Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, located in the state of Kedah, 30km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia near the Thai border. For years, Langkawi has developed a reputation of being more liberal and relaxed than mainland Malaysia, thanks largely to its status as a duty-free haven…a win for tourism in Malaysia!
We visited Malaysia for 2 weeks, trying out the different hotels and bars on the island, which we summarise in this detailed gay guide to the island. Whilst the island maintains a more relaxed approach compared to mainlanders, this is still very much part of an extremely conservative country, with all the anti-gay sentiments that compliment it. We explore this in more detail below, but our big takeaway tip for LGBTQ travellers to gay Langkawi is that you will have an awesome time here, but we recommend avoiding any PDAs to be on the safe side.
Is Gay Langkawi Safe?
On the one side, it’s easy to dismiss Langkawi as a dangerous place you shouldn’t set foot on – it is after all part of a country that criminalises homosexuality and had a local newspaper publishing a ridiculous article about how to “spot” gay people! (In case you’re wondering, if you’ve got a beard, abs and wear branded clothes, then you’re bound for gay jail!)
Yet on the other side, Langkawi is well known for not only being more relaxed than mainland Malaysia, but thanks to tourism, the island is very international. There are many people from all around the world living/working in Langkawi, a large proportion of who are members of the LGBTQ community. Islanders are therefore used to seeing people from all walks of life.
One of my favorite LGBTQ-inclusive picture books from the past few years has largely flown under the radar here in the U.S., so I’m mentioning it again just as a follow-up book comes out. The first book looks at the power of female friendships as it follows the intertwined stories of four girls from childhood into adulthood; the second follows four boys and gives us insight into not only male friendships, but also societal pressures around masculinity. There are queer characters in both, along with a message of unconditional allyship.
The Girls, by Lauren Ace and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie (Rodale Kids), introduces us to four girls, “as different as they were the same” and “the best of friends.” The girls differ not only because of their racial identities (one is Black, one South Asian, and two White), but also because of their interests and personalities: one is adventuresome, one practical, one a performer, and one full of ideas. Nevertheless, they shared “Secrets, dreams, worries and schemes.” While sometimes a joke went too far, “They knew how to say sorry and learned something from every falling out.” Even as they matured and changed, they supported each other through hardships and celebrated each other’s successes in school and beyond. The softly cheerful illustrations and spare text show this playing out as the girls experience romantic breakups, career moves, and starting families of their own.
On one page we see all four friends marching together in a Pride parade and we read that they “always took pride in their friendship.” It’s not even clear from this image which, if any of them, are queer or just allies, but on a later page we see Sasha, the Black girl, in a relationship with another woman. There’s no big coming out moment, though; the girls just naturally support each other in their romantic relationships as in so much else. After so many children’s books in which the non-queer characters tease or don’t understand the queer character, it feels like a breath of fresh air to see this image of active support by the friends, where their support isn’t even a question. We also see Sasha, who was always ready with a Band-Aid when someone fell out of a tree, later becoming a doctor; she is more than just her queer identity.
The Girls won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the Illustrated Books category in 2019, and it’s easy to see why. It’s sweet and thoughtful without being cloying, offering a view of female friendship through life’s ups and downs that feels both true and hopeful. (It beat out Julián is a Mermaid for the Waterstones prize; I’m not going to debate the relative merits of each book, since I like them both; I point this out merely to offer some idea of just how good The Girls is, since I’m guessing my readers (who are mostly in the U.S.) may be more familiar with the much-lauded Julián.)
The Boys (Caterpillar Books/Little Tiger) similarly follows the lives of four children—boys this time—with very different interests and racial identities. The story isn’t a mere gender-swapping of the same narrative, though; as Ace said in an interview at The Bookseller, she “drew on works about toxic masculinity” to show how messages about masculinity might have impacted her male characters and their relationships. We watch the boys in childhood as they became friends and “were a team,” then drifted apart as they developed separate interests and sometimes competed against each other. “For a little while the boys enjoyed standing out on their own,” we read. Yet “without the others, each of the boys soon felt as though he had been swept out to sea…. The boys knew they had to be able to talk about their feelings… but it wasn’t easy.”
Eventually, though, they “learned to be patient and kind with one another again,” even as each charted his own path. The boys, now men, are there to lift each other up when one is sad; we see three of them comforting the fourth upon the death of a pet. We also see one of the men marrying and starting his own family with another man; the other three friends have active parts in his wedding as we read, “And although their lives had taken them to different places, the men came back together to share their happiest times.” A final scene shows them all playing together at the seashore with their own children.
This is a lovely and perfectly understated examination of masculinity and friendship. As in The Girls, their support for the one who is queer is unquestioned and unremarkable (which actually makes it rather remarkable). In addition, one boy is the son of Sasha and her spouse from The Girls; this isn’t stressed, but careful readers will recognize the moms in one scene.
