lgbtq

thank u, ness! – A JVN Appreciation Post

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 2 years, you have probably heard of the heartwarming reality makeover show ‘Queer Eye’! Queer Eye has become a massive hit for streaming platform Netflix making stars of its ‘Fab Five’, one member being the fabulous Jonathan Van Ness! (JVN).

JVN is a hairdresser, grooming expert, comedian, podcaster, cat parent and trainee figure skater. The list just continues to grow! (Yaaaas Queen). JVN’s natural bubbly comedic personality makes him easily the highlight of QE for me, his positivity is contagious! He comes across as very genuine person and I love how freely he wears his emotions on his sleeve. In a world that often makes us feel we should bottle up our emotions, its a lovely contrast to see someone so freely being their true emotional self.

It’s this vulnerability that I really admire about JVN. A few days ago in an interview the NYT, JVN bravely came out as HIV Positive. This will hopefully add to the destigmatisation of HIV with a star of JVN’s magnitude coming out. JVN is already educating people about undetectable status “Undetectable = Untransmittable”. JVN came out as gender non-binary in June, educating his fans on what this meant. He again he is using his platform to help educate people on being HIV+. This is great especially for the younger members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I loved this quote from JVN (from the same NYT Interview) “I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed”. This a great message and is completely in line with JVN’s positive, self love attitude.

Thank You, Jonathan Van Ness, for sharing your truth with the world, you’re helping so many people in the process.

P.S I highly recommend JVN’s podcast ‘Getting Curious’, a podcast where JVN speaks to an expert about a subject he is ‘curious’ about. These topics range from “Should we be scared of snakes” to what is it like being a pop star.

P.P.S Another reason I’m a JVN fan… He is a cat person! JVN owns 4 cats Larry, Liza, Genevieve & Matilda. Larry regularly gives us weather updates on Instagram!

P.P.S I’ve just posted some Christmas cards on Etsy click here to check them out!

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Blog is Back alriiiight! – Warwickshire Purrride

Hello 👋 I am back! After some busy past weeks normal blogging to resume now!
Without further ado let’s get into it!
on Saturday 17th August I did my first official Memeow Gifts Stall at Warwickshire Pride which was held in leamington Spa pump room gardens. 


I setup the stall at 8am with the help of my Dad and Jon my partner. Arranged tables, put up gazebo, hung  the Memeow Gifts banner and set out the Merch!
The event started at 11am so we had a bit of time to soak in the atmosphere before the event got busier. Memeow T-shirt, rainbow shorts, money belt, I was all prepared for 11!

Memeow Gifts stall open for business!


The event had a great turn out with many atendees throughout the day. I was very impressed with how many people came along undeterred from the hateful acts preceding the event – rainbow flags ripped down from the shopping centre promoting the event and death threats sent to the Warwickshire Pride fb page.
 The day was full of acceptance, happiness, laughter and love, a stark contrast from these hateful acts from small minded people. 

As Gaga says  “It’s always wrong to hate but it’s never wrong to love”

Lots of people stopped at the stall and looked at the range of Merch so far. It was interesting to see how people responded to the products as the LGBTQ community is my main audience with Memeow Gifts. One of my main reasons for setting up Memeow Gifts was to bring more LGBTQ visibility to the Greetings card market. 
I would have liked to make a few more sales but then again this was a fairly small event compared to some of the bigger prides and was great to support my local pride event.

I also gained some good feedback with which designs sold well or got a good response. The free MemeowGifts.com stickers went down very well especially with kids and the younger crowd. 

The weather was good for the event with lots of sunshine and no sign of rain throughout the day. It was however very windy which meant that I had to keep being aware of the products/flyers attempting to fly away!  
I did manage to break away from the stall for a couple of moments throughout the day and was impressed with the amount of entertainment on offer, I also enjoyed the rainbow pony! 

All in all it was a great day and look forward to attending again next year!

LGBTQ+ Greetings Cards Survey – Memeow Gifts

Hello, it’s only 10 days until my first ever pride and stall at pride! Nervous and excited at the same time, can’t wait to blog about the experience on here after! Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging more regularly again soon, been very busy the past few weeks.

I’ve created a (super short) survey about LGBTQ+ Greetings Cards as research for my business Memeow Gifts and would love your feedback, please see link below!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FFV9TW2

See you on the next post about my experience at Warwickshire Pride!

