When I turned 30, I made a concerted effort to get more involved with the gay ‘community’ – whatever that is or means. Starting this blog is one example of that. I’ve also sought out gay travel opportunities…with mixed results. Hence my current uncertainty about whether to support and stay at gay hotels during my travels.
Now I know I’m speaking broadly here. A good hotel is a good hotel, irrespective of who its intended clientele is. So I guess I’m asking this question in a general sense and knowing that my predisposition may be somewhat tainted by some not so great previous experiences with gay travel.
So, why even support gay hotels in the first place?
Well, I’m a big believer in gay guys supporting one another. I still don’t think there’s enough of that going on (and even if there is, there’s always room for more support, right?) Despite huge recent advances, we are still a marginalized community. Plus just in terms of sheet numbers, there aren’t that many of us.
So any hotel or accomodation provider aimed at our community is doing two things that I really admire – a) they’re providing us with a safe space and b) they’re offering something knowing it’s aimed at a small section of the overall population. When you’re a business owner, and it’s your money and livelihood on the line, these two things are a big deal. They’re taking on a huge risk, so I think it’s incumbent upon the rest of use, to recognize that and respond accordingly.
Our support not only helps the hotels we stay at to keep going, but it builds momentum and encourages the growth of the industry, and other industries, catered specifically to us. If no one supports these businesses, they shut down and just as importantly – we create a disincentive for others to take their place. Support is a two way street.
Which is where I find myself today. In principle, I do support gay hotels. But my own past, mixed experiences are something that I’m contending with as well. In the spirit of this blog, I’m not going to go into negatives or specifics, but I feel that at times I have found myself in situations where I haven’t been comfortable or able to enjoy my experience, within the world of gay travel.
Catering to gay men must be an incredibly hard thing to do, given how different and diverse we are. So while I realize that there is a need for spaces where men can meet, connect and hook up, I find that men who don’t necessarily want those same things aren’t as well catered for. There’s a subtle, yet sometimes powerful, undercurrent where certain behaviours and expectations are applied. It’s in those moments, that I’ve felt uncomfortable and ironically, just as much a fish out of water as I sometimes feel in the ‘straight world’.
I have no problem with clothing optional places, or guys/couples looking for fun with other guys/couples. There needs to be a place where these things can be found for those seeking them out. But what about those of us (myself included) who like being clothed and monogamous?….And how do you balance these two diametrically different set of expectations?
There are no easy answers.
I think that at the moment, during my travel planning stage, I’m still open to the idea of staying at gay hotels. Apps like TripAdvisor play a big role here. They weren’t around last time I travelled (heck, mobile phones were the size of bricks the last time I travelled), so I feel that I can at least make better informed decisions from the outset.