Why Are You Trippin’? Choosing LGBT-Friendly and Inclusive Travel Options

Where In The World Is…

Summer’s still in full bloom, and there’s still plenty of time for carving out some sweet getaways, whether or not you hook up with a sweet travel agent. Where do you want to play today?

And… are you sure about that?

Choose Your Own Adventure

You’ve seen all the advertising hoopla before: “Come fly with us.” “Queers welcome here!”

Rainbow flags go up, and you trust you’ll be well cared for on your “gaycay,” so all you’ll need to worry about is, perhaps, simply having the best “vaycay” ever.

Queer travelers’ tales can be a hit-and-miss kind of deal. We’re not here to share horror stories, but to provide better, more affirming options for you.

The last thing you want on a honeymoon voyage, a BFF’s night out, or a romantic weekend rendezvous is to see scowling waiters, resentful concierges, easily-offended hotel managers, or even B&B owners who “don’t dig your friends’ vibes,” especially when you have an honest to goodness question, need or desire as a paying customer.

So, are LGBT-owned companies best? Or, is “gay-friendly” acceptable enough for you?

The truth of the matter is, you should always follow your gut.

Just because a lesbian friend of a friend owns a business, they may or may not be ethical, or they may be gay-friendly in theory but not in practice. Or, maybe they’re open to gay travelers, but not trans* travelers. And just because your Yahoo search unearths a keyword-friendly link to a major airline or travel planner doesn’t mean “gay-friendliness begins here.”

What’s a roaming soul to do? Take some extra time, if you can make some of it.

 LGBT-Inclusive Travel Options

Where to begin? First, ask questions.  Make a call or post a question on a timeline in a forum.

Scroll and stroll through a few of the options here, and if time permits, be sure to do at least a little sleuthing before making plans. Visit not only an official homepage, but find Yelp, Yahoo and Google reviews, see if you kind find some blog posts about the business, and you might even check out Twitter or Facebook timelines (not just posts, but visitors’ and customers’ feedback).

A quick click tip: check out amenity offerings in advance: if you find a hotel isn’t hooking you up, make sure you “fight for your right to party” (mini-bars aren’t just for straight folks).

A Word About Transgender and Intersex Travel

Because there are less folks (so far!) who proactively hang out Transgender Pride pink-blue-white flags alongside those rainbows, a bit of creativity is required should you want to plan before hitting the road, and if you want that extra vote of trans-inclusive confidence.

We’re preaching to the choir here, but trans folks are most concerned while traveling at home or abroad when it comes to medical care. Trans vacation-goers: be sure to have copies of all documentation you feel comfortable bringing, especially when traveling abroad.

Take extra supplies, supplements or items you need for personal and medical care, and get situated with the paperwork ASAP, so you can relax into the pleasure of traveling.

Though lived experience for trans folks changes exponentially by the day, finding trans-friendly or trans-owned companies with trans-exclusive or best interests in mind is harder. You can check out some of the LGB resources below, too.

But for more trans-inclusive options, it’s best to ask around, and consult folks and/or online destinations that have a history of solid trans advocacy and helpful advice, along with LGBT places such as:

* TS RoadMap Int’l

* Laura’s Playground Forums (FTM and MTF)

* Sparta (Military folks are often experienced travelers

* ISNA -

* The Brown Boi Project

* Ask local (or closest, or in-state/country) LGBT or PFLAG center/groups

* Gender.org US State-by-State

* Search LGBT Housing resources in the area (by default, you’ll get a better feel for environments)

* Find trans-friendly or LGBT-friendly advice that comes directly from a governmental source (e.g. this one from the UK)

* Surf Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube, and ask questions – tons of indie trans groups and bloggers pop up all the time.

Also again, like with all else, follow your instincts.

Though the sites above don’t specifically have to do with travel, trans* folks share many empowering resources, and connecting with folks online or in trans-specific support groups or health-care focused groups is invaluable for all kinds of referrals, including travel spots, the most trans-inclusive travel agencies, or places, what’s most cool, amazing or best avoided, and how keep safety in mind.

LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Alternatives

For Bi Folks

If you desire bi-specific travel experiences, you can review some more general resources below (such as centers and the like), or inquire with bi-affirming support groups or forums, as it’s not yet common for folks to hang out an “Open” sign for bi-only travel experiences. You can find that information with a bit of investigation, or by approaching an out, bi travel agent or bisexual travel-related business owner (check your local or state-based LGBT chamber of commerce or business directory).

The Random Factor: Pick A Pride, Any Pride

If you’re not sure exactly where you want to go and have a hankering to explore, you might just want to plan a trip to a Pride event in a new city or country. Interpride’s got you covered.