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Memeow Gifts @ Warwickshire Pride

Just a short post to let you know I will have stall for Memeow Gifts at Warwickshire Pride this year where I will be selling greetings cards,badges, postcards, mirrors and more!

The event is being held at The Pump Room Gardens, Leamington Spa, my stall will be located in the Rainbow Marketplace and there is no entry fee for the event.

Hope to see you there!

-Josh

P.S been very busy prepping for this event so will hopefully go back to regular blog posts soon!

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Friends of Dorothy – The Wonderful Ally of Oz

I recently released a pack of  Wizard of Oz themed postcards titled “Friends of Dorothy” based on the phrase “Friend of Dorothy”. I would write a post talking the term a bit more and the LGBTQ themes of Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy Gale ally to any outcasts! – In original story ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ Dorothy wore Silver Shoes rather than Ruby Slippers!

Although there is some debate to where the term originated most attribute it to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, an ally to anyone different. Dorothy is very accepting of all of the beings she comes across on her journey across the yellow brick road. 

As the story goes… Dorothy is on her way to see the Wizard and encounters the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and tin man on her journey. All three of her new found friends feel they are missing something which they believe the wizard will be able to give them. Lion wants courage, Scarecrow wants a brain and Tin Man wants a heart. 

Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man are all outcasts who aren’t part of a group until they meet Dorothy. Their outcast status and trying to find acceptance has parallels with the struggles faced of many queer people, they can be easily read as an allegory for the LGBTQ community. Lion in the 1939 film is also “coded gay”, acting very much like a stereotypical gay man, reinforcing the LGBTQ themes.

Once Dorothy and Friends have defeated the Wicked Witch of The West and finally get to the Wizard, they find out he’s not so wonderful all along! The Wizard is just a man who doesn’t have any powers, meaning he cannot give them what they want. But all is ok when they find out that they already had everything the needed all along. In other words they didn’t need to change themselves to be happy.

FLY YOU FOOLS!!!

It’s also no secret that Judy Garland who played Dorothy in the 1939 film was/is a gay icon due partly to playing this role, her talent and her personal struggles which many members of the LGBTQ community can relate to.

‘Over The Rainbow’ is not only a lovely song from Wizard of Oz (1939) but also a classic upbeat LGBTQ anthem, a dream of an idealistic world/ home for us all. And after all there’s no place like home!

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

MemeowMix – Pride Playlist

As it’s Pride Month I thought I would celebrate by creating my own pride themed playlist, Welcome to Memeow Mix: Pride Edition!

1. Lady Gaga – Born This Way – No Pride playlist could be complete without some Gaga! An iconic self acceptance song which name checks the LGBTQ community. I also love Gaga’s idea of self reinvention, you can be “re-born” over and over again.
2. Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel – A catchy prince inspired tune, which touches on pansexuality.
3. Troye Sivan – Bloom – a fun pop song about “Flowers” according to Sivan (I don’t think it’s really about flowers)
4. Tegan and Sara – Closer – a fun pop song from twin sisters Tegan and Sara.
5.Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast – Gettin’ Bi (Feat. Pete Gardner) – I had to include this one! This song is from the musical/comedy/drama show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and does a very good job of dispelling some of misconceptions of bisexuality!
6.Taylor Swift – You Need To Calm Down – Swift shows her allyship to the LGBTQ community in this new song, telling the bigots they “need to calm down” and that their is “sunshine on the street at the parade, but you would rather be in the dark ages”. Swift also shouts out LGBTQ charity ‘Glaad’ this has a led to influx of donations to the charity, which is nice to hear!
7. Sarah Bareilles – Brave – Sara Bareilles was inspired to write this song about a friend of hers that was struggling to come out.
8. Hayley Kiyoko – Girls Like Girls – A track about a girl stealing a girl from a guy! (It’s a new spin on the formula!)
9.Mary Lambert – She Keeps Me Warm – Lambert was featured on 2012 song ‘Same Love’ by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, ‘She Keeps Me Warm’ builds a new song around Lambert’s ‘Same Love’ hook.
10. Troye Sivan (Feat. Betty Who) – Heaven – Another Troye song! Here Troye sings about trying to reconcile religious belief with his sexuality.
11. Calum Scott – No Matter What – A lovely song about coming out and finding acceptance.
12. Kacey Musgraves – Rainbow – This is such a beautiful song and I love the message, also reminds me slightly of Jessie’s song ‘She Loved Me from ‘Toy Story 2’. Oh no! I think I have something in my eye…

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! – Pride Makeover and The Origins Of The Memeow Cat

Happy Pride month everyone! I thought for the first blog post of the month I would tell you a bit about the origins of Memeow Cat! You may have noticed the Memeow logo has had a Pride makeover, with Memeow exchanging his usual red lightning bolt for a more appropriate rainbow one to celebrate Pride Month.

