Atlanta native Adrian Brown was excited about his trip to the Bahamas.
“That country is marketed as a safe haven for gays—gay cruises, one of the well-traveled gay destinations,” he told the Washington Blade. But during a Carnival celebration earlier this month, he learned that wasn’t the case. A group of two men and two women attacked Brown with rocks and beer bottles. The reason? He was dancing like a “sissy batty man”.
Though the Bahamas seems to be neutral territory, one in which same-sex relationships are legal, the anti-LGBTQ sentiment of other Caribbean nations is prevalent there. Even if you’ve seen a brochure advertising an island as gay-friendly, it’s best to do your homework first. None of us wants to end up assaulted like Brown.
As many of us gear up for Memorial Day trips and a summer of traveling, this is a great time to cover crucial ways to stay safe during both domestic and international vacations.
Do Your Homework
Before you book your flight and accommodations, conduct some research. Look into the culture of the city or island you plan to visit. Are there laws on the books that promote tolerance? What are the cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ people? Is there a history of anti-gay violence? You may be attracted to the beauty of a location but you need to dig deeper. Dubai is a wondrous place but we all know LGBTQ people aren’t guaranteed safety in the Middle East. It’s worth it to conduct some thorough Google searches. Read reviews of resorts, look up legislation and ask around your network. You can never know too much—especially when your safety is at stake.
Go Where the Gays Are
It might sound silly but the scope of a city’s Pride celebration says a lot about local viewpoints. New Orleans hosts an annual Labor Day event called Southern Decadence. It’s gay debauchery at its finest (and filthiest). A city that hosts an event like this is sure to be gay-friendly. If you’re not sure about your safety in a particular locale, research the Pride celebrations. The gayer the city, the safer you’ll be.
Watch Your Intake
There’s nothing wrong with imbibing, but it’s probably a good idea to avoid getting trashed in unfamiliar places. From ‘stealthing’ to rape, sexual assault is a big concern for gay tourists. If you’re unable to think clearly, you could end up in situations that put your health (and your life) at risk. Have a margarita or two but keep your wits about you. And if you plan on indulging big-time, make sure you’re with people you can trust (i.e. the friends you traveled with, not the tall, dark, handsome stranger at the bar).
Support Gay Businesses
Not only do you want to feel safe but you also want to feel welcome. It’s never comfortable to stay in a hotel where the staff is staring at you and your gay crew like you’re aliens. Try to find hotels, Airbnbs, or traditional bed and breakfasts that are gay-owned. You keep the money in the family, and you can get some sound sleep knowing you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Keep Important Documents On You
Traveling gets tricky when you’ve recently gotten married, added to your family or undergone a transition. To avoid any kind of difficulty or unnecessary hiccups, make sure your critical documents (i.e. passport, state ID, driver’s license) are updated and on your person. If you’re traveling with kids, bring along any necessary custody documents as a safety measure. Also, keep the contact info for the nearest U.S. embassy handy. It might seem like an extra step, but you need to be prepared for every scenario.
Traveling should be just as fun for our community as it is for everyone else. And by paying attention to a few additional details, it can be fun, safe, and memorable.