Planning your overseas travel for 2022 but not sure which countries are currently rolling out the rainbow carpet? According to a recent survey by digital travel agency Booking.com, LGBTQ+ travelers are finding some confidence to be themselves while away from home, but maybe it's what the numbers don't say that's more concerning.

In August 2021, Booking.com questioned 3,052 LGBTQ travelers from across three continents*. The numbers are encouraging; nevertheless there is a lot of work to be done.

The hope lies in the bigger numbers reported, however, the findings also reveal (or imply) there is still a significant amount of homophobia in countries with no laws against homosexuality.

Queer travelers are no strangers to cautious trepidation. The study found that 65% carefully thought about their well-being when picking a destination and 58% understand that some places are simply off the table.

Keep in mind there are still 65 countries where homosexuality is illegal. So if you want to be intimate with your husband in Kenya or hold hands with your partner through a botanic garden excursion in Singapore, you are indeed breaking the law. There are no two ways about it.

Although traveling while LGBTQ+ is fraught with anxiety, especially to areas where the reaction to your sexual identity is uncertain, according to the poll: "87% of LGTBQ+ travellers surveyed believe that the 'majority of the travel experiences they’ve had so far have been welcoming.'"

Still, "58% of LGTBQ+ travellers have felt welcomed “most of the time” during their stays." The survey doesn't define what "most of the time" actually means.

Here are some other findings from the survey:

  • 24% have been offered LGBTQ+ specific advice or guidance on the area during their stay, with almost one in four (23%) receiving this at the time of check-in.
  • 75% of respondents haven’t had staff assume they would need separate rooms or beds when checking in as a couple.
  • 76% haven’t experienced staff or accommodation owners at check-in incorrectly assuming their relationship to their travel companion/companions.
  • 77% have felt comfortable to ask for LGTBQ+ friendly local tips or recommendations.
  • 42% don’t believe being LGBTQ+ impacts the decisions they make when planning a trip.
  • 50% say that being LGBTQ+ hasn’t affected their destination bucket list.
  • 46% report that being LGTBQ+ doesn’t affect who they choose to travel with.
  • 43% indicate that travelling as an LGTBQ+ person doesn’t impact how they behave with their significant other when travelling together.
  • 46% believe being LGTBQ+ doesn’t impacts how they present themselves during their trip (for example, clothing, makeup choices etc)

The numbers look promising and yet there is still a huge margin, sometimes less than half of those polled, who felt challenged in areas such as public displays of affection or who they choose to travel with.

Arjan Dijk, the CMO and Senior Vice President of Booking.com, is also gay. He says his company is working on "smoother and more enjoyable travel experiences for everyone."

“As a gay traveler myself," adds Dijk, "I share some of these same concerns, but also equal amounts of optimism for a better future. One in five LGBTQ+ travelers say they are hopeful about being able to travel without restrictions or limitations in the next five years."

As a way to help LGBTQ+ travelers find their way safely around the world, the Amsterdam based Booking.com has implemented something they call a Proud Travel Inititive. This program is for accommodation partners who want to be recognized as "gay friendly."

The first step is a training program called "Proud Hospitality." This 75-minute course earns hosts a Proud Certified label which alerts LGBTQ clients using the online booking app that the property is inclusive.

"Cities with multiple Proud Certified properties will also be showcased on a designated Travel Proud page, where travelers can learn more about the initiative, as well as find and book properties that are Proud Certified."

Which Cities?

So far there are only nine cities on the Travel Proud page:

New York

Amsterdam

Berlin

Manchester

Rotterdam

London

Edinburgh

Paris

Toronto.

Dijk seems optimistic about travelers who say they expect to see more LGBTQ+ travel inclusion in the next five years.

"We firmly believe we can get there together and that everyone should be able to experience the world as themselves, always,” he said.

*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 3,052 LGBTQ+ travellers from the United States (500), Canada (400), the UK (500), the Netherlands (251), Germany (501), France (500), Australia (300) and New Zealand (100). The survey was taken online and took place in June & July 2021

Photo courtesy of KimChi Chic Beauty

Trixie Mattel and Kim Chi Makeup Collaboration


Keep reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville


Keep reading Show less
Photo courtesy of ANIRUDH on Unsplash

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.