Both books also offer something else rarely found in books featuring LGBTQ children: a glimpse of a positive future as an adult. The queer characters grow up to have careers and families just like the others. Not that all queer people should feel pressure to have families; but it’s good to see this portrayed as a possible path. Similarly, while we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the obstacles that LGBTQ people (and marginalized people generally) may face in education and employment, not every story has to be one of struggle and oppression.
With insightful and inspiring looks at lifelong friendships across many kinds of difference, these stories should be valued by queer and non-queer readers alike.
TheGirls, originally published in the U.K., is available in the U.S. through Amazon, Bookshop, and other online (and offline) retailers The Boys is unfortunately not directly available in the U.S., though it may be bought from the U.K. via Amazon.co.uk or Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery). My sources tell me that the U.S. publisher of The Girls, Random House Children’s Books (which owns the Rodale Kids imprint), has not yet picked up The Boys for U.S. publication. If you’d like to see it sold directly in the U.S. (so it can more easily reach readers here), drop them a note: you can find them on Twitter or Instagram.
(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
You heard it here first, guys. gay San Miguel de Allende is not just a delicious beer – it’s also a stunningly beautiful city located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, perfect for romantic getaways.
Founded in the early 16th century, San Miguel de Allende is dripping in history and culture. Many landmarks date back to periods of intense conflict, and the fact they’re still standing today is a testament to the will of the people. This is one UNESCO listed gem you need to check out!
San Miguel has also become super popular with gay couples thanks to its draw as a romantic getaway and even as a wedding destination. The people are famous for being super friendly, religious but curious and tolerant of everyone. So much so that gay owned businesses have flourished over the years, from artists, jewelry designers, painters, sculptors and art galleries.
This is why we love San Miguel and rate it as one of our absolute favourite gay cities in Mexico – a sort of cultural alternative to gay party town Puerto Vallarta! Here is our gay travel guide to San Miguel de Allende to inspire you and help you plan your visit to the “Heart of Mexico”.
Fort Lauderdale is out, loud and fabulously proud!
Over the past few decades, Fort Lauderdale has gone from being a Spring Break destination for straight teen college kids to one of the gayest places in the whole country! It was even featured as the ultimate gay holiday for the boys in the hilarious movie with Ru Paul, Lady Bunny and Brent Corrigan – “Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!”
We always love coming here to party. The gay scene of Fort Lauderdale is mainly based in the vibrant gayborhood of Wilton Manors, which comes alive every night of the week. It has tons of gay bars and clubs here to suit any gay boy under the sun! In this article, we’ve set out some of the best Fort Lauderdale gay bars to check out with a snippet of what you can expect. As you’re in the area, we recommend heading south to check out the gay scene of Miami – it’s only a 40-minute drive away!
01 ROSIE’S BAR AND GRILL
See and be seen at Rosie’s Bar & Grill! It’s our favourite bar in Wilton Manors. Totally camp, always buzzy and full of guys cruisin’ and drinkin’. Whether you come on a Monday evening or Sunday brunch, it’s always a blast at Rosie’s, which is why we love it!
Rosie’s is the perfect spot to start the night with a group of friends, get a few burgers and cocktails, before heading over to somewhere like The Pub or Georgie’s. We love the quirky vibe here.
And then there are the burgers! Those tasty, juicy, cheesy award-winning bundles of yumminess…a reason to head to Rosie’s. The menu is priceless, with names such as Plain Jane and Miley Highclub – don’t forget the Hellena Bun – “tossed in Rosie’s own ‘Smack My Cheeks and Make ’em Rosy’ sauce”! When we last visited, the Brexit Burger was on the Specials Board making us all giggle!
Rosie’s is located at 2449 Wilton Drive. It is open every day from around 10am until midnight. Find out more on their Facebook page.
In a new picture book by the real-life mother of a transgender daughter, a young boy isn’t quite sure what’s happening when his younger sibling, whom he thought was a boy, begins to want long hair and to wear dresses. The whole family learns together in this story that adds to the small number of picture books about transgender children and their siblings.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter is a clinical social worker and advocate for children and families whose memoir about her own years in foster care, Three Little Words (Amazon; Bookshop), was a New York Times bestseller. She and her husband have been foster parents to more than twenty-five children. Her first children’s book, Sam Is My Sister (Albert Whitman & Co.), is not about foster care, however, but is based on her own family’s experiences raising a transgender daughter and two cisgender sons (whose names have been changed for the story).
The tale, brightly illustrated by MacKenzie Haley, starts with three White siblings, Evan, Sam, and Finn, who “did everything together.” When Sam starts to want books about princesses and to wear his hair long, Evan wonders why. To their mom’s credit, she says that books are for everyone. Their father explains that Sam’s hair is Sam’s and “isn’t hurting anyone.”
When Sam wants to wear a dress to school, however, the mom hesitates, giving Sam a hair bow and suggesting, “How about this for now?” This feels true to the gradual process that many families go through when a child comes out as trans.
