Discover more from Talking Travel Writing
Let's get practical: how to practice allyship through your work
How you can support the LGBTQ+ community as a travel writer
For this week’s edition, we wanted to hear how the mainstream travel media commissions content that’s representative and inclusive of LGBTQ+ communities.
We reached out to five travel publications.
The silence was deafening.
Only one responded. Sure, we know everyone’s busy, but this is still pretty poor form and possibly indicative of the mainstream media’s attitude to LGTBQ+ inclusion. We hope not, but you can’t help but wonder…
Instead, this week’s newsletter is a practical guide to making your travel writing inclusive. Whether the publications we write for are making concerted efforts to commission inclusive content or not, all of us can practice allyship in our own writing and make our LGBTQ+ readers feel represented. So this week we’re featuring a compilation of the different voices whose insight and expertise we’ve leaned upon over the past month (thanks again folks!) and whose recommendations provide concrete actions you can take and helpful resources you can use in your work.
But first, let’s hear from the one company that did respond: Lonely Planet. Here’s what you need to know about how they approach inclusivity in their guidebooks, online content and the company as a whole.
Chris Zeiher, Senior Director of Global Trade Sales & Marketing at Lonely Planet
An avid traveller and self-confessed book nerd, Chris Zeiher is the Senior Director of Global Trade Sales & Marketing at Lonely Planet, the world’s leading guidebook publisher. Over his 16 year career with Lonely Planet Chris has also written extensively for the brand and contributed to various publications such as Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel, Gourmet Trails Australia & New Zealand, Wine Trails Australia & New Zealand and Lonely Planet’s Global Distillery Tour amongst others. In 2012 Chris became spokesperson for Lonely Planet and takes on a variety of print, radio and media interviews for the brand including hosting a bi-weekly travel program on JOY-FM, Australia’s only LGBTQIA+ radio station. A wine enthusiast, a confessed Eurovision-holic and a fan of dark Scandinavian crime novels, Chris is also an excellent source for LGBTQIA+ travel advice.
How does LP make its content inclusive for the LGBTQIA+ community?
For many decades Lonely Planet has included very specific LGBTQIA+ content within our product portfolio. Within our guidebooks we have well sign-posted sections for LGBTQIA+ travellers and it’s here that we make specific reference to the historical context and attitude to the LGBTQIA+ community in a particular destination. This is coupled with links to local online resources, recommendations of LGBTQIA+ venues in destination, lists of festivals and events catering for the community and a call-out to specific regions or parts of, in particular, cities that have hubs for this community.
For certain destinations this content will include safety warnings, practical advice and examples of scams or “honey traps”. Our intent is to showcase this in a no-nonsense way to help travellers with their decision-making specific to a particular destination.
And this representation is not limited to destination-specific content. Feature articles, such as this piece about what it’s like to travel as a gay traveller, address the needs and considerations of LGBTQIA+ travellers more generally. Additionally, we also celebrate communities for their inclusivity and welcoming attitudes via articles such as this listicle on the most gay-friendly places on the planet.
From a content perspective we're striving for additional representation amongst our writers and editors, writing stories that address critical issues to this community, and we’re constantly reviewing content from the past that needs updating.
How do you ensure in-house staff and freelancers build LGBTQ+ representation into your guidebooks and website?
I’ve been employed with Lonely Planet for over 16 years and my lived experience is that it’s been a welcoming and safe employer for queer-identifying staff and writers. This in itself cascades through our business and ensures that representation is not simply considered but intrinsic to our values.
Lonely Planet’s new owner Red Ventures continues to make ground-breaking strides regarding inclusiveness in the workplace, most recently we celebrated the inclusion of gender transformation surgery as a part of our Medical Plan now available to employees. Additionally, Red Ventures has a series of employee resource groups that seek to empower staff through community-driven support and educational programs and one such group is Venture OUT, an LGBTQIA+ resource group of queer staff and their allies. This demonstrates that representation always needs to be built and championed from within.
What steps do you take to prepare LGBTQ+ travellers for the realities of travel in destinations where being gay is illegal or where they could face violence or other negative treatment because of their sexual orientation or gender expression?
This is an ever-changing space and some destinations or ruling regimes have flashpoints with the local LGBTQIA+ community at certain times which can negatively impact the LGBTQIA+ traveller.
Our approach here is simple — keep all elements factual to best assist the traveller in making an informed choice. This means ensuring content is accurately updated where it is practical and using our news and social channels to inform and educate.
Additionally, we also call out and celebrate destinations for their inclusivity. This is not limited to our guidebooks or online content but also features in our social media and in our trade inspirational publishing. It’s important to highlight destinations that welcome queer-identifying travellers and hold these places up as examples of inclusiveness and tolerance.
