Sitting at my kitchen window overlooking rain falling gently on the beautiful Umbrian countryside it is time for a rant. This topic has been fermenting for some time and I hope that I can express myself clearly. “Gay Friendly“, how I so detest that term. Increasingly any internet research for gay travel is swamped by so called “Gay travel agents and operators” who are elbowing in to the market using the term gay friendly as a justification for their existence. They are not in the slightest bit interested in equality or gay rights but only in making money. They do not help the gay traveller find a really gay lodging. They merely promote any old chain hotel or guesthouse that wishes to be advertised as ‘gay friendly’. No regard to gay ownership, gay lifestyle or gay choices. These are not places where gay travellers can relax and be themselves, they still have to keep guard and in many cases be discrete. Lodgings screaming “Gay Friendly” are thrown by the bucket full at the gay traveller.
What ramifications does the phrase ‘gay friendly’ have for the gay traveller?
To me it is an instant turn off. I will not search any of these websites. I see the listings as ‘I guess we have no choice but to accept the gays‘ and ‘gay guys have two salaries so are a lucrative market that we should be tapping into‘. I find the term cynical and want to be no part of it. When marketing Bellaugello Gay Guest House I actively stay away from such websites.
Open any Google search for gay holiday and the first page or so is swamped with websites that on closer look principally promote ‘gay friendly’ accommodation and have links to the multinational hotel booking websites. The individual gay accommodations are by their very individuality not featured and are pushed down the rankings. This is bad for gay travellers. The gay traveller has to search harder and in much greater depth to find a true gay place to stay.
Open a guide such as the ‘Spartacus’ gay guide and again you are swamped by hotels and lodgings that are ‘gay friendly’ huh, that is really all there is in these guides. They are effectively listings of lodging businesses which will grudgingly or otherwise accept gay guests. Ok, good so they damn well should. We are living in the twenty-first century and all can and should expect a decent chunk of harmony. Whatever reason could they not have for accepting all honest well behaved clientele of whatever sexual orientation especially those who pay their bills? All too often these ‘gay friendly’ places might be welcoming of gay guests but there is no guarantee whatsoever that the other guests will be equally welcoming. They are just chain hotels looking to increase income stream. Increase in guests are numbers for the bottom line.
Why, I ask are lodgings happy to be included in such detestable guides? Are they afraid that if they are listed as ‘gay’ they will be reviled? Marked as ‘stay away’ – ‘to be avoided’?
I suggest guides and websites claiming to be for the gay traveller must stop the saccharine publicity. They should not be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market but be true to gay. We need to campaign to change the use and connotation of the phrase and the eradication of such useless websites.
The cheeky imp in me sees one useage: Turn it on its head; As travel advice for those intolerant homophobic travellers that still remain: Flag the lodging as a place where you will encounter openly gay travellers. If your beliefs present you with a problem, then don’t go there.
But NO! this is not interpretation I wish the phrase should be put to. I want it to be used in a positive way. I do see a very valuable and valid use for the phrase ‘gay friendly’:
Where lodgings are located in blatantly homophobic places. In countries where being gay is still (unbelievably and sadly) illegal, punishable by death, or subject to putrid inhumane ‘conversion therapy‘ then such lodging listings are clearly important places of safety.
In fundamental regions of countries with established gay rights but where to be openly gay is a terrifying experience, there is a need for such a list.
Applied in these cases, like government travel advices, a listing of places where gays can be safe is imperative. Gay guys have to live and work in such countries and these hateful homophobic communities. They might wish or need to travel within these places. I suppose that one’s employer might want to make one have to go to such neanderthal places ‘for business’. That action to me, obviously seems unethical, and cynically supporting homophobia. However we do not live in a perfect world. Such employer pressure is reality. So let’s use the term ‘gay friendly’ as a place of sanctuary.
Many will argue such a list could be used by those wanting to perpetrate gay hate crime. The lodgings will be targeted. As a gay man living in an openly gay business gay hate crime is always, all be it, far back, somewhere obscure in the back of my mind. International hotel chains have huge legal and security teams so less need to be paranoid. I, like all lodgings in Italy have a legal duty to register guests with the Italian police. Ostensibly one could argue that the lists I send could be used for a ‘gay register’. When joining gay apps such as Grindr, Scruff or Romeo guys willingly make open their sexuality . Data recorded in these apps is huge and comprehensive and geolicalised. Privacy, safety… rise in fascism… religious fundamentalism… and intolerance…. This is a very interesting subject for a future blog post. Watch this space 🙂
So let’s be positive, let’s turn the phrase around, let’s change the presentation. No longer let ‘gay friendly’ be a cynical money grabbing marketing tool unnecessarily flooding the travel market hampering the promotion of real gay lodgings: Make gay friendly a term in homophobic localities to indicate safety and refuge for the gay traveller.
Who will help me in my campaign?
Oh, and by the way the phrase “Gay Only” is one I detest equally.