Words by Smiley Team
June is Pride month and with that comes a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and the people in it. That comes in the form of rainbow collections at the local big box store or parades downtown. It also comes in smaller ways like local shops serving as community hubs for people in need.
One such place is Under the Umbrella in Salt Lake City, Utah. Under the Umbrella is an LGBTQ+-centric bookstore focused on serving as a hub for queer people of all ages, as well as a place to highlight queer voices.
“A bookstore can be a place of refuge, a place of validation and celebration for the queer youth and queer adults in Salt Lake City,” they say. “We deserve to have our stories told, shared, celebrated, validated, loved. And that is exactly what Under the Umbrella does.”
The store found its beginning as a crowdfunding campaign, which eventually grew into the store it is today.
All the books feature queer voices in one way or another, whether that be that the author identifies as LGBTQ+ or the stories have elements or characters that reflect that. Beyond selling books, the store has a gender-affirming closet where people can try on clothes, shoes, and makeup that may better fit their gender identity.
Acting as a community hub, it also houses and stocks a small community pantry. Community members can donate to, and take from the pantry – with no questions asked.
"Under the Umbrella is meant to help bridge the gap between what Salt Lake City currently has and what the city needs by providing a safe, accessible, and inclusive space for everyone," they say.
All this comes in a city that finds itself as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the US, according to the city’s statistics, with an estimated 104,000 LGBTQ+ identified people. But the city itself doesn’t have many queer-centric spaces – just the people.
“I don’t think that there are other businesses like this one, that are a place that people can go that are queer-owned and queer-oriented,” Under the Umbrella owner, Kaitlyn Mahoney, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
DONATE: Under the Umbrella is a not-for-profit and accepts donations to keep it running. Find out more.
GET INVOLVED: The bookstore has community it works on throughout the year. You can see what's going on and get involved.