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LGBTQ Agenda: Queerency launches holiday gift guide

Assistant Editor

Travers Johnson, a queer man, is the founder and CEO of Queerency — a media company and weekly newsletter that comes out with a holiday shopping guide December 15. Photo: Courtesy Travers Johnson.<br><br>
Travers Johnson, a queer man, is the founder and CEO of Queerency — a media company and weekly newsletter that comes out with a holiday shopping guide December 15. Photo: Courtesy Travers Johnson.

  

After a short delay, the media company and weekly newsletter Queerency is coming out with its holiday shopping guide December 15, according to its founder and CEO Travers Johnson.

"There will be over 300 queer-owned businesses and brands included in this guide," Johnson, a queer man himself, told the Bay Area Reporter. "They range from apparel to books to woodworking, as well as discounts on queer social networking and dating sites."

(The original version of this story stated that the gift guide was coming out December 14. This has been delayed one day due to "some technical issues on our end," Johnson stated.)

Johnson, based in Austin, Texas, is a freelance editor who has worked with with Penguin Random House. He said he founded Queerency in July 2020.

"As a Black, queer, cisgender man, I could see myself represented as a cisgender man in mainstream business publications," Johnson explained. "As a Black person, I could see myself represented in several publications ... but when it came to seeing myself represented in entrepreneurship as a queer person, I didn't see any outlets representing the queer community consistently or with depth, so I thought 'why not me?'"

Johnson, 35, said he "wanted to create the content and provide a home for business storytelling."

"We report on queer-owned businesses and entrepreneurs," Johnson said. "We are wanting to be a hub for people who are already small business owners or entrepreneurs, but also people who are 'want-repreneurs' — people with a traditional job who'd like to strike out on their own and make their side hustle a full-time business or a full-time stream of income."

Johnson said that this past year has been spent doing research and making connections.

"A lot of these companies we follow on Instagram and they follow us," Johnson said. "It's been 12-18 months of nurturing relationships with these brands, discovering them on social media, and spreading visibility of queer-owned companies."

Johnson said that last year Queerency took part in the Google News Initiative Startups Lab Boot Camp. Its director, Phillip Smith, has been a coach for Queerency for the past 15 months.

"Long story: Queerency applied to the boot camp more than a year ago; I'd have to look up the application and review notes to tell you specifics, so talking generalities, every participant invited into the boot camp has demonstrated in their application the moxie and grit that we believe will be necessary for them to do an eight-week professional development experience that is quite hands-on and intense," said Smith, a straight ally. "I'd say Travers and Queerency demonstrated that in their application and the subsequent involvement in the program."

Smith said that "specifically, we look for individuals or small teams with some experience that connects them to the community they're working to serve, and also some evidence they have the support they need either through their own depth of experience or through mentors and colleagues that will help them succeed."

"In Travers' case, he came into the boot camp with both editorial skills and business skills," Smith said. "The idea, I feel, got refined quite a bit ... and what was evident was consistent growth month-over-month and quarter-over-quarter."

Smith coached Travers on growing an audience and building revenue.

"It's been a total different experience coaching Travers after the boot camp ... and seeing how he's been able to introduce new products time and time again, launch viral hits on Instagram, and introduce new editorial packages such as the directory of LGBTQ+ businesses for Pride Month."

That directory is focused "less on gifts and product-based businesses and more on all sorts of different businesses — product-based and service-based," Johnson said.

Earlier this year, Johnson also did a list of 100 women, "which included 100 queer and trans women across four categories who are making strides and history in business."

When it comes to the holiday gift guide, 2021 is the second installment.

Johnson said that "it's hard to name a bunch of specifics, but there's all types of brands and products from apparel to books to crafts."

Nonetheless, he did highlight a queer dating platform called Her, which is marketed toward lesbian, queer, bisexual, and straight women and nonbinary people. Her is offering a premium subscription trial to readers of the gift guide.

"In the gift guide there'll be a code to include where you can download Her and you can get an account," Johnson said.

Responding to a request for comment December 14, a Her spokesperson who gave their name only as Devin stated that "HER is created by queers, for queers. So, we're thrilled to support Queerency and provide queer women, nonbinary, trans, and gender nonconforming people a safe place to find love and community — alongside such amazing LGBTQ-owned businesses too! This holiday season is a tough one — in these uncertain times, we want to give our queer community a way to connect and know they're not alone."

Johnson said that his eventual goal is to transition to Queerency full-time.

"We are wanting to show the diversity, depth and breadth of queer innovation," he said.

Updated: Dec. 14 at 9:40 a.m.: The original version of this story stated that the gift guide was coming out December 14. This has was delayed one day due to "some technical issues on our end," according to Travers Johnson.

Updated, 12/14/21: This column has been updated to include a comment from Her.

Updated, 12/14/21: This column has been updated to clarify that Travers Johnson is a freelance editor, not an employee of Penguin Random House.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at j.ferrannini@ebar.com

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