5 Best Practices for your LGBTQ+ Marketing Campaign

The LGBTQ community is said to be the 10th largest economy in the world, making them a bigger economy than Australia, Canada, and South Korea combined! With such a large presence, brands and businesses alike are focusing their marketing and advertising efforts on reaching this unique market. However, there’s a right way and wrong way to advertise to the average LGBTQ consumer. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when planning your next LGBTQ marketing campaign.

1. Reflect on your intentions

Before starting your next campaign, consider these questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Who am I doing this for?
  • How is this initiative going to serve this community?

Recently, we’ve seen a huge cultural shift driven around inclusivity and diversity, which has had a big impact on businesses both internally and through external branding efforts. In order to embrace and authentically capture this unique community, you need to specifically create an LGBTQ-driven marketing and advertising strategy.  To start this, you need to ask the key questions above to make sure that what you’re advertising to this community is informative, knowledgeable, and influencing conversations. Your return on investment should come secondary to these bigger initiatives.

2. Ensure representation both on and off the screen

Diversity and inclusion are essential building blocks for any marketing campaign, but that all starts from who is in the decision room. Your company must have policies in place to encourage and support diversity, inclusion, and equal representation before you start marketing with these same ideals.  There’s a saying that goes, “If you can’t talk the talk, don’t walk the walk.” 

“If a company that notoriously has terrible discriminatory policies and practices toward the community and no benefits and tries to advertise or get involved in any way they are going to be met with skepticism until they prove otherwise.  Unless you’re getting yourself together on the back end all of the money in the world you spend on advertising is completely wasted.” – Jenn Grace, LGBTQ business strategist at Jenn T. Grace International

What does a diverse and inclusive company really look like? Diversity in the workplace means having a workforce built with people from different backgrounds, genders, cultures, socioeconomic statuses — and beyond. It also means that the company or organization has built in core values that foster a sense of belonging and respect for one another.

What might this look like in a marketing campaign? Marketing and advertising is not only about selling a product or service, it’s about how you choose to show the values, mission and brand of your organization. A company that is values diversity and wants to drive that same message in their outward marketing initiatives would start by showing people of all representations — LGBTQ individuals, family members, friends and couples of varied ages, races, sexual orientations, and genders, etc. 

3. Choose the right language

It’s easy to fall into stereotypes and cliches, especially if you don’t have the right representation on your marketing team to help add some perspective. It’s important to do your due diligence with market research to make sure your campaign is truly inclusive and on trend with the LGBTQ community. In the 2022 CMI LGBTQ Community Survey, over 14,000 LGBTQ people were asked questions around their prefered terminology. Broken out by gender and age, this is just one example of why it’s crucial to know your niche audience and consider their preferences. The results of the CMI Survey? It was found that LGBTQ and LGBTQ+ are virtually tied as preferred terms, but the shift to LGBTQ+ is on the rise.

4. Don’t market to the moment, join the movement

Companies that welcome employees of all identities, preferences and backgrounds, and continuously stand behind them, are not only helping the company culture but also the LGBTQ community at large. More and more companies are speaking up on public policy impacting the LGBTQ community. While this can put their brands and investors on the line, LGBTQ consumers are looking to support businesses that go beyond marketing and truly lobby for change.

5. Partner with LGBTQ+ organizations and influencers

We all know the value of partnering with other notable brands – together the companies can piggyback off of their reputations and reach each other’s audience, all while spreading their message. Similar to this, companies that seek to market to the LGBTQ community need to consider building meaningful partnerships with LGBTQ creators and brands. 

Expand your current customer base with the right messaging. Partner with trusted organizations. Reach a loyal customer base. Expand your overall reach and drive better results. Companies and organizations alike can partner with the National LGBT Media Association to ensure that marketers have the right message that will resonate and convert for the LGBTQ audience. Interested in learning more? Let’s chat!

Get Out! LGBTQ travelers show how to travel safely this fall

By Ed Salvato

Just when we thought it was safe to hit the road, we were walloped by the Delta variant, the latest plot twist in the 18-month-and-counting pandemic story. The surprising data that fully vaccinated people could transmit the virus came shockingly from Provincetown with a 90% vaccination rate. Ptown quickly tightened restrictions requiring masking at all indoor locations and proof of vaccine at all entertainment venues — interventions that worked. As of press time, the positivity rate there is much lower than much of the rest of the U.S. and it remains one of our top recommendations this fall and beyond. Ptown demonstrated a successful response — stressing safety yet continuing to deliver a deeply satisfying experience.

Read on for our favorite queer-friendly destinations striving to create a safe space for you and strategies for navigating the increasingly complex world of pandemic travel. Safe, beautiful and fun LGBTQ-friendly destinations, experiences and accommodations beckon whether you seek to recharge your batteries, deplete them or a little of both. 

Queer and safe destinations

  • Provincetown, Massachusetts is our very own home beyond the rainbow as suggested by this year’s Carnival theme. Book far ahead for popular weeks (July 4; Bear Week; and Carnival) but we recommend visiting outside of the most popular times for a less frantic more enjoyable stay. There are diverse LGBTQ-oriented events almost every weekend through New Year’s. Eve Information: Provincetown Business Guild https://ptown.org/ and Provincetown for Women https://www.provincetownforwomen.com/
  • Fort Lauderdale and Miami remain the beating heart of LGBTQ-friendly Florida despite the barbaric state-level response causing the Sunshine State to be among the worst-hit in the U.S. by the pandemic. Fort Lauderdale has been world-renowned for its authentic and inclusive vibe for all visitors since 1996. Over 1,000 local businesses have taken the Safe & Clean Pledge https://www.sunny.org/travel-resources/safe-clean-pledge/. Likewise, Miami has implemented the Greater Miami Travel Guidelines and Destination Pledge accessible from the destination’s homepage https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/travelguidelines, outlining how safety measures are being implemented throughout the community.
  • Puerto Rico is the undisputed LGBTQ capital of the Caribbean enticing visitors with reliably warm, sunny weather and a sincere outreach to queer travelers. Despite unfortunate, highly publicized attacks on local transgender people, Puerto Rico boasts a visible and vibrant trans community, and nightlife options that specifically cater to queer and non-binary folx. This helps create a safer and more comfortable environment than other warm-weather destinations in the Caribbean or Mexico, which lack venues for a trans community that mostly lives in hiding. Information: Discover Puerto Rico. https://www.discoverpuertorico.com/things-to-do/lgbtq-travel
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania makes for a fun urban weekend getaway. Once the kids are back in school and the lines at the Liberty Bell disappear, you’ll find a warm, walkable and LGBTQ-welcoming city. Find LGBTQ restaurants, safe nightlife, engaging events and recommendations galore at Visit Philly https://www.visitphilly.com/lgbt/. Pro tip: Try to schedule a half day at the Barnes Foundation https://www.barnesfoundation.org/ art collection. 
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Wait, what? Yep, this charming Midwestern town is our top unexpected recommendation. You’ll find historic cultural venues, a walkable entertainment district with plenty of topnotch live music and theatrical performances, a delectable culinary scene and a truly warm welcome. Find trip-planning recommendations at the destination’s website. https://www.tourismcedarrapids.com/lgbtq/

