Customer Q&A: Gay Pride Shop

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Ahead of the Manchester Pride weekend celebrations, Bruntwood Works caught up with Jason Guy, Director of the UK's biggest gay pride and gender identity shop, the Gay Pride Shop

Gay owned and gay managed, Gay Pride Shop was born out of Manchester based Make Up Or Break Up (MUOBU) and has called Afflecks home since 2018. 

Gay Pride Shop is out, loud and proud 52 weeks of the year and gives back to the LGBTQ+ community. 15% of their profits are split between The Albert Kennedy Trust, The George House Trust and Mermaids

What advice would you share with people that want to support their LGBTQ+ friends, family, and coworkers but are afraid of getting it wrong?
There are a lot of amazing resources online from some of the UK's largest LGBTQ+ charities. The Stonewall website at stonewall.org.uk is a great place to get all kinds of advice to allow friends, families and coworkers to help support their LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues. My own personal advice is that while everyone is different (and they may not have all come out yet, due to various reasons) ultimately everyone wants to be treated equally. Being born LGBTQ+ doesn't make you any different. And it's always good to understand what pronouns someone prefers to use. Not everyone uses he/she and it's common courtesy to understand how you should refer to someone. Ultimately though, just be kind; in a world with so much hate at the moment, being kind and considerate goes a long way.

When did you first feel like you were able to openly be yourself? Do you feel like the world around has changed for people to open or is there still some way to go?
I came out at the age of 14, when it was a very different world (1986). We were in the middle of the Thatcher era, where homophobia was far more prevalent than today, where Clause 28 forbid teachers to even discuss anything LGBTQ+ and to make schookids realise it's totally normal. There was no LGBTQ+ representation on TV, apart from a few cartoony camp characters, and the age of consent was 21 (5 years above the hetrosexual age of consent). Thankfully I had a wonderful mum and friends, so coming out was not an issue for me at all.

Things have changed for the better, but there's still a long way to go. Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries, with six countires imposing the death penalty, all because someone is born gay. Being gay isn't a choice, like choosing your choosing your skin colour isn't. I do feel we're now moving on to the right side of history now though and that future generations will look back at this era with horror and disgust at the way LGBTQ+ people were treated. For me, it's transgender rights in Western countries that need our attention right now. There's a huge disparity in the way different identities/genders are treated and there's not even equality among all of the LGBTQ+ community, which is just shameful.

Do you feel like people are having more open conversations with others around LGBTQ+ rights and movement?
I do and this really shows the importance of pride events and being visible. To show just how normal it is to be born LGBTQ+. The more famous people some out the better too. So that those who are unsure of their sexuality have role models and people they can look up to in the mainstream media. The changes mentioned above in society are making things better and to help normalise conversations.

What makes you proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in Manchester?
I've been part of the community in Manchester for over 30 years now. It's undoubtedly the best city in the world and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I love the total variety here, from the mainstream pop music bars and clubs on canal street, to the amazing fringe art events and underground club scene, including the various vogue houses and drag/alternative events. You can see why so many LGBTQ+ students choose to come to university here then never leave. There really is something for every taste and and my advice is to sometimes take a look outside of the mainstream areas. There's so much happening.

Do you feel supported by the Afflecks family?
Absolutely. Is there a more welcoming, safe place to base your business in the city? It's always championed equality and embracing differences, for the past 40 years. My favourite part of the building are the 'Take a step in the right direction' steps from the Tib Street entrance. Those words (google them if you haven't seen them) completely sum up for me the reason Afflecks exists.

You must get much busier around pride weekend, but how are you able to support customers and the community all year round?
That's exactly why we launched Gay Pride Shop. To provide support and a safe place to shop for LGBTQ+ themed items all year round, not just during pride season. We have people travel from all over the country all year round, and to be honest it can be quite humbling sometimes. I've had many tears since we've launched, but the one thing that gets me the most is when parents bring their LGBTQ+ children in to choose items with them. It's so wonderful to see.

2020 has been a tough year for obvious reasons and we did have to stop trading completely earlier in the year during lockdown and furlough our staff, but we're back open and trading fully again now. This means we'll soon be able to start donating our percentage of profits to the 3 Northern LGBTQ+ charities we support all year round (Mermaids, George House Trust and Albert Kennedy Trust). We also try and do as many small things all year round to support our community, from donating 100s of items for events or charities across the year, sponsoring events, to providing discounts or free items for those working on scene, such as entertainers and drag queens (this year has been so hard on them all while there have been no events and income for them).

 

The Gay Pride Shop has teamed up with some of their fellow Afflecks independent traders to create a ‘Pride at Home’ kit, including everything you need to get that festival feeling at home and show your pride. Be sure to check it out if you're heading to Afflecks this weekend. 

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