If you’d rather have a walkabout, look for destinations in larger metro areas (preferably ones that hold yearly pride events and/or are near colleges, which tend to attract more diversity-aware business owners, for financial reasons, at least).

Got a little extra cash? Then search for LGBT-only and LGBT-specific travel groups, agencies, and travel agents (not just travel packages, which may or may not diversity-minded).

A couple of recommendations: Olivia,  IGLTA or Out-Adventures.com. (Al and Chuck Travel, for example, is a gay-owned branch of another company, and often has to negotiate LGBT travelers’ experience around a main travel group’s preferences—you don’t just have the cruise ships to yourself or your group).

Also check out:

* Airbnb (search for “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and more—don’t just click go but read and talk to the owner(s) first

* Craigslist (yes, you can still find more than just bootie calls there.)

* Dinah In Color

* Gaydays.com, Gaydaysanaheim.com

* Spiritjourneys.com

* Damron.com

* Rfamilyvacations.com

* Kimpton LGBT Guest Loyalty Perks

* Sweet

* PurpleRoofs.com

All told, if someone’s going to be n “LGBT-unfriendly” jerk—or worse—you can’t control it.

But you can, with a little forethought, try to better the odds, and you can always control your actions and reactions in the face of discrimination.

The point of traveling (beyond that kind you need to or have to do) is all about the frolic, comfort and joy. So, “go and get you some o’ that!”

Happy Travels.

Would you rather know for sure that your travel agent is family? Does that even matter to you?

Torchwood Star Barrowman Marries

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Top showman, entertainer and actor John Barrowman married his long term partner Scott Gill last week, after a 20-year committed relationship.

The couple had already entered into a civil partnership back in 2006, however following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) recently, Barrowman and his partner Scott Gill were delighted to legally marry in the state of California.

Barrowman himself announced the news via a video clip before posting a photo after their special ceremony. During the short video John can be seen addressing the camera, saying: “It’s five after one and we’ve got our coffee and we’re in the car getting ready to leave, because where are we going, Scott?” The Torchwood star then turned the camera on his partner Gill, who replies: “To get married. Yay!”

He closes the video with a reference to the overturning of DOMA last week, adding: “We’re getting married in the state of California. Thank you Supreme Court, about time you made it legal. See you after we have the ceremony!”

The happy newlyweds later posted a photograph of themselves with their marriage certificate, writing: “We are now legally married. Thanks for all your great wishes. JB and Scott.”

The couple have always been open about their desire to get married telling many in the media they would just as soon as it became legal to do so in the US. They have also indicated in interviews that would like to have children too, when the time was right – “We haven’t ruled out having children ourselves but it depends where my career takes us.” John claimed in an interview in the UK’s Sun newspaper last year.

“We wouldn’t want a baby. We’d look at adopting an older child or teenager who might have been in trouble. We would also look at adopting a gay child, thrown out of their home because of their sexuality.”

We send our love and warmest wishes to John and Scott on their happy news and hope they have a long and happy married life together.

Rain To Rainbows For New York

NYC Pride announced this week the official New York City Pride theme for 2013 will be “Rain to Rainbows.”
The theme will spotlight the many positive changes that have occurred despite the struggles the LGBT community still faces. NYC Pride will host their annual barrage of events commemorating the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, beginning with the Rally and ending with the Dance on the Pier.

NYC Gay Pride

“After years of inequality in this country we are finally turning the course towards receiving full equality. While this won’t be achieved overnight we are proud of our community’s accomplishments over the last decade and look to the future with a positive stance on the state of LGBT rights. We cannot and we will not forget about the hardships LGBT citizens endure on a daily basis across this country and the world. We will focus on how we can best turn the negative slowly into a positive,” said Chris Frederick, Managing Director of Heritage of Pride. “With the Supreme Court deciding on same-sex marriage days prior to NYC Pride’s largest day we are cautiously optimistic that history will turn in our favor.”

Marriage legislation has passed in more states and, more notably, for the first time by popular vote. Polls are consistently showing a majority of Americans support gay marriage. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases for its 2013 docket that could ostensibly end the larger debate across the country. This year’s theme aims to acknowledge these milestones and embody the adversity we’ve faced and the unceasing progression towards that magical spot somewhere over the rainbow.

“Whether it is a rainbow in the sky or a rainbow flag flying high above The Stonewall on Christopher Street in NYC, a rainbow symbolizes hope and peace after a storm of any kind,” said Tish Flynn, Media Director of Heritage of Pride. “We want to show the world that there’s always a way to turn rain into rainbows.”