Queer cruises and land vacations

Cruises are coming back, and it may be surprising to hear that they are probably the safest vacation you can take. According to Randle Roper, CEO at VACAYA, an LGBT+ vacation company, “[w]ith cruise lines soon to mandate that all guests and crew members must be vaccinated, cruise ships will be among the very safest locations on the planet – with the entire population vaccinated. Making sensible choices like masking and social distancing while ashore, cruisers can avoid infection altogether.” Resort vacations are also safe with similar universal vaccinations and plenty of room for guests to spread out. Remember with no children during LGBTQ weeks at mainstream resorts, they offer much more space per adult guest. VACAYA’s big 2021 fall events include their all-inclusive Mexico Resort vacation (Oct 30-Nov 6) and their New Orleans Cruise (Nov 14-22). In 2022, there are only two trips that still have rooms available as of press time: their Caribbean Cruise (Jan 10-17) and their all-inclusive Costa Rica Resort (Jun 5-12). Information and booking at MyVACAYA. https://www.myvacaya.com/ 

Not only will queer tour companies get you there and back safely, but “they also can ensure your money is being spent with other welcoming, progressive and even queer business and individuals around the world,” according to Robert Sharp, founder of Out Adventures. https://www.outadventures.com/ “This is even more important,” he continues, “when planning travel to countries that are known to be less than queer welcoming.” Visit their site to read about their New Year’s Eve trips to Thailand and Cuba and in 2022, their Iceland Winter trip, and four back-to-back Croatia small group cruises, which are starting to sell out.

R Family Vacations is one of our top recommendations for planning an incredibly fun and satisfying tour or cruise (big ship and river cruises) in the company of other queer travelers and allies. You don’t even have to have children to join their trips. In 2022, R Family offers land tours in Thailand and Ireland; an LGBTQ group on board a cruise in Alaska; and a magical all-queer full-ship-charter Uniworld river cruise in Northern Italy among other trips. Information: R Family Vacation. https://www.rfamilyvacations.com/

Expert LGBTQ travel advisors are standing by to help you. And they’re free!

Even in this uncertain time, you can enjoy enriching and joyful travel opportunities in LGBTQ-friendly environments in a way that maximizes safety and minimizes risk. You just have to plan a little more. We highly recommend using an LGBTQ expert travel advisor who keeps up to date on LGBTQ-friendly tour, cruise and safari providers, as well as destinations and hotels and who understand innately the needs and concerns of LGBTQ travelers. They dedicate themselves to both LGBTQ travel safety and keeping up with the latest, ever-shifting pandemic-era guidance, health protocols, openings, and closings. They know how to get the best value for your time and money, and, thanks to their global connections, they can often score VIP upgrades for you at hotels, on cruise lines, on tours, and more. They are also your most important advocate when trips are cancelled or rescheduled. Best of all clients use travel advisors, like our top picks here, for no additional fees:

Choose LGBTQ-welcoming accommodations

We’ve heard far too many stories of queer guests receiving a frosty welcome (or worse) when checking into a hotel or AirBnB. These are our top choices for LGBTQ-friendly resources for accommodations where you can truly relax and be your authentic selves:


About Ed Salvato
NYC-based Ed Salvato is a freelance travel writer, instructor at NYU and the University of Texas at Austin’s NYC Center, and an LGBTQ tourism marketing consultant.

Southern Spirit: A Very Queer Vacay In Historic Savannah

By Lawrence Ferber

The ghost of Kevin Spacey haunts this room. 

Actually, it’s the ghost of a rich, gay antiques dealer and preservationist, Jim Williams, whom Spacey portrayed in the 1997 film “Midnight In the Garden of Good And Evil,” although the latter seems somehow more likely to impart chills and cringe these days. I’m touring the Mercer-Williams House, one of Savannah, Georgia’s most famous 19th-century homes, including the actual study where Williams shot and killed his hustler boy toy, Danny Hansford (played by Jude Law in the movie, and I’m sure many queens would welcome his spectre), reportedly in self-defense.

Adapted from gay author John Berendt’s bestselling 1994 nonfiction novel, director Clint Eastwood’s movie shined a Hollywood spotlight on Savannah and its quirky denizens, including iconic transgender entertainer The Lady Chablis, who famously played herself, regularly performed at LGBTQ bar Club One and, sadly, passed away in 2016, which helped attract even more millions of tourists annually. In 2019, 14.8 million visitors came for Savannah’s mix of historic architecture, gorgeous willow-draped parks, movie locations (including the spot where Forrest Gump sat on a bench babbling inane philosophies about chocolates), a buzzing riverside entertainment zone and live-and-let-live genteel Southern attitude. Bless their hearts!

Today the lush, compact and walkable port city, hometown of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 8 queen Dax ExclamationPoint and Georgia Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock, boasts an even more progressive open queerness. There’s Halloween weekend’s vibrant Savannah Pride, the hipster Starland District, an influx of creative young energy thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD for short — fashion icon André Leon Talley sits on its Board of Trustees) and, this being one of America’s most haunted cities, an expanding population of spirits (including the drinkable type at Ghost Coast Distillery). 

Ultimately, Mercer House — once owned by the family of another iconic homegrown talent, prolific songwriter Johnny Mercer of Oscar-winning “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” ditty “Moon River” and Elvis’ “Fools Rush In” fame — proved an illuminating experience replete with photos of Williams and his parties, original antiques, paintings and furniture, especially for fans of the film and book. But the upper floor, where Williams’ sister still lives, and its working pipe organ remain off limits.

SAVANNAH STAYS

Many tourists stay around the tourist-heavy, shop-lined River Street, newly developed Plant Riverside district, and adjacent downtown, which all form Savannah’s equivalent of NOLA’s French Quarter and an active port where cargo ships routinely zip past along the city’s namesake river and hotels include an Andaz and new 416-room JW Marriott. However, my husband Matt and I opted for the neighboring, slightly inland Historic District. Its Perry Lane Hotel, which splits 167 rooms between two buildings and boasts a cheeky, upscale camp aesthetic in design, decor and property-wide collection of contemporary art, proved perfect and more chill. Just two blocks from Chippewa Square (site of the Gump bench, a temporary prop), there’s also a rooftop bar and pool where local queers regularly congregate for the gorgeous views and a kiki… but not so much for the pedestrian cocktails, one noted. “Nobody goes there for the drinks!” However, if you prefer gay B&Bs that capture the city’s historic flavor, and are allegedly haunted to boot, there’s the Foley House Inn

DIGGING YOUR SCENE: SAVANNAH’S TO DO’S

To get one’s bearings in Savannah, a tour is well-advised, and there are dozens listed on official tourism website Visit Savannah, from trolley to bicycle to themed walking tours. The latter include Black heritage, food, local indie boutique shopping, ghost/haunted (I’ll get to that later!), and openly gay guide Jonathan Stalcup’s engaging Architectural Tours of Savannah, which we joined and enjoyed. Stalcup juxtaposes structures and stories with photos of Savannah’s evolving cityscape since its founding in the 1730s by General James Oglethorpe and, as it turns out, some sassy queer facts if you take him aside post-tour. 

