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New global map highlights LGBTQ-owned businesses

Charlie Sprinkman traveled to 42 of the 50 states to work as a representative for an organic beverage company in 2019 and continued to google “queer hangouts here” when he arrived in a new city. But he often came back empty.

“I couldn’t find a resource for that,” Sprinkman, 25, said of a centralized directory of LGBTQ-owned businesses.

Charlie Sprinkman, creator of Everywhere Is Queer.Katie Hope / The Nature Within Us

Then, in the summer of 2021, he served as a counselor at a queer leadership camp for 12-18 year olds outside Los Angeles, and he said being around 100 LGBTQ people for 11 days was “euphoric “.

“I was like, ‘How can I create this space?’ Maybe not as big as a camp, but as a space where people can feel that energy and not be judged for who they are,” said Sprinkman, who currently lives in Bend, Oregon, and works in the service. customer.

On the long drive back from camp to his then home in Colorado, Sprinkman said the phrase “Everywhere is strange” came to mind. A few months later, in January of this year, it became the name of his LLC.

Everywhere Is Queer consists of both a website that hosts a global map of LGBTQ-owned businesses and an Instagram page that highlights some of those businesses. Three months after launch, the map has over 500 businesses listed and the Instagram page has nearly 5,000 followers.

Everywhere is Queer Card
The Everywhere Is Queer card.Everywhere is fag / Google maps

Companies include retailers like Housewife Skateboards in Los Angeles, cafes like Lussi Brown Coffee Bar in Lexington, Kentucky, and accommodations like the Wigit Hotel in the Italian Alps.

Sprinkman said the project was personal to him, not just as a queer traveler, but as someone who didn’t know of any LGBTQ spaces in his small suburban hometown about 30 miles west of Milwaukee.

“I didn’t have cousins, aunts, uncles, anyone else as an influence, so I didn’t really have space as a kid to find queer spaces around my hometown,” did he declare. “As I was building Everywhere Is Queer, I was thinking about young people, my hometown, trying to find and build spaces for them, even if they didn’t go out, just sit in a gay-owned cafe and just seeing queer people. You know, that subconscious layer of seeing queer people is what I hope Everywhere Is Queer provides for so many people.

Charlotte Cons

So far, Sprinkman said most of the LGBTQ-owned businesses on the map are concentrated in the United States, and there are only four states that have yet to list any LGBTQ-owned businesses. LGBTQ. He added that there are also companies listed in Germany, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Anyone can add a business to the map by going to the Everywhere Is Queer website and filling out an online form.

A business owner listed on the map said she saw more gay people entering her restaurants. Mel McMillan is the owner of Simmich in Oregon, which sells homemade smoked meat sandwiches. His two Simmich locations, in Portland and Ashland, are listed on the map, as is his food truck, also in Portland.

“If you google ‘lesbian meat maker’ you’ll get a real idea of ​​what’s going on with me,” McMillan said. (That’s right: an article about her is the first thing that appears in search results for that phrase.)

McMillan, 39, said one of the things she loves about Everywhere Is Queer is that it brings together queer people from different generations.

Mel McMillan, owner of the Sammich sandwich shop in Oregon.
Mel McMillan, owner of the Sammich sandwich shop in Oregon. Courtesy of Mel McMillan

Last month, Sprinkman and McMillan invited about 20 people to Simmich’s location in Portland.

“The first thing I thought was so cool about it was that it bridges the gap between older fags and younger fags,” McMillan said. “It was really cool, because there were people in their 20s and 40s, and there’s not even really room for that either.”

Sprinkman said he’s also building a job site that lets businesses that are on the map share job opportunities.

“I’ve also been looking for a gay-owned job site, and I can’t find one, so we’re building one,” he said.

In the future, he said, he hopes to create an app to host the map and travel to visit many listed LGBTQ places.

“I would love to hit the road and visit and really hear the authentic stories of these gay-owned businesses,” he said, adding that “raising” the voices of gay business owners was a dream of his. .

He said he also hoped it would help LGBTQ travelers feel safer – and some told him it already did. He received hundreds of messages from people thanking him for filling a void.

States in the United States have a variety of laws indicating whether businesses can refuse to serve LGBTQ people. Twenty-one states and Washington, DC, have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public places, such as businesses, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank in non-profit. Eight states interpret their laws to protect LGBTQ people or provide partial protection. The remaining 21 states and five territories offer no protection based on LGBTQ status.

From left to right, Mel McMillan, Charlie Sprinkman and Two Spoons PDX catering company owners Laura Taki and Rachel Arenas.
From left to right, Mel McMillan, Charlie Sprinkman and Two Spoons PDX catering company owners Laura Taki and Rachel Arenas.Charlie Sprinkman

As of this month, the card has been viewed over 100,000 times, and Sprinkman is not making any money from it.

“I just build this from my own little queer heart,” he said.

He hopes the map can ultimately help people find the spaces that allow them to be themselves.

“I’m hoping that a gay-owned business that may have been unheard of before can provide space and a little more confidence, less judgment for anyone struggling to find their most authentic self,” Sprinkman said. . “We’re always constantly on the move, all of us.”

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