer potlucks are synonymous with much-needed togetherness and solidarity.
Although LGBTQ acceptance has improved, many, particularly trans women of color, still face violence as well as housing and food insecurity, so potlucks still remain an important part of the community. Today, there are many business owners who have had the privilege of proudly celebrating their indentity, while creating a space that’s welcoming for everyone. Here are some of our favorites.
The Greenwood, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, was founded by friends Oskar Hansen and Zak Riding to answer the need for a safe, sober, queer cafe in the city.
Most queer venues in the urban center of the country, are centered around alcohol. “We also want to make the point of providing a space for queer people under 18 who miss out on the social space of nightclubs due to the presence of alcohol and everything that comes with it,” Zak and Oscar told the Daily Record in July 2020.
The restaurant features a plant-based menu, including choices like falafel wraps, soups, smoothie bowls, and pastries. It also offers groceries and acts as a center for local art, which is available for purchase.
Launched by couple Autumn (known as Tumn) and Taylor Riley-Parhar in May 2020 during the pandemic, Vintage Vegan Diner is a Las Vegas-based company that delivers ready-made food.
“It’s crucial to bring veganism to all communities and to break stigmas that veganism is something that looks like a certain person,” the founders told LIVEKINDLY in December 2020. “Especially in communities of color, lower-income communities, and inner cities where food deserts are so prevalent, it’s vital to make veganism an option.”
Its delivery service is now national, delivering dishes such as barbecue tofu bites, lemon pepper tofu, sliders, and sweet treats like egg-free cookie dough, across the country. Vegas locals even have the option to purchase meals from a vending machine.
Based in Brooklyn, Seitan Rising is a woman-owned, queer vegan cafe that specializes in deli sandwiches, pastries, and cakes. The establishment is the brainchild of two local vegan pop-ups; Pisces Rising, which makes cakes and pastries, and Seitan’s Helper, which makes plant-based meat. At the cafe, you’ll find a pastry case full of cinnamon buns, cakes, danishes, and more as well as huge sandwiches stacked with housemade plant-based deli meats.
The bakery-cafe is unapologetically queer woman and worker-owned, so the four people you see working there throughout the day are the actual owners, who each bring their own experiences of working in the famously cutthroat NYC food and restaurant industry for years. Seitan Rising values every member of its team, and taking care of them; the cafe goes on weeks-long seasonal breaks in order to give employees much-needed physical and mental rest.
Married couple Keirsten and Alissa Straiter started selling homemade vegan doughnuts at pop-ups in 2013. They opened their vegan diner and doughnut shop, Glory Doughnuts, in Frederick, Maryland, in 2015 after realizing that it was something missing from their neighborhood. Beyond doughnuts, the Straiters draw from classic sweets and comfort foods like cinnamon buns and vegan sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches.
“It was pretty early on that we knew that we wanted to create a cool spot where everyone felt welcome,” Alissa explained in a 2018 video. “A place where we could hang out and call our second home. A gathering place for people to enjoy our treats.”
Audubon, New Jersey-based cafe LesbiVeggies is a Black and queer-owned vegan cafe founded by Brennah Lambert who wanted to share her love of plant-based food with her community. She began her business three years ago, when a family member asked her to cook for them. It was a hit, and led to more people in the community requesting her culinary talents, so Lambert started a meal prep service, which eventually evolved into a restaurant.
Lambert, who has no formal culinary background, specializes in comfort foods like eggplant parmesan, tostadas, peach cobbler pancakes, and chipotle lime cauliflower wings. The name, LesbiVeggies, is a nod to her identity as a Black queer woman.
“I feel like me throwing that out there . . . promotes inclusivity,” Lambert told the Courier Post. “I want people to feel that this is a very open environment, a very welcoming environment. I don’t want any one person to feel misplaced, so I feel like that’s what it means to me with people coming in my place.”
