It's time we stop pushing beds together.
On returning from holiday in Portugal, a friend of mine and his boyfriend of two years revealed that they had encountered problems due to their sexuality at the resort they were staying at.
Having ordered a standard double room with a standard double bed, the couple expected to have a relaxed and somewhat open time together away from the daily grind(r) - but had their room rejected due to "social abnormality" and instead were given a standard twin bedroom with two standard single beds.
To assume that every social minority is abnormal is to also reject blondes, the elderly and stamp collectors. Destinations branded as popular tourist destinations, such as St. Lucia or Jamaica, should adapt their attitudes to accommodate LGBT communities or risk the opportunity to capitalise on an increasingly wealthy community. At the end of the day, anti-gay is anti-business.
Being gay in the UK is changing. I am confident enough to hold my partner's hand in public without being glared at or judged. Spaces tailored to the LGBTQ+ community (*cough* Soho) are increasingly popular amongst our heterosexual counterparts, and there's even the possibility of full marriage equality across the islands.
But to assume the rest of the world is as socially accepting would be naïve. Putin's gay propaganda laws come as a perfect example of the 81 countries that criminalise homosexuality. Lesbian and trans communities also still have a long way to go for social acceptance and tolerance.
To make sure your gaycation isn't ruined, find below a concise list of advice for before and during your holiday below.
Prepare and Research
Choosing a destination is inevitably the first part of planning a holiday. Research should be carried out regardless of sexual orientation, but obviously more so for gay communities when there's so much ambiguity in global LGBTQ+ laws. Websites such as Iglta.org and geta-europe.org give in-depth information on LGBT safety and laws across different countries. Take Zanzibar for example where homosexual sex became punishable with 25 years in prison in 2004. Or Egypt, where you can receive up to five years hard labour for 'debauchery'. Keep in mind that same sex relationships may be legal, but certain acts may not be. Rural regions may possess different attitudes towards gay people than larger cities, so discretion may need to be altered with change of location. Don't just research the country as a whole, but every area you plan on visiting - northern parts of Thailand may not as be as welcoming as southern Thailand.
Locality and Awareness
Though being homosexual may be lawful, tolerance towards it may not naturally correlate. Being aware of your surrounding and environment is obvious, but quintessentially necessary in order to prevent anything bad from happening. Should something happen, British embassies offer support, advice and help without passing assumption or judgment if contacting local police services becomes difficult. No one particularly wants to end up in a Ugandan prison, do they?
Staying in local Western communities may be advised for first time openly gay holidays, somewhat of a global ween into LGBT confidence. Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden and Holland, though uncomfortably close to persuacative Russia, are good examples.
Travel agencies and hotel owners have picked up on the pink pound. Whole resorts across the Mediterranean and Caribbean are being dedicated to LGBT honeymoons (for the couples lucky enough to have the right of marriage). Though not culturally endorsing and restricted to tight areas, such destinations may appeal for those wanting complete acceptance.
Fear and discretion
Destinations with anti-LGBT laws and values shouldn't necessarily be avoided. To be gay in Kenya can receive up to 14 years imprisonment. Knowing of someone who's gay but not disclosing information to the police is also an offence. Though a little unsavoury, sometimes being discreet is advised to prevent trouble from occurring. But why risk filtering out a quick Instagram upload of a beautiful elephant? #nofilter. Restricting yourself from seeing the Great Rift Valley and experiencing Masai Maran cultures due to your between-leg-preference is silly. Maybe just don't make out with anyone in an East African market.
In some rural regions and less economically developed countries, means of accessing contraception may be difficult. Stocking up on condoms and other means of contraceptions may be an idea, regardless of relationship status. STI clinics across some areas may not accommodate for gay and lesbian sexual health needs or might fetch a heavy health insurance bill. The same goes for trans health. Researching your host destination, including laws on physical, sexual and mental health is imperative. No one wants to find out the hard way.
For more in-depth information regarding LGBT a travel, visit the aforementioned iglta.org and geta-europe.org