Friends create social media app Engayge to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community

DIGHTON — Many companies claim to be LGBTQ+ friendly. Some say it, others think it.

That’s the kind of thing the co-founders of new social media platform Engayge, Somerset resident Jamie Gagnier and Dighton resident Maryellen “Rudy” Founds had in mind when launching their new online venture earlier this month.

“Just because a company says it’s gay-friendly doesn’t mean it always will be, or that everyone will have that experience by going there,” Gagnier said.

According to the founding partners, the launch is a “soft launch” and the site currently has two main features: a friend finder app, much like many we all know but aimed at LGBTQ+ audiences, and a business based on the crowd. directory, which Gagnier compared to a “queer Yelp”.

From left to right, Renee Matton, Jamie Gagnier, Maryellen

How Engayge Works

“But instead of, you know, the traditional rating and rating based on the service provided like you would on Yelp or some of these others, it’s more focused on rating and rating based on their friendliness towards homosexuals.”

Of course, Engayge isn’t just a contender in this space, with a number of sites with friend-finding capabilities and business directories aimed at the LBGTQ+ community, many of which offer listings and reviews. anecdotal, but Gagnier and Founds said Engayge is taking a new course.

Engayge uses a proprietary algorithm to collect and translate user feedback to create a numbered Queer-friendliness rating, with scores for “Queer Acceptance”, “Free of Discriminatory Symbols” and “Queer Ownership”.

“What makes it unique is that it’s based on a very specific set of questions and answers which then result in a score, as opposed to the user just saying ‘yes, I’ll give three stars to this company” and not really have anything to back that up.

To date, the app has 203 users, which they say is a modest start. But they see it as a good start to the first month of the soft launch. On the business side, Engayge has 3,816 business records.

They expect both of these numbers to increase in the coming months.

“We really want to make it a resource for everyone in the community, you know, first nationally and then eventually internationally, but a platform where we can use it both when we are local, at home, but also when we are travelling. And kind of bring all the different resources that our community needs for day-to-day and travel experiences.

How it all came together

“So in 2021 I was with a friend, we were hanging out and she was on a dating app. And she was getting very annoyed,” Founds said.

“She’s like, ‘you know these people are here and all they want to do is they want to find friends.’ She’s like, ‘I don’t need friends, I want a partner.’ And I was like, ‘It’s funny because I’m married and we’d like to find some new friends.’

“So we were just kind of like, well, wouldn’t it just be cool to do a friend-finding type thing.”

Afterwards, Gagnier and his wife, Renée Matton, went shopping.

“My wife and I were looking for a house, our first home, and we wanted a gay-friendly real estate agent because that would be someone we would spend a lot of time with,” Gagnier said.

“It took us a long time to find someone. Eventually we found Rudy and his wife, and you know, at our celebratory dinner, once we finally closed our house, Rudy had mentioned his idea for this friend finder app to me. And so we kind of brought this concept of finding friends together with this queer side of Yelp, kind of inspired by our personal experience of trying to find a gay-friendly real estate agent.

Founds’ wife, Lauren Founds, who also works in real estate, and Gagnier’s wife, Matton, are now also part of the Engayge team.

Jaime Gagnier

Gagnier has worked in technology recruitment and recently graduated from Southern New Hampshire University, where she studied business management. Matton, too, is a recent graduate of SNHU, with a degree in human resource management. The couple have two children aged 3 and 7.

In addition to real estate, Founds is a medically retired veteran who served 18 years in the military, and with a pair of master’s degrees in education and mental health counseling and keeping in touch with military life, she works. with and supports various local veteran groups.

Engayge went live on May 31, just in time for Pride Month. The timing of the launch was not planned, but rather a happy coincidence, according to Gagnier.

Practical application

In the search for a real estate agent, Gagnier and Matton ran into several dead ends. She described finding a listing for a real estate agent advertised as ‘queer friendly’ and making a call to hear that the listing was indeed out of date, with the other end’s voice explaining that they hadn’t been in the area real estate for 10 years.

A few times, “queer friendly” was nothing more than hype without substance.

“The real estate agents themselves would just pretend they’re gay-friendly, but you’ll find out later that’s not necessarily the case. It was more of a publicity gimmick,” Gagnier said.

But the feedback on Engayge comes directly from the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s really us, us, as a queer community, making this web app,” Founds said.

“We decide what we think is queer friendly, not the business. We can do that, and it’s going to be an ongoing, ever-changing, evolving, growing, interactive platform. And so yes, we have to decide.

Gagnier and Founds say they are motivated by personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Daily life in their regular circles close to home in Dighton and Somerset is generally accommodating, they agree, but expanding outside those circles, whether traveling or seeking services, can lead to difficult circumstances, inconsiderate treatment and discrimination.

“The interest came from the lack of options for us in our own personal wants and needs,” Gagnier said.

“My wife and I often say that we feel like American family in every way except that we are in a same-sex relationship. You know, we have two kids, a house, and live in a typical American small town. And so sometimes it’s very easy in our day-to-day lives to forget that we’re different, so to speak, from, you know, other individuals in our community who are in heterosexual relationships or whatever, or not just sexual orientation, but little whatever the case may be.

“And so when we go out and interact with other people, both locally and when we travel, and we have negative experiences, it made us realize that’s still a problem. And that’s easy to forget about it when it’s not in front of you all the time. Especially living in Massachusetts, it’s usually a pretty welcoming place to live. We just want to have this safe space so we don’t have to worry about our safety . »

“We just want equality”

The Engayge app is ad-supported and free to registered users, with no hidden fees to unlock specific features. And they intend to keep it free.

And while it’s targeted and largely aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, it’s not just for the LGBTQ+ community. Gagnier and Founds say community allies are welcome to join, use the friend finder, and read and contribute to the business directory.

“I’m not one of those types of people who try to push who I am onto other people,” Gagnier said. “As long as people respect me and respect my lifestyle, so to speak, or you know, my family structure, so to speak, then I think we can all live in harmony.

“Honestly, the biggest takeaway from anyone listening or reading about this would be, you know, we just want equality. We want to be treated the same as you. We’re not asking for anything more, beyond that. We’re not looking for, you know, extra benefits or anything. We just want to be treated the same. And I think that’s probably what all minority groups feel; of course, there are exceptions to this, but generally speaking.

Taunton Daily Gazette editor Jon Haglof can be contacted at [email protected] Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette today.

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