London Gay Sauna Deaths

Mystery still surrounds the death of two men at a London gay sauna last weekend. The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation after one man aged 39 died at the sauna, a second 46 year old man later died in hospital and a third that had been treated in hospital has now been discharged.

This incident took place at the Pleasuredrome sauna on Cornwall Road in the Waterloo area of the UK‘s capital. Several other people were taken unwell at around the same time. Paramedics were dispatched to the sauna at 8.15am last Saturday after the three men had collapsed.

A Met Police spokeswoman told us the cause of death had yet to be confirmed. However, some preliminary reports suggest the incident was drug-related, with one source telling gay media the men became ill after been given a substance.

The Met Police have also launched an appeal for information following the incident and are keen to trace the whereabouts of a man seen entering the venue with the 39-year-old man. He is described as white, aged 25-35 with brown hair and a goatee beard around 6ft tall with a slim build, the police are concerned for his welfare.

Paris Hilton’s Anti-Gay Rant

Paris Hilton has issued a lengthy public apology after she was secretly recorded making homophobic comments to a gay friend in a taxi.  But is it too little and too late to stop the horrendously homophobic and uninformed statement damaging her fragile reputation.

During the conversation, in which a man is heard logging on to gay dating app Grindr, Hilton says:

“Ewwww…gay guys are the horniest people in the world…they’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS…I would be so scared if I was a gay guy…you’ll like, die of AIDS.”

The remarks were made during the early morning of September 7th  while Hilton was in Manhattan for New York Fashion Week,  the private conversation was reported by US media.  One of her media representatives tried to down play the remark as one allegidly showing the singers caring side.   This didn’t wash with the media or anyone else.

However on Friday, the star wrote on her official Twitter account “I want to say how sorry I am,” and linked to a full statement that had been sent to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), it said:

“As anyone close to me knows, I always have been and always will be a huge supporter of the gay community.

I am so sorry and so upset that I caused pain to my gay friends, fans and their families with the comments heard this morning.

I was having this private conversation with a friend of mine who is gay and our conversation was in no way towards the entire gay community.

It is the last thing that I would ever want to do and I cannot put into words how much I wish I could take back every word.

HIV/AIDS can hurt anyone, gay and straight, men and women. It’s something I take very seriously and should not have been thrown around in conversation.

Gay people are the strongest and most inspiring people I know. It is so wrong when people bully or put down others for being gay. No one should have to go through that.

Again, I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart and I feel absolutely horrible. I hope that everyone can accept my apology and know that it is not who I am or how I feel in any way.

Thank you for taking a minute to read this, I love you.”

But is this apology too late?  has the damage already been done to her fragile reputation?  Is she seen as a caring and considerate or does this just demonstrate a higher level of homophobia and hatred for gays she’s previously demonstrated in interviews with  the gay media as well as in private.

I certainly wont be wasting any money on buying any of her stuff.

New Zealand Prime Minister ‘Too Gay’!

“Too gay for Helensville” that’s a claim being laid at the door of the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key. Apparently the claim is contained within a pamphlet and letter that has been sent out by the homophobic Conservative party leader, Colin Craig who stands in opposition to Mr Key.

The pamphlet has been sent to 20,000 homes and businesses by the Conservative party and says that people are disgruntled about John Key’s vote in favour of an equal marriage bill which is currently being debated in the New Zealand parliament.

With the pamphlet was a in which Colin Craig, said that residents of Helensville were annoyed and disgusted. It also was contained a message reportedly from a resident in Helensville saying: “Colin, you should stand [for Prime Minister] here because John Key is too gay for Helensville.”

PM John Key seemed undeterred and unworried by the stance from Colin Craig, saying: ”I wish him the best but I have got the largest majority in the country so I hope I can continue to enjoy the support of the good people of Helensville in 2014.” Adding that he‘d had very little opposition to his position in favour of marriage equality ”To the best of my knowledge, there’s probably been about three phone calls to my electoral office.”

Homophobe Craig also released a statement after a media furore erupted , saying, “I was in the town a few weeks ago and was surprised at how many people were annoyed that he is not listening to them. There are people out there who simply don’t like to see their prime minister doing things like dancing on stage with transvestites, as he has done in the past”

The Conservative party was founded in 2011, Craig, who polled third in the local Mayoral election in 2010, ran in the election the same year but the party failed to gain any seats.

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, was discussed in parliament last Wednesday and passed its first reading with a majority of 80 to 40 in support of the change.

Bisexual or Pansexual Am I ?

When you’re less than a month away from being 59 years old you’d think by now one would have figured out how to identify oneself.

Since the puberty age hit, albeit at the time I didn’t know there was a name to give to my identity, I knew I liked both the gals and the guys.

Looking at the photos in the girley magazines was as much of a turn on as the guy(s) I was jerking off with, oft leading to more than just a herky-jerky session. And doing the ladies has always been as enjoyable.

Read more

Hanging with Wyatt O’Brian Evans

Looking for a great book with a gay erotica twist that also presents realistic, deep and non-stereotypical characters?

Author, actor and activist Wyatt O’Brian Evans‘ new uncensored update to 2009′s Nothing Can Tear Us Apart is now available. Nothing Can Tear Us Apart: Uncensored is the exciting and compelling story of Wes and ‘Tonio – two masculine men of color (one African-American, one Latino) who confront daunting obstacles and struggles which jeopardize their monogamous relationship.

Sounds like a good read? It is. I am almost halfway through it (with some peeks at the final chapters to prepare for the interview) and have no plans to put it down. I had the pleasure to speak with Wyatt this week to learn more about his new project.

DanNation: Your main character seems to share many characteristics with you. Are you the inspiration for Wesley Laurence Kelly?

Wyatt: I always get that question. Yes – Wes and ‘Tonio are part of me but Wesley is the most like me. Both live in me and I know what lives inside them. And, there is a bit of a composite of others I have known in my life added in as well.

DanNation: What makes this book uncensored over the first edition?

Wyatt: I had a great response to the first book and was heavily scheduled with readings and seminars. In one of these readings, a roomful of people of diverse backgrounds gave me valuable feedback on the characters and story. I incorporated some of the feedback into a a rewrite of the entire novel. So this version is a reimagination – I believe in realism and wanted to beef up the erotic aspects of the book to coincide with how these men feel about each other and to reflect that extraordinary connection they had.

DanNation: Your characters deal with domestic violence, discrimination and other negative factors – is this a reflection of personal experience?

Wyatt: I’ve written extensively on domestic violence (on QBliss). During my life I’ve known men and women, both gay and straight, who were physically battered and emotionally abused in relationships. When I began this book, I wanted it to be realistic and a teaching moment. I wanted people to understand that domestic violence in our community is more prominent than you think and much of it goes unreported, especially for men. We strive for masculinity and the male tradition of “I need to be able to deal with it” without asking for help.

DanNation: Are you as much of a hopeless romantic as your characters? Do you currently have a partner?

Wyatt: First, I AM a romantic when I’m inspired. I’m an earthy guy. I am a romanticist and a romantic and when I am really into someone I am both.

Second, so many novels exist where two protagonists fall into lust – I wanted this story to have more of a slow burn. I wanted the reader to see who these two men really are. From the time they first meet, they are attracted to each other but apply the brakes to learn about each other first. Both had failed relationships and wanted take their own relationship more slowly. The face a challenge of mixing business with pleasure and hold off. This flow gives them a chance to fall in love and not in lust and this is the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to tell everyone that LGBT people can fall in love just like everyone else. We can find out what we have in common intellectually and at a spiritual level first. In Wes’ and ‘Tonio’s monogamous relationship, they experience internal conflicts and external factors that throw their monogamy into serious jeopardy. Antonio is a good looking and deliciously muscular bodyguard who has a horrible sense of abandonment. In the story, someone enters who exploits these feelings. This leaves Wes deciding that Antonio was unfaithful.

And I am currently single and interested parties can contact me via email!

DanNation: You have so much going on. How do you accomplish everything you do and remain sane?

Wyatt: I don’t know (smile). I’m a writer, communications consultant, journalist, motivation, voice-over, actor – I like to do a bunch of different things. It keeps me alive!

DanNation: No wonder you have no time for a relationship!

Wyatt: I’m very open to a relationship – if the right person comes along, I’ve always been able to adjust my schedule. You can’t have your life focused on only one area as you might miss that very special person. The ‘right’ people come around when you least expect it. If you are into each other, you know it and you work your schedules to make time.

DanNation: How do you choose your projects? Will there be a sequel?

Wyatt: I am finishing the novella “Sinnin’ in the Tha Citay.” It will be a short novel to be released in the spring of 2013.

In conjunction with QBliss, I will conduct workshops on depression, racism and domestic violence in the LGBT community later this year.

As for the sequel, I am writing it. This sequel, while tying up loose ends from this novel, is a total cliffhanger. The sequel will come out later in 2013 or early 2014.

DanNation: The way it is written, it would make a terrific film. Is that in the future?

Wyatt: I wrote the book like a screenplay and would love to craft into a television series or movie – it is structured for that. I really believe that this story has universal appeal because it is thought-provoking with twist and turns, romance, and drama. Women, men, hetero or straight can relate to Wes and ‘Tonio’s story as they are two people in love.

