With recent news coming out of Indonesia that the once-frequented-by-numerous-LGBT people and gay couples, Bali would be cracking down on queer couples and tourists, a heightened level of scrutiny of all gay-friendly tourist destinations is being placed on the popular island gaycation hotspot and featured locations around the world.
LGBT people are being warned not to venture to Indonesia in the interim, as these laws are being debated by their government. What makes a destination safe for gay travelers and what designates it as “gay-friendly,” versus tolerant or not at all? Here are some tips and advice on things you should look for when selecting a gay-couples travel destination for a romantic couples getaway or destination wedding.
Do. Your. Research. The way a country or place handles its minority populations is often indicative of how gay-friendly—or not—a location really is. War-torn regions or countries with little regard to general human life are a no-go. A simple Google search will tell you which countries homosexuality is still a crime in. The last thing you want is to be another Locked Up Abroad case, so avoid countries with anti-gay legislation on the books.
Most gay-friendly places have resources like websites and social media pages to list what accommodations and establishments that cater towards gay people. Some places do it old school and still have hard-copy booklets or pamphlets. If you’re already there, head to your nearest gay bar or restaurant and ask for the weekly paper or newsletter.
Does your desired location have a gayborhood? These areas of cities are often more advanced, cleaner, safer, and more progressive than their surrounding areas. These places are also often better equipped for queer travellers. It is suspicious when large metropolitan areas don’t have a gay area or pink stomping grounds and might be better for you to avoid.
Stick to the roads most traveled. Ask your gay friends and co-workers where they have successfully ventured as queer tourists with the pink dollar. Check out the most popular gay-friendly destinations and start checking them off your bucket list first.
Travel with groups. Travel groups with insane itineraries aren’t for everyone, but there is definitely safety in numbers. Pre-organized tours and group travel allow for security and make for great gaycations if you’re ok sharing your trip with multiple people. While there are pros and cons, one being that it’s hard to break away and do your own thing on a trip, the advantages to traveling with a team versus travelling solo often outweigh the negatives.
When in doubt, consider an alternative. Croatia, for instance, offers little to LGBT travelers in terms of information provided. While not un-friendly to gays, Croatia has few gay bars and gathering places, no Google maps accuracy, and limited resources available. You’ll either have to take your chances with connecting with other queers through the gay geo-location apps or take your chances on what information you have. If you’re still unsure of venturing to a locale with little information available, perhaps it’s time to consider another destination.
San Francisco is ready to overturn a city-wide ordinance that has had banned bathhouses since the AIDS crisis.
Bathhouses have played an intricate part in queer culture since, forever. When no other gathering place was safe, closeted gay and bisexual men could get together in private, under one roof. While they’ve gained the reputation of being nothing but sex establishments, bathhouses were virtual community centers where gays could meet up without persecution. Legendary diva Bette Midler used to perform for eager crowds at bathhouses. Hence the term Bathhouse Betty. And they became a staple of the gay community.
During the AIDS crisis, swift action was taken by cities across the United States, with San Francisco being one of the main ones to indirectly shut down all of the bathhouses in the Bay Area. Suddenly gay men had nowhere to go other than gay bars, leading to the cultural shift towards legal liquor establishments and away from bathhouses. Most shut their doors after strict ordinances were placed upon them and many haven’t re-opened in the nearly 40 years since the beginning of the AIDS crisis.
Now, thanks to the actions of District 8 supervisor Rafaela Mandelman’s new legislation, gay bathhouses are ready to return to SF and open their doors to the community once again. At the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the new legislation provides that the San Francisco Department of Public Health remove current regulations requiring the monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities and prohibiting private rooms in bathhouses and commercial adult sex venues.
“Our current regulations for adult sex venues were put in place as an emergency measure at the height of the AIDS crisis when San Francisco was desperate to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS” said Mandelman. “Decades later, with the emergence of PrEP and in light of San Francisco’s reduction in HIV diagnoses to under 200 for the first time since the 1980’s, these regulations – including a ban on private rooms and required monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities – have no public health rationale and need to be changed.”
The San Francisco Department of Public Health reported in 2018 that the number of new HIV diagnoses in San Francisco dropped to 197, marking a 58% decrease from the number of new HIV diagnoses in 2011.
The new legislation “will amend the Health Code to require the Department of Public Health to adopt new minimum health and safety standards for commercial adult sex venues, and will prohibit the department from adopting standards that require monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities, or ban booths, cubicles or private rooms with locking doors. It provides for these minimum standards to include requirements that venues make safer sex supplies and education materials available to patrons. The ordinance requires that these new minimum standards be adopted by no later than July 1, 2020 and that there be a public notice and public comment process.”
This means that bathhouses will be making a comeback in San Francisco. What do you think about this new step in LGBT equality and sexuality? Leave your comments below.