How to Be Gay But Safe On the Road
Being in a new city is exhilarating and intimidating. You arrive tired, a little bit lost, and unsure of the environment you’ll find in your destination. Still, you’re here, you’re queer, and ready for an adventure. As a lesbian raised in south Georgia, in the middle of the Bible belt, I know that being out and proud doesn’t always mean out and safe, especially in a new city. If you don’t know much about the area it can be hard to determine how LGBT-friendly your vacation spot might be. While this is the case, there are a few steps you can take when planning a trip to better ensure your safety and comfort for the duration of your stay, no matter where you are.
Where you plan on resting your head at night is one of the first decisions that you as a traveller have to make. It can be daunting, especially when looking in a city you’ve never visited. And if you’re travelling with a partner or spouse, you want to know if the area you’ll be in is safe. Of course there are never complete guarantees with the safety of an area, but for LGBT couples, one simple trick for hotel searching is this: find a hotel with at least one gay bar nearby. Not only are gay bars typically considered “safe spaces” for us in the community, they often mean there’s at least some kind of LGBT population around. And following that logic, you’re likely to feel safer knowing you’re not alone.
Timing is everything when planning a vacation. I know I wouldn’t want to plan an Alaskan fishing trip in the middle of December, just as I know that Hawaii in late July might not be the smartest move if I plan on maintaining a healthy hydration level.
With this in mind, here’s my advice on timing: if your destination is ultimately a large city, either domestic or international, do a quick dig online to find out when Pride festivals are happening there. You don’t even have to spend time at Pride if you don’t want to, but knowing there’s a large population you can relate to nearby, you’re guaranteed to feel safer with your significant other while exploring the area. June is a good time for this, as it’s Pride month and hundreds of Pride events are scheduled for this time of year all over the world.
Word of advice, though: if you choose to go this route, book your hotel well in advance, as Pride festivals fill up rooms quickly and you don’t want to be stuck using Airbnb and vacationing in some guy’s mother’s basement.
You’ve heard the adage “location, location, location.” It applies not only to buying a house but to planning a trip as well. Especially when travelling to another country. In this age of technology readily available at our fingertips (literally), Google is your best friend. A quick search of the world’s least gay friendly countries turned up at least 10 helpful list articles right away, listing countries such as Morocco, Russia, Italy, and Monaco as some of the least-accepting countries in the world. Kenya, Egypt, and Nigeria are also listed, with these being considered over 90% unaccepting of same-sex couples or marriage.* This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should count these countries out completely. If your bucket list or dream vacation includes one of these places, then go for it. But be careful. Being reckless or careless can get you into trouble or danger, if you’re not aware of your surroundings. If you’re smart about your travel, you can have an enjoyable time just like with any vacation.
Despite this, the world is full of wonders and sights that you should try to see while you’re able, and if you’re brave enough I’d say take that chance. It will be worth it in the long run and you’ll have memories to share with your loved one (or ones) for the rest of your life. So go somewhere you’ve never been; your horizons can only be broadened for the better.
Originally published at TravelPRIDE.