At least coffee is still legal in Utah | An LGBT travel perspective

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A while back while traveling Central America, we wrote this piece about how it feels as a lesbian couple to jump back into the closet while traveling and this one on how we live a bit of a half-in, half-out lifestyle. In this guest post by Lane, she tells how an exhausted momentary lapse of a travel habit resulted in that gut-wrenchingly awkward check-in situation gay and lesbian couples often face while traveling. Read on for one glimpse of what travel can be like for GLBT travelers, even in their own relative backyard.

After five years of traveling together, we finally encountered our first truly awkward LGBT situation. You’re probably thinking that this incident occurred in a third world country or some unknown backwater, that is what we would have expected, too. No, we successfully have traveled to places as far as China, as contentious as parts of Eastern Europe and as small as tiny island nations without anyone raising an eyebrow. What made this so painful for us is that it happened in the United States, in our own region of the country – the Southwest.

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The Sinners – SouthWest Compass

Now, we knew the history of Mormons and the GLBT community – simply Google ‘Mormon funding for California’s Prop 8’ and you’ll see what I am referring to. That the Mormon community in Utah is conservative, that we knew as well, though we did still raise an eyebrow at the billboard we read crossing the border into the state that warned: ‘last 6% beer available here.’

After dinner at a steakhouse, I can confirm that it’s true. Utah-brewed beer has about as much kick as Kool-Aid. If you want to take some of the hard stuff home, you will need to stop at a state-licensed liquor store. Being easy on the alcohol is one thing, but I need my cup of Joe! Every morning I wandered around in search of a strong coffee in Moab, but all I found was essentially burnt water. Then, a little coffeehouse slogan caught my attention, ‘Coffee: Still Legal in Utah.’

Coffee, the first sin

Coffee, tobacco and alcohol are all shunned by Mormons, but we hadn’t realized how much the Mormon aspect of Utah would affect us on our five-day trip, innocently intended for scenic drives and great photo opportunities. After those beautiful yet exhausting five days, we hit the road at 4am and drove most of the day to our next destination. Being so drained, all we wanted was to crawl into bed, pull the sheets over our heads, and sleep like the dead. This sleep deprivation caused us to detour from our normal check-in routine. Juliet, the organized one, handles the checking-in process while I park the car and check the engine fluids.

This process doesn’t only play to our strengths. It has been a way to prevent that dreaded question of “One bed or two?” It sounds innocent enough, but given that we tend to book hotel rooms, complete with ONE king bed far in advance, we find that showing up together as two women results in being given twin beds or just gives us the feeling of having our personal lives pried into. The question is really code for: gay or straight?

It is like at Starbucks when they ask your name and scrawl it across the cup. Imagine if, instead of your name, you had to declare hetero or homo. You have no relationship with your barista, or that hotel clerk, and it’s nobody’s business either way. I’ll stop dreaming of good coffee and get back to Utah.

So, out of our routine, we run into the owner, who was just pulling out of the driveway. Spotting us, she stared,mouth hanging open (literally) at two women checking in together. Shock crossed her face as though she had seen a bear, or an alien, and that familiar dread settled in the pit of my stomach. If I have to announce straight or gay, then those in the hospitality field should be required to declare ‘bigoted’ or ‘live and let live.’ It seemed pretty clear in which category the cabin owner belonged.

The Cabin of Sin

I considered our various options, such as pretending we were ‘sisters,’ not saying anything or storming off. You could see the options running through her head at the same time. Refuse to rent to us, but what if she was wrong about her assumption? After beginning several sentences and failing to finish them, she offered to get us extra sheets for the roll out couch. Did we accept them or say that we didn’t need them? And, how far away was the next hotel that allowed dogs? We didn’t know.

I’m not afraid to stand up for my rights. I marched in the Pride parades back in Ohio in the early 1990s – when they still threw glass bottles and bits of brick at us. I had written to many governors, mayors and politicians over the years suggesting that they were morons. And, we had marched in protest over Prop 8 while we still lived in Los Angeles. I had waved my rainbow flag until my arms ached but, today, I was just exhausted. Not just exhausted from the drive, but also from the attitudes of ‘family values’ groups, which have bled over into our society and government. I’m exhausted from fighting for the right to live my life without being hassled about who is sleeping in my bed. The fact that this is happening in my own country is perhaps the most frustrating of all. But I don’t want to deal with trying to change someone’s mind. I’m exhausted, and I just want to go to bed, listening to Juliet mumble in her sleep next to me.

