One thing that I have loved since coming out of the closet at fourteen years old was driving from my small town to the bustling scene that is Minneapolis, MN and being able to interact with my community. I know that in recent times, the cracks caused by internalized homophobia, racism, and bigotry have become more apparent but very early on in my life post-closet they were harder for me to see. Ideally, the events of Pride month were meant to be good fun shared by all.
I plan on doing a separate post about my thoughts on the protest (I am glad they were there and visible) and the damage that can be done from within our own community if we as (majority white) queers don't pause to listen to other voices. For now I want to focus on what it was like as a first time vendor at a large scale event.
To begin with, it ain't cheap. I poured a lot of my personal funding (as one does with any self-started business) into preparing for Gay Pride. The tent alone made me whistle through my teeth at the cost, but that tent is going to come in handy for an incredibly long time so it's an investment. I think, given how big the events are for Pride, the cost of the booth was a little steep. For anyone just starting out and diving right into event reading, it would be quite prohibitive. I hope that in the future more event spaces consider what kind of vendor they are selling to. A person selling physical products and coming away with more revenue at the end of the day will usually be able to pay more in fees than those whose wares are not material things. A lot more goes into selling a non-material service, I think, than the other way around. We have to call people in and engage with our customers in a way that is personal and not sales pitchesque. That right there shifts the odds. We are selling ourselves.
Times, They Are A Changin', Aren't They?
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the reception from others about tarot readings. I run in a lot of circles that are pagan friendly, if not downright witchy all the way. Unsurprisingly, a lot of those folks tend to be somewhere in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. So, imagine my shock when I had more than one person back away, worrying that tarot was evil and going to taint them in some way.
To unpack that a little bit, I got the impression more than once that it was due to some deeply rooted religious teachings that perhaps hadn't been shaken loose. People are complex and they can believe in greater equality for all and still hold the opinion that tarot is malignant. As a tarot junkie, that makes me quite sad but eh, people are neat.
I really enjoyed the tarot readings that I did for those that chose to sit with me. I met many wonderful people and even cried a little bit. Happy tears! Still, I hold out hope that people will continue to see tarot at events like this. I would love to do it again. After all, my queer identity is the reason that Queer Street Tarot exists. The cards helped me when no one else was able to do so. It places me in a unique position, I think at these events and next year we may see how it goes. Especially if I can find my banner...which I could not find this year...
Make a Difference or Make a Dollar?
One complaint I heard from several outspoken queer folk during my time in the tent was their frustration that not more queer readers were present at the park. We had several other tents up and they pointed to me as the only obviously queer tarot reader. At other venues that may not make a difference, or may even be my detriment, but it wasn't the case here. That was interesting to me. I suppose that comes down to the organizers in charge and how they want to go about vetting people. Many people at the event are there specifically to be around community and I think it can be easy to feel pandered to for the sake of a sale.
Look at the other corporations when June rolls around. It becomes rainbow, not because it's their personal belief per se, but because it's good marketing. I'm not one to tell people how to run an event, nor am I stating any personal belief here, just repeating some of the thoughts I heard over the weekend. Just remember that if you're venturing into a queer space as someone not in that community, it becomes important to respect their space. After all, they could be like I was when I was younger, using this time to connect with a community I was only beginning to explore. That wasn't nervous making at all!
Day Two Dances A Different Rhythm
I didn't really know what to expect either of the two days I was reading in Loring Park but the second day was much more sedate. I did most of my readings on day one, with several done the following day, but by and large I used this time to promote my forthcoming tarot decks. The Queer Community Tarot is inspired by and for the queer community. A deck that is not just one, but three decks, the Queer Community Tarot consists of the Divine Masculine, Divine Feminine, and Divine Spirit decks. Male bodied people, female bodied people, and then gender non-conforming/genderqueer people make up each of the three decks respectively. The thing about the Queer Community Tarot is that you can mix and match the cards to build your own, completely customized tarot deck that reflects you and the community energies you desire.
Pre-orders are open now and we took a few but mainly people were thrilled and dashing off to tell other people about it. It was the look on their faces that I loved seeing. I felt hugely supported by my community which, for me, was huge because I haven't always felt that way.
My thoughts on this were that it was a fun event, we had a good location for the tent and I ended up making back the cost of the booth so it wasn't as costly as I feared it would be. That being said, I hope that the next time I do an event I come out somewhere ahead rather than breaking even but hell, it beats the alternative.
If you're thinking of doing a vending event, plan months in advance. Do it that way so that you can buy things in chunks rather than rushing and dropping a lot of money all at once. That method saved me a heart attack or two. And don't be nervous. People overall were friendly and willing to listen to what I had to say, whether they sat at the table for a reading or not. I like to think that I at least made them question what they know about divination/tarot in general. Let me know if you've had interesting experiences vending at events! Any tips or tricks that you've found to be invaluable? Comment below!