Focus on LGBTQ+ travel: Travel Weekly

Difficult and common experiences

One of the most frequently mentioned struggles for trans and gender non-conforming travelers in particular is getting through TSA checkpoints, and earlier this year the TSA announced a major change in policy and technology. .

“Before I had surgery, I was always flagged by TSA body scanners,” said Kam Burns, editor and founder of the Trans Journalists Association. “Even before I came out as a trans, I often got left out.”

Almost all transgender travelers have similar experiences. For years, TSA scanners have operated assuming strictly binary gender passengers and have often been calibrated based on a cursory glance. Embarrassing questions and sometimes traumatic physical exams were common aspects of the airline boarding process – I can’t count how many times I had to explicitly describe my genitals to a TSA agent in an attempt to explain an “anomaly” detected by a scanner.

This may ultimately change, however, as the TSA rolls out new policies and technologies: “When travelers present themselves at the travel document verifier’s podium for identity verification, [now] irrelevant,” a March press release from the agency said. It is also working on creating a “gender neutral algorithm” for the scanning software and rolling out “less invasive screening procedures”.

If implemented as promised, they could be transformative improvements, especially for trans travelers. However, once the transportation portion of a trip is over, LGBTQ+ travelers often have to approach the hospitality industry in our destinations.

Our community has long felt like we’re on our own when it comes to security-related issues that can arise, especially when it comes to issues with other travelers we encounter. Finding housing with an explicit commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and safety is ideal, but it’s not always possible. Still, some hotel companies are doing what they can.

Major hotel chains have made significant progress. “Marriott has been focused on internal education,” said Apoorva Gandhi, senior vice president of multicultural affairs, social impact and business consulting at Marriott International. Guests can expect well-trained staff, including when it comes to public restrooms and spa usage.

Delta Airlines, a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and winner of the “Best Airline” award at the 2021 Gay Travel Awards, recently joined United and American Airlines in closing a gap in service: travelers can now select “ X” as a gender marker. , instead of “M” or “F”, when booking a flight. It comes after years of internal education and training as well as external communications, such as an in-flight safety video featuring the cast of “Queer Eye” and publicly speaking out against anti-LGBTQ+ bills that go through Congress.

Marriott and Delta have also signed on to support the Equality Act of 2021.

Training efforts do not go unnoticed. “I deeply appreciate that staff have been clearly trained to work with LGBTQ+ inclusivity and cultural competency,” said KaeLyn Rich, a nonprofit leader. “Little things, like not assuming gender and pronouns when recording and using gender-neutral language, are always appreciated.” Seemingly minor micro-aggressions like sexual error can be piercing, especially when a traveler is already stressed from the struggle of long-distance commutes or through airports.

“Little things, like not assuming gender and pronouns when recording and using gender-neutral language, are always appreciated.”

KaeLyn Rich, nonprofit leader

Airbnb has long been a leader in the pursuit of safety for LGBTQ+ travelers. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination,” said Laura Rillos, Airbnb spokesperson. All hosts and guests are required to agree to the Airbnb Community Pledge, which explicitly requires a non-discrimination agreement. “Over 1.4 million people have been removed or denied access to our platform for refusal,” she said.

“When Airbnb hosts explicitly state in their listings that they are LGBTQ+ friendly, that’s great for booking,” Burns said. “It generally makes me feel a lot safer.”

What if discrimination still occurs? Airbnb will warn, suspend or even remove the offender from the platform and immediately help affected travelers book another listing. The company recently launched a 24-hour security line, which means rebooking assistance is always available.

Intentional internal education efforts can transform our community’s travel experience, but efforts to increase travel access for LGBTQ+ communities can also have much greater external cultural impacts.

Gregg Kaminsky of R Family Vacations knows how powerful it can be to bring groups of LGBTQ+ travelers together. For nearly 20 years, he has been creating inclusive travel and tour experiences for LGBTQ+ travelers and their friends and family. “One thing that makes traveling with us a little safer is the safety in numbers,” Kaminsky said.

Being around a large group of affirming and supportive people creates an unprecedented sense of security. But it also has a positive impact on the places visited by the groups.

“I have this belief: money talks. And we’re an extremely powerful travel segment in terms of the number of dollars we spend.”

Gregg Kaminsky, R Family vacation

“I have this belief: money talks. And we’re an extremely powerful travel segment in terms of the number of dollars we spend,” he said. A recent example: a cruise line with which Kaminsky was negotiating had a restrictive dress code policy. When he objected, they changed it. This has a lasting impact for everyone who uses this cruise line in the future, not just LGBTQ+ travellers.

“Whether they see the financial opportunity or are actually more welcoming,” Kaminsky mused, didn’t matter too much. “The world of travel is moving in the right direction.”

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