Tourism 101: Gender, Sexuality, & Getaways

I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. The colors, the temperatures, the smell of bonfires…I tend to travel and experience as much as I can during this short season. When I was thinking about what to include in this issue about Fall Getaways, the first thought that crossed my mind was marriage. Of course. Achieving the legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota is something that Lavender might never stop talking about. And, particularly with the overthrow of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on a national level, to talk about marriage across the United States is particularly relevant when looking at Fall Getaways. Am I suggesting you go get hitched in another state this fall? Not necessarily, but you have my blessings if you do. What I’m suggesting is that we show our support for these states that have given marriage equality to their citizens by making it a point to showcase them and spend our money there.

What power does this GLBT community wield in terms of whether or not this approach is influential? What power does this magazine in this state have? What power do offices of tourism have? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I can tell you that positive reinforcement (with money attached) never hurts. And, in my hopeful heart, if other states see what they’re missing out on, perhaps they’ll make it more important to work toward legalizing same-sex marriage on a state and national level as well.

As an editor, I have to start with a certain pecking order when approaching people, organizations, companies, or any entity, really. Considering this topic, the states legalized same-sex marriage so I needed to contact the states. Each state has an office of tourism and I gave them the rights of first refusal. If the officials in the office of tourism chose to pass, either I would not include an expanded version of their state’s fall getaway offerings or I would approach a city in the state for what they would recommend for GLBT travelers. This way, I knew that I would represent all the states in some fashion–a web address on our website, a city’s version of what GLBT travelers can plan to visit, or a state’s official recommendations for this community with the full awareness that the state was receiving this attention strictly because the state legalized same-sex marriage.

When I sent the questions for the gay getaways travel feature, I asked not only about fall attractions (since the issue is about Fall Getaways), but also about what would be of interest to the GLBT community, specifically. I gave the example of Harvey Milk areas of interest in San Francisco, the Beekman 1802 Mercantile owned by the Beekman Boys in New York, and almost listed Judy Garland’s house in Grand Rapids, but thought that was too easy and obvious (and a little cliché). I sent the questions and was planning to be enlightened by the experts as to what GLBT attractions might be found in their states.

Teach me! Enlighten me! Show me the way!

The responses were a little sparse.

There are various reasons as to why some of the responses were thin. I’m sure that timing had something to do with it as our relentless biweekly schedule means that I’m often asking for things on tight deadlines. Digging a little deeper, states like Massachusetts and New York have already developed extensive GLBT travel websites that feature attractions that are relevant to this community…and to boil things down to a short list might be moot. They’re rock stars in this realm. That’s giving a pretty hefty benefit of the doubt to the whole list of states, though, and I don’t think I’m going to be quite that charitable. I think they just didn’t have much to send me. But, instead of framing the lack of GLBT-specific attractions as a deterrent or detraction to visiting these fine states that have legalized same-sex marriage, I will highlight it as a growth opportunity.

I was a Women’s Studies Major in 1996, which became Women’s & Gender Studies by the time I graduated in 1999, and later became Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. People often asked (and still ask) why such a concentration of study existed. One of my responses was, because it has only just been written. If women had been part of the documentation of history, math, music, art, geography, science, as well as all the other industries and areas of life, perhaps we wouldn’t need a specific concentration of study to catch up on their involvement and achievements. Then, the response was, “but the women weren’t there.” It’s a somewhat valid point in that women were not allowed to do many things based on gender and sex discrimination, but they were always there, much like the GLBT community. Of course, looking at the addition of “Gender” and “Sexuality” to this one department of this one academic institution (my alma mater is Macalester College) does not indicate a worldwide movement or acceptance of women, gender, and sexuality, but it shows that there was a process of figuring out that something was missing and it was very important.

It is very important.

The tourism industry may be wise to follow suit and expand their own concentrations of study in terms of adding women, gender, and sexuality to how their locations are represented. We can joke about history being about “dead white guys,” but we don’t have to let that be the case, particularly when the “dead white guys” are put out there as being straight by default. I’m sure “the closet” as a part of the GLBT community’s past, present, and future reality has a very real effect on what can be known about locations and potential people of interest for tourists, but that can and should be less and less of a roadblock in rewriting history and pointedly deciding to re-present an underrepresented demographic of people. But, this current movement of rights being expanded to include the GLBT community means that history is happening now. It’s happening in their own states. Here is an opportunity for the tourism industry to not only work toward building a body of work that includes GLBT people and dates of the past, but the present as well. Start the process and it will continue to grow into what will draw the community to the borders even more than being a state that has legalized same-sex marriage.

There’s a lighthouse on the cover of this issue. A very real trend exists that magazines with people on them are more appealing than those without, but this lighthouse draws me into this issue for various reasons. This issue is about getaways and a lighthouse is something that is often seen “elsewhere,” particularly by those of us who are very landlocked. This particular lighthouse, the Wisconsin Point Light, is something that is seen by people who visit the North Shore of Minnesota as well as those who attend Duluth-Superior Pride, which is featured in this issue and happening over Labor Day Weekend. It is there as a safe beacon to sailors, but can also be seen as symbolizing a safe harbor for this community, as can the travel feature in this issue which lights the way to states that made marriage equality a reality for this community.

The other states that have yet to legalize same-sex marriage might not be influenced by this issue. What matters to me most is that you find something worthwhile in it, like I do. Just as I prefer to find services, restaurants, stores, and other products in the pages of this magazine because their presence tells me they value this community, I also prefer to visit places where the rights of this community are making very clear progress.

I want to go where history has been made and continues to be written.

With thanks,

Andy

 

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