Now that the vaccines have proven to be incredibly effective, life is slowly returning to whatever pre-pandemic norms it can. That includes vaccinated friends and family visiting again, not having to wash groceries or be scared every time you go to the pharmacy, and, yes, the return of summer trips and tourism. Not everything will be what it was in 2019. Sadly, many businesses and organizations were forced to close their doors last year, including many that were LGBTQ-owned and centered.
So, as you travel this year, make sure you try and support the local LGBT businesses and spaces in whatever city or town you visit. It’s easy to find listings of LGBT restaurants and nightlife. Even if your destination doesn’t have a bustling tourism website, there are independent web sites and blogs like Gaycities that can help travelers find spots. But our community goes far beyond food and fun. There are LGBT-owned businesses of all types, and they all deserve support.
One of the easiest ways to find LGBT businesses is to check if there is a local LGBT chamber of commerce in the place you’re traveling to. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce has a list on their web site of local affiliates, which include 53 cities/regions in 33 states, as well as international affiliates (though international travel is severely limited right now). Those local chambers of commerce, such as the Independence Business Alliance, have lists of LGBT-businesses you can frequent.
Another way to support the LGBT community in the places you travel to is by visiting the local LGBT community center (if they are allowing visitors). Oftentimes LGBT community centers have local art galleries or exhibits, and they are almost always a great place to get more recommendations on LGBT places to go, whether it be restaurants, bars, or other businesses. Visiting LGBT community centers also allows you to better understand the local LGBT community and even possibly meet a few community members. And, if you are active in the LGBT community in your hometown, visiting other community centers might give you ideas for back home.
Finally, though they are few and far between nowadays, please try to visit any LGBT bookstores in the places you visit. LGBT bookstores were, and are, important places for the community to share information and support one another. Bookstores like Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia not only provided a lifeline to LGBT people for decades, but they helped other LGBT bookstores around the world do the same.
Our community thrives because we support one another. And it’s time we stepped up that support as we dive back into summer travel.