We politely took the extra sheets, thanked her and started unloading the car. Later, as we finally crawled into bed, we had the television on. The broadcaster announced that Washington, Maine and Maryland had voted to legalize gay marriage in their states.

“When do you think Utah will catch up with the rest of the country?” Juliet asked.

Sleepily, I replied, “when the Mormons start drinking coffee.”

Are you an LGBT traveler on the road? Do you have a story to share? We welcome guest posts highlighting what travel is like for gay and lesbian travelers. We would love to feature your story here on!

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Brighton’s epic 25th Pride Festival: Carnival of Diversity

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A gorgeous seaside location, a community known for their tolerance and diversity, and celebrating a quarter of a century of Pride Marches, which is a huge milestone – what could possibly go wrong at this year’s Brighton Pride?brighton rainbow flagsWell, with the infamous British summers, Pride can be hit or miss. I went to Pride events in England where it poured down on us, and then there were years when I went to Pride events and got sun burnt. In England, it can go either way, and when my plane touched down in the middle of a rain storm on a chilly summer morning, I was worried. Would the epic Pride weekend I was hoping for get rained out?brighton pride parade 2015 colorsbrighton pride parade pavilionBut I didn’t have anything to worry about: I woke up to bright blue skies on Friday morning and it seemed all of Brighton was already in a festive spirit, even though the main festivities wouldn’t start until Saturday.brighton pride rainbow flagUsually, around 160,000 spectators line the streets for the parade, but with the event’s big anniversary, close to 200,000 people were expected to attend Pride this year. The 2015 motto was Carnival Of Diversity, honoring Brighton’s diverse and open-minded LGBT community. I really couldn’t have chosen a better occasion to return to one of my favorite cities in England (more on why you should visit Brighton here).Birghton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 piratesThe city had already felt super festive when I arrived on Thursday, with more rainbow flags flying around town than I’ve seen at any other Pride event I ever attended (and I am not exaggerating here!). That reminded me of just how liberal and nonjudgmental Brighton was. Kids with two mommies or two daddies were nothing out of the ordinary here, and a local friend told me her 9-year old had a boy in his class who had a gender change over the summer – and when it was announced at school, nobody even bat an eye. Brighton, as accepting as ever.brighton pride 2015 lesbian coupleSo it shouldn’t have surprised me that each and every business was flying rainbow flags and that the city is home to one of the biggest Pride festivities in the country – in fact the second biggest after London Pride – but that said, not even London has the same kind of festival atmosphere that you have in Brighton.brighton pride paradeBrighton parties the entire weekend. And Brighton parties hard. From the opening parties on Friday night until the early hours of Monday morning, the entire city feels like a huge festival ground. A massive festival ground is set up in Preston Park, complete with a funfair! That’s where the main party takes place on Saturday, and the celebrations in Preston Park feel almost more like a music festival instead of a Pride event – but more on that below. The other party hot spot is in Kemptown, Brighton’s gay neighborhood, where during the village street party on Saturday and Sunday thousands celebrate in the streets, DJs spin records outside of bars and bartenders mix drinks right on the sidewalk.brighton pride fest 2015 street partyAnd then there is the parade, which was so colorful and vibrant that I never once got tired of watching float after float go by. While there was a number of floats that were all about being jolly and celebrating how far the LGBT community had come over the past 25 years since the first small Pride March in Brighton, there were also organizations reminding us that there are still 70 countries in which homosexuality is a crime – not to mention the five countries in which homosexuality is punished with death penalty.brighton pride 2015 signsBirghton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015The range of floats was very divergent: political organizations campaigning their purposes, fun floats including gay and lesbian dance groups, cheerleaders, LGBT divers, runners, etc., and the people who came out to watch the parade were just as diverse: families, groups of friends, same-sex couples as well as straight couples – it was amazing to see how many people (and dogs!) had come out to show their support for the LGBT community. brighton pride 2015Brighton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 cheerleadersThe