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The summer travel season is looking hot and crowded. The ongoing global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, skyrocketing inflation, and high gas prices are not a match for Americans’ pent-up wanderlust. Like everyone else, queer travelers are not staying at home sipping margaritas on the couch.
Most Americans (85%) plan to hit the road for long summer vacations, discovered Out of Home Advertising Association of America. Nearly half of Americans (48%) are taking at least two weeks if not more time off than in 2021, that’s 41% more than last year.
OAAA’s figure is nearly 10 percentage points higher than the 73% of LGBTQ travelers –85% of whom have passports – who were planning a major vacation before the end of last year, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, the leading global LGBTQ travel market association.
According to the OAAA, 69% of Americans feel safe and comfortable flying again, 10 percentage points higher from April 2021 (59%).
Another survey conducted by vacation rental management company, Vacasa, found that approximately 3 in 4 travelers (74%) are planning to keep their summer trips within the U.S. Only 26% of travelers are planning international trips this year with Canada and Mexico tying as preferred destinations along with other countries further abroad on travelers’ lists, according to the survey.
This willingness to get back out into the world after a long pause due to the global pandemic and travelers facing new challenges in its wake demonstrates how resilient travelers are and just how desperately people need a vacation.
A day at the beach, exploring nature in national parks, wellness, and even distant lands are the top vacations travelers are booking, according to travel experts.
These five new LGBTQ travel companies want to take queer travelers on vacation. They want you to feel like you are on vacation before you even pack. They take the stress of planning every detail of the journey into their expert hands.
Out in Colombia
Out in Colombia travelers exploring Comuna 13, locally known as C13, the infamous hilltop neighborhood once controlled by Colombia’s cartels transformed into a vibrant artist community in Medellin, Colombia.
The award-winning sustainable LGBTQ travel company, Out in Colombia, offers a wide variety of luxury multi-day tours and packages exploring Colombia, “the gateway to South America.
Founded by American expatriate Sam Castaneda Holdren, who resides in Medellin, in 2016, Out in Colombia’s team offers one-of-a-kind bespoke experiences for LGBTQ travelers. The travel company highlights Colombia’s best cities. Colombia’s capital, Bogota, has an out lesbian mayor Claudia Lopez Hernandez and boasts of a destination gay dance club that takes up an entire city block with 16 different dance floors and a concert theater. Cartagena, “The Walled City,” is home to the country’s famous beauty pageant queens on the shores of the Caribbean Sea the city features pristine beaches. Medellin transformed from cartel control into a vibrant artistic city. Salento is where travelers get up close to Colombia’s famous coffee grown high in the Andes.
Explore all of Colombia’s highlights on a 15-day trip to Bogota, Salento, Medellin, and Cartagena or a 10-day trip to Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena.
Nearly 2,000 Vacayans, what Vacaya calls its vacationers, aboard Celebrity’s Millennium ship for Vacaya’s 2022 Caribbean Cruise in January.
Courtesy of Vacaya
The award-winning cruise and resort travel company, Vacaya, offers unique destinations and gaycations that bring everyone under the rainbow together for a truly LGBTQ vacation.
Founded by Randle Roper, Patrick Gunn, and John Finen in 2018, the cruise and resort travel company launched its inaugural cruise in 2019.
Vacaya is the marriage of a word from the secret gay language, Polari, used within gay communities to communicate with each other for centuries. The award-winning entertainment, hospitality, and travel gay executives who love traveling and the LGBTQ community wanted a different travel experience than what gay cruises and other LGBTQ travel companies offer. They wanted to travel with the entire L-G-B-T-Q community.
Travel they have. The company has taken thousands of LGBTQ travelers to Seychelles, Iceland, South Africa, the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica, Provincetown, and other beloved and amazing places. Unique destinations, such as the forthcoming cruise to Antarctica or the Polynesia Cruise next year, are becoming Vacaya’s signature in line with its goal to be a different travel company for the LGBTQ traveler.
Pink Coconuts, Where Queer Travel Meets Community.
photo courtesy of Pink Coconuts
Launched by Donnya “Zi” Piggott and colleagues during the global pandemic, Pink Coconuts aims to take travelers to less-traveled destinations in the Caribbean and Africa that are often shunned by the LGBTQ travelers due to the regions’ anti-gay records.
Pink Coconuts started as a tourism and hospitality diversity and inclusion project of Barbados Gays, Lesbians, and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination, known as B-Glad. The project’s goal was to train travel and hospitality brands on how to be inclusive and the negative economic effects of not being inclusive. The company graduated from a project to a travel company when Piggott realized only a few people in the Caribbean were bringing LGBTQ travelers to the islands. Piggott decided to be the person to bring more queer travelers to experience other wonderful islands in the Caribbean that are not on many queer travelers’ radars. At the same time, they also set their sight on Africa.
The startup travel company allows queer travelers to build their own itineraries booking with their vetted and trained LGBTQ-friendly partners or Pink Coconuts can create custom vacation itineraries from girlfriend getaways, gaycations, engagements, honeymoons, and other romantic getaways; volunteering at a local organization, or simply to unplug and sit on a beach.
African Queens Travel
African Queens Travel founder Carla Smith, right, and her fiance Ramona Gatto, left, enjoying the local food and drinks on the Sunset Dinner Cruise on the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Courtesy of African Queens Travel / Carla Smith
Founded by South African Carla Smith and her family who are rooted in the country’s travel and hospitality industry for generations, African Queens Travel launched just as the global pandemic shutdown travel globally in April 2020.
