Although he's not gay, Travis Lowry understands what homophobia looks like. He grew up in the Dallas area and saw firsthand how LGBT people are often forced to live. "If I had used a racial slur in high school I would have gotten into a lot of trouble," recalled the 24-year-old entrepreneur. "But if you call someone a 'faggot,' then it's OK."
"I was disappointed in the disconnect with American values," he said via a telephone interview with Windy City Times ( WCT ) . "Everyone is free to be happy, but that doesn't apply to gays."
One day, while working as a journalist in Massachusetts, he heard a radio interview with gay activist Dan Savage. Savage was talking about his now-famous "It Gets Better" Project. Lowry, who said that homophobia is rampant even in liberal enclaves like Cambridge, decided to do something tangible that might help to make things better. With high school pal- turned-business partner Conor Clary, who's also straight, Lowry launched Rainbow Chronicle, an online resource that he claims "puts the power of the web to better use."
The concept of Rainbow Chronicle is simple. Users can list and rate businesses, places and events for their gay friendliness, or lack thereof. "We ascribe a color code to persons or places that allow you to quickly and graphically judge them. Green is for the friendliest, red is for the least friendly. There are colors in between that allows users to look at a neighborhood, street, or business and judge how gay friendly it is or isn't. Is it a good place for LGBT couples or groups? What's the attitude of others?"
Launched Jan. 11, Lowry reported that the site is slowly picking up steam, with 4,500 infrequent users and 800 heavy users. "There's nothing like this online," Lowry said. "It's a hot-button issue. Hopefully it'll catch on."
The CEO of Texas-based Cinemark Theaters came under fire a few years ago for donating money to anti-gay causes. In the gay-friendly San Francisco area, individual Cinemark Theaters employ LGBT people at both the floor staff and management levels. WCT asked Lowry if Rainbow Chronicle might inadvertently hold individuals responsible for the actions of corporate executives over which they have no control.
"You can rate a specific theater or the corporation," explained Lowry. "It's another level of nuance that we offer."
The Rainbow Chronicle homepage is self-explanatory and easy to navigate. After registering, users can cast their ratings for the places, events and leaders they've encountered. There's a Hall of Fame section for the gay-friendliest places, and a separate link for places deemed unsafe for LGBT people. Users can add new listings at any time.
The site also offers an option for LGBT news links. Lowry himself posted a link March 14: "100 Real Tweets From Homophobes Who Would Murder Their Gay Child."
"Local leaders, such as a sheriff or city council member, affect people's lives on a daily basis" said Lowry. "Their records are hard to find. Rainbow Chronicle can change that. Site members are welcome to post news links as well. Just write in your own titles, add a link and include a short description."
What if a business owner disagrees with a rating? Lowry said, "If you are acting in an open way, you should be able to rally friends to counter that review. If there is a concentrated effort to post a review in a false way, this can be handled administratively. Threats and violent posts get removed."
For more, visit www.RainbowChronicle.com .