Dapper and Daring, an online directory for Ottawa-area LGBTQ businesses, aims to eliminate a potential danger for holiday shoppers: discrimination.
“If you’re not in the [LGBTQ] community, you don’t necessarily know that there are still issues happening in Ottawa,” said Brittany Dale, one of the service’s co-founders. “A number of people in the community still suffer from homophobia, transphobia, all that sort of thing, even in a seemingly safe city like Ottawa.
The website lists LGBTQ-friendly businesses, their addresses, and contact information. Businesses must submit an online application to join. Over 150 Ottawa area businesses are listed to support the LGBTQ community.
It is difficult to determine the number of LGBTQ people in the city, but “accepted statistics show that one in 10 people are attracted to people of the same sex,” a 2016 City of Ottawa document states, adding that “Homophobia and transphobia are… prevalent. in our society.”
Ensuring customer safety
Businesses can sign up for Dapper and Daring’s directory through a form on its webpage. Dale says Dapper and Daring then asks the company about its inclusiveness. Dale says sometimes a Dapper and Daring team member or trusted friend will visit the company in person.
The questions asked differ from company to company. Questions about toilets and changing rooms are common. Dale says Dapper and Daring reps often ask if the store has LGBTQ staff or if the owner identifies with the community.
“We’re just trying to make sure the space, if it’s a physical space that you walk into, is as safe as possible,” Dale said. Dapper and Daring cannot guarantee that customers will not be discriminated against, but the verification process provides additional assurance, she said.
“For some people, it’s really hard to go out and do those normal everyday things like getting a haircut, going to the bathroom in a restaurant, [or] hire a plumber to come to your home. And there’s a lot of fear and anxiety around those human interactions if you don’t know that person isn’t going to judge you, that person isn’t going to harass you,” Dale said.
Anxious shopping interactions are exactly what inspired Dale and his co-founder, Lindsay Kavanagh.
“Dapper and Daring was created because of a haircut,” Dale said. “The other co-founder is absolutely wonderful: she’s six-foot-two, she has short hair, she likes to wear, you know, button-down shirts and collared shirts, and she definitely doesn’t fit into that kind of typical female mold,” says But Dale. Kavanagh was often misinterpreted when he had his hair cut. Kavanagh wanted to feel good about himself after a new haircut, but often left a hair appointment feeling unsafe.
Since Dapper and Daring launched in 2017, Dale says a steady stream of businesses have joined the directory.
The trades of Dapper and Daring
One of the businesses in the directory is Critter Jungle, a pet store with locations on Carling Avenue and Orleans.
“We’ve always been an inclusive company,” said Kelvin Stanke, owner of Critter Jungle. “My daughter herself is bisexual and my other daughter identifies with the community. So we were very sensitive to the oppression that the community has suffered for too long.
In August, an incident at Critter Jungle’s Orleans location brought that oppression to Stanke’s front door.
“We were encouraged because we had a Pride flag in the window and our names. We have one in every store. Someone opened the window just above the pride flag,” he said.
But Stanke says he’s proud to be listed on Dapper and Daring and to make his business more inclusive for the LGBTQ community.
His advice to other entrepreneurs?
“Just leave yourself open and spread more love into our world, that’s what we need,” he said.
Edith Chartier, owner of Bridal Alterations by Edith, says thinking about customer needs is what motivates her to support the LGBTQ community. His company is listed on Dapper and Daring.
“I have worked in the wedding industry for a long time. So I’ve seen a lot of situations that can be very embarrassing or traumatic for LGBT people,” she said. “So for me, it was pretty important to have this list of places where people could go and, you know, find safe resources for themselves.”
Chartier, who identifies as pansexual, says she often has transgender clients and always makes sure they feel safe by addressing them with the correct pronouns and practicing general sensitivity.
“Making their special day perfect is paramount – like everyone deserves to have the most perfect wedding day. And I want their experience to be, you know, up to that dream,” a- she declared.