Calling it the scariest thing she’s ever done, Kaitlyn Mahoney set up an Indiegogo fundraiser to start Under the Umbrella: A Queer Little Bookstore.
“Salt Lake City is one of the ten queerest cities in America, but we have hardly any queer-specific spaces and even fewer that are accessible to all ages,” Mahoney wrote in the fundraiser description. “Having spaces available for queer youth to feel safe and validated is especially important … and we all deserve a space where we can be ourselves and build community.’
“One bookstore isn’t going to change the world, but one bookstore can be a place of refuge, a place of validation and celebration, and a place to learn more about yourself and discover that you are not alone,” Mahoney continued.
Mahoney, who calls herself a queer book enthusiast, points out that over 95 percent of the publishing industry is cisgender and 81 percent straight.
“When you walk into Under the Umbrella, you know that the books and other items you’ll find there are queer,” Mahoney said. “Books will be clearly labeled based on the representation found in the books, as far as is possible, so individuals have the opportunity to see themselves represented in stories or learn more about other identities within the community. Every product will offer a way to connect deeper with yourself and the community at large.”
Mahoney also sees the store as a queer space.
“Under the Umbrella will serve as a community hub for connection between LGBTQIA+ folks. We are working to establish relationships and programs with Drag Queen Story Hour, LGBTQ Books to Prisoners, and Black & Pink, as well as other queer groups to offer ways for us to build connections beyond the books we read. Our plan is to offer book clubs, poetry readings, letter writing activities, and a space for groups to congregate (once it is safe to do so).”
Queer employment is also important to Mahoney.
“We plan to hire queer booksellers and other staff members as our budget increases. We are dedicated to providing a minimum $15/hour wage, which means it may take us a little while before we are able to hire additional staff. In the meantime, we will offer consignment for local queer authors to sell their work in the store, and we plan to offer sideline items (candles, stickers, pins, socks, art, etc.) made exclusively by LGBTQIA+ individuals. Q
The Indiegogo fundraiser is at bit.ly/queerbookstore.