Can vagabonding be dangerous for gay travelers?

Over at the Q&A, John B. from New York writes:

“I loved Vagabonding and it has pushed me to look at my life and take a much-needed (and much desired trip) around the world with my long-time partner. We are adventurous and want to explore places like Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia, etc. My questions are…What should we look out for? Are there places we should not attempt because it will be dangerous for two men in their early thirties to be travelling together? While we are far from flamboyant, we don’t want to feel unbearably uncomfortable in certain hostile places.”

This is what I told him:

“Your question is an interesting and valid one. And, thankfully, your situation shouldn’t pose that much of a problem for you and your partner when you travel. For starters, most any destination guidebook worth its ink will give advice and cultural information regarding gay travelers. Lonely Planet always has a gay-travel section (and their website has a gay-travel discussion board), though most quality indie guides do as well. This advice will tell you exactly what the taboos are, country-by-country. For example, Thailand and Myanmar are extremely gay-friendly, and you can pretty much act however you want (within reason). Brazil is gay-friendly in some cities, less so in others. Egypt is definitely not gay-friendly, but oddly enough you will probably find lots of men taking a sexual interest in you there. So the situation will differ from country to country, situation to situation, and keeping informed as you travel can be a big help.

“In general, of course, it helps to (as you said) not be too flamboyant in the interest of cultural sensitivity. With the proper amount of decorum, in fact, you probably won’t be taken for gay (let alone be harrassed) unless you blatantly advertise it. In places like India and Korea, for instance, straight men are much more physically affectionate with each other than they are in the West. In fact, you could probably walk through Madras hand-in-hand with your partner and attract less hostility than if I walked hand-in-hand with a girlfriend, simply because the cultural norms there don’t see it as strange!

“So, in the end, you and your partner should have no problem traveling together in Asia. For extra measure, however (and since, being straight, I might have missed some considerations), there are a variety of gay travel guides and websites that can give advice as well. Just do a Google search to find them. But keep in mind that many of those books and websites cater to the gay tourist market, and that tends to “ghettoize” gay travelers. Sitges, Spain, for example, might make a great gay getaway, but why isolate yourself there when you can mix in with the rest of the world and have more far-flung adventures?

“On a final note, the countries you mention (Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, Mongolia) shouldn’t be hostile. Buddhist countries in general are more tolerant than the West (in Myanmar I once watched a transvestite cabaret perform alongside puppet shows and pop singers at a festival in a Buddhist temple). Again, it’s good to double-check your guidebook, but you should be fine.”

Posted by | Comments Off on Can vagabonding be dangerous for gay travelers?  | August 31, 2004
Category: Vagabonding Advice

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