The first in a series discussing art and identity within the LGBTQ+ community
Words: Bipolar Abdul
With Pride fast approaching, I decided it was time to speak to some Doncaster LGBTQ+ artists. Doncaster is home to a huge queer community, many of whom are beautifully creative and conceptual. I reached out to three fellow artists. We spoke about art and creative outlets but also discussed sexuality and gender identity, and how that can affect lives.
Jack, founder of Offend My Eyes and a trans man. A Doncaster based clothing store offering alternative, art based graphic design in unisex garments and accessories.
What inspired you to start up Offend My Eyes?
I’ve always been a bit weird, I remember growing up before everything was so accessible on the internet (I didn’t even have the internet as a child!) and finding clothing I liked was so difficult. I had to find the one alternative shop in my whole city, and even then, everything was marketed towards the goth culture and I loved bright colours. That never changed, and eventually as an adult I just decided to make the designs myself. I really didn’t think there would be many other people who would have the same aesthetic, but it turned out there was a niche in the market for the style.
Have there been any bumps in the road or barriers you’ve had to smash?
Oh, definitely. The biggest hurdle was finding a way to print our colourful designs all over a T-shirt without the pattern becoming skewed or having white streaks in it. Even the big high street shops like TopShop couldn’t do this, so it took us a lot of trial and error. We got there in the end, but only after making many mistakes and trying out lots of different angles. Not only that, but being a small, independent company means a lot of printers won’t take you seriously, and most of them won’t work with you unless you’re making minimum orders of 1000 T-shirts. It was worth it though, now we pride ourselves on having beautiful, all over prints that are perfectly printed and never fade!
What are your goals for the future?
We try not to be unrealistic, we know that our style is a bit too strange to ever become main stream, but we’d like to become the leading brand for colourful, crazy fashion. Each year is another success to us, and we’re grateful to still be here, even after 4 years. We just hope we can continue building the brand and make it synonymous with bold, daring prints.
Have you ever been judged for your sexual orientation or gender identity?
Unfortunately, we still get judged for being ourselves every day. Sometimes I try to understand that they just need educating, and sometimes it’s blatant hate, which hurts so much more. I’m transgender, and our company is run by people who identify as trans, lesbian, gay and straight, so we try to be as open and supportive as possible, not just in our designs which are often LGBTQ+ themed, but also by supporting local gay prides and festivals, like Sparkle in Manchester.
The hardest part to deal with, is when we aren’t taken seriously as a company because we’re transgender or gay. Sometimes people assume that’s all there is to you, when really, we’re not defined by our identity or sexuality and it’s actually a very small part of who we are as people. We’re proud of it, but we’d like to also be known for our talents in the fashion industry.
What’s your favourite thing about Doncaster Pride?
I’ve lived in Doncaster since I was 3 years old. I grew up here, my family lives here and I honestly can’t explain to outsiders what living here is really like. It’s down to earth, honest, raw and has so much going for it. With big cities like Leeds around the corner, I think Doncaster gets missed off the map, but it really does have a lot going for it.
Doncaster Pride is just one part of that. I love that it is free for everyone to attend. I love that it is not too big that the personal touches get left out, but it’s still big enough to create a buzzing crowd of people all enjoying themselves. I love the vibe as you walk around, how friendly everyone is and how everybody comes together to be part of one big family. But, I think my favourite part of the whole event is that its proximity to town means people who don’t necessarily know about pride can wander in from the street, and they’re just as welcome as everybody else, regardless of their orientation or identity. They can see what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and perhaps that will make them a bit more understanding in the future.
Catch Offend My Eyes at Doncaster Pride