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A lonely road trip inspired this advocate to create a map of LGBTQ-owned businesses

To date, Charlie Sprinkman’s “Everywhere Is Queer” map highlights more than 950 businesses across the U.S. and abroad.
NBC News; Katie Hope / The Wild Within Us

In honor of Pride Month, NBC Out is highlighting and celebrating a new generation of LGBTQ trailblazers, creators and newsmakers. Visit our full #Pride30 list here.

After graduating college in 2018, Charlie Sprinkman took a road trip across 42 states for his then-job as a representative at an organic beverage company. Unable to find any LGBTQ hangouts along the way, he had an epiphany: Sprinkman would create a digital map in which any LGBTQ-owned businesses in the world could add themselves.

“This is just a project out of my own little queer heart,” Sprinkman, 25, said.

Aptly named “Everywhere Is Queer,” the map, which launched in January, demonstrates just how ubiquitous LGBTQ-owned business are across the world. Over 950 businesses — including florists, gyms, pizza joints, breweries and more — from every U.S. state have added themselves to the map, which also includes LGBTQ-owned businesses in some 20 countries outside the U.S. So far, it has attracted more than 500,000 views, which Sprinkman said demonstrates how badly people want LGBTQ spaces.

“This is filling a void that’s needed,” he said.

To promote his map, Sprinkman created an Instagram account, now over 10,000 followers strong, filled with quirky, uplifting posts featuring various businesses on the map. Some of his favorites include LGBTQ youth summer camp Brave Trails, where Sprinkman has worked as a camp counselor, and Sammich, a sandwich shop in Portland, Oregon. 

Between the Instagram account and the map, hosted on Google Maps, Sprinkman said the project grows by itself.

“I don’t even have to be reaching out to businesses anymore,” he said. “I have now, every single day, I would say a minimum of at least five businesses adding themselves. I didn’t even do anything.”

Sprinkman, who has a full-time customer service job, said he does not make money off the project, though he does accept donations to help run it. He has received hundreds of messages from people across the world thanking him for creating the map, he said, which he described as a “community and love” that has “absolutely changed my life.” He added that he has not received a single hate message since launching the project, “which blows my mind.”

"Everywhere Is Queer" was born out of Sprinkman’s own longing for community. He grew up in a small, predominantly Catholic town just outside Milwaukee, he said, where there were no spaces to go as a closeted LGBTQ kid.

“That’s all that I wish I had as a youth, like to have a queer-owned coffee shop in my town that I could have just sat at and just watch people — queer people — exist and thrive in life,” said Sprinkman, who now resides in Bend, Oregon. “I just hope that’s all that this map will provide for people is spaces for them to feel seen and safe.”

Much like "Everywhere Is Queer," Pride Month, for Sprinkman, is about bringing LGBTQ people together.

“I feel like Pride is a month of acknowledging all of the hard work and people that came before us, and the community and queer magic that we’re creating as a collective, as a community,” he said.

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