How to Connect with Queer Communities Abroad
Exploring another corner of the world is always expansive, but it’s even more expansive when you make new connections. The best part of travelling is meeting people who are different from you, sure, but it’s helpful when you have common ground to kick things off.
Being queer can be a basic access point through which to make friends, and can act as a passport for entering queer spaces in other parts of the world (as long as you’re respectful). Meeting people from queer communities elsewhere can also help us understand how good or bad we have it comparatively, bringing a bit of much-needed perspective into our lives and pushing us to do more for the global queer community. Sometimes it can just lead to a cute holiday romance, which we’re here for.
So how do you get out there and meet queer people rather than sitting alone in your hotel room? Here are eight tips on connecting with queer communities, beyond just going to a bar.
The social media shout out
It might sound obvious but bite the bullet and post about your trip on social media before you go; a selfie from the airport, or a short video call out. Tell your friends where you’re headed, and that you’re looking to connect with any friends they might have when you get there. You never know what might come out of it.
Pick a queer hotspot
If you choose a destination other queers are likely travelling to in order to socialise then it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to meet people. Think San Francisco, which is full of queer spots (Joanna’s and The Rio are among the friendliest), or Fire Island, a gay community off NYC that gets super busy in summertime.
Time your visit
Pride is the obvious choice (also known as Mardi Gras in Sydney, or CSD in Berlin), but there are also events like Dina Shore, a massive annual festival in Palm Springs for queer women (not for the faint-hearted) or LGBTQ+ film festivals like Queer Lisboa in Lisbon, Outfest in LA, and Melbourne Queer Film Festival, for example.
Galleries, museums, bookshops
Not everyone likes going out-out, but there are places to meet queers beyond gay bars, especially for queer people who don’t drink or take drugs. The Leslie Lohman Museum in New York City and the Schwules Museum in Berlin are dedicated to queer art and history respectively. The soon to open Queer Circle and London LGBTQ+ Centre will be friendly places for queers to meet other queers.
As for queer bookshops, Antwerp has an independent queer bookshop called Kartonen Dozen, Glasgow has Category Is and Philadelphia has Giovanni’s Room, named after James Baldwin’s book of the same name. If you’re after a traditional meet-cute, pay a visit and pretend to browse.
Queering the Map is an incredible global map of user-generated queer experiences, past and present. Explore a place before you visit on the map and discover the best local gay bar or queer-run gallery to visit, or at least get a better picture of what it’s like to be queer there.
More specifically, BAD.Brussels is a map of lesbian and queer spots around the city. O-Zine is a magazine focussing on Russian queer communities and nightlife (Russia’s queer rave scene, while underground, is currently giving). Plus Them.US has queer travel guides for places like the Midwest and South Africa.
If you’re sticking around for a while then joining a group could be a great way to meet people. Voices4 has London, New York and Berlin groups bringing together young LGBTQ+ people regularly for meetings and protests. Similarly, AIDS activist organisation ACT UP is still active with new chapters in New York, London and other cities.
If you’re the outdoors type, look up queer networks in sports. Benny’s Surf Club is a queer/ POC surf collective in NY and Queer Skate Collective are based in the North of England, for example.
Hookup and friendship apps
Apps like Grindr introduced a warning when you’re travelling to a country where it’s not safe to use LGBTQ+ hookups freely, but use your initiative too. Countries like Egypt, Russia, and Nigeria have a history of cases of catfishing on apps. If in doubt, meet in public first, or crop your face out of your pictures.
If you’re looking for apps that encourage friend-making as much as sex, then LEX is an app where you can post an ad – either looking for romance or friendship, just drop an ad when you arrive in your destination of choice, LEX is also nonbinary and trans inclusive.