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Safety should be a top priority for every traveler. Overall, traveling as a LGBTQ traveler isn’t much different than traveling for others, but sometimes special considerations should be made. It is important to keep in mind that as a LGBTQ traveler, a destination’s attitude toward the LGBTQ community is an important factor to consider. Experiences for LGBTQ travelers can vary globally, so it is important to have an understanding of where you are traveling, so you can have an enjoyable and safe vacation or business trip.
We recognize the need for greater understanding and awareness regarding safety for LGBTQ travelers, and developed the following resources and support to assist LGBTQ travelers with information that will help them feel more comfortable as they plan their travel.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are 72 countries where homosexuality is illegal. (That’s over a third of the world!) In eight of those, homosexuality is punishable by death.1
According to a survey by the Gay Ad Network, 97% of Gay/Bi Men and 99% of Lesbians chose LGBTQ discrimination as their greatest concern when asked about which social and political issues concerned LGBTQ Travelers the most.2
According to a 2014 study by Community Marketing Inc, only 11% of respondents said that they would be willing to visit a destination with laws that restrict LGBTQ rights.3
According to a report by The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 32% of LGBTQ travelers feel they are treated differently due to their sexuality when on holiday.4
Transgender travelers have specific concerns associated with air travel. In a 2014 study by Community Marketing Inc, 21% of transgender travelers reported disliking air travel due to concerns such as security checks, identification document issues and discrimination.5 Additionally, 45% of transgender travelers have reported fearing physical or verbal abuse/harassment while traveling.6
The most important step that LGBTQ travelers can take during the planning stages to ensure their safety and comfort on a trip is conducting thorough research on their destination. It is important to understand the cultural, legal and security issues that affect the LGBTQ community in the locations you are visiting. You should also consider your own profile and if that destination is right for you, as well as the sort of experience you want to have in your travels. You do not necessarily have to avoid a location, but you will have to be aware of how you conduct yourself based on the laws and cultural climate of the place you plan to visit.
What are some of the cultural considerations to make when researching your destination? In some countries, identifying as LGBTQ may simply be culturally frowned upon. In more conservative societies, shows of affection considered innocent by Western standards, like touching or holding hands, even between heterosexual couples, may be against cultural and religious practices.
You should not only research the social norms of the place you are visiting, but also the local laws. In some countries, identifying as LGBTQ is illegal. In these locations, LGBTQ individuals can be barred from entering the country entirely or can be subject to detention or legal action if suspected of engaging in or promoting homosexual activity.
When applying for a visa, there are some instances in which a married LGBTQ couple should apply for visas as single individuals rather than as a couple.
The cultural and legal climate should be carefully considered throughout your trip planning, including when booking a hotel or resort. Some circumstances may require a LGBTQ couple to reserve a room with two beds, instead of one, in order to remain discreet or even to avoid legal action, and to bring separate luggage instead of packing belongings in one bag or suitcase.
During your travels, let a trusted contact back home know your general itinerary, including anyone you have planned in advance to meet while on your trip.
Transgender travelers may face additional scrutiny when departing from and arriving at airports and when navigating the cultural and legal landscape of a different country. When considering a destination, know that some countries may refuse entry to individuals whose documented gender does not reflect their presentation. Understand that cultural attitudes toward and laws regarding transgender people in conservative societies may present an unwelcoming and unsafe environment.
Transgender people must make additional considerations when conducting air travel. Security procedures at airports, such as pat-downs, increased scrutiny from security personnel and body scanners, can be distressing to transgender people, and there are steps that can be taken to be prepared for airport security protocols. Researching the procedures and necessary documentation for airport security in your home country and in your intended destination is important.
If you are traveling with medication, ensure that your medications are kept together in a separate bag in your carry-on. Keep all medications in their original containers and carry an official note of medical authorization from your doctor.
In general, staying aware of your surroundings, being mindful of the culture, trying not to stand out as a tourist and disclosing as little personal information as possible is the best course of action for anyone traveling in a new place. It is usually better to stay discreet at all times, even in more accepting areas, to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Additionally, in some places homosexuality is perfectly legal and acceptable, but people may still maintain a low profile even in gay-friendly venues due to cultural stigmas. Those societies may require LGBTQ travelers to use discretion and avoid discussing or displaying their orientation.
If you are harassed, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible and do not escalate by confronting your harasser. If you are being followed, find a busy establishment to enter.