Who Is John O'Reilly?

Hey. I’m John O’Reilly, Co-Founder of Queerly Complex.

My focus is on translating our big, bold, and often messy ideas, visions, and art into things Queerdos want, need, and desire. After 35 years working music retail, I have a knack for understanding customer experience and creating opportunities for Queerdos to see themselves reflected genuinely, authentically, and proudly. 

I was born in Oklahoma, the youngest child of parents in the middle of a divorce.

I spent my childhood moving from place to place throughout rural Southern California, and I was always exploring caves, drawing doodles, and daydreaming. Possums, chickens, turkeys, cockatoos, goats, a gopher (that I kept in a cage), snakes, rabbits, cats, and dogs were my companions. I even raised and slaughtered a pig as part of the FFA.  

When I got to high school, I was bullied terribly. I idolized Siouxsie Sioux and was inspired that the men of Specimen and the Virgin Prunes wore their hair big with a face full of makeup, so I transformed myself into their image. My look was my armor, a visible “fuck you” to anyone who dared to try and torment or pick on me. 

It was a struggle being a Queerdo in rural Southern California in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

some of my friends even got kicked out of their homes because they were gay (even if they weren’t out.). My mom opened our home to them and invited my friends to live with us. She’s the one that taught me we Queerdos also need our comrades to survive. 

My ticket out of the Riverside area was a job working retail at the Tower Records in West Covina. While I had previously gone out to underage clubs (and even met my best friend Daniel Blair), it was my move to Whittier that made finding my fellow Queerdos so much easier. I found them at Ground Zero, Club Fuck, Scream, Jewel’s Catch One, Helter Skelter, Cherry at Studio One. What moved me most about all these freaks, queers, and weirdos is that for the most part people were friendly and wecloming; as long as people saw you around, you were invited to the parties. 

Finding my people also helped me find my voice.

I learned how to tell people to fuck off rather than having to wear it as my armor. The black band tee became my comfort wear because it’s so much easier to throw on when you’re hungover. Plus, wearing a band’s art on your chest helps you also find your comrades.

I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1997, working for Tower Records in the Castro (RIP!) and then Amoeba Music on Haight Street. After over 35 years in the industry, one thing that strikes me most is that there’s less diversity in what’s being sold in stores and online. Companies, big and small, aren’t taking as many risks on art, music, and tastes that exist outside what mainstream consumers want to consume. And that’s significantly limiting opportunities for Queerdos who are making art about their radical beliefs and complex feels.    

I co-founded the Queerly Complex website because I want Queerdos everywhere to be able to express themselves and find their comrades.

Again and again, I’ve witnessed Jason’s art do just that for folx from thirteen to thirty-eight to eighty-two, and their visual work is bold, impactful, and spurs conversation. All fabulous and necessary qualities for an online store. And going into business together is another way for us to deepen our bond. 

Now, thanks to our collective effort and the support of numerous comrades (shout outs to: Crystal Mason, Midori, Tray Smith, Ash Tré Phillips, and Izza Anwar) Queerly Complex is becoming a platform for Queerdos and their comrades to find services, merchandise, and events that help you feel, explore, express, and live your radical beliefs and complex emotions, all with a splash of pink. 

The world is a better place when Queerdos can fully be who we be free from shame, guilt, and oppression, and it takes all of us to make this world possible. 

The world is a much better place when we are free to be our full, gloriously, queer selves.