June is here and my in-box is full of cringy rainbows. Corporations are decked out for Pride, from the logo on my cell phone bill to the neverending ads for rainbow socks, dog sweaters, shot glasses, and flags manufactured by the thousands in overseas factories. Rainbow capitalism at its worst.
Instead, I’m logging out and tuning in to people around the world and throughout history who’ve been on their own journeys with queerness. I’m listening to gay activists share their stories on oral history podcasts. I’m watching movies by and about queer people surviving and thriving. I’m soaking up art, like “Love Me at Dawn” by Devan Shimoyama (above), that reflect the nuance, pain, and joy of being queer.
I think one of the most amazing things about queerness is embracing change instead of resisting it. Humans of all identities are not static; we are in a constant state of becoming. It’s beautiful and necessary to allow ourselves to evolve as we meet new people, learn new things, and have new experiences. In the proces, we can rattle society’s rules to claim space for our authentic selves.
I was reminded of this recently by Karina Primelles. Karina is the co-founder of Xula, a hemp brand that combines herbal remedies that have supported people’s health for thousands of years with cutting edge cannabis science. I use her hemp and herbal tinctures to help feel more balanced and nourished every day.
I asked Karina what queer joy means to them. My eyes welled up when she shared this:
“I think a huge part of that joy is in finding greater freedom through queerness. For me this is about embracing, without shame, who I am at the moment and who I am becoming. In other words, it is being able to express myself authentically while letting go of societal norms and fear of judgment.”
-Karina Primelles (she/they), Co-founder, Xula
A Genderful Universe
What if gender wasn’t a binary or a spectrum, but an entire universe? Each of us could expand into an intricate constellation instead shrinking to fit into one check box. Gender can be a lifelong evolution when we free ourselves from binary thinking.
I’ve often wondered why fragrances are segregated by gender. “Masculine” vs. “feminine” scents is such a narrow way of looking at the human sense of smell. When you think about gender as a universe with endless possibilities, it seems pretty arbitrary to have scents split into two categories. The idea of a third “gender-neutral” or “genderless” category is also limiting because scent is such an expansive experience.
When Matthew Herman and David Kien were developing scents for Boy Smells candles, they were drawn to botanical, floral, fruity, woody and smoky scents that embraced masculine and feminine simultaneously, while also celebrating the multidimensionality of identity. They describe this sense of fullness as a ‘genderful universe.’
“It’s a permission to harness your power from wherever you want it."
-Matthew Herman (he/him),Co-founder, Boy Smells
Sway Your Way
I’m always seeking to understand what it is about queerness and gender identity that makes some people uncomfortable to the point of voilence. One of the reasons might be a reaction to the way that being queer breaks the rules of society. If someone has felt trapped by rigid family structures and gender roles their whole life, it could bring up intense feelings to see someone reject that and find freedom and joy in being themselves.
Honoring yourself over society’s expectations can be immensely difficult, especially in states that are actively harming trans and queer people through dangerous legislation. Choosing yourself in the face of this hate is part of queer joy for Sonia Fay Wright, co-founder of Sway cbd blunts.
“To me, queer joy is something you find when you are able to choose yourself. I’ve had it easy as an out queer person because of my background, but it’s so inspiring to see people uproot themselves just to be in a place where they can be themselves fully. It’s not easy for all of us.”
-Sonia Fay Wright (she/they),Co-founder of Sway
Sonia and Melody Wright are co-founders who navigate the cannabis space as a queer couple. Their CBD blunts and thaisticks are delicious special-occasion treats that have sparked a lot of deep conversations and authentic moments.
Melody says queer joy means “being who you are and enjoying yourself.”
“Queer joy for me is being comfortable in my beautiful black body.”
-Melody Wright (she/they),Co-founder of Sway
Finding My Queer Joy
When I think about my own moments of queer joy, I see myself at Garden Party. I shine when people walk in the door and exclaim, “We made it to the queer part of town!” I love having conversations about sex toys without assuming anyone’s gender. I feel all warm and fuzzy when queer couples pick out each other’s birthday and Valentine’s Day gifts.
Most vividly, I remember how my heart swelled during my job interview when co-owners Seth and Tarleton used my name and pronouns in a professional setting for the first time. We’d known each other for almost a decade, yet they shifted how they spoke and saw me with remarkable ease. I realized Garden Party is a place that embraces transformations of all kinds—from queerness, to evolving relationships with cannabis, to social justice and collective efforts to make our community more equitable.
All year long, we carry brands we know and trust. It turns out that many of them are founded by queer folks. We know they’re enjoyed by queer folks and allies because you come back to tell us what you like.
Garden Party is a place for people of all identities to celebrate their evolutions and explorations. Stop by to show off your new look and share your pronouns. Bring your crush to browse the bookshelf. Pick out a gift for someone you love. Open your mind with art, whimsical smokeware, and plant medicine. This is a place to feel freedom – and yes, pride – in being yourself.