By Megan Wadding, June 2018 Web Exclusive.
When Tucson’s LGBTQ community center, Wingspan, closed its doors in the summer of 2014, it left a void in terms of an LGBTQ guide for businesses and groups. This need had always filled by Wingspan’s own community directory.
In the spring of 2016, the LGBT&S Alliance Fund funded the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation’s (SAAF) idea to create a new online resource directory, OutinAZ, which launched early in 2017.
According to Adam Ragan, associate director of LGBTQ initiatives at SAAF, SAAF had held many conversations and forums to get feedback about what was wanted and needed from the community.
“[We] heard that an easy-to-use, up-to-date directory was a needed resource,” Ragan said. “For us, the first step was listening to the community’s needs. We heard back many times that a community resource guide was important, [through such feedback as] ‘How can we support our LGBTQ businesses?’ [and] ‘How do we know who’s a good place to go to?’”
The project began with a paper copy of Wingspan’s old directory, and then SAAF worked from there to create a digital version of that material.
According to Ragan, a graphic designer helped to create a user-friendly web-page that could meet the needs of the community, and from there, listings were uploaded and the community was solicited in order for them to sign up and begin uploading listings as well.
The number of listings on the site has no limit, which allows for users to suggest subcategories and cross-list listings, so the community helps create the database, according to Ragan. The more OutinAZ is used, the more the database grows.
Because SAAF wanted to make sure that LGBTQ-owner/operated establishments were readily identifiable, Ragan said the design allows for users to never be more than just a few clicks away from finding what they are looking for, which allows for ease for even those who are not extremely technologically-savvy. Listings can also be updated in real time and users can leave reviews.
“So much of the LGBTQ community is word-of-mouth, [so] we wanted to make sure that OutinAZ was capable of meeting that need,” he said. “When you’re using OutinAZ, you know the information is accurate and complete. Folks can head on and create an account so they can make listings, leave reviews, share listings. This is a community-wide initiative.”
The mission of the OutinAZ directory, which is free to use, free to list and free to share, is to provide the best, most up-to-date community resource serving the LGBTQ community, according to Ragan, who also said that they continue to call out to the community to list and review on OutinAZ.
“The LGBTQ community needs a way to easily find businesses and groups that serve our community and/or are run by LGBTQ community members,” Ragan said. “Our rainbow dollars matter and there’s a strong desire to support the family where we can.”
Word about OutinAZ is being spread through local and social media, and Ragan said SAAF is asking the LGBTQ community to tell friends, family and other community members about the site so that the database continues to grow and be as up-to-date as possible.
Ragan believes that the directory can have a broader reach beyond the Tucson LGBTQ community, possibly enticing community members from other cities and states to come visit and enjoy what Tucson has to offer.
“Visitors to the community need to be able to patronize LGBTQ-friendly establishments and OutinAZ allows folks visiting Arizona to take a peek what we offer as they plan their trip,” he added. “Knowing there are LGBTQ-friendly/serving places around might help them make the decision to visit our state and spend their dollars here. That makes the community stronger.”