DanNation: How do readers get a copy of the book?

Wyatt: You can order the book from wyattobrianevans.com where you can order autographed copies. It will show up in bookstores in a few months.

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So now you have a great new book for your night stand – read it. You won’t be disappointed!

It’s Marketing Not A Social Agenda Stupid

I can remember when the slogan for AMTRAK was “there’s nothing like a train”.  How far we have come since those days of innocence in marketing a train, a form of travel and what constitutes “a family”.

That was when AMTRAK was marketing itself as a more relaxing, less hurried way to travel across the USA and in particular a way for families to share a once in a lifetime experience as they glide upon silver rails across the heartland, through mountains and see things which can’t be seen by driving or flying overhead by plane.

So it is that AMTRAK has started its latest marketing campaign this time geared towards same-sex parents and their children.

Read more

Shirtless in Raleigh

I am becoming a dirty old man.

Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, I have to perform a different sort of writing to keep myself off the streets, an altogether different type, technically known as “coding”. In other (less long-winded) words, I work, as a developer, for a large software company based in North Carolina, and spend – as I am now – periodic two-week stints here at their campus, instead of at my home-office in Hollywood, CA. These trips sort of bifurcate my life into domains best described as gay-centrals on one hand, and baby factory on the other. Neer the twain shall meet.

In gay central, I spend a lot of time in West Hollywood, not necessarily living “the gay lifestyle” (this is just a friendly dig at a fellow columnist who dislikes that term), but certainly existing amidst a mostly gay milieu. For instance, I work on my laptop frequently at the big Starbucks opposite 24Hour Fitness. On such days, it’s not unusual for me to see, through the course of a few hours, fifty men beautiful enough to be models (in “normal” cities.)

Here in North Carolina, meanwhile, the walls and doors of many offices are plastered with baby pictures, every other vehicle is a mini-van, and lunch meetings with colleagues are on the suicidal verge of boredom. (When they’re not talking about their kids, they’re only left with sports and church.) I’ve worked for this company for twelve years. During that time, I don’t recall once meeting somebody on our campus that I could clearly identify as gay. Nor, for the most part, do I get the visual stimulus, here, of bodies beautiful (certainly not on campus.)

Maybe this explains why I got so excited last night. I was early for an appointment I had to drive to, so pulled over opposite a park, to catch up with some work. It was some sort of frizby-combo-golf-weird-game park, as near as I could make out, and playing the course were four college students, one of whom was shirtless, just wearing shorts, with a beautiful, compact, muscular build and the most engaging smile. You had the sense, as he walked around the course, that he was both completely aware of the homoeroticism implicit in his shirtlesness as well as extremely self-confident (though without being affected.) The body language on display in the group indicated that he was “the leader”. I’m not saying that any of the others were remotely affected by the proximity of his gorgeous bare chest, but it’s nice to fantasize.

I, however, was certainly affected. I fumbled with my bag to get out the point-and-shoot camera I always have with me, and shakily tried to line up a few shots without attracting their attention. I’m not at all sure why I was so flustered, since I see beautiful men every day back in gay-central. What is certain, however, is that I felt like a dirty old man, even if only in a self-amused ironic way.

(You can see the photos here, though I must excuse their poor quality by the evening light, the poor camera, and the distance from that camera of the object of my lust.)

I’ve long wondered how I’d feel when I reached the age of no longer having the kind of body others lusted at. If that sounds arrogant, let me follow with admitting that I went through most of my life without it, having grown up very skinny. Through my twenties, I detested my body so much, I’d call myself a death-head on a stick. When I saw men with the physique and confidence to bear their torsos in public, there was always a tinge of bitterness and envy mixed up in my admiration. It was only as I entered my late thirties, that my body got its act together, and, for an all to brief shining period, I enjoyed the attention I got when I had my shirt off. Now, at the age of forty-seven, that glow is fading (or, more frankly, has winked out), and, as I began to say, I wondered if – at this stage – the bitterness and envy would return.

It comes as a big surprise – to me at least – that there are good things about aging. You don’t take yourself so seriously; you care less (I mean that in the literal sense – as in “my care is less”; not as in “I couldn’t care less”) what others think about you; you have the wisdom to know when to pick your fights; you don’t get so bent out of shape at life’s injustices; and – this is the bigger surprise – you accept, with equanimity, that your looks aren’t what they were, and the sight of others – like the young man here in the park – who still inspire gasps when they’re shirtless, just brings to mind a tender mix of admiration and good memories. So, let’s here it for dirty old men!