Born and raised in Piqua, Ohio, Ty Collier dreamed bigger than what his small town had to offer. “It’s kind of like a bubble where a lot of people stay in the town, and there’s not a lot of growth and opportunity that I was seeing for someone like myself that was openly queer and African-American,” he told (614). “So I left after graduating high school and came to Columbus. That’s kind of where I found my community and felt safe and comfortable to be myself.”
Feeling accepted in the communal and fairly liberal atmosphere of Columbus was all Collier needed to develop his LGTBQIA+ shop, Queerencia. A play on the Spanish word ‘querencia,’ Queerencia is an apparel webstore that also travels across the country to participate in Pride conferences and host pop-up events. Before ideating Queerencia, Collier worked in the wholesale promotional product space for roughly ten years. In 2020, as white collar employees went into remote work, the 26-year-old soft launched his store as a “passion project” to see what it would evolve into.
And evolve it did.
“It gave me the time and opportunity to dig into what my passions are and that is the LGBTQIA+ community,” Collier said about his business. “I started as a project thinking, ‘Okay, maybe we’ll just be able to influence some friends and peers with some cool designs,’ and then it started evolving into more and more.”
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
Queerencia gradually became visible at small, in-person events throughout Columbus while the country began navigating out of the pandemic. It gave the fledgling concept time to chart its own path as well.
“Now that things have been a year or so out, we’re seeing that we’re returning to what our original plan was: to be in front of people to build community [and] to be able to be a positive influence in our local and national areas,” Collier shared.
The web-shop features a wide variety of items designed by the LGBTQIA+ community, and for it, but not exclusively. In addition to a myriad of designs boasting Queer Pride, Black pride, Trans Pride and more, the store offers clothing for allies and family members as well. One t-shirt features the phrase “I love my Child,” with the final word appearing in a wash of rainbow lettering.
In addition to mainstay products, Queerencia is now offering a 2023 collection featuring a ballroom t-shirt perfect for any Pose fan, a graphic t-shirt adorned with late queer liberation activist and drag performer Marsha P. Johnson, and a clack fan with the official colors of the Pride flag.
“Our clack fan is super fun. We took the progressive pride flag colors and turned it into a groovy design to keep people cool during the hot summer Pride days that are to come,” Collier said about the latter item.
As Columbus Pride is regularly held in the Short North, Collier embraces the neighborhood for uplifting queer voices, even referencing Queerencia’s involvement with Stonewall Sports Columbus, which invites LGBTQIA+ individuals to come out to showcase their athletic abilities. To pour back into the community, a portion of every Queerencia purchase is donated to both local and national organizations like The Trevor Project and Columbus’ Kaleidoscope Youth Center, both of which focus on mental health awareness and creating resources for queer youth. Other organizations with support from Queerencia include Equitas Health, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute and Equality Ohio, all which allow Collier to advocate for causes he sought after in his youth.
“During my upbringing I faced a lot of, not only racial inequalities, but also a lot of homophobia and racism. I didn’t have mentors and resources and access to queer history and culture like I wish that I did,” said Collier. “It was extremely important to me to not only be the person that I needed when I was younger, but also provide resources for kids like me that grew up in those environments where they didn’t feel safe and secure in their own identity.”
As Queerencia aims to highlight historical figures and forces in LGBTQIA+ history, the brand also remains contemporary, partnering with Stonewall Columbus for this month’s Pride-themed merchandise. Queerencia, which will accompany Stonewall Columbus at their Pride merch booth, also has a full June schedule, and is expected to appear at Pittsburgh Pride, Washington D.C.’s Capital Pride, Upper Arlington Pride and Cincinnati Pride. Despite the presence of occasional protests against public drag shows, Collier looks forward to the events being family-friendly, embracing a new generation of LGBTQIA+ people.
“I think there is plenty of space and opportunities for youth to be at Pride. I wish that these experiences and events were around and promoted when I was younger,” he said. “Like I mentioned in my small town, I couldn’t imagine them having a Pride, and maybe one day they will, but I think that exposure of seeing what queer love, joy, success and happiness looks like, that would have helped me on my journey when navigating through my identity when I was younger.”
Striving to make a difference in Columbus and the LGBTQIA+ community at large, Queerencia continues to spread love, one design at a time. “I want the items to be an invitation to be yourself, to be bold and proud of who you are, to be able to represent all identities and create space for equality and inclusion and diversity,” Collier said. “That [is lacking] in a lot of spaces, and it is our mission to create spaces that we feel are not as accessible or not as equal as they could be. We’re here to create those spaces, but also do it in a trendy way.”
Want to read more? Check out our print publication, (614) Magazine. Learn where you can find a free copy of our new June issue here!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY