The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ vibrant neighborhoods – 317 words at a time.
There’s a pizza shop in Beech Grove where Sam Cooke plays on the kitchen radio, while above the door, a taped photo of shirtless David Hasselhoff watches over.
Daisy Gomez, a cook there, preps pizza prior to opening.
She has cotton-candy pink hair, powder blue eyes, two gauged ears and a nose ring. She’s in a heterosexual relationship but identifies as bisexual.
Gomez considers herself “lucky.”
Lucky to work at Beech Grove Pizza Company, she said, because, “here, everyone’s sexuality is something that’s celebrated.”
Outside of work, she described a neighborhood divided: sometimes supportive and accepting; other times judgmental and demonizing.
Less than a mile away, she's seen the words “boys have a penis, girls have a vagina,” inscribed in black marker on a bathroom door at her second job.
She’s been harassed and received homophobic slurs.
But inside Beech Grove Pizza Company, between floor-to-ceiling hand-painted images of Dracula and Freddy Krueger, she feels liberated, welcomed… comfortable.
So do others in the pizza shop. Half the staff identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, said the shop’s manager.
So do others in the community. When the pizza shop hung a Pride flag in the window in June – a month after opening – one Facebook user left a comment on their wall: “I appreciated walking by yesterday and seeing a Pride flag … don’t know that I’ve ever seen a local business display their support like that.”
Back in the kitchen, Sam Cooke’s "A Change Is Gonna Come" mixed into the air amid flour flung around by Gomez.
“I feel like Beech Grove is kind of evolving,” Gomez said, as she kneaded dough. “It’s becoming kind of frowned upon to be, like, terrible to people just living their lives … that’s not the norm anymore, and it never should have been.”
For more information visit beechgrovepizza.com, located at 702 Main Street.
Contact IndyStar reporter Brandon Drenon at 317-517-3340 or BDrenon@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonDrenon.
Brandon is also a Report for America corps member with the GroundTruth Project, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the U.S. and around the world.
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Beech Grove Pizza Company welcomes Indianapolis LGBTQ community