TOP 10 LGBT+ TRAVEL TIPS
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
As much as I wish otherwise, sometimes travel can be dangerous - particularly for those who are LGBT+, trans, or non-binary. Given the recent law that passed in Brunei - which makes gay sex punishable by stoning to death - I thought I would write this article. (But by God did I wish I didn't).
From personal experience - I truly didn't understand this until it directly affected me and my personal relationships. Though I'm bisexual and my current partner is also, to the outside world we appear to have a homosexual relationship. We've traveled to Eastern Europe together, Western Europe, and various U.S. states in the south, west and east coast. I am not transgender or non-binary so I cannot speak for those specific experiences personally, so any information that's provided here has been thoroughly researched.
Nothing bad has ever happened to me while traveling. I have kissed (not made out just on the cheek, peck, etc.) and held hands with my girlfriend in the UK, Austria, Texas, California, and all over the east coast. But it's still kind of scary. I think I was really the most scared in Austria because that was more Eastern Europe. I got more uncomfortable and stopped after ~5 minutes. But I mean people stare everyyyyywhere we go - it doesn't matter if we're in California, Boston, or London - places that are considered very "liberal" and "accepting" - which they are but people stare or like just look a second longer than they do when its a guy and a girl and you feel a bit uncomfortable. My girlfriend doesn't care at all - and that helps me a lot, but she never puts me in a position where I feel uncomfortable. And I know people stare a bit longer than when it's with a guy than a girl cause I also date guys! and hold hands with them. I also feel funny when I do with men because I feel a part of me is missing in my appearance to the world - that it's some secret that nobody knows is there either. Being bisexual is quite a ride, haha. Enough about me though! That's just my personal experience.
If you are not LGBT+, this can be a helpful reminder about how to be an ally and how to be conscientious to LGBT+ friends or family. This can better equip you to understand the apprehension or concerns they may be feeling about traveling abroad.
Again, as much as I wish to say otherwise, there are still places around the world that are strongly against the LGBT+ community and it can be dangerous for LGBT+ people to travel there being their authentic selves.
Here are 10 tips to help you make the most of your abroad experience - wherever that may be:
1. RESEARCH IS KEY
Understanding the local culture you'll be in is vital to making sure that it's safe to be yourself. Finding out this information isn't as tricky as you may think. There are invaluable resources like people on social media who blog and share their experiences in specific locations like the Nomadic Boys and Lez Wander the World. Nomadic Matt also has a great blog post that shares tips and top LGBT+ bloggers. This can help you find specific information about a destination you may be visiting. For more detailed information, sources like the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (or ILGA for short) and even the U.S. State Department has helpful resources and information.
2. COMING OUT ABROAD
First, always always trust your gut. If it's telling you that it's better to remain quiet and not reveal your sexuality or identity - there's no shame in that. Always protect yourself and your family as you see fit and make no apologies for it.
Coming out isn't just a one off situation as much as it may seem in the media. You have to do it constantly with people you don't know, but it carries a different weight especially when you're in an unfamiliar country where the laws and perceptions can be much different.
Understanding the local culture can go a long way in this instance. And asking broader questions like:
Is homosexuality in the country legal?
Are there instances in the country's recent history where it has been unjustly cruel to the LGBT+ community?
Did anything in my research make me anxious about going to visit?
Every individual person you meet is different and it's solely up to you if you feel safe, comfortable, and understand fully who you're coming out to and if the reward is worth the risk.
3. LOCAL GROUPS
Local groups can be really beneficial in locating LGBT+ friendly areas and meeting new people in that country. If you're able to, contact local LGBT+ organizations in the country you're visiting. This way you can interact and engage with a new culture and learn the ins and outs of what's and isn't safe. Often, a quick Google search can find you the necessary local resources in this instance.
4. LGBT+ FAMILY TRAVEL
Traveling as a LGBT+ couple or family is much different than traveling alone. Depending on the structure of your family, you may be the recipient of curious questions, or sometimes not so friendly questioning.
Depending on the situation you're in, it's fully up to you whether you want to engage with a stranger about the structure of your beautiful family and how it came to be. It's especially important when traveling with children and balancing between the line of having your children be honest and keeping them safe.
An example someone shared in "Man About World" LGBT+ travel guide described the following situation: "One year we were vacationing in Puerto Rico, our daughter was 12 at the time. She was happy to meet a girl the same age at the resort until the girl wanted to know who (my wife) was. Our daughter lied and she said she was my roommate. She told us she felt terrible that she lied and she avoided the girl after that. But we explained to her that it's okay that she did what made her feel safe."