Memeow’s Pride Makeover

When I was coming up with a logo for my business I knew that it would have to feature a cat as Memeow – is a combination of Meme and Meow! (I’m a cat person who loves a good meme) I wanted to give the logo more of an identity/character, thats when I had the idea to give Memeow a red lightning bolt, inspired by David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane look, one of Bowies most iconic and recognisable images. Bowie often challenged gender norms with his androgynous style, he wasn’t afraid to be seen as odd or eccentric and was true to himself.

In the logo Memeow is smiling with his eyes closed in a state of peaceful contentment, this symbolises the vibe I aim to create with Memeow Blog/Gifts , where everyone feels welcome and free to be themselves.

Shop | Instagram | Twitter

Love Is An Open (Closet) Door – Why Disney needs LGBTQ Characters

After years of Princesses and Princes, isn’t it about time for a Prince and a Prince or a Princess and a Princess?

Disney films are very popular with many members of the LGBTQ Community, with their themes of love, acceptance and finding yourself resonating with many members of the LGBTQ crowd, but as of yet there is no major LGBTQ Disney character.

If Disney introuced a canonically LGBTQ character this would be a great win for representation, helping to create more acceptance and normalisation of the community. Growing up in the 90s I had very little in the way of gay role models, most gay characters represented in the media were 2-dimensional caricatures, often not taken seriously and most definitely not the hero/main character of the story! I feel that if I had, had a gay Disney character to relate to when I was growing up, I would not have struggled as much with accepting myself and internalised homophobia, I would love for the younger generation to have this character I never had growing up.

With campaigns on Twitter to give Elsa from Frozen a female love interest in the ‘Frozen 2’ (#GiveElsaAGirlfriend) trending, it does seem a large majority is on board for Disney to make an LGBTQ character a reality. Whether disney has the courage to make this decision is yet to be seen. I personally think that Elsa would make a great LGBTQ character as her storyline in the first film has parallels to how it feels growing up as person who is LGBTQ, having a secret that no one knows, fear of being seen as monster if people find out etc. Also ‘Let It Go’ has always seemed like a coming out anthem to me, whether intentionally or not.

Iconic characters such as Ursula, Jafar, Hades and Scar are all examples of ‘coded’ gay characters, this is where a character is not explicitly LGBTQ but is heavily implied to be from stereotypes eg they are ‘camp’. WAIT! what do all these characters have in common? Oh right, they are villains! Probably not the most positive LGBTQ representation, but hey! We do have ‘good guy’ coded-gay characters Timon and Pumbaa I guess, may I add Simba was raised by two Dad’s and he turned out fine!

Scar, Ursula and Jafar are ‘coded gay’ villains

There are positive and negatives to coded gay characters, like I’ve said they do often seem to be villains, which negatively impact the stereotypes they are based off. But then again these villainous characters are still great characters and do give some slight representation to the LGBTQ community. Ursula was based on real life drag queen ‘Divine’ which is a nice homage to the late Harris Glenn Millstead who portrayed her,

Disney do seem to be heading in the right direction to actually making a LGBTQ character reality, although I do feel they have made a few missteps along the way. If you have not heard them term “Exclusively Gay Moment” think yourself lucky! This term was brought to us in 2017 by director Bill Condon referring to a scene in the ‘Beauty and Beast’ live action remake, Condon mentioned the phrase in an interview and it then got picked up by various news outlets. At last it seemed we were going to get major LGBTQ representation in a disney film, the “Exclusively Gay Moment” was two male characters dancing together on screen for about 0.8 seconds! I mean it is a small step in the right direction but the way this scene was hyped up, you would have expected a bit more than this tiny moment before the credits roll, also not great that one of the characters in question’s name literally translates to “The Fool”!”

The film Avengers Endgame a Disney property recently received backlash for there first ‘gay’ character. They decided to make their first LGBTQ essentially a background character who is on screen for a minimal amount of time, with the vast amount of these films, its surprising that none of the main characters of the MCU so far are LGBTQ.

Like I said Disney are making some missteps in trying to achieve more inclusion, but I do appreciate that they are trying, although with how other studios are integrating LGBTQ characters seamlessly, it does feel like they are a couple of laps behind.

