As people in Amsterdam on Monday put rainbow flags at half-mast in protest of proposed antigay legislation in Russia, gay travelers everywhere asked themselves a question they’ve been asking for years: Should we rule out antigay countries, like Russia, as travel destinations?
While there are several considerations that should go into answering this question, the answer is usually “yes, stay away,” according to Charlie Rounds manager of Brand g Vacations and board member on the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association Foundation.
Of course, any traveler’s first concern should be safety, and you only have to do a quick Google search to see that gay people are too often the target of attack in places like Russia and some Caribbean islands. “My partner at the time and I came under verbal attack in Jamaica one time—even though we weren’t holding hands or really doing anything to suggest that we were gay,” says Rounds, who suggests that everyone check the U.S. State Department’s LGBT Travel Information Page before planning any overseas trip. For the record, the State Department reports that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread in Russia, as harassment, threats, and acts of violence have been targeted at LGBT individuals.”
Another consideration, especially for many gay travelers, is planning vacations that make moral sense. In other words, why in the world would you spend your hard-earned money visiting a place (many U.S. states included) where gay people are treated less than equal? In this case, Rounds suggests, you’re better served by focusing on where you should travel than where you shouldn’t. “Plan a trip to Belgium, South Africa, or Argentina [where gay people have full equality],” he suggests, “and then post your plans on Facebook and tell all your friends why you’re going there.”
Rounds, whose Brand g Vacations is taking a group of LGBT tourists to Vietnam and Cambodia this fall, also recommends that gay travelers make contact with an LGBT organization before making an overseas trip, especially if it’s off the beaten path. “In almost all cases, they love to hear you’re coming and can give you some great recommendations about what to see and do while you’re there.”