With dating platforms like Grindr and OKCupid dominating 21st-century culture, it’s easy for LGBTQ people to connect with both peers and potential hookups. But what if someone wants to walk to an LGBT-friendly café and actually hang out there — not just meet up with some rando who probably lied about his stats? As it turns out, two 24-year-old straight guys may have solved that problem.
Meet Conor Clary and Travis Lowry, the brains behind Rainbow Chronicle. It's a relatively new site where users can look up LGBT-friendly businesses and restaurants, and its usefulness is immediately apparent. The entirely user-generated site, which launched in March, allows visitors to rate local establishments and community leaders on their LGBT-friendliness. Then the site plots those people and places on maps so that users can begin to see what parts of town are most "friendly."
Lowry, who attended an all-boys Catholic school in a conservative part of Texas, hopes that Rainbow Chronicle will help Americans who live in “gray areas” of the country — i.e. not quite as homophobic as Lowry’s Texas hometown, but not quite as liberal as his alma mater, Tufts University.
“I grew up being called a faggot on a regular basis,” says Lowry about his days at the Texas boys’ school. “And even though homophobia affected me differently, as a straight person, I could still see and understand how that sort of behavior would affect a gay kid.”
After that harrowing high school experience — and later listening to a broadcast about The Trevor Project — Lowry decided that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of his LGBT peers (including his college roommates).
“There wasn’t anything that looked at mainstream people and businesses through an LGBT lens, that said, ‘OK, how gay-friendly is that deli on the corner?’” says Lowry. “I thought it would be empowering for LGBT people if something like that existed.”
Still, Lowry is careful to differentiate Rainbow Chronicle from other LGBT "networking platforms" such as Grindr. “We don’t have any sexual content on the site, we don’t have any lewd images,” explains Lowry. “[Our] goal is that a school kid can look at this, or a lawyer can look at this from work, without having to look over his shoulder.”
Although Clary and Lowry remain mostly behind the scenes (only butting in to delete incendiary comments), they hope that Rainbow Chronicle will cater to a wide audience. “We want to make sure ... not just the [Forbes 100] get reviewed,” says Lowry. “We want people on there like my high school coach. Local heroes.”