Palm Springs, California, is one of those destinations that I never get tired of. I’m not sure whether it’s the landscape or the abundance of over-the-top gayness that makes the city truly magical. I attended Palm Springs Pride 2019 on my most recent visit to this gay mecca in the desert, and it was the largest Pride celebration in the city’s history.

I had forgotten how easy the Palm Springs airport is to navigate, but it does make a good first impression. Within minutes after walking off the plane, visitors can be lying poolside at their hotel or shopping in the boutiques and art galleries of Palm Canyon Drive.

empty road Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

I was visiting with my friend and fellow journalist Josh Rimer, who was named Mr. Gay Canada 2019. He and I met on a media trip in Arizona, and we have traveled to Columbus, Ohio, together as well. Visiting a destination like Palm Springs is more fun if you travel with someone, unless you are an extreme extrovert, and neither of us fits that description. We’ve traveled together in the past, which helped make this visit fun.

After checking in at the Alcazar Palm Springs hotel, we headed straight for the Opening Night Pride Party at Trina Turk clothing boutique, which was hosted by celebrity hairstylist Brandon Liberati and his husband, fitness trainer Craig Ramsay. The party drew a who’s who of Palm Springs glitterati. Every year, Trina Turk donates a portion of proceeds from items sold during the event back to the Pride organization.

Before heading out on the town, we grabbed dinner at Trio, a staple in Palm Springs since 2009. (In fact, the first time I visited the city almost a decade ago, I dined at Trio.) Josh and I decided to share a few starters, including the Coachella Valley Dates and Ahi Tuna Tower. We were both hesitant to order the dates because they are filled with blue cheese and neither one of us is a big fan, but they turned out to be delicious. The blue cheese complemented the sweetness of the dates, which simply melt in your mouth. Trio also hosts one of the best parade-viewing parties in town, so if you come to Pride in 2020, be sure to make a reservation.

Palm Springs nightlife is truly one of the best experiences in the country. There’s a bar or club for every type of person. Whether you are L, G, B, T or Q, you will fit in. Arenas Road has emerged as the epicenter of nightlife in the city, with venues including Hunters, Chill Bar, Quadz, Stacy’s, The Eagle and BlackBook within a two-block radius. Other nightlife venues are scattered throughout the city and in neighboring Cathedral City.

Photo by Elizabeth Pishal on Unsplash

After a night of partying, head back to the Alcazar for a restful night’s sleep before heading out to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I’ll admit that I don’t like heights or roller coasters, so the tram made me nervous. The 10-minute journey to the top aboard a slowly rotating car is quite the experience. There are five towers along the way, and as the car passes each tower, it swings back and forth – sometimes slightly and other times, it’s enough to make you a bit queasy. A little side note: the temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler on top of the mountain, so dress accordingly. Josh and I wore our traditional tank tops and were a bit chilly, to say the least.

Located adjacent to Arenas Road is Johannes, a lovely restaurant with modern décor that is owned by chef Johannes Bacher. The menu includes an assortment of house specialty schnitzel. Bacher, who hails from Austria, brought his favorite dish to Palm Springs, and it quickly became a favorite among the locals. We had to try some, and I can tell you, it does live up to the hype. I don’t remember the last time I saw schnitzel of any kind on a menu, outside of a German restaurant, which I learned uses a different type of preparation. Another one of my favorites at Johannes was the Grilled Marinated Peaches & Burrata. If you are looking for a lighter option, give that a try.

Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert | YouTube Originals youtu.be

Music lovers should take note that Palm Springs is the gateway to Coachella and Stagecoach Festival, two of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. Stagecoach has grown into the premier country music festival in the United States since its inception in 2007.

Palm Springs is a destination that always lives up to my expectations. Whether you are looking to party until dawn, relax by one of the dozens of pools around town, or go hiking in nearby Joshua Tree National Park, the destination really does offer something for everyone.

Enjoy the Journey!

About the Author

Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. He has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis. He can be reached at joey@pridejourneys.com.

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Mjolnir

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.