parade made its way from the seafront (a slightly altered route and a delayed start due to a suspicious package that was found on the parade route) to Preston Park. After watching it for a while we made our way along with the floats towards Preston Park, as did a big part of the crowd.brighton pride parade 2015brighton pride 2015brighton pride crowdsBy the time we arrived in Preston Park, the festival grounds were already packed and the festive atmosphere was infectious. I don’t know any other Pride event that feels as much like a music festival as Brighton Pride does, and we started exploring the grounds.brighton pride festival grounds carouselsbrighton pride festival groundsPreston Park’s festival grounds are big enough to fit tens of thousands of people – some of the tents alone fit up to 8,000 people, just to give you an idea of how big the area is. In addition to various dance tents and a cabaret tent you can find bar tents here, lots of food stalls, some smaller stalls that sell Pride merch, lots of carousels and thrill rides, and the main Pride stage.brighton pride festival grounds carouselBrighton Pride festival groundsThe line-up shows how big of a festival Brighton Pride is: every year, the organizers manage to attract top acts and chart toppers like The Human Leage, Mary Lambert, Ella Henderson, and British pop stars Ms Dynamite and Tulisa.brighton pride festival grounds main stageOn the DJ front, Fatboy Slim was the biggest name and had no difficulties in making the crowds dance, and the ladies were ecstatic when Ruby Rose took over the turntables in the Girls Dance Tent, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed by her hot looks DJ skills. brighton pride festival grounds dance tentAbout 40,000 people enjoy the DJs and performance acts here, and I loved seeing how many non-LGBT people had joined the festivities. Some people might be turned off by having to pay for the festival, but at £16 I found the tickets to be more than reasonably priced, considering how much you got for it: all the DJs, the acts, the rides, and not to forget all the logistics and security necessary to organize an event like this. Brighton Pride festival grounds main stage1Brighton Pride festival grounds carousel 2015Later on, we joined the 30,000 people that were roaming the streets of Kemptown where the Village Party went on until Sunday morning, long after Preston Park had closed. Kemptown is where all of Brighton’s gay bars and clubs are located, and places like Revenge, the Terrace Bar, A Bar, Camelford Arms, Legends Bar, the Queens Arms and Charles Street Bar were all packed, with people dancing inside and spilling out onto the streets which had been blocked off for cars and limited for pedestrians. brighton pride 2015 street partyWhile Pride usually slows down on the third day, Brighton Pride was still going strong on Sunday and I was impressed with everyone’s stamina, considering that some people were still dancing when I was already having breakfast. brighton pride street party djBut by late afternoon, Kemptown was packed again, and the street party continued with people flirting, dancing, drinking and enjoying the sunny weather. brighton pride fest 2015 barbrighton pride street party 2015 crowdsWhen I left Brighton the next morning, I was still brimming with excitement, event though I was utterly exhausted after this party weekend. As a festival lover, I loved how much this weekend – especially Saturday in Preston Park – felt like a music festival, with tens of thousands of music lovers coming together to dance, sing along, drink and celebrate, no matter if gay or straight.Brighton Pride 2015brighton pride 2015 girlsBrighton Pride 2015I have no doubt that this was not my last Brighton Pride.

Where to stay during Brighton Pride

If you want a B&B experience that’s a bit different from the traditional British B&Bs, I highly recommend staying at the funky Snooze, conveniently located in Kemptown – close to the Village Street Party, but still far away enough to get a good night’s sleep.   If you are on a tighter budget, the newly opened YHA Hostel is the perfect choice, located a 1-minute walk from the beach, right in the center of the action, and a 2-minute walk from the Kemptown Village Party. 

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View from my room at the YHA Brighton – love it!

Additional information about Brighton Pride

For up-to-date information on next year’s line-up, the parade route and other Pride events, visit pride cake brighton

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One Bed or Two

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Reflections on the slightly awkward nature of finding budget hotels and hostels for long-term lesbian travelers.

On Lesbian Solo Travel

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When I set off on my solo travel adventures, I had no idea that lesbian solo travel could be so
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