Former Dallas resident Travis Lowry recently launched a national website for the LGBT community to rank professional businesses, events, venues and even public officials based on their LGBT-friendliness.
Rainbow Chronicle allows people to search for businesses and people by zip codes and major cities, but visitors must register to post a review or to comment, Lowry said.
The site has roughly 4,500 frequent users with about 800 sustained users, who Lowry said visit the site about every three days.
The site can be used to find a place to take a same-sex date without awkwardness or to preview an upcoming event. But Lowry said he also wanted to give a voice to people who interact with pubic officials, especially since many conservative areas never see LGBT issues discussed at election time.
“Local leaders play a huge part in people’s lives,” Lowry said. “It’s really, really hard to find voting records, so having computer-generated reviews based on the people who interact with them is helpful.”
Launched in January, the idea for the site was resting in the back of Lowry’s mind since fall 2010, when he heard Dan Savage speaking about the “It Gets Better” project on NPR while eating lunch one afternoon.
As a straight man who grew up in Texas and attended a private all-male school where homophobia was rampant, Lowry said the suicides of LGBT youth affected him and made him think about how he could make a change.
“As I was thinking about it, I thought I would do something to harness the power of the Internet to make a change today,” he said. “I thought maybe we could use this being able to unite anonymously through reviews to make a change.”
And the idea was born.
Being a graduate of the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Lowry said the all-male school had a “low-level acceptance of homophobia.”
“You go four years at an all-guy school, you get called a ‘faggot,’” he said. “It was not a friendly place. … It was not an open environment, but it’s not horrible.”
After graduating in 2006, he headed to Tufts University in Boston, which offered a “very, very gay-friendly” environment. However, Lowry said he discovered that there was still homophobia in a place as liberal as Massachusetts.
After working in Syria with the United Nations, Lowry learned the concept of heat-mapping, which assigns color codes to estimate values. He now incorporates that concept into the review system with 10 colors. The more green a place, event or person, the more LGBT friendly it is, with red signifying a small amount of positive response from the community.
He then returned to Cambridge, Mass., and co-founded the website with business partner Conor Clary. He now works on the site full-time, continuing to tweak the concept to allow a better forum for the site’s users.