As someone who loves to travel, I always like to take note of the political situation in the country I visit. I have found that since coming out over five years ago that choosing the places I want to visit or will actually BE welcome to visit has taken on another dimension. I guess I hadn't really given this much thought before a couple of years ago but now that I've been out a few years I don't want to have to hide myself or my girlfriend away. I want to be able to fully relax and not have to pretend to a waiter or to hotel staff that I don't have a boyfriend or am holidaying with a "friend". I think the more confident in my sexuality I have become the more important this issue is to me. I also don't want to give my money to people that actively hate or dislike the way I live my life. I certainly do not define my life by being gay, I am just me and I happen to like women. I do however; think it's important to stand up for your beliefs.
There are still many tourist destinations that have jail time or the death penalty for engaging in same sex activity. Apparently it's life in prison in Barbados and deportation and even the death penalty in the UAE, two countries that are firmly off my list of places to visit. I don't think I even need to start on Russia and its very vocal intolerance of gay people. In Dominica it's ten years and even sectioning and in Singapore it's two years. We have considered going on Safari but of course the many gay hating governments there have sadly taken a lot of those countries off the list. It's not my intention to force people to believe in something they don't even as much as I struggle to understand why such hatred is poured forward. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs regardless of whether I like them or not. I do however, believe that tolerance and open mindedness is the only way forward. If a country will not even tolerate me and my girlfriend, then I have to say that it won't be a country I will be visiting anytime soon.
Of course not every country with draconian laws will act on them and the laws don't always reflect what the people of that country now believe in. We holidayed in Laos and it felt very chilled and a lot like Thailand. We didn't walk around holding hands but then public displays of affection tend to be frowned upon so nor did most people. Although technically being gay is illegal I didn't feel that being gay there would be a particular issue. According to a guidebook we read many men there do not even believe that lesbianism exits! However, I would say that our trip to Kuala Lumpur felt a little different. You can get 20 years in prison for engaging in same sex activity which made our request for a double bed feel a little uncomfortable! I didn't realise this when we booked, which is why I now always make sure I'm aware of a particular countries situation. We went on a tour and whilst the guy was lovely there were little undertones of how he felt towards gay people. He mentioned that our hotel bar used to be a famed gay hang out and of course not somewhere that we would want to hang out. If only he knew! It wasn't something that bothered me too much. It wasn't said in a hateful way, it just seemed part of an entrenched attitude that had prevailed here in the UK not so long ago. There is still a long way to go.
Not every gay couple is going to find this an issue and will be OK about compromising but I think it means more to me because after so many years in the closet, I am no longer willing to hide who I am. It doesn't dampen the excitement of a holiday but it is now a consideration for me in deciding where I go. It is sad that in this day and age this is still a factor but there is no doubt things are getting better. There is an argument that travelling to these countries and showing people that we do not have any particular agenda, are not paedophiles (Crazy I know!) or that we don't actually have two heads could be a positive thing. However, I am not sure that being locked up, threatened or deported is worth the risk. For me personally I feel I have to stick to my principles and enjoy the places where my girlfriend and I are not only free but also welcome to be ourselves.