Is it safe to travel to “anti-gay” countries?

Maybe the real question is: are “anti-gay” countries really dangerous for LGBT+ people, or maybe the influx of tourists can help change things in these countries?

We know that summer holidays 2019 are just a memory now, but mind travels (at least mine is already thinking about where to go to for the next summer) and so here is a little travel reflection of the Editor in Chief … maybe useful, maybe not … but certainly interesting.

Time Flies

Only 60 years ago, a time that may seem long but believe me it is not, Spain was a rather repressive place. Under the grip of General Franco and the Catholic Church, las Costas (Costa Brava) was then a non-fun and not at all safe area.

For example, when the first flights brought tourists in search of fun from the UK and Northern Europe in general, to Spanish beaches in 1958, the police who saw tourists wearing bikinis and other too ‘revealing’ swimwears ordered them to cover themselves and use more appropriate swim-suits.

Last year, however, more than 18 million British tourists visited Spain and, given the way some of them – unfortunately – behave under the influence of cheap sangria, directors of many tour operators in the UK, sincerely hoped that the police had broader views. And apparently, so it was: tourism has been the greatest accelerator of growth that has accompanied Spain on its incredible journey from a repressive stagnation to the modern European nation it is now.

The flood of tourists stimulated the country’s economy and, according to Giles Tremlett, author of Ghosts of Spain, brought with it “the fresh air of democracy”.

We know that holidays can change us, hoping to leave us rested, relaxed and amused, but how much can we really change the places we visit?

This is an important question to ask yourself, especially when you are gay, because there are still more than 70 countries around the world with anti-gay laws, where public displays of affection or gay sex behind closed doors could lead us to prison or worse.

In the meantime, more and more tourist destinations have competed to attract LGBT+ tourists (and our pennies too, for a healthy circulation of the world economy, of course) and among these, Tel Aviv and Israel, whose tourism body (at least in Europe) aims a lot at the rainbow community of each country. But not only that, the classic gay beach and the urban areas of Europe and North America are now facing stiff competition from a multitude of destinations in Asia and Latin America which are wishing to show their “friendly” faces .

But can these be trusted?

The real problem is that the world is not so easily divisible into “good” or “bad”, or even into “gay-friendly” and “non-gay-friendly”. Many people (especially tourism professionals) in over 70 so-called “anti-gay” countries do not necessarily believe in the rhetoric that their leaders are launching, and are more interested in making a living for their family and ensuring that visitors are welcome.

List of Anti-Gay Countries
List of Anti-Gay Countries

And if we think that even in some European countries, the attitudes towards the LGBT+ community and their rights are not really “friendly”, then it is clear that each destination must be analysed individually and all “pros” and ” cons”of the nation that you want to visit must be evaluated. But we also have to ask ourselves how much we are willing to submit to” certain local rules” (often unwritten) in order to visit that place and not put ourselves in danger for our sexual orientation.

I personally believe that in an era of division and hatred, when world leaders separate peoples and build walls, travel becomes an act of rebellion. After all, Mark Twain himself stressed it when he said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I believe that these are words that may go in a double direction: not only towards whom we meet by going to a new place, but also towards us, that by traveling we put ourselves, our convictions, our “prejudices” at stake and we rediscover ourselves in each journey .

What a wise traveler would do?

Of course, we must travel bravely, but also wisely. For any smart traveler, doing some research, using common sense and asking for local advice from trusted sources is a MUST  to make sure one gets a smooth, safe and fun journey.

Fortunately, we have more tools to use than ever before: DestinationPride.org, the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Travel or also the Italian tour operators Quicky and Travel Out are excellent starting points for our researches before travelling.

Staying at home, or in the same places year after year, is a strong limitation for me. By being brave and travelling we discover that maybe things are not only black and white as some media want us to believe, but that peaceful coexistence of more realities is possible and maybe you could also discover that that place you are travelling to, is much more open towards the LGBT+ people and their rights than the political constitution that governs over it can be.

We also have the potential to change the “life” of that place: after all, everywhere in the world, there are LGBT+ people who welcome or manage “queer” hotels and tourist attractions and who bring prosperity to their local communities.

In the end…

Whether you decide to pack your bikini or not, or to take a holiday to discover the historic, landscape, natural and architectural beauties of a place, in 2020 it’s time to face your travel decisions with ambition and perhaps even with a touch of wise rebellion.

Traveling to “anti-gay” countries is therefore possible, just try to understand what kind of vacation you are looking for, and perhaps ask yourself sensible and honest questions to which you can give sensible and – above all – honest answers.

Basically, if you are looking for a holiday based on unbridled fun (and you know what I am referring to, honey) then avoid countries that are not exactly gay-friendly, as your local authorities have already many things to take care of in your own Country; but if instead you are looking for new destinations, willing to adapt and respect the local culture and to agree not to openly manifest your normalcy which unfortunately in that place could be misunderstood, then, the adventure is waiting for you!

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