Your sexual orientation or gender identity should not inhibit your ability to travel and discover the world. However, some countries may not be particularly open-minded and might even pose a risk for the members of the LGBT+ community who do not properly prepare for their trip or lack willingness to adapt to their host country’s cultural, spiritual or legal approach to diversity. Here are a few tips to help you safely embark on your next trip.
If you have a specific destination in mind, have a look at their legislation and cultural acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity. This may come as a surprise, but many countries still have rigid laws prohibiting same-sex unions or sex change, which can lead to imprisonment or physical punishment like stoning and flogging (sounds very medievalish, right?). It is really important that you know upfront how to behave (public displays of affection, ability to share a room with your partner, how to introduce yourself, which public bathrooms to use, etc.), how to dress properly and what you risk for not complying. Some countries might be accepting of LGBT+ on paper, but still be discriminating in rural areas or after sundown. Read travel blogs, inform yourself through the country’s official travel agencies and visit the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories page for up-to-date information about your destination. Should you find yourself in an uncomfortable/dramatic situation, know ahead what organizations are present in your host country to help you in times of need (going to the police or other law enforcement officials might not be the right thing to do in some cases). The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association has a worldwide report on homophobia and a very thorough map of sexual orientation laws. The Government of Canada also has a page dedicated to LGBT travel with valuable resources and information. The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association has a list of Pride events and festivals around the world, as well as other travel resources for the community.
Adapt or Avoid
If you decide to go to a country that is known to be rather conservative, it is your responsibility to adapt to its culture and customs. It would be dangerous and disrespectful to impose your values in a place that is not very open-minded. Remember that you are a guest and not on a mission to modernize anyone; you must choose a destination that you are willing to adapt to or pick one that better suit your lifestyle.
ID and Travel Documents
If you identified your gender as X on your passport, ID, visa and other travel documents, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you intend to visit to ask if it might pose a problem. If your appearance has drastically changed since you applied for those documents, you might have a hard time entering your host country. Start planning several weeks ahead to avoid issues.
LGBT+ Friendly Destinations
Here is a list of 30 destinations (countries and specific cities) in alphabetical order that are known to be LGBT+ friendly.
Argentina (Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza, Puerto Madryn, Rosario)
Australia (Brisbane, Daylesford, Lismore, Melbourne, Sidney)
Austria (Salzburg, Velden am Wörthersee, Vienna)
Belgium (Antwerp, Brussels)
Brazil (Florianopolis, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo)
Canada (Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg)
Czech Republic (Brno, Prague)
Dutch Caribbean (Curaçao, Saba)
Finland (Helsinki, Tampere, Turku)
Germany (Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich)
Greece (Chania, Lesvos, Mykonos)
Israel (Tel Aviv)
Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo)
Luxembourg (Luxembourg City)
Mexico (Acapulco, Cancun, Mexico City, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta)
Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht)
New Zealand (Auckland, Christchurch, Rotorua, Queenstown, Wellington)
Norway (Bergen, Oslo, Tromso)
Portugal (Algarve, Lisbon, Porto)
Uruguay (Montevideo, Punta del Este)
South Africa (Cape Town)
Spain (Barcelona, Benidorm, Ibiza, Madrid, Maspalomas, Sitger, Torremolinos)
Sweden (Gothenburg, Stockholm)
Switzerland (Basel, Geneva, Zurich)
Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket)
United Kingdoms (Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburg, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester)
United States (Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, San Juan)