Many essential attractions are historic, educational and kid-friendly in nature, including the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Bonaventure Cemetery, and 100-plus-year-old Leopold’s Ice Cream, which draws snaking, hours-long lines of tourists daily for old-timey frozen treats. It honestly isn’t worth hours-long waits unless you’re the 8-year-old with extremely limited travel and life experience who loudly declared “This is the best ice cream I ever ate!” as I consumed a sundae and rolled my eyes so far back the time traveled to 2015 (pro tip: there are two satellite Leopold’s locations at the airport with little to no wait). Yet some of Savannah’s most intriguing musts are surprisingly modern and edgy. 

Incorporating an antebellum railroad depot in its design, the contemporary SCAD Museum of Art hosts multidisciplinary, provocative exhibitions by international talents like queer French artist Mehryl Levisse, whose immersive “White Wig,” featuring five sculpted wigs by Parisian drag queens, will be on display through December 12, 2021. Artwork and home goods by SCAD’s own faculty, students and alumni, plus books, accessories and more, fill out sister retail space shopSCAD

Only open Thursday through Sundays, Graveface Museum is destination-worthy for those obsessed with serial killers, cults, sideshows and pinball machines, with a permament collection of artifacts related to the above, including a pair of underwear worn by lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos and artwork by John Wayne Gacy (shockingly, John Waters hasn’t been by yet!), plus a horror-movie-themed arcade and shop. 

And Chocolat by Adam Turoni is one of Savannah’s retail musts. A queer chocolatier who channels Southern culture and flavors through his sophisticated, high-quality, artful creations, Turoni’s Historic District Bull Street boutique is designed like a home library, its shelves displaying trays of Red Velvet, Mint Julep and Georgia Peach truffles plus gold-dusted honeycomb bars and much more. To the rear, a glass-enclosed kitchen provides views of chocolate-making in action, while Turoni himself often works the register and can be chatted up. Another Chocolat location, on Broughton Street, is dubbed the “Dining Room,” while a third can be found in nearby Charleston, South Carolina (there’s a lot of brand crossover between the two sibling-esque destinations, including Savannah Bee Company, Byrd’s Famous Cookies and the trailblazing Husk restaurant). Private chocolate-making classes with Turoni can also be arranged via the Perry Lane Hotel.

COFFEE AND CUISINE

Being a coffee snob and caffeine junkie, a priority was finding Savannah’s best cold brew. Conveniently, a branch of popular local cafe Franklin’s was a few blocks from my hotel offering a solid cold brew and yummy pastries. Downtown’s queer-owned Blends roasts its own beans, as does Perc, whose owner Philip Brown, a hipster-bear literal daddy, staffs his flagship warehouse-cafe with LGBTQs and is himself the proud father of a trans child. Perc also sells a killer dehydrated instant version, plus excellent bagged beans (Perc expanded to Atlanta in 2020 and opened its second location there in 2021, so this could well become the Southeast’s Stumptown!).

Hungry, we had our first breakfast at local and tourist fave B. Matthews, where reservations are highly recommended during peak hours. Passing numerous rainbow flags, I noticed its listing as both “LGBTQ friendly” and a “transgender safe space” on Google Maps, while the lowcountry Southern-tinged food was excellent. I savored a cheesy, decadent shrimp and grits bowl I would happily return for, plus fried green tomatoes. Another brekkie-must with outdoor seating to boot, The Collins Quarter serves brunch daily and its “Swine Time Beni” — bacon and hollandaise-topped poached eggs over pulled pork and French toast — is bar none the most decadent, heart-clogging eggs Benedict iteration I’ve encountered. And if you’re hungry and hunty, once a month the Moon River Brewing Company and Club One collaborate for a family-friendly Sunday drag brunch

Savannah has upped its culinary game substantially in recent years with enterprising young chefs bringing color, presentation and locavore ethos to plates. As a foodie I was psyched to try Husk, and while the interior design proved stunning, drinks lovely, and a bonus to be greeted by a seemingly nonbinary host, the food was hit-and-miss (my boneless heirloom pork entree was shockingly tough, but its side dishes sublime and brightly flavored). 

Happily, 2021 arrival Common Thread and Savannah native Zach Shultz’s Cotton & Rye proved high points, with outstanding, fresh, memorable cuisine; request a table with view of the kitchen at the former, and do not sit outdoors during summertime at the latter lest you risk being tormented by hangry flies while eating. As for supporting LGBTQ-owned restaurants, the traditional French Circa 1875 and Italian La Scala Ristorante are the work of gay couple Jeffrey Downey and Donald Lubowicki.

NIGHTLIFE IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

If you’re a natural at networking, befriending queer locals is well-advised, since even before COVID hit private house parties became Savannah’s dominant form of local socializing and nightlife for LGBTQs (Grindr and Scruff, we’re giving you stink eye). Only one LGBTQ+ bar, the multi-level dancing and drag queen destination Club One, still stands — there are 18+ nights, a plus for SCAD students — since the delightfully divey Chuck’s Bar closed in 2019. 

As with many cities, drag shows have become a magnet for godforsaken decidedly un-gay bachelorette parties and rowdy (albeit ally-ish) heterosexuals. This certainly proved true with Savannah’s Yes Queen! Pub Crawl. My hubby and I were the sole queers participating besides the delightful Venezuela-born queen and aspiring fashion designer leading the tour, Marie Con, and her lowkey boyfriend. It basically entailed Marie creating a loud public spectacle while we searched for her fictitious sugar daddy, Richard, aka “Dick”; stopped at non-gay bars for drink specials; and, at her insistence, grabbed each other’s butts to form human centipedes while crossing the street. It was a bit #MeToo and I really wished #TimesUp, but I did cull valuable intel from Marie about the scene and local drag collective, House of Gunt, before fleeing early. 

We didn’t flee early from another popular and quintessential Savannah after-dark activity: a ghost tour. Although hoping for the guide known as “Prince,” who styles himself like the iconic late musician, our adults-only Sixth Sense haunted tour was led by the black-clad “Lady Ravenwood,” whose ensemble included an LGBTQ+ rainbow and a shiny pair of steampunk glasses (not sure how steampunk figures in here, but OK). 

