Chelsea here, at the end of this quarter to sum up our journey with queery throughout our time in AC4D and beyond. I admit, this will be a bittersweet blog post for me. We’ve grown so much and learned a lot in this past year, and looking forward to the future is a simultaneously exhilarating and frightening exercise.
First, let me tell you a story. When I was 16-18 years old, I came out as queer to my friends and family. There wasn’t a lot of questions; in fact, there were no questions. I had this overarching sense that no one really wanted to address it; it was an elephant in the room. It was what one of our participants called being “unsupportive in a passive way.” They said,
“I don’t care who you make out with, but we’re all equal.” That’s coming from a kind place, but often it is incredibly dismissive of what it’s trying to support. The feelings of otherness is so much bigger than who we kiss or what bathroom we use. It’s so relentless.”
As we worked with the trans* and gender-variant community, I realized that while our experiences were completely different, we did share this feeling in common—the feeling of being alienated from our friends and family and the subsequent fear of rejection when we came out.
One of our participants, Emily, talked about her experience as she was “walking the plank” both with her identity and her social interactions.
After synthesizing the stories of the many participants in the trans* community, we realized that there was a circle of rejection, retreating, and reinforcement that the community experienced.
Rejection was in the form of people ignoring them, people verbally or physically abusing them, or people cutting them out of their lives outright. There was then a retreat to safer, online spaces where they could be themselves with others, but through online media and their own experiences (like the story of this trans* student being suspended just for using a gendered bathroom), there is a continuous reinforcement that people do not accept or care about them, and then they feel rejection anew.
We made queery to break that cycle.
queery is a service that allows members of the queer community to meet based on interests for one-on-one networking. Users choose their interests, their location, and schedule, and queery pairs them up by what they want to talk about.
We’ve also considered the fear of being outed (or indicating to someone that you are queer before you are ready to tell them)—we don’t want to be like Google Plus, who accidentally outed a transgender woman to her coworker. Because of that, we have a commitment to the privacy of our user’s data, and also a handy way of people to find one another in a coffee shop without outing themselves, where folks hit the “I’m here” button on the reminder pop up, and the screen will turn green and vibrate (thus alerting the other person that you are there, but not calling too much attention to yourself).
We’re very cognizant of the feedback we’ve received around keeping our user’s data safe, and because of that, this has changed the way we’ve thought about making queery a sustainable business to continue providing value to the queer community.
When we thought about adding in the additional challenge of maintaining queery through a stream of revenue, we wanted to make sure that the queer community knew that they own queery. That’s why we propose to do a yearly pay-what-you-want subscription (minimum $10) for the community. The idea that is you can pay into the community to help out other members in the community, or if you don’t have a lot of cash on you, can still access queery for a minimal fee.
When we projected this out with growth over three years, we realized that we would most likely be profitable in 2017 and be able to continue to provide value for the queer community by adding more features and partnering with other local LGBT and trans*-specific organizations to throw parties, get people to know one another, and get people connected.
In this quarter, we have been piloting with the local queer community in Austin, and the feedback we have received from the community that encourages us. One participant said,
“[When I met the other person,] I felt connected [to the queer community] again, and that felt awesome. I hadn’t realized how cut off I felt.”
However, there is more than just encouragement—we learned through the pilot that the intent of queery was not as well-explained as we’d hoped.
“It was a little bit unclear to me what the purpose or the end goal of this was except to meet people and possibly make a friend.”
Indeed, queery’s purpose is to meet and make friends, but I think we wrongfully assumed that people would have the same mental model as we did around the importance around friendships, and so in future iterations, the importance of making friends will be better explained.
We also found that the network effect extends beyond queery. Emily and Robert, two participants, met through queery, and later recognized one another at a party. Emily invited Robert over to hang out with her and her friends. If queery had not been present, Robort might have never received that invitation. We were overjoyed when we heard about this.
I also realize that if queery succeeds, we might be planning for our own obsolescence. If the queer community is already well-connected, wouldn’t that mean that queery is no longer needed?
Maybe. I’d love to live in a future where when someone comes out, it is not looked at as an elephant in the room, but celebrated with open arms and love. I’d love to see, and have seen before, queer communities rally around their members for support. And I hope that queery is another support for the queer community to lean on one another when they’re going through rough times.
I want to work collaboratively with other LGBT organizations from an angle of being queer-first; a unique angle for those of us who don’t want fit the mold, don’t really care to fit the mold, or those of us who ware figuring out what the hell is a mold.
I plan on continuing my work with queery and will continue to reach out to the communities that we have built ties with in the past year. Without their help, I don’t know where I’d be.
And if you’re interested in getting in on queery’s next steps—contact me. We need folks to pilot, and we’ll be seeking out more and more folks from the queer community in Austin to help me make queery something great.