An L.G.B.T.Q. Guide to Traveling Safely Abroad



Billy Kolber, founder of ManAboutWorld, a digital magazine that recently published “The LGBTQ Guide to Travel Safety,” addressed the challenges of traveling abroad. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

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Why did ManAboutWorld write a safety guide?

Globalization has made international travel easy and commonplace. And the globalization of travel hides a great disparity in local attitudes toward L.G.B.T.Q. people. We wrote the guide to help L.G.B.T.Q. travelers navigate a complex world of laws and risks, and understand the ways their local interactions can help and hurt local L.G.B.T.Q. communities. By including personal experiences and recommendations from L.G.B.T.Q. travelers all over the world, we are able to present more nuanced information. It’s more like asking a friend than asking Google.

How can the guide help promote
safe travel?

It’s more important than ever to know what’s going on with the local L.G.B.T.Q. community. The laws don’t reflect the reality in so many places, and the acceptance and welcome for L.G.B.T.Q. travelers are constantly changing. It’s increasingly important to know where to get the most current information, how to apply that information to your itineraries and personal experience, and what travelers can do to help advance the cause of L.G.B.T.Q. people in the places they visit.

How does the new guide differ from last year’s first edition for business travelers?

The business travel industry was often ignoring the risks of sending L.G.B.T.Q. employees and contractors into countries that criminalize them without any warning, advice or resources. We launched our L.G.B.T.Q. business travel guide to address that gap. Vacation travelers can choose their destination, but many of us choose to travel to places where we are criminalized. We wanted all L.G.B.T.Q. travelers to have access to those resources.

What are some highlights of the
new edition?

There are specific recommendations for women, transgender and gender nonbinary travelers. These travelers face challenges specific to their gender and gender expression. We worked with experts in those communities to provide the most comprehensive and useful information.

What will surprise readers?

How local and personal the challenges are. We can’t generalize about countries anymore. We can’t generalize about L.G.B.T.Q. travelers — our safety and welcome can often be a function of our gender presentation, our visible wealth, our skin color, our accent. What might be fine in Moscow or Kuala Lumpur might not be O.K. in rural parts of Russia and Malaysia. It’s complicated.

Can a traveler’s behavior affect local communities?

Visitors travel with extraordinary privilege — especially those from wealthy Western nations. Even places hostile to L.G.B.T.Q. locals are often deferential to visitors. It’s easy to forget that locals are being persecuted for things that are routinely ignored for travelers. I might think nothing of kissing a date good night in a public place, but that could cost a local their friendships, families or careers. A gay party might be raided in a place like Egypt — the foreigners are let go or at worst deported; the locals go to prison.