Being a skeptical Scully to my hubby’s I-want-to-believe Mulder, I rolled my eyes as Ravenwood told us of murder victim ghosts and flashed images of blue orbs hovering on her phone, and I begged for a spirit or demon to attach itself to us to spice things up (“Burn sage!” my hubby’s fellow true believer friend texted in a panic). Alas, no blue orbs or demons followed us home, but darned if glowing happy memories of Savannah don’t frequently haunt and beckon us back.

NY-raised entertainment and travel journalist Lawrence Ferber has contributed to publications including Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, The Advocate, NewNowNext, The NY Post and TripSavvy. He also co-wrote/co-created the 2010 gay romcom “BearCity” and authored its 2013 novelization. Photos courtesy of Visit Savannah. 

The LGBTQ+ Generational Wealth Gap

By Finbarr Toesland

It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ people face a range of financial challenges that heterosexual people simply don’t need to contend with. Less discussed are the effects of financial discrimination on building LGBTQ+ generational wealth. The stereotypical view of a wealthy gay couple with no children and a sizable disposable income is just that — a stereotype. 

In reality, the “American Dream”— buying a home, getting married, having kids, finding a good job and investing in a 401(k) — is out of reach for many LGBTQ+ people, according to a survey by TD Ameritrade. Almost two thirds (35 percent) of LGBTQ+ millennials say they are unlikely to achieve these goals by age 40, compared to fewer than half of straight millennials. The same survey found that while the average annual income for a straight household is $79,400, the average LGBTQ+ household earns just $66,200 a year.

LGBTQ+ people are being left out of generational wealth for many reasons including family rejection, systematic barriers and a lack of financial education. With almost half of LGBTQ+ adults saying they have been excluded by a family member or close friend as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, a lack of familial financial support is a common problem for many in the community. 

This combination of unique financial barriers that LGBTQ+ people face is what has led to generational wealth gap. It’s a problem that will only affect more queer people if we don’t address it now. 

Legacy financial exclusion

At every stage of life, it’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ people to encounter financial challenges that their heterosexual counterparts won’t face. Being kicked out of their homes as teens due to unaccepting parents, not receiving financial support from family for college, being removed from an inheritance — the financial cost of being LGBTQ+ can be substantial.

With the average inheritance reaching close to $177,000 according to a HSBC survey and Cerulli Associates forecasting that up to $68 trillion will trickle down to younger generations within 25 years, LGBTQ+ heirs could collectively lose trillions through inheritance exclusion. 

“Even much smaller amounts could help folks pay off debt, pay off a home, send their own kids to college and help them with their own retirement. Many LGBTQ+ kids aren’t getting these benefits,” explains John Auten-Schneider. Auten-Schneider is the co-owner of The Debt Free Guys blog and host of the Queer Money podcast, a leading gay money blog and podcast for the LGBTQ+ community run by him and his husband, David.

Raising a deposit for a house or apartment can be a difficult task for all people, but without financial support from family, many would not be able to fund a deposit. When David’s parents pass away, David’s sister will likely be inheriting upwards of $1,000,000. Yet, David says, he won’t receive any of this money, solely because he’s gay. “His parents have every right to do with their money what they want, but it’s a particular disappointment that they’ll do this only because he’s gay. This, of course, means we need to plan differently for our retirement than his sister does,” explains John. 

Just because David and John are LGBTQ+ financial experts doesn’t mean they don’t deal with many of the same systematic challenges that impact other members of the community. Younger LGBTQ+ people also face challenges directly related to their sexuality or gender identity.

A disproportionately high number of young people experiencing homelessness identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to research from the Williams Institute, between 20 percent and 45 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. Lacking access to basic housing or financial support from family can set up a young person up for economic disadvantage before they even graduate from high school.

LGBTQ+ students also shoulder a larger student debt burden than their straight peers to the tune of an extra $16,000. “This has been attributed, in part, to LGBTQ+ college students assuming more debt simply to leave hostile home lives. In some cases, parents may forgo helping their queer children in favor of helping their straight children,” explains John.

Knowledge is power

At the start of 2020, Michigan-based Lexa VanDamme was at her financial rock bottom. Stuck at work after a 70-plus hour work week with no money in her bank account, bills due the next day and a broken down car, she decided to make a change. “I realized that I needed to face my financial situation,” says VanDamme. “I dove deep into the online world of personal finance to learn about budgeting, debt payoff methods, saving and investing.”

After her crash course in finance, VanDamme refinanced her credit card debt into a lower-rate personal loan, created a workable budget and started a side hustle to make extra income. There were a few bumps on her journey: “I actually cycled back into credit card debt three different times. I would pay it off, then eventually max it out a few months later,” says VanDamme. Still, she managed to pay off her debt by following the financial rules she had set for herself.

While trying to learn about personal finance on her own, VanDamme realized there was a need for accessible and relatable content that appealed to a wide range of people. She decided to create The Avocado Toast Budget (The ATB). Starting out as a blog just over a year ago, The ATB now counts more than 400,000 followers on Tiktok.

“For the longest time, the loudest voices in the personal finance community were cis, straight white males and, as a queer woman, I wanted to share information and tips that were often overlooked by those creators,” says VanDamme.

For many LGBTQ+ people like VanDamme, after spending so long hiding who she really was, she wanted to live as true to herself and be as free as possible. “This led to me ignoring my spending habits and being stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Airing my financial dirty laundry brought up similar feelings of anxiety and concern I felt when first coming out. How would people react? What would they think?” says VanDamme.

There is already a heavy stigma around talking about personal finances, especially when you may be struggling financially. “Since queer people often spend our lives fighting for the world to accept us and our queerness, we may be less apt to talk about our financial insecurities and struggles,” says VanDamme.

Genuine representation goes beyond just diversifying the financial content creators who receive media platforms, with the advice given by these experts also needing to be fully inclusive. “Advice tended to ignore how systems of oppression affect people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community and more. We know statistically that it’s easier for some to build wealth than others,” she adds.

VanDamme has an ongoing series on Instagram focused on the intersectional nature of many financial issues. The series helps shed some light on the economic realities that often contributes to minority community challenges. From financial inequality that disproportionately impacts disabled people to wealth inequity and racism and the cycle of poverty, VanDamme works to educate her audience on pressing topics that matter to them.

“It’s especially important to talk about the financial challenges that trans people in our community face. This includes increased reports of lower wages, limited and more expensive housing options, and twice the rate of unemployment. This heavily impacts their ability to build wealth,” she explains.

Intersectional challenges

While being LGBTQ+ can underpin unique money issues, queer people of color and queer women often experience additional difficulties around financial matters.

