News: Pink Market

Directory helps gays and lesbians use their consumer power

Mar 12, 2003 at 2:06 pm
Think of The Listings as a GLBT chamber of commerce, says Chris May.

Where does the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered (GLBT) community find guidance to navigate gay-friendly businesses in a homophobic city like Cincinnati? It's not always as easy as a rainbow flag dangling from a storefront façade.

The answer, however, is at your fingertips courtesy of the Queen City Careers Association (QCCA).

The QCCA has culled advertisers into one manual known as Queen City Listings, now shortened to simply The Listings for this, the publication's 15th year. The guide serves as a directory of GLBT supportive businesses.

"Well, it really started out as a telephone directory to connect people in Cincinnati," says Chris May, president of QCCA. "We started out with just business-card size ads and it just sort of mushroomed from there."

Longtime GLBT residents of Cincinnati understand the need for such a handbook. Facing discrimination on a number of fronts — not least of which is Article 12 of Cincinnati's City Charter, preventing city council from passing any law forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation — the GLBT community can have difficulty knowing where to turn.

"You don't want to have to go and explain when you invite someone like that into your home," May says.

"It might help to know that they're supportive to the community. You don't want to have to explain your living conditions."

The value of GLBT-friendly businesses might seem inconsequential in selecting a bottle of wine, but is clearer in choosing a mental health professional. While depression can afflict all types of people, the issues behind the ailment can be decidedly different between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

A straight man, for instance, can't comprehend the need to hide his sexuality nor the weight that deceit can impose on a person's psyche. The Listings provide mental health professionals, along with their unique specialties, who are able to address the needs of the GLBT community.

Not that mental health professionals are meant to be singled out. The guide also lists, for example, florists, realtors, boutiques and physicians. The Listings arrange doctors alphabetically with such pertinent information as their sub-specialties, the percentage of their patients who are homosexual and the number of HIV-positive patients treated.

Two more key components to The Listings are the "Community Resources," detailing information to various organizations in the region from Alcoholics Anonymous to the National Gay and Lesbian Hotline; and "Know Your Rights," breaking down local laws as they pertain to the GLBT community.

"Well, I think it's vitally important to keep that information out in the public," May says. "It's just really important to keep that information out there so it's in the hands of the people who use it."

This year the QCCA, a volunteer organization, will produce 13,000 copies of The Listings, a feat last attempted with meager results in 2001. According to May, many copies of the book were returned that year, though they are distributed free of charge.

But QCCA has far-reaching goals in 2003 to make the guide accessible to people outside the Tristate. It's a move to let out-of-towners know all the great things Cincinnati has to offer the GLBT community, May explains.

"Our goal this year is that the book goes beyond our geographic area," he says.

To implement that plan, QCCA became a member of the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We're billing ourselves as the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce," May says. "Basically, we're acting as a chamber of commerce, and then we also offer networking opportunities through our monthly socials. It's either a monthly social or a business showcase."

QCCA's annual business fair, "Listings Alive," an event previously held in the fall, is from 2-3 p.m. Sunday at 1 Riverboat Row, in Covington. More than 30 vendors and advertisers will be in attendance to meet with The Listings' readers as the new edition of the book is unveiled. Copies will later be delivered to bars, bookstores and churches, among other locales.

Finding places willing to distribute the guide has never been a problem, according to May. The organization has other difficulties to contend with, however.

"Membership is always a concern and volunteers is a huge issue for us," he says. "I think it's because we haven't asked for help. It's a problem that most organizations face. Most are pulling from the same group of people. It's really easy to get over-extended and burned-out."

Part of the problem stems from the QCCA being a relatively low-key organization. Little is heard from the group until The Listings hit the streets. That's another goal that May says the QCCA hopes to achieve this year.

"We have a marketing director on the board who will help us stay in touch and help get our name out there," May says. ©