Founded by former punk rock drag queen and body piercer Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen is a small Pan-Asian restaurant based in Portland, Oregon. Born in Guam, chef Ichiza moved to San Francisco at age 23. There, he found community in drag culture and worked as a piercer. Today, he runs Ichiza Kitchen with his partner, Ryan, where they have created an inclusive space for all identities. A vegetarian since age 15, Ichiza cares deeply about sustainability and creating plant-based versions of his grandmother’s Filipinx-Pacific recipes. Dishes include vegan chicken adobo, chili oil wontons, lumpia (Filipino spring rolls), and more.
FASHION & Home
For most people, the way we dress is an expression of ourselves. But, the fashion industry is notoriously binary in how it separates clothing by two genders: men and women. Despite the fact that an article of clothing has no gender, you will rarely find dresses in the men’s department just as you’re not likely to find loud, floral print button-up shirts without a fitted cut in the women’s department. And while women’s fashions have historically adopted more masculine-inspired looks, it’s far more acceptable for a woman to don a suit than it is for a man to wear a skirt.
For anyone who doesn’t fall neatly in line with the gender norms for how a man or a woman should dress, or for those who don’t count themselves as either of those, shopping for clothing can be anxiety-inducing. Finding the right clothing can not only invoke gender euphoria, but it can also be life-saving. Queer spaces have helped raise awareness of the joy that comes from being able to live authentically. This line of thinking also extends beyond the community. Personal style should be just that — personal, not determined by gender norms, no matter who you are.
The brands on this list all offer something unique — jewelry, swimsuits, streetwear, and undergarments — all break the fashion binary. But, they have all found an audience in people from all walks of life.
Al Sandimirova, the founder of New York City-based sustainable fine jewelry brand, Automic Gold, didn’t speak a lick of English when they first came to the U.S. in 2009. Sandimirova, who is non-binary, fled their home country because it posed a danger to them as an LGBTQ person. They had no money and on top of that, the U.S. was in the midst of an economic crisis.
With no money and no work experience, they began repairing and re-selling old gold jewelry. During that time, they began creating custom pieces for theirself that fit their more masculine style. These pieces caught the eye of a friend, who ordered 15 pairs of earrings for Hanukkah presents. It was then that Sandimirova realized that perhaps there was a market for an inclusive, unisex jewelry brand.
Automic Gold creates its jewelry by hand using precious metals that have been reclaimed from old electronics and jewelry. It features size-inclusive, non-cis, non-white models and will never photoshop or retouch models.
Named after its founder, Nicole Zizi Studio creates gender-free streetwear staples using organic cotton and recycled polyester. Its garments are hand-made in small batches following fair-trade standards. In addition to hoodies, sweatpants, and t-shirts, the brand has also recently launched cactus leather cross-body bags using animal-free leather made by Mexico-based startup, Desserto.
The idea for Portland, Oregon-based brand Beefcake Swimwear was born when founder Mel Wells’ “masculine-of-center” roommate wanted a 1920s-style mens’ swimsuit. In 2017, after two years spent prototyping and seeking out ethical manufacturers, Wells launched her brand on Kickstarter.
The one-piece androgynous swimsuits draw heavily from the cut of 1920s mens’ swimsuits. Only instead of being made from wool, they’re made from recycled polyester. The suits are produced in small batches at a local factory that pays fair wages. Most orders are packed and shipped by Wells or her wife. Wells founded Beefcake Swimwear with an LGBTQ audience in mind, but she says that the brand has captured the hearts people of all genders, ages, and sizes.
Origami Customs is a slow-fashion underthings brand for all genders based in Montreal. Founder Rae Hill created the brand believing that our garments should fit our body, not the other way around. With the planet in mind, Origami Customs implements a closed-loop process and works with sustainable fabrics. This includes deadstock, locally milled, recycled polyester, and regenerative fabrics. Everything is designed and sewn in Montreal.
The company ethos includes not only good environmental stewardship, but also good social works. It donates to multiple non-profits, including the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, Black Lives Matter Toronto Freedom School, and charities that support sex workers, refugees, and low-income communities.
