A new clothing business, which is also part anti-homophobia campaign, has started to raise awareness of social isolation of GLBTI people in Australia.
The enterprise — OK2BGAY — has been set up by 21-year-old Steven Pawsey and business partner, straight mother and show horse worker Francesca Christie.
“I had a really bad coming out when I was 19,” Pawsey told the Star Observer.
“I was isolated from my family and friends and I suffered major depression.
“So late last year I thought, how can I possibly turn what I’d deemed to be something negative — that caused me so much pain — to a positive.”
Pawsey said he looked at other anti-homophobia campaigns around the world such as the It Gets Better and NOH8 initiatives in the United States.
“I thought Australia needed some kind of message to be sent … and I thought the best way to do it is to create a website where we can focus on getting the message out there that it’s okay to be gay and there’s nothing wrong with you,” Pawsey said.
The website offers clothing featuring pro-gay slogans and promises to host forums where young GLBTI people can communicate in a safe space. The business says it will donate a percentage of its profits to GLBTI charities.
However, the new business has been forced to respond to early criticism that it’s using its pro-gay stance as a vehicle to sell products.
Last week the Star Observer was contacted by several community members concerned that money was not going to GLBTI charities — OK2BGAY’s first donation is said to have gone to the Kids Helpline.
Pawsey said the criticism is “unfair” and the decision to fund the Kids Helpline was made to give money to a well recognised charity.
“Each month we’ll tell people where the donations have gone and we do explicitly say on our website that we’re not a charity, but we’re sending a percentage of sales to charities working with the GLBTI [community],” he said.
“We’re not trying to be deceptive — we’re trying to get the message out there it’s okay to be gay.”
Pawsey foreshadowed that in the coming months a new national GLBTI charity group will be set up to which future OK2BGAY donations are likely to go.
“Our goal is to create a national [GLBTI switchboard help service] so anyone from any country town in any place in Australia can get that kind of support, not just state by state,” he said.
Pawsey said although he has been involved in the initial idea, the new charity is not part of OK2BGAY and will operate independently.
info: Visit www.ok2bgay.com.au