It can be difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who are new to Victoria, to easily access the local groups, events, and services available to support them. Through their shared experiences as self-identified members of the queer community, Victoria Pink Pages (VPP) co-founders Sherwin Arnott, Becky Cory, and UVic graduate Jakelene Plan, are seeking to create a centralized hub for queer folks in Victoria.
The VPP is a free online community resource dedicated to the promotion of local LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, events, and creative endeavours. In the hopes of fostering connections between more individuals and local queer-focused projects, VPP launched their new online magazine in August 2017 as an extension of the preexisting business listing service.
The website was created by Jess Scott, and was initially established solely as a listing service for businesses that are LGBTQ+ friendly, similar to projects like the Toronto-based Pink Pages Directory. After Cory and Arnott took the project over in the summer of 2012, they sought to expand the larger potential of VPP through expanding the website.
“The whole point of [the listing service] was to help get queer people together,” said Plan. “[Cory and Arnott] wanted to match up queer businesses with queer patrons, and everyone who wants to be part of that community — basically, Craigslist for queer people is what they envisioned.”
This past summer, the pair welcomed Plan to the team as an editor and business partner, and together the team developed the online magazine as an extension of the listing website in an effort to more actively connect Victoria’s diverse variety of LGBTQ+ events and creative projects.
“Victoria has a really great queer community, we have a lot of really great events happening, lots of really great people, but there’s no one place for all of these events and all of these people to come together,” said Plan. As the VPP magazine editor, she expressed that uniting the community and promoting queer voices are her primary goals.
“If it’s queer, if it’s Canadian, if it’s local, I want to publish it,” stated Plan.
So far in the online magazine, Plan and a small team of approximately 10 volunteer writers have published a variety of critical reviews on events and literature, several calendars of upcoming community events, and one essay on queer issues in contemporary media. Through the platform, Plan and her business partners seek to promote what she described as “queer creativity,” even if the content is not “inherently queer themed.”
“I would like to dispel the idea that [just] because someone is queer they can only write about queer issues,” Plan said.
About 250 businesses are currently listed through the website, encompassing services ranging from dentists to DJs. Counselling is one of the more populated categories with 72 entries, which Plan explained is a significant asset, especially for individuals looking to discuss personal topics. “When you get sexuality and gender identity and other aspects of your life involved like that, that can be a very sensitive thing for people to talk about,” Plan explained, “I also think it’s really important that people in the queer community find the supports that they need to be healthy.”
The co-founders are working to overcome the obstacle of pitching their listing service more widely to Victoria businesses, while maintaining the necessary degree of respectful discretion. Establishments are encouraged to self-identify their role in the LGBTQ+ community when signing up for a listing, but the situation is often more complex.
“[It’s] very tricky when you get into talking to people about queer identity in terms of themselves and their businesses, because it’s such a personal thing,” said Plan. “You don’t want to be accidentally outing someone when they’re not out to their immediate friends and family. There’s a lot of grey area, and there’s some risk involved.”
Once they’re able to maintain a regular content schedule for the magazine, Plan says the VPP is looking to launch an ongoing crowd-funding initiative through Patreon that would cover labour costs that are presently funded out of the co-founder’s pockets. The money accumulated would then be split “percentage-wise” among contributing writers in proportion to monthly submissions. Although there is currently no revenue generated from the VPP, proceeds previously made from a discontinued paid listings component were donated to the Victoria Pride Society.
“I’d really like the Pink Pages to be there for people,” Plan said. “Queer representation and diverse representation is really important to me, because of my background and [growing up in] a very conservative area that didn’t have [LGBTQ+ community resources] that I needed. So, I really want to be able to foster those kinds of voices.”
Plan encourages everyone to check out the VPP website, and for those interested in volunteering to write for the VPP to email her at email@example.com.