In addition to the financial barriers faced by LGBTQ+ people, queer people of color also face a racial wealth gap. Employment discrimination, systematic inequalities and disparities in financial education all contribute to this unequal financial playing field.

According to research from the Federal Reserve, the average white family’s wealth is eight times higher than the wealth of an average Black family. The gender pay gap also contributes to excluding women from building generational wealth, according to the latest statistics compiled by Pew Research, which show that women earned 84 percent of what men earned in 2020.

Carmen Perez, creator of Make Real Cents, a personal finance blog dedicated to helping people achieve financial independence, believes it’s important to have experts who are more representative of the people they’re speaking to. “I heard a quote a while ago: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ I think that’s really important because eventually, if you don’t have a model to follow, either you have to be the first, or it’s never going to happen,” she says.

As a woman of color and a lesbian, Perez knows firsthand how important it is to address the absence of representation in financial education. “It’s definitely one of the things we have to step back and look at in the LGBT community,” says Perez. “There’s a compounding effect because not only am I part of the LGBT community as a lesbian, but I’m also a minority, and I’m also a woman, and there’s a lot of hurdles up against a lot of folks in this space,” she adds.

With more than 60,000 people following her Make Real Cents account, Perez is playing a part in democratizing access to finance. There, she does everything from break down the cost of credit to explain 401(k) company matches with easy-to-read graphics and Insta stories. Her methods are a world away from the complexity of some traditional financial advisors and tools.  

“Millennials are starting to change the money game because we’re delivering advice in a way that isn’t super technical. It can be so overwhelming to watch CNBC with all these screens and tickers that don’t mean anything to you personally,” says Perez.

Increased representation in the finance space means a light can be shone on vital issues, resulting in deeper conversations that make money less taboo. “We’re finding instances where historically people who have been locked out of the finance industry, by design, are speaking up. Unlike some traditional financial advisors that give out all this jargon and talk in all these terms that many may not understand,” says Perez.

Future generations

Despite the long-standing barriers facing LGBTQ+ people in gaining access to financial education and financial services, LGBTQ+ personal finance content creators now offer a way for many to improve their financial literacy in more convenient ways than ever before. While investing early and regularly is one of the most effective ways to secure a financially comfortable retirement, it’s never too late to build wealth and support for the next generation of LGBTQ+ people.

“[You can] create legacy wealth within the LGBTQ+ community by setting up your estate plan to donate to LGBTQ+ causes that will help homeless youth and [by] giving to local, younger LGBTQ+ folks you know personally,” adds John.

Negotiating the LGBTQ+ generational wealth gap is no small feat. But continuing the discussion around both financial literacy and taking steps to combat systematic financial issues can go a long way to address the financial challenges impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

“The stronger we are as LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, including our financial strength, the stronger we are as a community,” concludes John.

Finbarr Toesland is an award-winning journalist committed to illuminating vital LGBTQ+ stories and underreported issues. His journalism has been published by NBC News, BBC, Reuters, VICE, HuffPost, and The Telegraph.

LGBTQ travelers to the rescue!

Queers leading the way to tourism recovery

By Ed Salvato

Since the tragic events of 9/11 and the abrupt halt to travel that followed, about every 10 years, the tourism industry is knocked back on its heels. The economic meltdown of 2008 and 2009 was even worse on the travel industry than 2001. And the pandemic is a once-a-century calamity exacerbated by the very things that make travel so enriching: large in-person events, meeting new friends at a hotel lounge, slaloming through a crowded bar in a far-flung city.

The travel industry rebooted before, and it will bounce back again soon. And if history is any guide, LGBTQ travelers will be leading the way.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America, says, “Gays lead, and the rest follow. They’re adventurous and like new experiences. They have a penchant for travel far greater than their heterosexual counterparts. They travel more and spend more when they travel. They’re the darlings of the travel industry when it comes to spending and dollars.

“There are a lot of new areas travelers are going to explore,” he continues. “And the gay community will be there first.”

Each year U.S. Travel sponsors National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrating the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being. Recognizing the Power of Travel, this year’s NTTW takes place May 2-8 across the U.S. There’s no better time to highlight the unique, unheralded role the LGBTQ community plays in powering travel, especially in times of great crisis.

Recent history has demonstrated that LGBTQ travelers — especially those in dual-income-no-child households — are always among the first to travel after social and economic crises. Following 9/11 and again after the 2008/2009 financial crisis, destinations, hospitality companies and travel brands noticed that LGBTQ travelers were prioritizing tourism over other purchase decisions, helping fill airplanes, hotels and restaurants and animating destinations. So, they began to market to this segment in earnest. Smart travel marketers will note that this is happening again now. We see — anecdotally and with the support of research by Community Marketing, Inc., Harris Interactive and IGLTA — that this segment travels in higher proportions and intends to book and execute travel in greater proportions than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.

The Power of LGBTQ Travel

Absent the onerous obligations of rearing and educating children, queer travelers tend to have more disposable income and time to spend it, helping fill destinations and hotels, especially during the quieter periods when kids are in school. Being among the first to travel safely, this resilient segment grants permission to others that they can return to travel safely. The LGBTQ segment has always been disproportionately present in online platforms, which provide a safer way to meet and interact with others in an otherwise potentially anti-LGBTQ world. They also help achieve travel marketers’ goals by experiencing more, creating social media content and generating buzz.

The segment displays intense loyalty to brands that welcome and include them. There are also surprising halo effects: By signaling welcome to this group, marketers send a sign of inclusiveness to other overlooked and marginalized segments, like Black and LatinX travelers, and the family and friends of queer people are also positively motivated by outreach to LGBTQ people.

Finally, these messages resonate strongly with millennial and Gen Z audiences who plan their travel — as well as plot their careers — to destinations and at hospitality brands whose missions align with their more inclusive values.   

The segment has also demonstrated a strong affinity for cruises of all sorts, including all-gay or all-lesbian cruises, LGBTQ groups on mainstream cruises, and simply joining mainstream cruises as a same-sex couple or in small friend groups. While cruise vacations are still on a pandemic-induced pause in the U.S., cruise companies — including Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Uniworld and the brand-new Virgin Voyages — have all firmly established LGBTQ travelers as a core segment.

“National Travel and Tourism Week takes on special significance this year as we look ahead to recovery following the most challenging year this industry has experienced,” says Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line and national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. “Across the country, we are recognizing travel’s value, and the long-standing support of the LGBTQ community will help accelerate our rebound. I know that for Carnival, we pride ourselves on an inclusive atmosphere where every guest is appreciated, and we look forward to welcoming them back as soon as possible.”

Travel safety experts

One reason queer travelers are uniquely suited to help power the return of travel during this crisis has to do with their decades of experience living under the ever-looming shadow of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, during which they learned the importance of risk mitigation for the good of all. Wearing masks to protect yourself and others resonates with a community that understands the importance of condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

According to Randle Roper, co-founder and CEO of VACAYA Full-Ship and Full-Resort LGBT+ Vacations, “[Our] guests showed incredible resilience by traveling safely during the pandemic, and they proved they could adapt to live with health protocols that would keep each other and their loved ones back home safe.”

