SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Under the Umbrella bookstore was always a pipe dream for Kaitlyn Mahoney but now, it’s becoming a reality. The name is meant to represent everyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I want everyone to know that if you’re queer, you are queer enough and you’re welcome,” Mahoney said. “No matter where you identify under the umbrella, you are welcome under the umbrella.”
Mahoney started a crowdsourcing campaign to bring a “queer little bookstore” to Salt Lake City and has now raised over $53,000.
She said Salt Lake City is home to one of largest populations for queer people in Utah.
“It was like, ‘Oh, my God we have this population here and we don’t have spaces to be a community together,’” Mahoney said.
She said most LGBTQ places, like bars, aren’t accessible to everyone, especially for minors and people who are sober.
So, she hopes the bookshop can be another place where the queer community can gather — a safe space prioritizing queer authors and readers.
“I kind of see bookselling as another way of connecting storytellers with the people who need to hear their stories,” she said.
Mahoney grew up in Provo and went to Brigham Young University. She came out to her parents just before launching her bookstore campaign. She said books have had a significant impact on learning about her queer identity and they can help others too.
“Reading about the possibilities for what other people [could] be and what I [could] be and how to explore my gender and sexuality,” Mahoney said, “I think it’s really important to have a space where you can do that with yourself.”
She intends to set up resources inside the store like a community pantry or a gender affirming closet space where people can get clothes that align with their identity for free.
Alex Allan is one of the donors who contributed to the campaign. He and 40 of his friends donated in honor of his late husband Brian Short who was a big book lover and held his own book club meetings at the King’s English Bookshop prior to dying in 2018.
“I think the idea behind it, it’s so intellectual and it’s just like so complementing to Brian as a person,” Allan said.
He said it felt right to donate to a bookshop that is prioritizing the LGBTQ community. Mahoney is still finalizing a location for the bookstore but once it opens it will feature a shelf in honoring Short. Allan said the shelf was a way to memorialize his husband’s memory.