Small business tips for welcoming queer customers

Happy Pride Month! 

As you may or may not know, before the world collapsed around us all in 2020 which eventually led to a long health battle and my studio closure, I ran a pinup and boudoir photography studio where I made a point to market to all genders and walks of life. One of my biggest goals besides beautiful portraits was to make my studio a safe space, where anybody of any gender identity could feel comfortable and beautiful and safe to express themselves.  I photographed hundreds of beautiful humans  over the years and had conversations with them about their comfort in my studio and worked with so many members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in the process that I learned a lot about how to run my business in a way that anyone who walked through my door felt safe expressing themselves for who they were without judgement or fear of harm. 

Since the studio closed I've been working heavily in tourism and small business development and now that I'm having conversations with travelers from all over the world and looking at newly developing spaces that are being created for tourists and locals alike I've realized how many people simply don't feel safe in many public spaces in Oklahoma.  Many spaces are unwittingly designed for the comfort of a certain type of person, and the lack of inclusivity keep some people from patronizing these businesses or even whole districts or cities out of fear because they don't see signs of safety.  Last summer I worked in the Blue Whale of Catoosa gift shop and met so many queer and BIPOC people on Route 66 road trips who stated they didn't feel safe staying the night in this state and were hitting this one world famous attraction and then rushing through the state to get to New Mexico by night where they had booked their hotel, therefore missing out on and skipping over so many small businesses. Learning that was our reputation to the rest of the world was enlightening, and one thing I push for now in both my professional and personal life is making a point to put my energy and dollars into supporting businesses and individuals that I know are safe. 

If you want to let people know you're an ally but aren't sure where to start, here are a few things you can do to make sure all people feel welcome in your business: 

  • Fly some flags to show it.  A 2SLGBTQ+ Pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag are a good start to let everyone know you are proud to welcome all into your place of business. 
  • Gender free single stall bathrooms.  The simple human act of using a public restroom can be a traumatic experience for a transgender person. Just changing out signage to unisex can make a huge difference in the feelings of personal comfort and safety of your transgender customers. 
  • Merchandise options for all. It's not that hard to include some rainbow stuff, and at the gift shops I've worked at it's a wonderful experience to see a queer family on vacation say "aww they have gay stuff" when they walk in and visibly relax. 
  • When selecting seasonal decor be considerate that tourists come from all over the world and from all faith systems.  More inclusive terms like season's greetings vs holiday or religion specific will appeal to a wider audience and make all feel welcome. 
  • Don't celebrate people who have done or said unsafe things.  I sometimes see communities/businesses continue to market, rally around, and support people known to say or do sexist, racist, or homophobic things, and I quietly back away when I do.  I don't like to give money or energy to supporting that and am wary of groups that do. 
  • Diversity training for all of your staff.  If you don't understand the best way to use inclusive pronouns or other wording/marketing in your business, there are lots of great resources available out there. 
  • Make sure your team/staff is diverse themselves. 
  • Participate in local events.  Pride is a good one, although it just passed for the year. is a great resource for local events and volunteer opportunities in Tulsa and Oklahoma. 
  • Social media.  It's so easy to use this platform to show your support, even just making a post publicly saying you are an ally goes a long way! 
  • STICKERS - post a pride sticker on your door! I just happen to have designed a special sticker in honor of Pride but also for all the queer Route 66 travelers out there.  In working in Route 66 gift shops I've realized a lot of the merchandise out there seems to be designed towards 50s era stereotypes, which historically aren't always welcoming to everyone, but as Route 66 regains popularity again almost 100 years after its creation I think it's time to evolve the merchandise as well, and I've been working on a few designs with that in mind, with this first being my Y'ALL 66 pride shield design. Buy one for yourself in my gallery shop by clicking here, or if you're a store that would like to carry it in bulk email me at and we'll set up an order.  

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