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How to Be Gay But Safe On the Road

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Being in a new city is exhilarating and intimidating. You arrive tired, a little bit lost, and unsure of the environment you’ll find in your destination. Still, you’re here, you’re queer, and ready for an adventure. As a lesbian raised in south Georgia, in the middle of the Bible belt, I know that being out and proud doesn’t always mean out and safe, especially in a new city. If you don’t know much about the area it can be hard to determine how LGBT-friendly your vacation spot might be. While this is the case, there are a few steps you can take when planning a trip to better ensure your safety and comfort for the duration of your stay, no matter where you are.

Hotel

Where you plan on resting your head at night is one of the first decisions that you as a traveller have to make. It can be daunting, especially when looking in a city you’ve never visited. And if you’re travelling with a partner or spouse, you want to know if the area you’ll be in is safe. Of course there are never complete guarantees with the safety of an area, but for LGBT couples, one simple trick for hotel searching is this: find a hotel with at least one gay bar nearby. Not only are gay bars typically considered “safe spaces” for us in the community, they often mean there’s at least some kind of LGBT population around. And following that logic, you’re likely to feel safer knowing you’re not alone.

Timing

Timing is everything when planning a vacation. I know I wouldn’t want to plan an Alaskan fishing trip in the middle of December, just as I know that Hawaii in late July might not be the smartest move if I plan on maintaining a healthy hydration level.

With this in mind, here’s my advice on timing: if your destination is ultimately a large city, either domestic or international, do a quick dig online to find out when Pride festivals are happening there. You don’t even have to spend time at Pride if you don’t want to, but knowing there’s a large population you can relate to nearby, you’re guaranteed to feel safer with your significant other while exploring the area. June is a good time for this, as it’s Pride month and hundreds of Pride events are scheduled for this time of year all over the world.

Word of advice, though: if you choose to go this route, book your hotel well in advance, as Pride festivals fill up rooms quickly and you don’t want to be stuck using Airbnb and vacationing in some guy’s mother’s basement.

Destination

You’ve heard the adage “location, location, location.” It applies not only to buying a house but to planning a trip as well. Especially when travelling to another country. In this age of technology readily available at our fingertips (literally), Google is your best friend. A quick search of the world’s least gay friendly countries turned up at least 10 helpful list articles right away, listing countries such as Morocco, Russia, Italy, and Monaco as some of the least-accepting countries in the world. Kenya, Egypt, and Nigeria are also listed, with these being considered over 90% unaccepting of same-sex couples or marriage.* This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should count these countries out completely. If your bucket list or dream vacation includes one of these places, then go for it. But be careful. Being reckless or careless can get you into trouble or danger, if you’re not aware of your surroundings. If you’re smart about your travel, you can have an enjoyable time just like with any vacation.

Despite this, the world is full of wonders and sights that you should try to see while you’re able, and if you’re brave enough I’d say take that chance. It will be worth it in the long run and you’ll have memories to share with your loved one (or ones) for the rest of your life. So go somewhere you’ve never been; your horizons can only be broadened for the better.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 02:29:05.


Also published on Medium.

A 22-year old poet and writer, Summer is the voice for Tell It Like A Lesbian and the features editor for TravelPRIDE. She loves horror movies, rock climbing, and is trying to start an herb garden in her spare time.

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Letters From Abu Ghraib: Visiting the Middle East

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THE MIDDLE EAST – AUGUST, 29TH 2017 – Most of us know how horrible certain areas of this region can be to our community.  To say that the temperament towards LGBTQ+ people is hostile would be a severe understatement. Unfortunately, this is causing us to miss out on a myriad of fun and magical experiences. This article will share some top attractions from the Middle East (predominantly Dubai ) and give advice on how to remain undetected while visiting the region.  It will also detail the horrors that could happen to our community at any moment if we are not careful.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Boasting a very modern feel for a hot spot most people think is nothing more than picking sand out of your trunks, Dubai houses only the top destinations.  

If you love to shop and play all at the same time there is the legendary Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls on Earth. It is home to some of the top name brands such as Armani, Versace, and Alexander McQueen. There are children’s parks and gourmet restaurants attached, too. The mall even houses its own aquarium containing over thirty thousand species of marine life1.

On the flip side, some may prefer relaxation and leisure over activity. Certainly then, you must check out the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW is a Five-Star hotel in the heart of the city and sports cutting edge technology in its business center and a legendary spa. Bars and a top of the line fitness wing complete the hotel’s elegance2. Interesting trivia: You might remember Tom Cruise climbing up one of the towers in a certain film… from the outside!

