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What Destinations Are Doing 'the work' When it Comes to Promoting LGBTQIA2S+ Friendly Travel?



Let me acknowledge I am not a queer person. I have never travelled as a queer person, And I will never pretend to know what it is like to be discriminated against as a queer person. And even if I was, I couldn't possibly gate-keep for an entire travel community. I've read plenty of articles over the years claiming 'safe' destinations for Black folks. And yet, my personal experiences could not have been more opposite. I recognize that safety is a relative concept. And we all need to feel safe, which will vary from person to person, which is why you'll never hear me make blanket statements about the safety of a destination. Some folks feel perfectly safe travelling solo, while others prefer to explore with a group. Some prefer rigidity and structure to their vacations, to help them feel in control, while others find comfort in wandering with no itinerary. As a self-identifying Hetero Black woman, I cannot tell you where you as a queer person will feel safe. But as an ally, what I can do is speak with tourism boards and collect data, stories, and anecdotes from my LGBTQIA2S+ friends and guests, and share destinations where they have felt a sense of safety. Here are a few destinations that have made my LGBTQIA2S+ travellers feel safe when they're on the road.

*Please note, these destinations are not listed in order*


Canada


Canada became the first county in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Let's not pop champagne, that didn't happen until 2005. In 1996, British Columbia was the first province in Canada to permit step-child and joint adoption by same-sex couples. Canada made it to the top of Spartacus Magazine's Gay Travel Index, naming us the most queer-friendly destination in the world. Every year, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver host some of the world's largest pride festivals and parades, and the Canadian population, on the whole, is largely queer-positive and supportive.




The Netherlands


Amsterdam is home to more than 100 LGBTQ+-focused bars, shops, hotels, saunas, clubs, and cafes. It is hailed as one of the largest and most welcome queer communities in Europe. But what about the rest of the country?

The Holland Tourism Board proudly states on its website, "Dutch people in residential areas also like to show that we stand for inclusiveness and an open society. It's not necessarily about big events, but about the everyday things in life. You’re one of us in the Netherlands and we like to spread that message, subtly or otherwise."


On a more personal note, one of my dearest friends met his current husband while enjoying a coffee in Kerkstraat. Twenty-seven years later, the two of them take an annual trip to the Netherlands with friends to celebrate being able to love one another out in the wide open.




(Some of) Spain


The Spanish government has made progress toward LGBT rights in recent years, including legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005. Madrid and Barcelona are particularly known for their vibrant LGBT communities and events. And while there is a significant international community of LGBT ex-pats living in the city centres, a few of my guests have reported that Spain's smaller villages demonstrated distrust and discrimination against them when they were trying to check in to their hotels and guest houses.


Iceland


Nearly all of my LGBTQ+ guests placed Iceland on their list of favourite queer-friendly destinations. While the queer community can feel downplayed across Iceland, Reykjavik's yearly pride festival attracts over 100,000 people. Iceland has also taken serious steps to protect same-sex families, providing equal access to IVF and adoption. in 2012, trans and genderqueer folks were addressed in legislation that formalized name and identity-changing protections. They redefined the definition of marriage to be between 'two individuals.' The church of Iceland supported the legislation and began allowing marriages to occur from 2015 onwards.



The South African Love Story


The African continent is one of the most frightening places on earth to be queer. I'm not being hyperbolic, that's a straight fact. Same-sex activity is illegal in over thirty African nations. During my time in Southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana), I saw firsthand how fearful queer African folks were about being 'found out.' It was absolutely heartbreaking, not to mention, unacceptable. Uganda recently passed horrendous laws making it illegal to identify as gay, and making friends, family members and colleagues responsible for reporting any same-sex activity to the authorities. Other African nations are considering passing similar laws, making the continent a hostile, life and death environment for the queer community.


Further south, the story is a little different. South Africa is seen as a haven for some folks in the the LGBTQ+ community and is considered one of the more progressive countries in Africa when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. In 1996, South Africa became the first country in the world to constitutionally prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006.


Urban areas such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban have vibrant LGBT communities and scenes. These cities host pride events and have bars, clubs, and organizations dedicated to LGBT issues. In recent years, South Africa has also seen an increase in LGBT-friendly accommodation options, including hotels and guesthouses.

Overall, South Africa can be a good destination for queer people, particularly in urban areas.


However, it's important to exercise caution and be aware of potential risks while traveling throughout the rest of the country. LGBT individuals in South Africa still face discrimination and violence, particularly in rural areas and townships.


As I would with anywhere in the world, it's always recommended to research local laws and customs and to seek advice from local LGBT organizations or resources before traveling.



Israel


Israel is generally considered to be one of the most gay-friendly countries in the Middle East. In 1992, Israel repealed its ban on homosexuality, and since then, it has passed laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Israel, but same-sex couples can register as domestic partners and have access to some of the same legal rights as married couples.

There is an active and thriving LGBTQ+ community across Israel, with many gay-friendly bars, clubs, and events in cities like Tel Aviv. The annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade is one of the largest and most famous pride events in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

While there is still some homophobia in Israeli society, particularly among some conservative religious groups, overall Israel is considered to be a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people.


Australia In 2017, Australia legalized same-sex marriage after a national postal survey showed that a majority of Australians supported the change. This followed years of activism and advocacy by the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Australia also has laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment, education, and housing. There are also a number of organizations and advocacy groups in Australia that work to promote LGBTQ+ rights and support the community.


Cities like Sydney and Melbourne have particularly successful and supportive LGBTQ+ communities. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been going on for forty-five years and is one of the largest pride festivals in the world. Consider setting aside some vacation time between mid-February to early March so you can experience this iconic celebration of love and joy.


As I have yet to travel through Australia, I was curious to know how members of the LGBTQ+ community felt about their treatment outside of the city centres. Several of my guests confirmed there were still deep pockets of homophobia around the country, particularly in conservative and highly religious communities (notice a theme here? Argh!)

Queer Travel & Intersectionality


The LGBTQIA2S+ community faces enough discrimination as it is when they travel, but the situation is direr when you are a Black queer femme in a wheelchair. Or if you are a neuro-diverse Trans person trying to navigate a stressful airport situation at an airport in a country where the war against trans folks is blazing with hateful fervor. Disability creates additional challenges making travel even less safe for the queer community. When tourism boards, airlines, tour companies, and travel brands draft their mission statements, policies, and campaigns, are they looking at queer travel through an all-encompassing or intersectional perspective? We are not two-dimensional, and neither are our experiences. Be Mindful When Giving Travel Advice in Regards to Safety

As I mentioned above, it's not my business to tell a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community what destinations are safe for them on an individual level. I can never speak on their experiences checking into a hotel in Hong Kong, joining a trek along the Inca Trail, or stepping onto a yacht off the coast of Croatia. What I can do, is use my 20+ years of experience sending queer folks to every corner of this planet, and share what I've learned from them. And I can share the initiatives I've learned about from travel and tourism suppliers along the way (and I will continue to do that!)


If you feel comfortable, I would LOVE to hear about destinations you feel where felt safe or places you think should be highlighted for the community in the comment section below.




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Author:
Jordana Manchester

Welcome to my passion project - the Storied Lands travel blog. Gather here for trip inspiration, stories, destination spotlights,  helpful tips, and thought-provoking discussions about important issues throughout the travel and tourism industry.

Posts on the Storied Lands Travel Blog may contain affiliate links which may result in a small commission generated from clicks that result in a purchase. Posts that contain such links will always disclose as such at the beginning of the post.

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