City Spotlight: Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, known as the “Venice of America” for its expansive and intricate canal system, is one of the principal and biggest cities in Florida and one of the United States’ most popular holiday destinations, with around 11 million visitors each year – including more than a million LGBT travellers. Every year it usually features on lists of top or best gay travel destinations in the US or around the world for its ideal location in the southeast coast of the States, for its gay-friendly attitude and a big LGBT community and area with more than 150 gay-owned or gay-focused businesses. It also has a Convention and Visitors Bureau, which spends considerable amounts of money collating resources and marketing specifically to the gay community.

Situated along the southeast coast – meaning it is very warm or hot all year round, Fort Lauderdale is of course, well-known for its host of beaches (7 miles worth of them) – many which are frequented predominantly by gay and bisexual men, though the girls love them too. The most popular is Sebastian Street Beach and there is also the infamous nude Haulover Beach. Around 10 minutes away is Fort Lauderdale’s neighbouring city, the smaller Wilton Manors while Miami is just half an hour away, where there are more beaches and a just as thriving LGBT community and gay nightlife. If you’re up for a longer journey then Tampa and Orlando are about 3 and a half hours away to the north, as of course Lake Buena Vista – better known as Walt Disney World Resort – is. Further down south is the little island of Key West, a further 3 hours or so away.

beach-1269647_960_720

Fort Lauderdale’s Gay Pride (also known as Pride or PrideFest South Florida) event is one of the oldest in the world and is currently in its 37th year and in 2014 it will take place on the first weekend of March (1st-2nd). Miami Gay Beach Pride will be on 11th-13th April. Both Fort Lauderdale and Miami have Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals – Fort Lauderdale’s 6th annual festival will be hosted from 9th-12th October and Miami’s (in its 16th year) will be from 25th April to 4th May 2014. Other LGBT events in these areas include White Party Week, Winter Party and Sizzle in Miami. For full listings of Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s gay areas, check out GayCities for more information. Unfortunately though, despite Florida being seen as one of America’s most gay-friendly states, it has to legalise gay marriage but we hope in the future it will follow suit.

If you’re going to Fort Lauderdale or around this area and are looking for a place to stay, then why not check out our LGBT-owned and LGBT-friendly accommodations? We currently have 15 properties available in Fort Lauderdale, 3 in neighbouring Wilton Manors and 13 in nearby Miami. Or if you’re someone who has a spare room in your property or a whole place you want to rent out to travellers, then you can sign up as a host here and add your accommodation, start making money and meeting new people.

City Spotlight: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is known as one of South America’s most gay-friendly countries with advanced legal rights for LGBT people including equal age of consent, health benefits, immigration equality, the right to change legal gender, anti-homophobia laws, and most recently in May 2013, same-sex marriages were made legal nationwide. Brazil is a very diverse country and a popular holiday hotspot for many people, including LGBT travellers, particularly because of its large cities’ LGBT festivals and parades, which are some of the world’s largest – São Paulo takes pole position with well over 2 million visitors every year, while the ones in the capital Brasilia and Salvador attract nearly 1 million. Rio de Janeiro’s – arguably the country’s most popular destination, and the soon-to-host of the 2016 Summer Olympics – is the second largest (1.5-2 million).

rio-de-janeiro-979750_960_720

Rio was recently voted as the world’s best gay destination and it was estimatedthat 1 in every 4 visitors to the city is LGBT and with not only a huge Pride event, but a bustling LGBT community, an open attitude towards sex and sexuality and of course and great attractions for every holidaymaker, it’s easy to see why that is the case. The Ipanema district in Rio is where LGBT life in the city is predominantly located where there are plenty of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses such as bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. The neighbouring Leblon district is also popular with the gay community and has art galleries, museums, theatres and boutique shops that serve as interesting local attractions.

