Friday, July 12, 2019

LGBT+ Travel in the Caribbean

Safely traveling in the Caribbean - An Overview

The islands of the Caribbean are very diverse, both in population and in politics. As such, their views on LGBT+ rights can vary widely from island to island. Often, the social beliefs and stigmas, may carry over from the former colonizer that controlled the island, or the laws from that country might apply on that island, but even this is not consistent. Put all this together and the Caribbean can be a minefield for an LGBT+ traveler. As such, the main thing to do is to consider where you might want to travel, and if there are any places that are best avoided.

Cruising in the Caribbean

While all the major cruise lines have a fairly good track record with LGBT+ guests, Celebrity Cruises is a bit of a standout. When considering a cruise in the Caribbean, the main thing to consider is where the ship is traveling. While the cruise itself may be welcoming, the ports might be less so. As such it's always important to consider the local policies of each island when you are cruising.

LGBT+ Friendly Islands

These are islands which have a positive track record with LGBT+ tourists. This list is just an overview of some of the most famously pro-LGBT+ locations in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico

With protections for the LGBT+ community and marriage equality being allowed since 2015 when it was enacted in the US, Puerto Rico is a great place to visit as an LGBT+ traveler. It is often placed among the safest and most welcoming islands for LGBT+ visitors.

Virgin Islands

Marriage equality has been legal since 2015, but it is more lacking in anti-discrimination laws. However, like many other former Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, there is a fairly welcoming atmosphere for LGBT+ travelers, however sometimes be aware of deeply held religious beliefs can manifest among some parts of the population.

Curacao (ABC Islands)

The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) are also former Dutch colonies. They have varying degrees of LGBT+ rights between them, with Curacao being the best. Curacao is one of the most outwardly gay-friendly island in the Caribbean, even hosting its own Pride Festival.

St. Martin/Maarten

An island formerly part French and part Dutch, this island is one of the more expensive and luxurious places to visit in the Caribbean. Marriage equality and a number of well-known LGBT+ welcoming hotels and resorts make this island one of the best ones to visit in the Caribbean.

St. Barts

One of the more expensive and luxurious islands in the Caribbean, St. Barthélemy has had marriage equality and non-discrimination laws since 2013. Among one of the islands regularly considered to be most welcoming to LGBT+ visitors.

Islands to Avoid as an LGBT+ Traveler

These islands have laws, policies, or a history of being anti-LGBT+, and as such LGBT+ travelers might choose to avoid them. This does not mean that an LGBT+ traveler can’t enjoy these islands, but one should understand that it is not likely to be as welcoming as those listed above. While there are other islands with anti-LGBT+ policies, these are some of the more well-known ones. These islands have no anti-discrimination laws, no marriage equality, and sometimes have anti-sodomy laws. Some of the islands to avoid include: Jamaica, Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados, and St. Kitts.

Remember, whenever you're traveling, either cruising or going to one of the many wonderful resorts that fill the caribbean to check with your travel agent on what islands are supportive, and which are not. Sometimes the resorts may be a welcoming oasis in a country where the residents’ rights to be who they are are repressed. If you have any concerns about where your vacation dollars are going, I always recommend checking with your travel agent on the individual country’s policies, and if they might be problematic.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

LGBT+ Travel at Disney

Gay Days at Disney

You may have heard of the Gay Days at Disney, the (technically) unofficial days in June that have been happening annually since 1991. LGBT+ people and their families and allies from around the world visit Walt Disney World together. These days can be amazing, fun, and let you enjoy the freedom of feeling safe to express yourself in public without fear. In addition to the Gay Days, the LGBT+ community enjoys Disney properties while being publicly out all year long.

Marriage, Honeymoons, and Vow Renewals

Disney properties first began allowing same-sex marriages to be held at their parks in 2007 and after marriage equality was ruled on in 2015, that only opened it up more. The Disney parks are very popular destinations for honeymoons. The fun, nostalgic environment tied together with an air of openness can make for an extremely enjoyable time for a newly married couple. I went there on my Honeymoon with my wife, and we are planning to go to Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii for our 5th anniversary. Whatever sort of celebration you are having, make sure to ask for a button at the guest services, because cast members and even other guests are all too happy to congratulate celebrating guests. If you are a first time visitor, they have a button for you too.

Disney’s LGBT+ Policies

Just this year, a Disney park held the first official, Disney Sponsored, “Magical Pride” parade at Disneyland Paris, which had been occurring unofficially since 2014. This marks a milestone in the continued movement towards acceptance within the parks that has occurred over the last two decades. Disney has a long history of supporting same-sex couples, including providing health benefits for same-sex partners of their employees and standing against the Defense of Marriage Act back in the 90s. The current sitting president of Walt Disney World Resorts, George Kalogridis, is their first openly gay president. Meanwhile, the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index which surveys how pro-LGBT the policies and practices of corporations are, in this index, the Walt Disney Company has rated a perfect 100 from 2005 to 2019.

Disney Merchandise

Disney has created a wide variety of merchandise focused on Pride in the last few years. Rainbow Mickey Mouse products, ears, pins, clothing, and more are made readily available around the Gay Days and generally you can find them in the larger Disney stores at their parks year-round.

Where to be Cautious

While Disney is very pro-LGBT+, there are a few cases where one should be cautious, especially outside of the parks. While both Orange County and Orlando have passed a number of protections for LGBT+ individuals and have substantial LGBT+ communities, when interacting with residents and businesses outside the parks themselves, it’s always best to use your own intuition. Also, when in the parks, though instances are very rare, consider that some guests may have negative reactions to LGBT+ guests. If you should feel threatened, harassed, or otherwise feel unsafe due to another guest while in the parks or surrounding properties be sure to reach out to a cast member for assistance.

Finally, if you are in Asia visiting Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Shanghai Disneyland, please consider that these parks are not entirely owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, and may have their own policies, local biases, and lower levels of safety for LGBT+ travelers (Hong Kong and Shanghai Disneyland are majority owned by the Chinese Government, with Disney owning about a 47% stake in each, and Tokyo Disneyland licenses the Disney name to a separate company).

Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise lines, Adventures by Disney, and Aulani Resort are all wonderful, safe, friendly places for your next vacation!

LGBT+ Travel in the Caribbean

Safely traveling in the Caribbean - An Overview The islands of the Caribbean are very diverse, both in population and in politics. A...