Coming off of a revitalized Pride season in 2021, the LGBTQ community is amped and ready to continue the festivities through the end of the year, willing to switch from blistery to blustery for the winter season.

The good news is that even though temperatures drop across the country and most of us are cuddling up to a cozy heat source there is still plenty to do in the outside world among the extroverts, you just have to know where to look.

Gaycation Magazine visited the website GayTravel4u which has put together an extensive list of LGBTQ inclusive activities that may interest yuletide traditionalists and the broad-minded alike who want to venture out beyond their frozen stoops to experience a whole new world.

But the travel industry is waiting with bated breath on which way the latest COVID variant is going to veer. To keep it simple, we have compiled five of what we thought are the most interesting winter hot spots for the community. They range from boat parades to marketplaces, to magical light shows festooned above city streets and parade routes.

Charleston, South Carolina

Cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and Antebellum architecture are all hallmarks of the holiday season. Charleston has all of those things plus much much more. There is a Festival of Lights boat tour a wine tasting event and even a New Year countdown for those planning their midnight kissing plans early.

For entertainment, check out the Charleston Music Hall where drag queens put on a Winter Wonderland Variety Show.

Click HERE for more details.

Smokey Mountain Christmas

If you believe as we do that Dolly Parton is a national treasure then you're going to want to head to the Smokey Mountain Christmas event at her theme park Dollywood located in Pigeon Forge, TN.

This special celebration may even outdo Disney World's holiday makeover. With plenty of themed shows playing in the park's many theaters, and tree lightings galore, this is one destination that should be on your country Christmas bucket list.

Plus the park's many themed lands transform into wintertime dreamlands filled with charm, hospitality and yuletide gayness.

For more info, click HERE.

Chicago, Illinois

As with most big American cities, when the holidays come around they pull out all the stops. But Chicago is different somehow, they celebrate and then some.

The city comes alive with lights, festivities, and people who get lost in the season. And who can blame them? Everywhere you turn it's a reminder of just how magical the holidays can be.

There's Winter at Gallagher Way where skaters glide across the ice, curlers compete and guests enjoy a Hanukkah celebration. The marketplace is also nearby so any last-minute shopping lists can get checked.

Furthermore, all of this is close to the LGBTQ section of town called Lakeview. Gay bars, gay-owned businesses, and boutique hotels are all a part of the landscape which means you're never too far away from all the fun.

For more information click HERE.

Atlanta, Georgia

Arguably there is no other destination on this list more colorful than the Atlanta Christkindl Market in Atlanta, GA. This huge and visually stunning event takes place at the Centennial Olympic Park and is presented by the German American Cultural Foundation.

Not far from Atlanta's gaybourhood, Midtown, the Chistkindl Market is crammed full of artisanal crafts, food, and beers.

After taking in all the Winterland sights, head back to Midtown. On 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, there is a variety of LGBTQ entertainment. Considered an active cultural hub not only for the gay community but the city itself, Midtown is on par with such districts such as The Castro in San Francisco and Hillcrest in San Diego.

More details HERE.

Denver Colorado; Christkindlmarket

Much like the bazaar above, Denver's annual Christkindlmarket has all the realness of being an authentic German town transported into the middle of America. Although winter has arrived a little late this year in the city, there's no denying Denver's charm stays intact all year long.

Plus with a thriving LGBTQ community, it ticks all the boxes for inclusivity and Pride.

Set up in a series of huts, Christkindlmarket offers visitors authentic German cuisine, handmade crafts and traditional celebrations which include appearances by St. Nikolaus, the evil Krampus, and the Christkind herself.

This event is only a 10-minute drive to the River North Art District (RiNo), the city's gay watering hole that includes bars, restaurants and lodging.

After getting settled in, make sure to make your way to The Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens on York Street. This electric flora extravaganza will inspire awe in your heart and serenity in your soul. This display only lasts until early January so it should be a part of your winter travel itinerary.

This is only a partial list of things to do around the country. With COVID still putting a damper on some things and protocols changing by the day, it's always a good idea to check out each city's safety precautions before heading anywhere.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a good start. Click HERE for details.

Images including header are courtesy of gaytravel4u

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.