5. LGBT+ TRAVEL APPS
There are SOOO many new LGBT+ apps out there now, and it's pretty amazing. Some of my top ones I've found include:
Dating apps is pretty much everyone's go to in new countries now. It's a great way to connect with new people and find locals in the area. (So long as you continue to practice safe meet up guidelines, i.e, meet in a public space, tell someone where you're going and meeting up with, don't share personal information too soon, etc.)
Many mainstream locations, listings, and hotels are very safe for LGBT+ travelers too, but if it gives you an extra peace of mind they're available too!
6. TRAVELING WHILE TRANSGENDER
Again, I have no personal experience to speak about this, but I have found resources and information that can be beneficial for anyone who wants to know more. (All sources will be listed at the end of this blog post too).
If you travel overseas, there are specific countries ATTN and CNN have found go out of their way to make trans individuals feel accepted - more so than the United States. These countries include: Denmark, Argentina, Malta, Nepal, Bangladesh, Germany, India, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland.
Social Media can also be a fantastic tool for connecting with people around the world. Hashtags like #TravelingWhileTrans on Twitter and Instagram. Groups like The Facebook Transgender Alliance can also be beneficial for finding connections with people locally and abroad and having a sense of community. There is already over 20k members within the group.
Unfortunately, sometimes finding a bathroom can be really difficult. Luckily, technology is awesome and so are humans because there are new apps and resources that can help! Refugee Bathroom Finder and the Pee in Peace app are both designed to help those who often have difficulty finding restrooms in their time of need. A legal resource surrounding issues with going to the bathroom can be found in this handy guide from the Transgender Law Center.
7. STAY CONNECTED
Using technology to stay connected with family and loved ones is really important while traveling abroad. Not only for safety reasons but also to have support and generally keep up and update them about your adventures. In some countries you'll be surprised to find that you can't use certain social media apps like Facebook in China.
Some handy apps that can help during your travels are:
All of these apps are messaging platforms that can allow you to talk with your family and friends while traveling abroad for free or at an extremely low cost.
T-Mobile is muscling their way into being an awesome phone plan to have for international travelers. Their packages include data roaming and texting for free. Even at 2G you're able to use a substantial number of apps, but you're able to purchase more if need be. If you'd like to learn more about this check out Nomadic Matt's extensive coverage on the topic.
Local SIM cards is often the least expensive way to have cell service abroad. While it can be a bit of a hassle to set up sometimes (especially if you don't speak the local language), it can still pay off in that you can have a working phone in whatever country you're in. Find more information about this here.
Global SIM cards can be purchased from specific companies that allow you to have coverage from most areas of the world, but this is typically a pricy option. Though this may be beneficial if you often travel abroad and don't want to deal with the hassles of local SIM card set ups.
Finding wi-fi can be extraordinarily easy or very difficult depending on your location. If you're in a suburban area or city it'll be easy to find a coffee shop, restaurant, or fast food chain that offers free wi-fi for customers. Boingo is another option you can purchase. It offers high speed internet around the world depending on the specific plan you buy.
8. GLOBAL CONNECTION
While there is still progress to be made for LGBT+ people around the globe, there has still been tremendous progress in the past few decades alone.
Supporting local LGBT+ charities and organizations at the location you're visiting can leave a big impact. Some organizations that work for Human Rights and Equality globally that you may want to support in their effort to making a difference include, "OutRight Action International" and "Alturi."
This organization fights for the rights of LGBT+ across the globe. It is also the only LGBT+ organization to have a "permanent presence to advocate at the U.N. headquarters in NYC" for community progress.
You can discover the current situations and struggles people in the LGBT+ community are facing internationally and the website provides the ability for anyone to learn country by country what the situations are like, the organizations that are working to make change in those countries and the opportunity for people to support their causes through donations, volunteering, petitions, etc.
9. CONNECT WITH OTHERS
Whether it's with locals, other tourists and travelers, or even with people online - connecting with people is the biggest joy of travel. Don't be so worried that you stop interacting with people because it's what helps broaden people's minds and creates new opportunities for people to better understand and learn more about the LGBT+ community.
This doesn't mean that you need to put yourself in harmful situations or need to constantly advocate for yourself - just BE yourself, as much as you can. That's more than enough.
Enjoy your time wherever it is that you may be visiting. Experiencing somewhere for the first time is a rare gift that shouldn't be wasted!
Safe Travels, everyone! I hope this blog post was helpful. If you have any additional tips, tricks or advice that you think should be added please feel free to email me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
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