Most importantly, let your heart decide where you want to go and what you want to see. This may sound silly, but I believe that we should let our curiosity, desires and wanderlust lead us. Visiting only “popular” gay destinations, or visiting only places deemed “gay-friendly” by other people, is an extremely limiting way to live life. I have traveled the world over and usually in the company of my husband. Not once, not anywhere, have we ever been made to feel unwanted while we were travelling.
Now granted, we may have not visited the most homophobic places on the planet, but we certainly have been to countries that are not known to be “gay-friendly”, like Egypt. Thanks to the news media, we could get the impression that the minute a gay man sets foot on Egyptian soil he will be imprisoned. This could not be further from the truth. There are several reasons for this.
First, for most of us, nobody can know if you’re gay or not just by looking at you. You may think you’re walking around with the words “I’m gay” written on your forehead, but you’re not. And unless you walk down the street in a lip-lock with your boyfriend, no one can tell if you’re gay. Sure, some of us are more “flamboyant” than others, but “flamboyant” is also relative to the culture you are in. The attention you may receive by the local people is most likely because you look like a tourist, not because you look gay.
This brings us to the second point, you’re a tourist. Because you’re a tourist, most everyone is going to love you. Your presence supports the local economy, gives people jobs and puts food on their tables. Even if someone does not approve of gay people, they’re not likely going to be cruel or chase you out of their shop or restaurant if they think you’re gay. This holds true everywhere we go as gay people, not just when we’re travelling. A merchant or restaurant here in America is very unlikely to refuse you service for the same financial reason. Yes, there can be zealots anywhere that will refuse you service, but that is actually more likely to happen in your home town than it is to happen when you are vacationing.
Last, governments are not people. A lot of the world hated the American government’s policies during the George W. Bush years, yet they did not blame or hate the American people. I was told this countless times and in many countries by the local people. Just because a government has an anti-gay attitude or laws, it does not mean that the people on the street have the same attitudes. It has been my experience that if you treat others with respect, offer a smile, say please and thank you (especially using the local language), most people could care less who you love or who you sleep with.
All this being said, you do need to practice a little common sense during gay travel (and when you’re in your home town for that matter). Below are few points to remember while travelling:
Don’t Be The “Ugly American” America is not the only country on this planet. We do not own the world so don’t act like you are better than the local people.
Respect Local Customs And Traditions American ways and traditions are no better or worse than any other culture’s. Learn the local cultural traditions and abide by them. You will gather a lot more disapproval from local people by not following local customs than you will by being gay.
Learn A Little Of The Local Language Learn at least a few words of the local language. The most important words to learn are “hello”, “good-bye”, “please” and “thank you”. I have had many wonderful encounters with local people just because I said (or at least tried to say) “thank you” in their own language.
Visiting Known Gay Establishments If you are going to a country that has a strong anti-gay bias and/or anti-gay laws, do not visit known local gay clubs or other “gay gathering places”. This one is a “no-brainer”.
Want to see my banana? Say no to solicitations to buy sex, no matter how cute he is!
Smile Smile, smile a lot. You’re on vacation for goodness sake. Smile, laugh, have fun and enjoy the people you encounter.
Leave Your Impatience At Home The entire world does not run at the same pace as America does (thank goodness). Leave the rushing at home; go with the local flow; participate in the local conception of time.