Updated: May 25
The reaction to LGBTQ+ visitors varies from country to country, so we've used our 16 years of traveling around the world to gather essential tips that will keep you safe and make the nomad life easier for LGBTQ+ people.
Traveling as a transgender man and a non-binary lesbian makes our experience a little different from everyone else's, but these tips can apply to all genders, sexualities and identities.
Do some research before you go
Even a simple google about your chosen destination will give you a hint of what's to come. Some countries may frown upon non-traditional relationships, and some will even arrest you for it. Knowing the local customs and laws will save you embarrassment, but also your life in some cases. Being prepared will not only put your mind at rest, but your trip will run much smoother and the locals will be grateful you respect their customs.
Choose when to 'out' yourself
We would never tell anyone to hide their true self, but in certain places your displays of affection is frowned upon no matter your sexuality or orientation. If you can refrain from public kissing while you're out and about, you'll be avoiding the chance of a negative encounter.
When we are approached by a local who wants to know more about our relationship (it seems to happen a lot to us, even though it's nobody's business!) we have to decide whether to disclose that we're a transgender man and a non-binary lesbian couple in case they don't approve. We aren't ashamed at all - far from it! However, we hate confrontation so we judge each case as they arise. If we feel comfortable and we're talking to someone who is obviously open minded, we're happy to share our life stories.
Don't be afraid to be loud
It took us a long time to learn this. We are naturally quiet people and for a long time we were used to strangers (usually straight, white, men) hassling us or getting a little too close for comfort. As a lesbian, Nick noticed many men didn't respect her status and continued to hit on her despite her telling them she wasn't interested. Rather than being uncomfortable or leaving the room, we've learned to be as loud and imposing as they are. They are the ones in the wrong, so why should we leave somewhere we've come to enjoy ourselves?
Calling them out on their actions in front of others, embarrassing them or scaring them away by shouting are all extremely effective and somewhat empowering. We should mention though, that this tactic could backfire if you are dealing with someone particularly aggressive or dangerous. In that case, we would save our breath and just leave.
Support LGBTQ+ businesses
We advocate supporting any small business, but using the resources of LGBTQ+ businesses is an easy way to ensure you'll be safe whilst also supporting your community. Gay owned hotels, gay cruises and gay bars are all great places to meet likeminded people, but what about if you're not gay? We search any new place for queer art classes, drag shows and meet-ups hosted by LGBTQ+ people. If we want more resources like these, we have to support them so they can continue and grow!
While some travellers may boycott certain countries for their 'anti-LGBT' stance, we try to remember that the locals don't necessarily agree with those in charge. What's more, the gay, lesbian and transgendered people in these countries may be scared, vulnerable and hiding. By being yourself and supporting the local LGBTQ+ businesses in these countries we can help pave the way for a better future for them.
Be sensible when using hook-up apps
Let's face it, Grindr is a lot of fun. Especially when you're connecting with locals! However the downfall of these types of apps are that they are easily abused. No matter how string your urge to hook up, make sure you keep your head (pun not intended!) at all times. Choose a safe place to meet, don't do anything illegal and make sure you don't leave yourself vulnerable by drinking unknown drinks or taking unknown drugs. Sex if fun, but always make sure you're safe.
Another thing to remember, is that some countries like India have higher rates of certain infections like Hepatitis C. Estimates suggest that in some Indian states, up to 80% of the population may be infected. As well as getting the correct jabs before you go, using condoms is important.
BONUS TIP - use these apps not only to hook up, but to chat to LGBTQ+ locals or meet them for a innocent coffee!
Travel during gay pride
One sure-fire way to bump into LGBTQ+ people on your travels is to time your visit with local pride events. People will travel in from all over to gather and celebrate love and life. There is a safety in numbers, and while pride is on many locals embrace the community or release special offers just for the weekend. We've been to a lot of prides around the world, and while some have been more political than others, they've always been great fun - albeit with an increased price for accommodation.
Know your rights
If something does go wrong, you'll be in a better position if you can quote the law and know exactly what you are and aren't entitled to. If the law is on your side, make it known. If something is illegal in a country you are visiting; don't do it, even if you would do it at home. Many countries have embassies or consulates which help protect LGBTQ+ people and some countries will also have a legal service that specialises in protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
After all, isn't that what you're travelling for? Keeping alert and staying safe is worth it when it means you can travel and make friends for life. Despite the negative experiences we've had, the good times far outweigh the bad.
Have any more tips for us to share? Let us know in the comments!