The company didn’t fully put plans on hold. Instead, the company built out its itineraries offering eight 6- to -15-day trips from the highlights of South Africa to romantic getaways to rainbow family safaris to Cape Town Pride 2023 for when travel returned.
The lesbian-owned travel company’s 2023 itineraries include roundtrip airfare from select U.S. airports, stays at luxury resorts, tours, and nearly all meals and other amenities.
International business partners and couple Montse Serrano, right, who is Spanish, and Aimee Bucher, left, who is American, kayaking in a lake with the Arenal Volcano in the background in Costa Rica. The business partners and couple launched Lesmon Experience to travel the world with other lesbians.
Courtesy of Lesmon Experience
International business partners and couple Montse Serrano and Aimee Bucher launched Lesmon Experience in 2020 right before the global pandemic hit. The name mashes “lesbian” and the Catalan word “món,” which translates to world, together to create Lesmon, lesbian world. The company paused waiting out the pandemic, two years later, Bucher, who is American, and Serrano, who is Spanish, can’t wait to bring queer women to the private gay-owned Costa Rican resort in Manuel Antonio, the LGBTQ Tico beach destination, as their first adventure. The company is offering three different all-inclusive trips set for July, including one during Manuel Antonio’s beach Pride festivities, July 16. All you have to do is get your plane ticket and pack your bags, Lesmon Experience will do the rest.
OAAA, the national trade association for the out-of-home advertising industry, partnered with The Harris Poll to conduct the survey published in March. The Harris Poll conducted the online survey from February 9 – 14, 2022, with a representative sample of 1,000 United States adults older than 18 years of age. Data is weighted to reflect the U.S. general public across age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, income, household size, and employment.
Vacasa partnered with Allison+Partners surveying 1,001 individuals over the age of 18 in the United States in March 2022. The survey was fielded using Qualtrics Insight Platform and the panel was sourced from Lucid.
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If you haven't heard of Kim Chi, she is the first Korean-American on RuPaul's Drag Race and was named one of the most powerful drag queens in America. Kim Chi was runner-up on Season 8 of RuPaul's Drag RaceRuPaul's Drag Race and was sent home by Bob The Drag Queen later in the season. Well, since then, she's been quite busy. She started her own makeup line and has been making appearances all over the place. Now, she's teamed up with none other than Trixie Mattel to do a limited edition makeup collaboration.
We got in a little chat with Kim Chi where she talks about life, love, the runway...nah, just kidding. She did take some time out to answer a few questions for us on what it was like being on RPDR, what one product she can't live without, and so much more.
All of the products are cruelty-free and 2% of all sales to The Trevor Project. If you haven't checked out Kim Chi's beauty line, you should, the KimChi Chic Beauty line is stocked with a ton of makeup products and that bowtie is pretty cute too.
Q: What brought you to the decision to start a makeup line?
WTHighlight Double Diamonds makeup
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
A: The options were very limited for good affordalbe makeup, so it was important to me to create quality makeup that every makeup lover could enjoy.
Q: What does the collaboration between you and Trixie Mattel look like?
A: Putrid. Pungent. Audacious. It is a perfect representation of both Trixie and my style!
Q: Where and how did the two of you meet and subsequently become BFFs?
A: She stalked me on Facebook and forced me to book her in Chicago. Haven’t been able to get away from her since!
Q: What makeup product can you NOT live without?
A: Definitely eyeliner. The KimChi Chic Beauty Stage Proof Liquid Liner and The Effin Liner never leaves my makeup kit.
Q: Can you give us some makeup tips?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment. It's okay to wipe away mistakes and start over if needed.
Q: How has appearing on RuPaul shaped your lives, career, and outlook?
A: It has made me the 17th most powerful drag queen in the world according to some list by a famous publication. Kidding again! It gave me this really amazing platform to live out my wildest dreams, connect with people all around the world, and hopefully inspire others like myself. It showed me the importance of holding on to your passions and living life authentically.
Q: What are your top 3 charities to support?
A: Seniors Fight Back, The Trevor Project, Elton John Aids Foundation
Q: What 2 things would you say to an aspiring drag queen?
A: Success doesn't happen overnight, be patient and prepare to spend a lot of money!
Q: How big of a difference is it between your drag queen persona and non-drag queen persona? Or is there? Do you sometimes forget when you’re “on” or “off”?
A: It depends on whether I’m wearing a wig or not. Kim is a little louder, snarkier, and outgoing than Sang.
Q: What’s next? You have the appearances, the collaboration, the friendship…What is on the horizon?
A: Lots of touring, more KimChi Chic Beauty launches, and one day...hopefully, retirement!
Q: What would you be doing if you weren't a drag queen performer and makeup entrepreneur?
A: Before doing drag I was an art director, so probably something similar relating to fashion design, art, or something similar.
KimChi Chic Beauty
KimChi Chic Beauty and Trixie Mattel Makeup Line
Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty
You can see the limited edition Trixie x Kim Chi Collab BFF4EVR on KimChi's Chic Beauty site. It's a fun and whimsical product line. The limited edition includes 5 different products with various shades and colors to choose from as well as a KimChi and Trixie Girl Fan or purchase the entire line in one bundle.
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
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
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
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.