During a period of uncertainty for LGBTQ Iowans, Iowa City elementary school librarian Kelly Butcher created a comprehensive LGBTQ-friendly resource to promote more inclusive and diverse values in the community.
“I wanted to know where to spend my money, because I want to support businesses that are either owned by LGBTQ communities, or frequently visited by the community or workforce,” Butcher said.
But nothing like that existed.
“I was looking and looking and so I thought, ‘Why not just make it?’”
The Corridor LGBTQ+ Business Directory is a resource for people to see what businesses are LGBTQ friendly in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty. The website also notes if businesses are LGBTQ or trans owned.
Butcher personally called each business on the website to ask if they were a safe space for LGBTQ customers.
“It sends a powerful message when you spend your money at certain places in the community,” she said. “It shows politicians and people where you want your money to go.”
Safe places amidst anti-LGBTQ state legislation
Butcher has lived in the Iowa City-Coralville area throughout her life, an area that she calls the “blue bubble” of Iowa. The corridor is known for being more LGBTQ friendly compared to more conservative parts of the state, but Butcher said ensuring safety is still important there.
“By asking a business if they’re LGBT-friendly or a transgender safe space, that sends a message to the community, because those people need to know expressly that they are welcome there,” Butcher said. “By stating, ‘Yes, we are transgender friendly,’ or ‘Yes, we have a gender neutral bathroom,’ people can feel safe going there.”
The website may expand to cover more parts of the state in the future, but Butcher recognizes there are still some areas in the state that may not have any LGBTQ safe establishments. For now, she is focused on making the website as comprehensive as possible within the Johnson county area.
When asked why she created the website now, Butcher simply said, “I’m on summer break, I know how to make a website, and I have the time, why not?”
Not every LGBTQ friendly business may be on the website yet, which is why Butcher encourages businesses or locals to contact her to be added to the site. She can be reached at THEBUTCHERSWIFE@GMAIL.COM.
Why she did it
Butcher has been a librarian in the area throughout her career, but moved over to the Iowa City Community School District within the last few years—specifically when Gov. Kim Reynolds began passing anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“We were told to take down our Pride flags, take down our Pride posters,” she said, recalling her previous position in a nearby district.
“It really hit me that this was going to impact us and it was going to impact the kids,” she added. “So, after a long year, I decided to go back to the Iowa City district, where LGBTQ+ people are not only supported, but it’s the culture of every school.”
Being a librarian has contributed greatly to her advocacy for LGBTQ youth, she added.
“I see all the kids, I see all the teachers, I see all the community,” she said of being a librarian. “A library should be a welcoming place where you can see yourself and see others. That’s always what I want to portray. It transcends into wanting to help the community.”
by Grace Katzer
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