The Copacabana beach is one of Rio’s many beaches, and probably its most famous, located next to the Ipanema and Farme Gay beaches, where if you want to eye up some of the hot local Latin guys and girls or other tourists making the most of the sun and heat, that’s the place to be. The beaches host a lot of parties too, especially during Pride and Carnival and will go on late into the night. Gay nightlife in the city also goes on late into the night and even into the early hours of the morning and usually starts pretty late as well, with most people preferring to eat late dinner and drink in restaurants and smaller pubs and bars before moving on to the major clubs. For a full listing of places, click here.

brazil-998494_960_720

As previously mentioned, the two main yearly events that take place in Rio are Carnival and gay Pride. The former usually happens at the end of February through to the beginning of March and is always big, extravagant, vibrant and colourful, with pretty much everyone getting involved as the huge collective party atmosphere and attitude takes over everyone and the whole city. Pride on the other hand has varied dates each year – in 2012 it was November, but this year it is slated to commence on 13th October and expected to once again to be a massive success and continue to be on the world’s biggest and best Prides. New Year’s Eve is also a very popular event which sees over 2.5 million come together to ring in the new year on Copacabana Beach, usually all dressed in white. Another gay festival, the Rio Festival Gay de Cinema – the city’s international LGBT film festival – usually takes place in July.

Rio offers a lot of other attractions, things to do and see and places to go, and being a predominantly Roman Catholic area, is of course home to many religious building and structures – the most famous being the must-see statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado mountain (the fourth tallest in the world). Other places include nearby islands, rainforests and mountains, if you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and explore Brazil’s wild nature.

One’s safety must always be kept in mind when travelling to Brazil and staying in Rio. Even though the gay areas are known to be the wealthiest part of the city, beggars and criminals still try their luck at pickpocketing or taking advantage of people, especially foreigners, so it is not advised that you be left or travel alone or walk around by yourself at night. Please take a look at our top tips for gay travellers for more information.

We currently have half a dozen accommodations available in Rio or alternatively, we also have accommodations in Belo Horizonte, Marceló, Natal, Salvador and São Paulo, but if you have a spare room or property that you want to rent out on a short-term basis to guests in Rio or any other Brazilian city, you can it here.

How well do you know your LGBT+ flags?

Honestly, the LGBT+ movement is moving so quickly these days that it is difficult for anyone to keep up with so being a travel company we thought we would share with you a quick fun guide to the international language behind flags and symbols attached to the LGBT+ Community for all you Pride-goers over this glorious season.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-12-01

 

Obviously everybody knows the Rainbow Flag, synonymous with the LGBT Pride movement, but within the movement there are numerous subcultures which all have their own defining symbology; so how well do you know your pride flags?

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-12-12

Lesbian Pride

Lesbian Pride usually uses the ancient symbol of the Labrys, the double-headed battleaxe, to represent lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency. This flag in particular holds some interesting significance in the inverted black triangle which was used by the Nazis to denote lesbians and “workshy” people in a similar way to the gold star.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-12-26

Bisexual Pride

The flag for Bisexual Pride features a 3 striped design, the representation of each strip is debated but the widely accepted  explanation is:  “The pink colour represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap colour purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).”.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-12-37

TranSgender Pride

Transgender Pride uses a flag with 5 equally sized stripes: “The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional colour for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional colour for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.”.
Another flag used by Transgender Pride looks like this:

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-12-49

Another flag used by Transgender Pride in more recent years. There is some debate as to whether this flag looks too similar to the Bisexual Pride flag so it has fallen slightly out of vogue but honestly it looks fierce.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-13-05

This fused male/female symbol is quite self explanatory but has also seen wide usage within the Transgender Movement.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-13-18

Genderfluid Pride

Genderfluid Pride is a subset of the Transgender Pride movement which are in their own right a separate entity and so have their own flag. The Gender Fluid flag consists of five stripes. This flag represents the fluctuations and the flexibility of gender in gender fluid people. The first stripe is pink which represents femininity, or feeling female. The second stripe is white, and represents the lack of gender, including agender, or gender neutral. The third stripe is purple and represents a combination of masculinity and femininity including various degrees of androgyny. The fourth stripe is black and represents all other genders, third genders, and pangender. Lastly the final stripe is blue and represents masculinity or feeling male.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-13-29

Intersex Pride

One of the newest additions to the roster of flags, the Intersex Pride uses the purple circle on a yellow background as their flag of choice with a deeply thought out symbology; purple and yellow were used in this context as a “hermaphroditic” colours to represent the intersex community.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-13-39

Also in use is this flag with a blended blue and pink middle stripe to represent the gender fusion that intersex people are born into.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-13-51

GenderQueer Pride

Genderqueer (GQ or non-binary) Pride use a tripartite flag with a lavender stripe chosen as lavender is seen as an androgynous colour; a white stripe to represent agender identity and chartreuse green for the final stripe to represent those whose identities are defined outside of and without reference to the binary.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-14-00