Travel safety is organically entwined with the LGBTQ community’s DNA. In 70+ countries, many popular with LGBTQ travelers, homosexuality is criminalized. That includes 11 countries in which death is the punishment meted out for those convicted of homosexuality and other “crimes” of sexual and gender non-conformity.

While travelers would be spared the harsh treatments locals may suffer, they nonetheless have a great deal to consider when traveling. Same-sex couples still receive awkward and uncomfortable service when checking into hotels with a single bed on the reservation or even simply existing in places where everyone’s assumed to be heterosexual. When a lesbian boards a plane with her legally-married wife and their legally adopted children, they could land in a destination where their marriage license is void and their legal guardianship of their kids is in question. Trans and non-binary travelers, especially those of color, may encounter challenges including lack of safe bathroom access, awkward encounters at TSA security and even outright hostility and worse in any public setting. In the face of all this, queer people still explore and have a lot to teach the rest of the world about how to travel with intent and joy while maintaining their own safety and that of the community around them.

LGBTQ travelers can also show the world how best to support the tourism and hospitality industries in ways that also strengthen their own communities. “LGBTQ consumers have the power to make change and support LGBTQ-friendly companies and destinations by choosing to spend their travel dollars with those that support our community,” says Jeff Guaracino, co-author of the Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality. “LGBTQ-owned hotels, bed and breakfasts, tour companies, bars and restaurants, festivals and destinations have been especially hard hit by COVID, and as a community, we can support LGBTQ-owned and friendly businesses and their employees by spending our travel dollars with them first.”

Insights from industry leaders

LGBTQ tour companies and travel agents have a direct connection to queer travelers and report strong interest in and bookings of travel. According to Robert Sharp, co-founder and CEO of Out Adventures, “After [releasing] our entire tour schedule through the end of 2022, we saw our largest month of sales in our 12-year history.”

Kelli Carpenter, co-founder of R Family Vacations, adds, “Our highest sales have come from our river cruise products and international tour business, showing that travelers are ready to explore the world again.”

VACAYA’s Roper has seen extremely robust sales over the past several months — including selling out their Antarctica Cruise. “With a starting price of around $25,000 per room, that was our best sign yet that our community members are ready to break free from their cages and return to travel,” he says.

Robert Geller, founder of FabStayz, agrees: “Pent-up demand is visible, palpable and quantifiable.”

Top 10 tips for marketers interested in the LGBTQ segment

You don’t have to be in the community to market to us, but you should do your homework. Here are a few tips. You can find much more insight in the Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality (co-authored by this reporter).

  • Understand your opportunities and challenges and your brand’s strengths and weaknesses with this segment.
  • Prepare for a sustained effort and financial investment.
  • Hire an expert; don’t burden an LGBTQ colleague.
  • Understand the needs, behaviors and concerns of this segment and avoid saying “Everyone is welcome” until you know that that’s true.
  • Apply marketing basics: Market the right product for the right segment at the right time.
  • Develop tailored content/social, communications strategies.
  • Don’t go it alone: Work with LGBTQ business leaders, ERGs.
  • Get buy-in from C-suite on down and avoid “the gay guy’s project” and losing institutional knowledge and continuity.
  • Advertise support of employees and the community during Pride in local LGBTQ publications (and support the media you want to cover your business), but focus most of your marketing the other 364 days of the year.
  • Educate employees, stakeholders and customer-facing teams on serving LGBTQ guests.

What to expect when you’re expecting queers

LGBTQ visitors and guests want the same thing as everyone else: a safe and fun visit. You have to know the challenges confronting LGBTQ travelers in order to treat them with the same excellent welcome you accord all. Follow this guidance from Billy Kolber, founder of HospitableMe, which helps organizations with strategy and actionable training that drive equity and inclusion. The most successful organizations embrace these practices:

  • Focus on community first, profit second. Activities that start with a profit motive often backfire. Ask yourself, “How can we make our product or experience better for diverse customers and support their needs and their community?”
  • Educate your people. You can’t provide authentic, personalized service if your team doesn’t understand who LGBTQ+ people are and feel comfortable engaging with them.
  • Drive diversity in your own organization. Having diverse voices in the rooms where decisions are made is the only way to effect durable change. Ask why they’re not in those rooms, and what you can do to help get them there.

About Ed Salvato
NYC-based Ed Salvato is a freelance travel writer, instructor at NYU and the University of Texas at Austin’s NYC Center, and an LGBTQ tourism marketing consultant.

Essential tips for your COVID-FREE travel

Must-know Advice for LGBTQ Travelers

By Jeff Guaracino

COVID-19 will make travel a bit more complicated this summer. Going to Europe? Taking a cruise? Visiting Hawaii, San Juan or St. Lucia? Or maybe you are planning a road trip? The rules for traveling responsibly during COVID vary greatly. Be ready to encounter a patchwork of confusing rules and requirements this summer. 

Depending on what you choose to do for your well-earned escape, it is going to be necessary to educate yourself on what to expect; how to travel by the rules; and be ready to prove you have a negative COVID-19 test (and it may cost you to prove it!). Trust, prepping for your trip in advance will pay off. Your health, safety, peace of mind and fun is an important part of the travel experience.  

Here are 5 essential tips for to ensure you have a fabulous summer getaway.