Disney Channel shows on the other hand have handled LGBTQ characters excellently from what I have seen, Good Luck Charlie did a good job of normalising the fact one of the secondary characters had two Mothers. Andi Mack another disney channel show did a great job covering main character ‘Cyrus’ coming out to his friend without using any labels, this was a heartwarming and very well executed scene. ‘Andi Mack’ later followed this up with Cyrus coming out casually to another character in the show, actually saying the words “I’m Gay’, something we wouldn’t have seen a decade ago on Disney Channel!

Andi Mack’s Cyrus casually comes out

Disney’s animated shows Gravity Falls and Star vs The Forces Of Evil have also given us LGBTQ representation, with Gravity Falls confirming that two male characters where in fact a couple and The Forces of Evil had a scene featuring of various couples (including same-sex ones couples) kissing.

It does look hopeful that we will get a LGBTQ Disney character (in a feature film) in the not too distant future, with Disney showing more and more acceptance of the community. June 1st 2019, Disney will be holding its first official pride event at Disneyland Paris titled ‘Magical Pride’ which will feature a diversity parade and performances from Boy George, Years and Years and Corine. The Disney Store have also recently launched their pride collection including badges, t-shirts and a rainbow Mickey plush toy.

Gay playwright and Lyricist Howard Ashman was instrumental in writing songs for films such as Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin with composer Alan Menken. Ashman tragically passed away from AIDS in 1991, he had kept his diagnosis a secret and had been working on songs for Aladdin from his hospital bed. Ashman died before the release of Beauty and The Beast which featured an homage to Ashman in the credits “To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and beast his soul, we will be forever grateful” Ashman’s story is a very sad one, in a time where an AIDS diagnosis was a life sentence and so stigmatised, that you would have to keep it a secret.

Howard Ashman wrote lyrics for many classic disney songs like ‘Beauty and The Beast’, ‘Belle’, ‘Under The Sea’, ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘Prince Ali’. As the end credits of Beauty and The Beast state he gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, it would be lovely if Disney returned the favour and created a gay character in tribute to Howard Ashman.

Shop | Instagram | Twitter

A Shop is Born – 5 Reasons Why I Set Up My Own LGBTQ+ Inclusive Business

At the end of last year I set up my own LGBTQ+ Inclusive Greetings Cards business Memeow Gifts, Here are 5 reasons why I decided to start my own business!

1.My Partner

I was unemployed and looking for work after finishing a temporary job. As any job seeker knows you can spend hours upon hours on applications to receive little to no responses! (#Rude) I was relaying my job seeking frustrations to my partner who asked if I had thought about setting up my own business perhaps with the help of The Prince’s Trust. I had considered running my own business previously but I wasn’t completely familiar with The Prince’s Trust. My partner also inspired my main goal with Memeow Gifts, LGBTQ+ Inclusivity. We had both previously struggled to find appropriate cards for each other for birthdays, anniversaries, valentine’s etc. As mainstream shops rarely cater to the LGBTQ+ market this seemed to be a gap in the market worth exploring.

2.The Prince’s Trust

I followed up my partners’ suggestion and reached out to The Prince’s Trust, The Prince’s Trust is a UK Charity that helps young people (11-30 year olds) with getting jobs, training or starting their own business. The Trust responded to my application swiftly and I began their Business Enterprise programme within a few weeks. Through out my Prince’s Trust journey (so far) I have found the staff extremely helpful and supportive every step of the way, from the 5-day initial business course, to helping with my business plan. Since I have now passed all of the stages of The Trust’s Business course I have been assigned a business mentor for 2 years. I meet with my mentor once a month to discuss how the business is developing and to address any business related queries/concerns I might have. I find these sessions with my mentor incredibly useful as my mentor is very supportive and helps me to progress with my business.

https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/

3.Art

Being an Artist who had studied Animation and Design, I wanted a creative outlet/job that allowed me to put my skills to good use. As many artists/creatives know, attempting to break into the creative industries can be a near impossible feat with the incredible amount of competition out there. So setting up my own business has allowed me to further explore and follow my creative passions.

4.Be My Own Boss

Having previously worked various temporary jobs, I liked the idea of running my own business to have another source of income to fall back on. I’m a big believer in a having a few iron’s in the fire, where possible. It’s true being your own boss has risks, but don’t all jobs? There are quite a few benefits to working for yourself, for example being able to work from home, flexibility of your working hours and freedom to make decisions.