Non-Binary Pride

The Non-Binary Pride flag was created in 2014 after a call was made in the community from those who did not feel that the Genderqueer Pride flag represented them and so this came to be. The four striped design; yellow, white, purple and yellow has significance in each layer. The yellow represents those whose gender exists without reference to the binary; the white represents those who have many or all genders as white is the root of all clolour; the purple represents those who feel their gender is between or a mix of female and male and the final black stripe represents those who are without gender as black is the absence of colour.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-14-13

Pansexual Pride

The Pansexual Pride flag consists of 3 horizontal stripes; pink, yellow and blue. The pink stripe represents those who identify with the male spectrum; the pink is to represent those who identify with the female spectrum and the yellow portion represents non-binary attraction such as androgynous, agender, bigender, genderfluid, transgender and intersex peoples.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-14-25

AGENDER PRIDE

Created in 2014  the Agender Pride flag has seven horizontal stripes which are coloured (top to bottom) black, grey, white, green, white, grey, black. The Black stripes represent complete absence of gender; grey represent semi-genderless and green represents nonbinary as it is the inverse of purple populary used to represent androgyny.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-14-37

The popular transgender symbol is also used by the Agender community with the addition of a black bar to represent the lack of gender.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-14-51

Asexual Pride

The Asexual pride flag features four horizontal stripes with the black stripe representing Asexuality; the grey stripe representing Grey-A orientation; white representing sexuality and finally purple to represent community as a whole.

And finally and honestly my personal favourite of the lot is the flag for allies of the LGBT+ movement:

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-23-15-07

Proud Ally

For anyone who made it through this entire blog I thank you for sticking to it, the LGBT+ community is the most diverse group of people ever to grace this fine earth and we can only hope for it to grow ever larger. Flags are easy to let people identify themselves but behind every flag is a person waving it. an identity in and of itself, we are all unique; embrace it!!!

@GayHomestays for updates on all of our blogs.

Gay Homestays’ Top Ten Gay TV Shows

There have been loads of great gay TV shows on over the years so we thought it was about time we listed our top 10 favourites:

10.

512px-glee_title_card-svg

As gay teen suicides were getting more press in the USA, Glee came along featuring some great gay teen characters. This combined with the great songs and Jane Lynch’s acerbic Sue Sylvester lead to a huge gay following. Though like so many great shows before it it kind of went downhill after a few series. Is it still on? We just don’t know.

9.

sugar_rush

A classic Great British comedy drama, 2005’s Sugar Rush follows Kim as she deal with her hopeless crush on the sexy but straight Sugar. Celebrity spot: current Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield in one of his first roles as Kim’s geeky neighbour, who has a hopeless crush on her!

8.

cucumber_titles

Three gay TV shows for the price of one? You can’t ask for better than that! Set in Gay Homestays’ native city of Manchester, Cucumber shows a mediocre middle-aged gay relationship (a side of the gay community often ignored by TV), its breakdown, and the hilarious aftermath. It’s intertwining sister show Banana shows self-contained stories of Manchester’s gay youth. And finally Tofu is more of a documentary, with frank discussion of sex issues. The newest feature on a list, in the UK the shows are currently on Channel 4 and its sister services E4 and 4OD. Whether they stand the test of time remains to be seen!

7.

will__grace_title_card

One of the first US sitcoms to focus on gay main characters from the start, they said it would never work! But Will & Grace became hugely popular amongst gay and straight audiences alike. Though we like Megan Mullaly’s Karen the most.

6.

the_l_word_logo

In 2004 it was still unusual to see lesbian leads on US TV (well, it still is today), but then a whole host of great lesbian characters came along at once in this show. Think Sex And The City without the men…

5.

500px-ellen-svg

 

The sitcom Ellen started in 1994, and its main character, Ellen, didn’t come out till a 1997 episode. It’s always a risk when the main character announces their sexuality three years down the line! The moment received a lot of media coverage and mirrored the coming out of the show’s star and writer Ellen DeGeneres. In 1997, featuring a gay main character was enough for ABC to add a “parental advisory” warning to the start of the show.

4.

modern_family_logo

It’s over 20 years since Ellen started (feel old yet?) and times have really changed for gay sitcom characters. Modern Family really does have a modern approach to gay characters: a married couple with kids! And it really is funny too.