Although Origami Customs notes that it makes undergarments for all genders, it specializes in making gender-affirming clothing, like binders and shapewear. The company also donates these to LGBTQ charities, which provide them to trans folks experiencing gender dysphoria — which, for many, can be life-saving.
Otherwild is a Los Angeles-based, queer woman-owned store and design studio. Owner Rachel Berks founded the studio in 2012 with the intention of centering high-quality handmade goods made by individuals. It now offers apparel, art, home goods, as well as refillable cleaning and personal care products. According to the website, the company is dedicated to producing goods made within an ethically-sourced supply chain and “to manifest a countercultural relationship to exploitative, extractive and excessive consumer capitalist culture.”
The company launched Anotherwild Fund, a grant program that supports BIPOC LGBTQ makers in the disciplines of apparel, ceramics, low/zero-waste goods, and more.
The beauty industry, like fashion, is binary. Makeup is marketed mainly towards cis women. Shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, and razors that serve the same function are inexplicably divided into products for men and women. Each item for purchase seems to follow a specific color code that further signals which gender should buy what.
But also like fashion, beauty products have no gender — they simply exist. The brands here are just a handful of the ones that are making the beauty industry more accepting and inclusive. One that no longer mandates how individuals should present themselves based on the gender that they were assigned at birth. These brands stand by the ethos that anyone is welcome to use, or not use, whatever beauty regimen they please.
After a (self-described) “mini-life crisis” vacation to Thailand, Gloria Noto returned to California inspired and excited to create a new career path for herself. Following 12 years of experience as a makeup artist, she founded the beauty and body care company, Noto Botanics. The gender-free brand caters to “queer bodies, non-binary bodies, trans bodies, and more BIPOC bodies,” she notes on the website.
Not only does it cater to, and represent, the LGBTQ+ community, but it supports them too. Its “giveback product” is its moisture-rich, body hair conditioning Agender Oil. A percentage of the profits go towards a rotation of organizations. These include the LGBT Youth Center, Planned Parenthood, and The Okra Project.
Isabella Giancarlo and Laura Kraber created cruelty-free cosmetics brand Fluide in retaliation to the sexism and lack of appreciation they felt in their previous careers. It is radically inclusive; every product is designed for, and modelled on, people of all genders, backgrounds, and races. Plus, many of them are multi-use. Take its Universal Crayon, for example. The creamy and colorful formula is designed for “anyone, anywhere” from the lips, to the eyelids, to the cheeks.
The brand is also mission-driven, and routinely partners with non-profit organizations that focus on LGTBQ health and advocacy.
Founded by Nina Zika and David Krause, cruelty-free beauty brand Alder New York is all about creating simple, high-quality, high-performing skin and hair care products for all skin types, skin tones, and all genders. Each of its products, like its radiance-boosting and skin texture improving Everyday Face Cleanser, were designed to be completely uncomplicated, but leave you wanting more as soon as you get to the end of the bottle.
The women- and queer-owned brand is no stranger to giving back to the community either. Last June, it pledged 10 percent of the proceeds from its Everyday Skincare Set to the Ali Forney Center. The organization helps to protect and house LGBTQ+ youths who are experiencing homelessness.
Founded by Jessica Blackler, vegan brand Jecca Blac was first created to cater to the trans community. Blackler, a former makeup artist, found that many trans clients felt overlooked by the beauty industry. So, she founded her own beauty brand to make a difference. Now, Jecca Blac creates gender-free, high-quality cosmetics for everyone. Products like its long-lasting Correct & Conceal palette offer medium to full coverage on skin discoloration. This helps customers cover up everything from redness to beard shadow.
Building a community is also important to Jecca Blac. Last year, it hosted the 2020 Trans Festival in Covent Garden, London. The event, which will take place again in 2021 and hosts panels, speakers, activists, and influencers, is dedicated to creating a safe space for the trans community.
LIVEKINDLY is here to help you navigate the growing marketplace of sustainable products that promote a kinder planet. All of our selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, LIVEKINDLY may earn a commission.