Finally, is Lonely Planet is currently seeking pitches from LGBTQ+ writers about issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ travel?
Lonely Planet is always eager to hear from LGBTQ+ writers about issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ travel. Story pitches can be directed to email@example.com. Put “attention to Fin McCarthy” in the subject line.
How to be an ally through your work
If you really want to be an ally through your work there are some simple things you can do to make your writing inclusive.
Use inclusive/gender neutral language. Gabrielle Claibourne is a trans woman and she says that language in LGBTQ+ content and mainstream media so often excludes her and other trans, non-binary and asexual peoples’ experience. “We are usually lumped into this LGBTQ+ umbrella and oftentimes misunderstood. I’m a straight trans woman, right, so when someone writes about the gay experience that doesn’t resonate with me. You have to use the language that’s relevant to my experience.” Using gender neutral terms is another way of making your writing more inclusive, too — words like manmade, layman or manpower can make plenty of your readership feel excluded. Learn more about why gender neutral language matters here, and check this beautiful, fascinating illustration of how gendered language works around the world.
Ask about pronouns. When you’re writing about other people, find out how they want to be addressed in your work. Which pronouns do they use? The best, most polite way to do this is by offering your own first: “I go by she/her, which pronouns should I use for you in my piece?”
Extend diversity in your photography. “When providing content, it's not only important that the written word portrays valid experience, it's also important that you use images that are relevant to personal experience, like images of trans people, black trans people, non binary people,” says Claibourne. Photos of couples enjoying romantic holidays needn’t be restricted to cis gender, heterosexual couples.
Ask the right questions. When an establishment or destination says they’re LGBTQ+ friendly, find out if that’s really true, or are they just trying to market to those people? You’ve got to ask the right questions, such as do they have gender neutral bathrooms, does the business itself have non discrimination policies, or if it’s a hotel, can you notify staff of your pronouns so they don’t address you incorrectly at breakfast or when you call down to reception? These seemingly small things are actually a big deal, and how somewhere responds to these questions is a good way of assessing their true LGBTQ+ friendliness.
Keep learning. As the world changes and our collective understanding of gender and sexuality progresses, there will always be more to learn. Keep learning and exposing yourself to content that will further your understanding. The IGLTA has a consumer-facing newsletter that focuses on LGBTQ+ travel news, while the Williams Institute is a brilliant resource for understanding issues and attitudes among the community. You can also follow the National Centre for Trans Equality, book on to a training course for individuals or organisations by the LGBT Foundation, and find excellent resources on Galop’s website.
Pass the mic. Really, the best way to be an ally is to pass the mic to someone who can write about an LGBTQ+ experience more authentically. Lifting up our colleagues is an important thing to do, especially for marginalised groups. We asked Joanna Whitehead, travel editor for DIVA magazine, who to follow: “A few excellent LGBTQIA+ travel writers you should follow, commission and pay for stories include Paula Akpan (in the absence of any travel media catering to Black LGBTQIA+ travellers, British journalist Paula Akpan created her own: The Black Queer Travel Guide), Lola Méndez, Kwin Mosby, Danielle Mustarde, Stephen Unwin, Bani Amor, Simon Gage, Ross Clarke, Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, Uwern Jong and Mary Ann Thomas. The ‘T’, ‘I’ and ‘A’ contributors are thin on the ground here, so please shout if you are that person!” We can also recommend Tamsin Wressell and Lindsey Danis, too.
Great resources for representative travel writing
We asked Uwern Jong, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of OutThere magazine, about invaluable resources for travel writing that’s representative of and speaks to LGBTQ+ audiences. He suggested the following:
ILGA’s (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) rainbow map is a good place to start. You’d be surprised how much of the world is “red”.
The IGLTA (International LGBTQ+ Travel Association) provide LGBTQ+ travel information and promote equality and safety within LGBTQ+ tourism. They can put you in touch with LGBTQ+ friendly accommodations, transport, destinations, service providers, travel agents, tour operators, events and travel media in over 80 countries worldwide.
Read OutThere’s boundless travel statement. I’ve tried to capture the essence of how we approach LGBTQ+ needs and wants, particularly when travelling to more conservative countries. I’ve been told by many that it has been helpful in framing a destination.
But the best resource will always be friends, family and colleagues who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and who have first-hand experience of visiting — and mean you can hear it from the horse’s mouth.
This email was the final free email in February’s LGBTQ+ series; you can read each issue from this month in our archive here. In March, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by exploring women's issues in travel writing. If you want to receive all of March’s emails, become a paid subscriber now for just £50 per month.