3.

orange_is_the_new_black_logo-svg

The hugely popular Netflix show follows married “ex-lesbian” Piper after she’s thrown in jail, only to find out she’s banged up with her ex-girlfriend! (Spoiler alert: one things leads to another…) The ensemble cast also features many other great lesbian characters like Poussey, Nicky, Big Boo and “Crazy Eyes” Suzanne, as well as trans actress Laverne Cox in her groundbreaking role as Sophia.

2.

rdr_logo

Time for some reality TV, though its often more surreal than some of the fictional stories we’ve featured! We love seeing the amazing runway looks of the drag superstars, as well as finding more about their backgrounds and watching their relationships form with each other. This is a show that gets bigger with ever season, and we can’t wait for season 7!

1.

queer_as_folk

The 1999 UK series was so successful it spawned a US remix, but the original is definitely our number one! Another show set on the Manchester gay scene, it broke down barriers with its unashamed discussion and depictions of gay sex. And it’s funny and gripping too. If you never saw it, track it down!

What do you think of our top 10 gay TV shows? Let us know any we missed off in the comments!

Gay couchsurfing

Gay couchsurfing = couchsurfing for gay people. Couchsurfing = forgoing the traditional hotel or hostel experience and staying with locals instead. In this week’s blog, we investigate why couchsurfing is appealing to more and more people in the gay community and why gay couchsurfing is becoming such a trend!

take-your-time-1316969

“Couchsurfing” is a travel trend that has been growing for a number of years now. The idea: instead of booking a hotel or hostel, you travel around the world staying in the homes of other like-minded people, and when you get back, maybe host a few travellers yourself. Cheaper than a hostel or hotel, and you get a personal host and a potential new friend for life.

As the couchsurfing community has grown, the types of guests and hosts have become more various. The name “couchsurfing” of course comes from the idea of staying on peoples couches, and maybe you need to stay for one night in the centre of Berlin as cheaply as possible, and are happy to sleep on the sofa of a cool guy’s flat for a couple of Euros. Or maybe you’re happy to spend $200 a night for a multi-bedroom palatial Manhattan penthouse that comes complete with a  New Yorker who wants to share all the best party spots with you. Maybe you’re hosting to supplement your income, and you’ll keep yourself to yourself and leave your guest to their own devices, or maybe you’ll be doing tequila shots with them, cooking them your local cuisine and inviting them to party with your friends. The truth is, all of these are okay. The important thing is to be honest and up front with what you want from the experience, whether it be through an online profile or through direct communication with a potential couchsurfing buddy. In this way, you’ll find somebody you’re going to be comfortable with and there will be no awkwardness later on. 

Likewise, as couchsurfing has increased in popularity, the number of couchsurfing networks have grown, and websites like Gay Homestays now offer a couchsurfing database designed exclusively for the gay community. So what can couchsurfing offer the gay community?

Couchsurfing as a concept does attract laid-back and liberal people, and there’s every chance any straight couchsurfing host would be totally cool with your sexuality. But when you know you’re staying with someone the same sexuality as you, its a weight off your shoulders, especially if you’re travelling abroad to a country where the level of acceptance of gays may be different to that of your own country. In this way, couchsurfing can feel even more safe than staying in a hostel, as you know there’s going to be another gay person there, and that you’re going to be accepted and not have to think about hiding who you are or “coming out” to your fellow travellers. If you’re worried about what the local attitude to gay people could be, it’s great to know that you have a safety net, and an opportunity to talk with someone directly about what it’s like to be a gay person in another part of the world.

Furthermore, by staying with a gay person from the local area, you can get the low-down on the best places to go. Maybe you’re going somewhere with a huge gay district, and your host can tell you what’s hot and what’s not. Or maybe you’re going to somewhere with no gay district at all, and your host can tell you where the off-the-map hangout is. Either way, your host can be your link to the scene, and many guests and hosts make long-lasting friendships from sharing the secrets of their city with each other.

Of course, if you’ve never done it before, the idea of staying with a complete stranger can be intimidating. Make use of features of couchsurfing websites like the reviews. The couchsurfing community tends to review much more than hotel guests: if a guest has had a great host, they want to help them out and leave them a good review, and help out their fellow travellers with the information too. Gay Homestays also has an optional host verification system, where hosts can provide the site with information such as a copy of their passport to receive an extra stamp of approval.

So what are you waiting for? Get out, see the world, and make some new friends along the way.