Has the World Changed for Gay Travelers?

September 22, 2017
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PHOTO: Paul J. Heney and partner in Rio de Janeiro. (photo by Paul J. Heney)

Over the last few years, the acceptance of LGBTQ people has improved a great deal in most of the Western world—including the legalization of same sex marriage across the United States. But there are always pockets of greater and lesser acceptance in different regions, countries and cities.

We asked some frequent travelers what their experiences have been.

Keenan McGarvey, a 25-year old teacher from Seattle, believes the world has changed in regard to the LGBTQ community, and his experiences have been positive.

“In my experience that [positivity] is reflected more in the other travelers I meet than in the places I go to visit,” he said. “As a gay man, I already have the tendency to choose travel destinations where I am not going to be scrutinized too closely for busting out a pair of short-shorts. But I also feel that in general as a tourist, most places do not investigate your sexuality during your visit. What I have noticed is that I feel much more comfortable being myself and dropping pronouns about my exes in conversation with other travelers I meet than I maybe would have five years ago.”

Valerie and Jessi are married travelers who describe themselves as nomads. They have visited a new city or state every 2-4 weeks for the past 9 months. They see “immense” changes, at least in the U.S.

“As a lesbian couple traveling from our safe harbor of San Francisco, not once did we face the discrimination we once faced when coming out 10 years ago,” they explained.

“With that said, we are also white, cis-gendered, and have feminine energies that often present ‘straight.’ Our perspective is limited to our experience, but we came out to a lot of people all over the USA and never once had a mean remark, snarky look, nor a negative response. Did we get lucky? Probably. But we were surprised how warm and accepting people were.”

One key to acceptance, of course, is what area of the country or world that you’re traveling through.

“I have had bad experiences with my wife in the past, but more so in the South. Out here in the Pacific Northwest, there’s no judgment—it is so nice to just be accepted,” said Jordan, a fitness center manager from Portland. “We are both from the South and it is simply not okay to be in a same sex relationship there.”

READ MORE: A Traveling Trailblazer for Gay Vancouver

However, even internationally, there are positive changes. Léonel, a federal civil servant who lives in Belgium, said that things have been more relaxed over the past few years, but we takes the time to investigate the area first.

“I have traveled the world a little bit, been in countries like UAE, Morocco, Cameroon, Japan, US, Europe, Brazil … and I can’t say that my homosexuality has caused me troubles if I take the time to get informed about the culture of my hosted country,” we said.

Maybe the most important thing is to control how you react to any negativity that you do encounter on your travels, as Kevin Carnell, a tech sales representative from Florida, smartly points out.

“I’m lucky to have had great experiences while traveling,” he said. “Of course, you will encounter people who aren’t ‘thrilled’ to come across someone different than them, but you can’t let that impact your trip.”



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