Human Rights Campaign and SHOWTIME® Launch Second Year of Queer to Stay

by Aryn Fields

The Expanded Collaboration will Continue to Support LGBTQ Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, and SHOWTIME announce the second year of “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” that aims to uplift and preserve small businesses that serve the LGBTQ community; particularly businesses that are owned by or empower LGBTQ people of color, women and the transgender community.

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, the inaugural “Queer to Stay” initiative awarded funds to ten LGBTQ businesses across the country. Since last June, LGBTQ businesses have continued to suffer due to long shutdowns and limited capacity regulations, which is why The Human Rights Campaign and SHOWTIME have doubled the program to support twenty businesses in its second year. Additionally, a new crowdfunding feature will enable consumers to support the initiative through the end of the year.

These businesses will be selected based on the communities they serve and how COVID-19 has affected them: “Queer to Stay” is accepting applications now and until Saturday, July 31. Eligible businesses can apply at Recipients will be notified and announced later this year.

Entering the second year of living in a public health crisis has only amplified the need to support LGBTQ businesses and community spaces, which are critical safe havens for LGBTQ people, particularly queer youth, to fully express themselves. The LGBTQ community is proven to be disproportionately impacted in almost all facets of society, compounding the importance of preserving and celebrating LGBTQ spaces. We are excited to collaborate with SHOWTIME again to uplift LGBTQ businesses across the country.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

We are thrilled to be doubling the amount of businesses that will receive financial aid from the Queer to Stay initiative. Since the pandemic began, it’s been remarkable to see how different communities have come together to support each other in a time of crisis. In addition to the larger number of awardees this year, it was only natural for us to expand the initiative to incorporate a crowdfunding aspect, allowing friends and neighbors to support these essential LGBTQ+ spaces.

Michael Engleman, Chief Marketing Officer, Showtime Networks Inc.

One of the 2020 “Queer to Stay” awardees was Pearl Bar in Houston, Texas; the bar provides a unique community space for LGBTQ people to meet and participate in community-building activities such as drag shows and Pride Markets, and is one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the U.S.

The ‘Queer to Stay’ grant helped me keep my doors open by being able to pay bills when the bar had no revenue due to the pandemic. LGBTQ businesses are imperative for our community; safe spaces will always be imperative for us, and it’s important that our money is recycled back into our community.

Julie Mabry, Owner of Pearl Bar.

Another grant recipient was Freed Bodyworks Holistic Wellness Center in Washington, D.C.; an organization that embraces every body type regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and ability. The facility centers itself on providing a safe and judgement free environment, which are often barriers that keep LGBTQ people from seeking healthcare and mental health services.

Our LGBTQ2IA+ community depends on our business for healing, and especially now, we feel the weight of preserving this safe space. In September 2020, the Freed team was working incredibly hard to stay in business, but we only had one month’s expenses left. The ‘Queer To Stay’ support arrived that month and got us through until business picked up in November. Six months later, we are still struggling, but we are stable. This is our community at its best: queers helping queers survive.

Frances Reed, LMT & Co-Owner of Freed Bodyworks Holistic Wellness Center

Over the course of the pandemic, LGBTQ businesses have faced severe financial challenges and are at risk of permanently closing. LGBTQ bars, centers and businesses often serve as affirming places for the community. As the nation continues to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, there is uncertainty as to when businesses, including LGBTQ serving establishments, will return to business-as-usual. Adding to the crisis many LGBTQ businesses are facing, studies have shown that since the 1980s there has been a decline in LGBTQ bars across America due to gentrification and assimilation.

The Human Rights Campaign published a research brief outlining the health and economic risks faced by the LGBTQ community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings show that many LGBTQ people may lack the resources to effectively combat COVID-19, lack access to paid sick leave or live without health coverage and are more likely to work in an industry that has been most affected by the pandemic, putting them in greater economic jeopardy or increasing their exposure to the virus. HRC research has also shown that LGBTQ people are more likely to be unemployed and to have lost work hours compared to the general population, with transgender people and people of color most at risk.

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