  1. Research before booking your trip. Before you book your trip, be sure to understand how COVID-19 has changed the experience. Nearly everything about travel has changed due to COVID-19. Hotels, airplanes, trains, theme parks, destinations and resorts have all have modified safety precautions in place. The good news is that you will likely find less crowds, more space and enhanced cleaning. You may also find limited services such as curfews with bars and restaurants closing early. A drive trip within the US likely will find less restrictions compared to an island trip.
  2. Make reservations and buy tickets in-advance. Before leaving for your trip, you should book your restaurant reservations and reserve your tickets to a museum or attraction. While you might not like having to plan out your vacation in advance, you will likely find it hard to do all the things you want to do by waiting. COVID-19 means capacity restrictions, so there is limited availability especially on weekends and during peak periods. You can always make changes when you are there.
  3. When flying give yourself extra time at the airport. Many stores and food establishments may still be closed or have limited service, so it will take longer to buy food and drink. Most airlines have also eliminated beverage and snack service in coach, so be ready to “Bring Your Own.”  If you are used to flying First Class, be ready for a curtailed (i.e. downgraded) experience as well.
  4. Stay at a trusted hotel. Staying at hotel is perhaps is one of the most important travel decisions you will make. Most hotels have developed respected cleaning protocols to keep you and their employees safe. Among the hotel industry’s leaders is The Four Seasons. The Four Seasons has developed “Lead With Care” that includes both obvious hotel guest protocols and enhanced procedures behind-the-scenes including employee trainings. The Four Seasons also developed an app that provides guests with the high-standard customer service the luxury chain is known for while providing guests with privacy and limiting interactions with the team. COVID-19 has increased the costs for many hotels so it is important to stay with a trusted brand that you can count on to deliver on the safety measures promised.
  5. Proof of a Negative COVID test. The most complicated and expensive part of COVID-free travel will be meeting a requirement, if needed, to prove you have a negative COVID test. Hawaii, San Juan, cruise ships and other travel experiences are requiring that travelers prove their COVID negative upon arrival at the destination or before starting your trip. Some destinations even require a mid-trip test to prove, again, that you are still COVID negative. Hawaii implemented a program that requires travelers to the islands to use a ‘trusted partner’ (so you can’t use any test and vaccinations are not accepted). You must create an account at travel.hawaii.gov, download an app, and submit results upon arrival from a COVID test within 72 hours of arrival from a trust partner. Coming from Philadelphia through Chicago, that means I had to order an expensive test from American Airlines that was sent to me by UPS, the test included a virtual call to prove my identity and a virtual assistant to show me how to properly take the nasal smear. Within a day of sending my test back via UPS, I had my results. I printed out my negative test, uploaded my results and also downloaded the QR code to my phone. Aloha! Are you negative? Mahalo. 

About Jeff Guaracino
Jeff Guaracino is the author of two books on LGBT travel, a syndicated travel columnist and an tourism executive with more than two decades in the industry. 

Getting Back Out Into the World Safely: Must-Know Advice For LGBTQ+ Travelers

By Lawrence Ferber

As travel rebounds and some international borders open to US residents — especially, or exclusively, if you’re fully vaccinated — you’ll need to pack more than a suitcase to ensure safe trips during the pandemic’s latter days, and far beyond. 

After all, it’s not quite a COVID-free world yet, nor will it be for a while. (And yes, I’m death-staring at the self-destructive, reckless, stupid gays who traveled to dance parties and other superspreader events during the heights of the pandemic.)

Since the world packs travel hazards besides COVID-19, from accidents to dangerous local scum and villainy targeting queer tourists, here’s some dead serious and hunty advice and resources for LGBTQs to take into consideration. Bon safe voyage, bitches!

Get Insurance That Covers COVID-19 (and Yes, Your Hubby Too)

Before booking that flight, cruise, hotel or car rental, secure a travel insurance policy. Be sure it covers COVID-19 related calamities, including hospitalization and cancellations on either your end or that of the airline, cruise line, hotel, tour company, etc. (as many learned since March 2020, their policies did not). 

For several years before the pandemic hit, I took out an annual individual policy with Allianz (they’ve added COVID-19 benefits to some policies), which I made one claim on during early 2019 for a doctor’s visit in Singapore. The claims process was easy and paid out in a timely manner — a simple urgent-care illness situation that included medication.

When my husband joined me in Bangkok for just a week, I purchased a single trip policy from Travel Guard for him (which does not appear to cover COVID-19 as of now). LGBTQ-friendly insurance company Seven Corners, meanwhile, offers policies for both singles and same-sex couples, and can even ensure you stay together if a medical Evac is required for one partner: check out the video about clients Daniel & Felipe on their LGBTQ landing page. Seven Corners also offers policies covering COVID-19. Lastly, if you have homeowners’ insurance, inquire whether your personal property is covered against destruction or theft while traveling.

Suitcase with rainbow gay flag design travel concept.

Geotag the Shit Out of Everything!

Be sure to activate your phone, pad and laptop’s geolocation features. Worst-case scenario, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your iPhone’s been stolen if it’s suddenly five miles away from where you last left it on a table and can deactivate the device (also, though: don’t leave your iPhone on a table).

I’ve learned it’s an all-too-common practice for airlines to take bags off planes pre-departure if the vessel’s too weight-heavy or may excessively tax its fuel supply. They won’t always confess yours lost the lottery and where it’s chilling out, but Apple’s new tracking device, AirTag, will essentially spill the tea.

Know the LGBTQ+ Laws of the Land

Homosexuality is still illegal and even punishable by death in parts of the world. Some of these antigay laws entail toothless legislative holdovers, like Singapore’s Penal Code Section 377A, which remains on the books despite ongoing legal challenges and an open, even thriving local gay scene (and entertainers like “Drag Race Thailand” queen Vanda Miss Joaquim).

As of April 2021, countries with death penalty on the books for same-sex relations include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northwest Africa’s Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.

Beyond the personal safety issue, there’s also the question of whether to spend money in places inhospitable to LGBTQs either socially or politically, like transphobic Arkansas, Jamaica and hateful-assed Poland, which continues to piss off the rest of the European Union with its never-ending conveyor belt of antigay and anti-semitic bullshit.

I’ll admit, I like visiting Poland. I’m part Polish, although you’d never tell by looking at me. But one night, casually taking photos in a Kraków gay bar, a young gay Pole lunged at me from across the room (he actually dove underneath a table, like a submarine missile, to make a straight beeline), asking why I was shooting in his direction, both enraged and terrified. That was the last photo I took in a gay space. Alternately, to some, traveling to these places is a form of activism, visibility being a necessary part of change, while also supporting the local LGBTQ+ businesses and community.

Human Rights Watch maintains a series of online maps of countries with anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-gender expression laws, plus those with age of consent disparities between same-sex versus heterosexual individuals. It’s worth a look. So is travel bloggers Asher & Lyric’s whopping 150-country list of best and worst countries for LGBTQ+ travel in 2021, while our own U.S. State Department boasts a fantastic information and resource page for LGBTI international travelers. There, you can find safety tips, how to reach U.S. Embassies and Consulates while abroad (“Consular officers will protect your privacy and will not make generalizations, assumptions, or pass judgment,” it promises) and a TSA info page for Transgender Passengers.

Google Where Youre Going Before Booking Tickets

Googling your destination and “antigay” could produce up-to-the minute news developments that may inform your plans. A Molotov cocktail attack on a Laguna Beach, California gay bar in mid 2020, for example, is a pretty clear “maybe not right now.”

Egypt has long entailed an LGBTQ+ traveler’s fave, but the past few years saw an increase of disturbing antigay and anti-trans violence, harassment and detainment by the police. Largely Islamic Indonesia keeps seeing waves of political crackdowns on and vilification of queers — including raids of Jakarta bathhouses and, just this past August, a private gay party — while Indonesia’s Aceh province is ruled by Sharia law and sees public lashings and life-destroying shamings (plus, this border-crossing cyber hate campaign bullshit). Indonesia’s island of Bali, however, is extremely LGBTQ-positive and tolerant, and not informed by hateful fundamentalism. Go there, henny!

