LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A new web-based app is helping to identify businesses in support of social justice and equal rights for the Black LGBTQ community.
The Lavender Book is a community-driven platform with the mission to allow Black queer, trans and non-binary individuals to move about in public spaces without facing discrimination.
“A lot of folks miss that it is still legal to discriminate against actual or perceived sexual identity, sexual orientation or gender expression,” said David Johns, creator of The Lavender Book.
Johns said walking into a retail store, a restaurant, or even calling rideshare are simple, common freedoms many take for granted.
In fact, just recently, Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said he was the passenger of an Uber driver who continuously harassed Johns with questions about his painted nails.
“I stopped answering his questions,” Johns recalls. “I said then, ‘You have the destination, you don’t even have to have a conversation for the rest of this ride.’ He ended up pulling over the Uber and asking me to get out of the car.”
Johns’ modern-day story of discrimination is all too familiar to members of the black LGBTQ+ community, and one of the reasons why he developed the Lavender Book, a platform spreading the word about safe businesses and public spaces for those individuals.
“When you are in a Black, queer, trans or non-binary body, the likelihood of you experiencing those things is exacerbated incrementally," Johns said.
The idea for the Lavender Book stems from the Green Book, a guidebook for black travelers during the segregation era.
In 1936, a New York City mailman named Victor Hugo Green published the first Negro Motorist Green-Book. For 30 years, it provided African-Americans with advice on safe places to eat and sleep when they traveled through Jim Crow-era United States. Black travelers were often violently attacked or killed for being in areas where they were not welcome.
In Nevada, there were only three entries. One entry was listed in Las Vegas: The Harrison Guest House, on the Westside. The house provided accommodations to black entertainers and divorcees in Las Vegas during a time when it was legal to discriminate and deny service to black Americans
In 2021, members of the black LGBTQ+ community face similar discrimination.
“We are, at present, in June, Pride Month of 2021, on track to have this be the deadliest year on record for black trans women," Johns said.
Since the beginning of this year, 27 trans and gender non-conforming people of color were killed in violent hate crimes. The National Black Justice Coalition reports that’s more than double the number of victims by this time last year.
Identifying safe spaces isn’t the only purpose of the Lavender Book. Johns also designed it to acknowledge businesses and entrepreneurs welcoming all customers. Users can navigate through the list of services or amenities offered like gender-neutral restrooms, Black- or trans-owned, or LGBTQ-trained staff; establishments bringing about social justice and equality.
“This work is not only important because, for me, it’s the thing that allows all of us to be free, but it also is the way for folks to profit," Johns said.
The Lavender Book was recently launched with the goal to expand nationwide. The app is relying on community members and business owners to register their business on the site.