7 Ways Travelers Can Support LGBT Communities
1. When researching your destination, research the LGBT community too.
Take some time to check out a few (legitimate, reliable) articles on how the LGBT community in your destination is treated. What sort of issues does the local LGBT community face? Are there laws against homosexuality? Is gay marriage allowed? Are there aspects of local cultures that challenge the gender binary, such as the hijra community of India? And read about campaigns, activism, and projects in the area that have affected the community.
Education can be the first defense against oppression. By educating yourself before visiting, you can ensure you’re a better ally once you arrive.
2. Support businesses that support LGBT equality…
The Human Rights Commission has come up with a useful Corporate Equality Index, which ranks businesses based on how LGBT-friendly they are. Use their report to find the most trans- and queer-friendly airlines, hotels, restaurants and more.
In the same vein, try to avoid spending money at places that are known to be bigoted towards the LGBT community (examples include Urban Outfitters and Cracker Barrel).
As an individual, the amount of money you spend (or don’t spend) at a large business might not make a notable impact on their bottom line. But if all travelers took the time to research businesses beforehand, ‘voting with your wallet’ could be incredibly effective.
3. …Or businesses directly owned by queer and trans people.
This is a bit more difficult than the point above, because business owners who are queer and/or trans won’t always be ‘out of the closet’. This means that it’s hard to discern whether a business is queer- or trans- owned.
Statistics show that queer and trans people are likely to earn less than their straight and cisgender counterparts. Queer and trans people are also more likely to be harassed at work, to live in poverty, and to be homeless. Queer and trans youth and people of color are especially vulnerable to these experiences. With this in mind, it’s incredibly helpful when people directly support small businesses that help queer and/or trans people stay afloat.
And you can do even more than just spending money. As a traveller, your word has a lot of value — especially in areas where tourism keeps the local economy afloat. Follow and recommend them on social media channels. If the service was good, write them a stellar review or recommend the business to other travelers.
4. Be a respectful Pride attendee.
If your travel plans include a Pride event, ensure you follow these useful rules. They’re applicable whether you’re attending events back home or in your travel destination.
5. If you’re at a gay bar, a Pride event, or a queer or trans protest, don’t photograph people without their permission.
You might accidentally ‘out’ them to their community, which could put them in danger. Besides, it’s just rude.
6. Don’t force people to discuss their experiences as queer or trans people.
Unless you know someone well, or if it comes up organically, don’t ask how they came out or whether they’ve experienced any hate crimes. They might not be ready or willing to discuss such sensitive topics.
7. Ask local communities how they’d like to be supported — and listen.
When it comes to helping people, respectfully asking them what they need — and listening to them — is always the best path.
If you want to find out how a specific community can be helped, connect with local activists online: here’s a useful list of queer-friendly NGOs around the world. Try to find one or two in your destination and contact them to see what they need!