Show Respect and Be Smart About PDAs

Life isn’t always a gay cruise or a strut down Santa Monica Boulevard. In some cultures, PDAs between people of any gender or sexual identity are completely frowned upon and offensive, so look that up and, even better, look around you once you arrive. Watch (nonchalantly, not in some creepy way) how locals behave before indulging in PDAs (don’t be surprised to see men affectionately holding hands like “Sex and the City” girlfriends in Arab countries or India; it’s a cultural norm, despite the homophobia). Conversely, if you’re in a known gayborhood like Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ni-chome or Mexico City’s Zona Rosa, live out loud and flash those conservative locals the gayest smile you can. 

Back Up Critical Documents and Send to a Cloud Service

I’ve never been pickpocketed (and probably jinxed myself writing that), but if this ever happens or you misplace important documents, a wallet, etc., have copies ready in the cloud, including booking numbers and, of course, travel insurance policy. iCloud, DropBox, whatever — just be sure it’s an encrypted service. Now you can more easily request replacements and access important numbers to cancel credit cards. 

If you’re legally married or partnered, also have copies and cloud backups of your marriage license and anything related to power of attorney and medical access. Especially here in the good ol’ freedom-y USA, some nosy “Christian” nurse in an Arkansas or Texas hospital may attempt to refuse a same-sex spouse access to a hospital unless you’re packing legal documents and a winnable lawsuit.

Dont Let Your Lube Spill All Over Your Suitcase Like Mine Did

Ask me about the time the large bottle of Swiss Army silicon lube, which I had previously opened and used some of, burst inside my suitcase en route to Thailand, where I discovered that silicon lube isn’t even available (the good news: three cycles through the laundry and the stains were out of my shirts). Bring new, unopened bottles of your favorite lube(s), pack them in a couple of ziplock bags and a large padded envelope, and make sure they — and any liquid for that matter — aren’t too tightly pressured by all your other stuff.  

If you have preferred brands of condom, bring those too. In some countries, condom brands and sizes can be very different from ones available in the US — just like clothing. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything like an XL-sized Magnum in Japan. “Foreigners definitely think that Japanese brands in general are too small,” admits Andrew Pugsley, a gay Tokyo-based Canadian expat whose excellent gay vlog Tokyo BTM is chock full of insider deets on the culture, city and queer nightlife. 

Japanese condoms are also supremely thin — all the way down to .01 millimeter, which is basically like wearing thick air — which some may appreciate (and take home in mass quantities, just sayin’), but others find less assuring than Lifestyles or Trojans and hard to roll down without tearing. And yes, I’ve conducted many experiments for the sake of “research.” 

Watch Out For The Catfishand Sharks

It can happen anywhere in the world, including home, but apps and hookup sites are swimming with scam artists and bad news freaks. In some countries, apps are used by homophobes and zealous antigay police to entrap, jail and torture LGBTQs. In other cases, you could get robbed, especially in second and third world countries where first world tourists represent an easy, even deserving in their eyes, mark.

If you do meet someone online, take precautions. In countries where locals target tourists, five-star hotels will often require visitors leave their ID at the front desk and won’t allow them to retrieve it and leave until you give a sign-off by phone. If someone refuses to visit your five-star hotel (especially if they use the, “I don’t like hotels because they’ll treat me like I’m a prostitute” excuse), that’s a red flag. And if you do have a new “friend” over, put those valuables in the safe first. 

Always Keep Your Medications On You (But Not Recreational Drugs)

Don’t put your PrEP in check-in luggage. I repeat: Do not put your PrEP in check-in luggage. Ever. If it’s medication you need daily, you’re risking missed doses should that bag get lost (or purposely purged from the plane to lighten its load: see above), and worse, if the drug isn’t readily available where you’re headed. Keep them in your carry-on only! 

Also, for fuck’s sake, don’t bring recreational drugs into a country where you can go to jail for it. It’s a really wise use of 60 seconds on Google to look that up, because tourists will not be treated with leniency. It’s a lesson you don’t want to learn. 


About Lawrence Ferber
NY-raised entertainment and travel journalist Lawrence Ferber has contributed to publications including Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, The Advocate, NewNowNext, The NY Post and TripSavvy. He also co-wrote/co-created the 2010 gay romcom “BearCity” and authored its 2013 novelization.

Press Release: LGBT Media to boycott Georgia

Date: April 9, 2021
National LGBT Media Association
Contact: Leo Cusimano
214-754-8710 ext. 114
[email protected]

Press Release

For immediate release

LGBT Media to boycott Georgia

The National LGBT Media Association (NGMA), composed of the 12 largest LGBT publications in the nation, passed a resolution banning meeting in the state of Georgia. 

The nation’s largest LGBT media association today resolved to not hold any of its future meetings in the State of Georgia due to the recent passage of draconian voter suppression laws which primarily affect communities of color.

We in the LGBT community built a movement fighting for equality, and we stand with those who fight this “Jim Crow, Part 2” legislation in order to make their voice heard and their vote count. Too many people in power wish to keep marginalized communities invisible and without proper representation in government, and we must be vigilant in fighting against their unjust and unfair discrimination.

“With these laws, it is now easier to get a gun in Georgia than to vote.” said Leo Cusimano, cochair of NGMA. NGMA and its members, which include members in Georgia, will be boycotting all future meetings in the state until it creates fair election laws that ensure all people have equal and fair access to vote.

NGMA members are in: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Orlando/Tampa, Detroit, Boston and Chicago. 

For more information, please contact Mark Segal, 215-925-6626 or visit our website at nationallgbtmediaassociation.com.

Here is more information on the National LGBT Media Association

The National LGBT Media Association is the association of the top LGBT regional newspapers in the U.S. The 12 legacy publications hit all major LGBT markets and serve as the publications of record for their demographic area. The LGBT market is still largely untapped by brands looking to continuously and consciously commit to supporting our community. The team at NGMA has been on the front-lines of advocating for the LGBT community for decades. Over the years, they’ve solidified their roles in the community as trusted leaders. Together, they help to curate content, advocate for LGBT rights, and speak up for this often-ignored or often-discriminated-against community. Their readership is dedicated, loyal and consistently engaged across all 12 NGMA publications.

  • Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco
  • Philadelphia Gay News, Philadelphia 
  • Bay Windows, Boston
  • Los Angeles Blade, Los Angeles 
  • Between the Lines, Detroit
  • South Florida Gay News, Fort Lauderdale/Miami
  • Dallas Voice, Dallas/Fort Worth 
  • Washington Blade, Washington DC
  • Gay City News, New York City
  • Watermark, Tampa/Orlando/St. Pete
  • Georgia Voice, Atlanta
  • Windy City Times, Chicago

# # #

Visit us: www.nationallgbtmediaassociation.com  |  212-242-6863