 

Cairo, Egypt

 

Perhaps you are one of the people that yearn for a more rugged experience. Look no further than Egypt.  The nightlife may be fantastic, but even more impressive is the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a short distance away. The impressive, massive structure is actually a burial tomb of the ancient pharaohs and is one of the world’s seven wonders3. Be sure to pose by the guardian sphinx for some memorable snapshots. To cool off, take a stroll by the Nile River that runs past the city. Careful though: You must show respect for the Nile’s bounty lest you upset it’s protecting deities Isis and Sebek.

 

Warnings from the Author

 

Low key is the key. With countless news stories showing beheadings, stonings, and even ISIS casting helpless victims off tall buildings, many people ask why no one has stepped in to end these atrocities. The answer is simple: Homosexuality is illegal in most of the Middle East. This is not just a government law, but a religious one, too. If you are still planning a trip to this region, please pay attention to the next section of this article and seek outside resources and/or protection. For more information on what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in this region, it may be beneficial to read Brian Whitaker and Anna Wilson’s book, “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” or another similar text4. I know many of us hate hiding who we are and if that is you, there is nothing wrong with that – but I encourage you to rethink your plans. I have a special word of caution for women: If you are travelling with men and they should happen to offend you in any way, do not let native Arabic men/women see any signs of an altercation. Address matters privately and quietly in the safety of your hotel room or living quarters.

 

Conclusion

Again, I urge you to seek additional help from others both inside and outside of the Community.  It only adds to your benefit.  Most importantly, though, enjoy your trip!

 

  1. “Revel In Retail At The Dubai Mall.”  Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  29 Aug 2017.  https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-mall.
  2. “JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.”  Marriott International Inc.  2017.  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai/
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica.  “Pyramids of Giza.”   Encyclopaedia Britannica.  26 June 2017.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramids-of-Giza
  4. Whitaker, Brian & Anna Wilson.  “Unspeakable Love:  Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East.”  Amazon.com.  2006.  https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Love-Lesbian-Life-Middle/dp/0520250176/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1504028713&sr=8-12&keywords=gays+in+the+middle+east+books

Originally posted 2017-09-22 12:50:33.

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5 Best Educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people

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Students are heading back to school, but why should young people be the only ones getting educated? With that in mind, here are my top five educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people, no matter your age.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ information: Ash Hardell

Everyone has questions about being LGBTQ+, even those within the community, and it can sometimes be hard to know how to get honest, reliable answers. Luckily Ash, who is genderqueer and pronoun indifferent, has answered a lot of the most burning questions for you.

Whether you’re interested in learning about a sexuality or gender identity other than your own (I had some questions about asexuality which I felt inappropriate to ask the asexuals that I knew in real life) or you’re still figuring out how you identify or you want to know how to be a better ally to your fellow queer people, they probably have a video for you.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ History: Tyler Oakley

They say that to know where we have to go, we must know where we’ve been, which is why it’s important to learn about LGBTQ+ history and celebrate it. Too much of history erases the contributions of LGBTQ+ people and it’s time to put an end to it.

Tyler is in the middle of a series where he talks about the trailblazing LGBTQ+ activists who inspire him; making sure to amplify POC  to avoid whitewashing our history and combat the vilification of their voices.

He also hosts a series called Stories of Queer Resistance, in which he discussed the Stonewall Riots which kicked off the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the USA (which I also covered back in July).

 

Best for Sex Ed: Sexplanations

I think most people would agree that their sex ed classes in school left a lot to be desired; using hetero-normative and cis-normative language, teaching abstinence-only, not teaching you about contraception for sexual acts other than penis in vagina sex.

Now when I began this piece I wanted to include all LGBTQ+ YouTubers but I ran into a slight problem with the sex ed section because gay men would talk about sex ed for MSM, lesbians would talk about WSW, trans people would talk about sex for trans people etc etc. However, I wanted someone who would address all facets of sex ed, so that no matter your sexuality or gender identity, you could become educated too.

Dr Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who not only covers sexual health but also how to perform certain sex acts (giving a blowjob, cunnilingus, and eating ass) using inanimate objects to demonstrate. She also does her best to avoid problematic language- like associating penis with male and vagina with female- or shaming people for their sexual desires.

A strong advocate for consent, completely non-judgmental about sexual acts, and willing to answer your questions. She’s the sex ed teacher that I wish I’d had.