5.Represent the community

Lastly being a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself I feel very proud to create products that represent and cater to the community. I do hope to keep adding to the collection of LGBTQ+ designs as the business grows, as I strongly believe there is just not enough LGBTQ+ representation out there currently, especially in mainstream outlets, representation is gradually improving but its still not quite there yet. My hope with Memeow Gifts is that I can make some impact on changing this!

Thanks for reading, You can check out Memeow Gifts at memeowgifts.com!

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Well Rebecca, you’ve done it now! – A Love Letter to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

*Contains some Spoilers for the series*

Since the musical comedy/drama Crazy Ex-Girlfriend concluded last week, I felt I had to write a love letter to this lovely, quirky, awesome, amazing show.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom (co-creator of the show with Aline Brosh McKenna) as lawyer ‘Rebecca Bunch’ unhappy with her life in New York decides after a chance encounter with her ex-boyfriend ‘Josh Chan’ (Vincent Rodriquez III) to move to West Covina, California. “It happens to be where Josh lives but thats not why she’s here!” to quote the season 1 theme song, As soon as Rebecca arrives in West Covina appropriately with the first song of the series ‘West Covina’, her world instantly looks a lot brighter compared to the dull, muted colours of New York! Long story short Rebecca quickly finds a new job at West Covina law firm ‘Whitefeather Associates’ ran by the loveable but awkward ‘Darryl Whitefeather’ (Pete Gardener) , it is here she also meets her future frenemy/bestie Paula Proctor (Donna Lynne Champlin). Without giving too much away for people who have not yet seen the show, much of the first season is about Rebecca trying to win back the affections of her ex, while denying that he was the real reason she moved to West Covina!

“I’ve never seen a pretzel this big! 🥨”

The first thing I love about this show is that it subverts a lot of tropes, the main one being the title of the show, Rebecca does suffer with mental health issues but she is a 3-dimensional character who is not just lazily written off as being ‘Crazy’. The show approaches the topic of mental illness extremely well not just passing it off as some silly joke like other show’s might, they handle the topic with the delicacy it deserves. I’ve often found with a lot of films/TV shows which portray characters suffering from mental illness the characters often ‘cure’ their depression etc by the end of the story, where as Crazy Ex follows the more realistic approach, that mental health is something that you need to work at, there is no magical ‘I’m cured!’ moment. The fact that Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna consulted a panel of doctors to make sure they wrote an accurate diagnosis for Rebecca reveals how much love and care is put into the show.

To cope with the stress in her life Rebecca has developed an interesting coping mechanism, she imagines certain moments in her life as musical numbers. The musical numbers are all original songs written for show and encompass a vast array of musical genres from Broadway,EDM,Pop,Hip-Hop and more! (I honestly think there is something for almost everyone’s musical taste) ‘You Stupid Bitch’, ‘Dream Ghost’ and We’ll Never Have Problems Again’ being some of my favourite songs from the series (I’ll have to do a top 10 post at some point!)

“We’ll Never Have Problems Again!”

Another think I really like about the show is it’s diverse cast, there are characters of various ethnicities and members of the LGBTQ community within the main cast. its refreshing to see ‘Josh Chan’ an Asian-American as the lead ‘heartthrob’ who Rebecca moves across the country for. Darryl’s story arc, where he discovers his bisexuality is another example of something often not seen on TV. Shows are often criticised for writing characters that don’t want to identify as bisexual, with Darryl this is completely subverted, there is even a song, ‘Gettin’ Bi’ which perfectly deconstructs the popular misconceptions of bisexuality to an 80’s inspired tune.

Heather played by Vella Lovell is another stand out character for me, her snarky, sarcastic delivery is always on point. I especially love Heather’s Anti-High School Musical-esque number “The Moment is Me” which she sings after graduating college, which is an example of classic Heather at her best!

I love the quotability of the show, “that was super rando!” is now very much part of my vocabulary! My partner and I often find ourselves quoting ‘We’ll Never Have Problems Again” when we encounter couples in the honeymoon phase and my best friend and I often end up singing “I Have Friends”. The way that all of these songs and quotable moments have stuck with me, convey what a special show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was/is and I look forward to re-visiting the show many times in future!

(The whole series of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is available on Netflix)

PS I have recently booked tickets for Rachel Bloom’s London show (IM SO EXCITED!!)

PPS since this is a Memeow Blog post after all…

Etsy | Redbubble |Instagram | Twitter

Instagram