Buy wise, bi gay
By Lisa Weaver
A recent episode of Ellen featured Ellen employing a plumber she had located in a gay and lesbian service directory. Viewers might ask is this fact or fiction? Does such a thing really exist? And if it does, why?
Almost every major city across Canada offers services specifically aimed at homosexual clients. Everything from hairdressers to dog sitters to travel agents exist to serve the gay and lesbian community.
Several directories, like the one Ellen consulted, exist to aid one's search. On the Internet, GayCanada (http://www.gaycanada.com/) is a site listing services and gay-owned businesses in major cities, as well as very small towns, across the country. The Rainbow Book is an annually updated publication which lists gay and lesbian businesses across Canada and can be ordered from the site. Outside cyberspace, gay-friendly services can be found in the Yellowpages, or through publications, like London's HALO newsletter.
So, why the emerging trend in businesses directed mainly at homosexual clients? The obvious answer, stated by many business owners, is the gay and lesbian community prefers to deal with people who accept and understand their needs.
Rick Downey, of Arbor Memorial Services, says the funeral services he provides are no different than those offered by other businesses, but the treatment of clients is what differs. Downey says his business offers support by "allowing the gay community to grieve in the way they wish to without feeling they are being watched or judged." A 'gay-friendly' environment allows clients to grieve for their partners and lovers without having to refer to the deceased as simply a 'friend.'
The same idea is the basis for travel consultants aimed specifically at arranging holidays for gays and lesbians. Many vacation destinations offer resorts exclusively for homosexual travellers and travel agents are there to assist in arrangements as well as offer suggestions for dining, shopping and entertainment. Janice Prince is a gay and lesbian Travel Specialist for Carlson Wagonlit Travel in London. Prince offers services to travellers which may not be offered by mainstream travel agents, because of her business contacts and information resources. Discounted airfares and insurance packages as well as specialized services such as hotels with special provisions for HIV positive travellers are available. Prince believes in the need for business directories because "gay and lesbian people tend to deal with other people in the community for business."
The wide variety of businesses listed in directories also includes finance, real estate and law services. Mary DiSalvo is a financial planner who provides services for the gay and lesbian community because tax laws are different for same-sex couples. DiSalvo feels business directories are "essential for us to know that we are out there and we have a lot of talent." She explains that by patronizing homosexual businesses the community can "keep the money in the family."
The power network of the gay and lesbian service industry is definitely growing. With each business advertising itself as gay-owned and operated or gay-friendly, the community itself grows stronger.