 

Best for Politics: Riley J Dennis

Riley, whom you may recognize from my podcast recommendations piece, vlogs regularly on trending politics and social justice issues, such as Drumpf’s firing of Comey, the Nazi riots in Charlottesville, and DACA.

She also breaks down complicated topics that rarely make it into the news cycle (like civil asset forfeiture and queer coding) into easily understandable segments without making you feel dumb, so if you think you could benefit from a more in-depth knowledge of the political issue de jour, then check out Riley’s channel.

 

Best for Mental Health:  MarinaShutUp

I don’t think it’s a secret that LGBTQ+ people have a higher rate of mental health problems than the general population (one of the unfortunate by-products of discrimination) so we should be honest about our issues and unafraid to voice them.

Marina, a queer woman of color, is very open about her struggles with mental health problems (like negative body image, depression, and social anxiety) as well as providing practical tips for self-care (look after yourself folks!). She’s honest about her own struggles, her mistakes, and her journey, which makes those watching feel less alone with their mental health issues.

 

So what did you think of these YouTubers? Who is your favorite on this list? Who do you wish I’d included? Let me know in the comments below.

Originally posted 2017-09-20 14:18:00.

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TSA: Transphobic (in)Secure A**holes

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Traveling is stressful for everyone, especially when it’s time to go through airport security. People of color, those who speak English as a second language, the elderly, and trans folks are groups of travelers that often face different struggles when interacting with TSA agents than their white, cis, and straight counterparts. Not only are these encounters more frequent and unique, they have higher risk factors and more severe consequences when things don’t run smoothly.

If you aren’t deemed “normal” by the individual TSA agent supervising your line or X-ray station, you may not be able to get on your flight; you may be detained, harassed, and assaulted.

In September 2015, Shadi Petosky faced all of these monstrosities, and recorded her experience on her twitter account. Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, also had a traumatizing experience in 2017. Apparently, little progress has been made regarding the lack of respect, and courtesy displayed by TSA agents.

#NotAllTSA

The Transportation Security Administration is but another example of a federal institution abusing their power, and causing more harm than good. It’s true that not all TSA agents fall under this description, but that doesn’t make the TSA as an agency or going through security at an airport any better. In fact, these “good” TSA agents are the epitome of “apathetic Americans.”

In this setting, the severe concentration of multitudes of microaggressions, coupled with a powerful position, do not yield a positive result.

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Overcoming an obstacle is always easier when it is broken down into smaller pieces. By addressing individual factors that create the problematic TSA that we have today, we become one step closer to finding a solution. Three key features that intersect with one another can be identified not only in the TSA, but also federal institutions like the police, armed forces, and even corporations.

  1. Toxic Masculinity
  2. Insecurity
  3. Greed

Toxic Masculinity – the Root of Many Problems

According to Huffington Post,Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence.” When pat downs turn into groping, and escorting passengers becomes shoving, pushing, and literally dragging individuals, it becomes clear that the TSA stands firmly on both of these pillars.

Once introduced to this level of power, it’s easy for it to get to one’s head.  The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly encourages avoiding confrontations with TSA personnel if at all possible. Like a hard drug, just a taste can leave you craving more. Not only is this problematic, but it can easily become deadly with the simple addition of a baton.

Like a bully finding out their victim won’t be pushed around anymore, TSA agents and police officers feel scared and insecure when they are called out for their behavior. Their power is being threatened. These are the moments that we watch on the news and read about online. These are the moments when innocent people die.

Our Existence is Resistance

It may look like our future is bleak. We are living in dangerous times. Many do not “understand” our community, and with ignorance comes fear – a high-risk emotion, especially when coupled with access to weapons.

It is important to remember that not all violence is created with guns; never has the pen been mightier than the sword than when it is creating legislation.

However, we are not paralyzed; we can remind our senators and representatives of their true employers: their constituents.

Click here to find your senator and representative and how to contact them.

Now more than ever we need to unite as a community. We need to remember that we are magical. We are beautiful. We are a strong, resilient, and courageous community, and we will not let these transphobic, insecure assholes keep us from getting on our flight!


Resources

For a PDF of The National Center for Transgender Equality’s Guide to Airport Security and Rights of Trans People, click here.

If you have been mistreated, or had an unsatisfactory experience with TSA personnel, click here for information on how to file a complaint.

If you have access to a smartphone, consider downloading the app FlyRights. It provides a way to immediately file a report of an incident of discrimination with TSA and DHS when it occurs. Click here for more information. It is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Originally posted 2017-09-21 19:42:36.


Also published on Medium.

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