On the next page, some kids at school tease Sam. Evan glares at them, but doesn’t say anything. Sam becomes sad and withdrawn. Eventually, though, their parents start letting Sam wear dresses outside of school, and “Evan had never seen Sam so happy.” When Evan doesn’t understand, however, how Sam can feel like a girl on the inside, Sam makes the analogy to knowing which hand one uses to draw. Evan says, “Drawing with my other hand doesn’t feel right.” Sam explains, “Well, being a boy doesn’t feel right to me.”
One day, the parents sit the whole family down to share that “Sam has been talking to us about something important,” and that they’ve met with “some doctors and experts.” They’ve learned what “transgender” means and realized Sam is transgender. Sam affirms this.
Sam reassures Evan and Finn that they can all still go fishing and play “spaceships, planes, and trains.” Evan, who seems to be expanding his view of gender roles, tells Finn that “Girls like to fish, too.”
Back at school, though, some kids call Sam a “boy in a dress.” This time, Evan confronts them, saying, “Don’t talk like that to my sister!” Sam is delighted he called her his sister.
At the end, the brothers ask if Sam will still fly to the moon with them, and Sam tells them, “Princesses can go to the moon.” Leia Organa would be proud.
While the story has a clear educational purpose, Rhodes-Courter lightens it with some gentle humor. I also appreciate her emphasis that gender is about what’s inside, not about the books one reads or the toys one plays with.
Sam Is My Sister feels like a complement to Jack, Not Jackie, by Erica Silverman (Little Bee), which offers the perspective of a cisgender girl whose sibling is a transgender boy. (My review here.) Like that earlier book, this one seems aimed mostly at the siblings (and possibly friends) of transgender children rather than transgender children themselves. Kyle Lukoff’s When Aidan Became a Brother, in contrast, is told from the perspective of a transgender boy awaiting the arrival of a new sibling. (My review here.) Each of these viewpoints will likely appeal to different families. (And for more children’s books with transgender characters, not necessarily with siblings, see my database. Start typing “Trans” into the Tag box and the various options will come up.)
Rhodes-Courter shares a little more of her family’s real story in an Author’s Note at the end, relating that, “One day, when we read aloud a wonderful book about a young transgender girl, Sam’s face lit up. ‘Mommy, that’s ME! I’m transgender!’ This was a breakthrough moment. I had never seen Sam so happy.” That’s the power of books, friends. May this one in its turn help families and individuals to find their way.
(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Waves lapped gently against the shore, the sun beat down and warmed my every fiber, palm trees swayed in the breeze. As I took a sip of my ice-cold mojito, I asked Seby: “Is there anything better than a trip to the beach?”
“Of course” he replied, “a trip to a gay beach!”
I had to admit, he was right. Whether it’s the chance to get active in the water, show off your hard work in the gym or simply top up that tan, it’s no secret that many gay guys feel most fabulous at the beach. This has meant that gay beaches have popped up across the world down the years, providing a hotspot for local gay communities and gay tourists too.
From vibrant city center beaches where summer nightlife lasts well into the early hours or more relaxed, isolated affairs with a cultivated vibe, gay beaches come in as many shapes, sizes, and guises as gay men. Whether you’re searching for the best gay beaches in the United States or fancy visiting a gay beach further afield, our rundown of the twenty best gay beaches in the world has got you covered.
Fire Island Pines Gay Beach in New York, USA
Fire Island is a thin sliver of land running parallel to the south shore of Long Island in New York. It’s a serious gay mecca on the east coast, where the Manhattan gay boys come to party during summer. The main gay areas are predominantly located around Cherry Grove (or “the Grove” for short) and Fire Island Pines (aka “the Pines”). The beaches around here are gay as hell.
The Grove and the Pines have been gay havens since the 1960s and have largely been left alone as self-governing communities. This has allowed an “anything goes” attitude to flourish here, which makes for some wild fun as well as some of the skimpiest swimsuits we’ve ever seen! Spots such as Pavilion are ideal for drinks in the sun before moving on to more hedonistic establishments such as Sip n Twirl.
Our favorite spot is located on the wild stretch of beach between the Grove and the Pines, separated by a large forest. As you enter the forest between the two communities, continue heading towards the beach ahead and there you’ll find it. The total walk from either the Grove or the Pines ferry dock is around half a mile. Check out why we also rate Fire Island as one of the best vacation spots in the US.
Santiago might be home to a large gay scene in Bellavista, but for our money, Valpo is even more tolerant, open-minded and downright fabulous!
Valpo (for short) is one of the country’s most popular draws, famous for its magnificent street art and unique architecture. Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet, loved Valpo so much he set up one of his homes here. UNESCO was so impressed, it added Valpo’s Historic Quarter to its World Heritage List in 2003, and The Guardian described Valpo as a “mini Berlin by the seaside“.
As Chile’s capital of culture, Valparaiso is packed with art, nightlife and creativity of every kind. This makes the city a hub for the nation’s gay community and we felt more at home in Valpo than anywhere else in Chile.
We fell in love with Valpo’s stunning seaside location, it’s amazing works of art and, of course, the drop-dead gorgeous locals. It goes without saying that by this point, Valpo is one of our favorite cities in Latin America.
To show you how great Valparaiso for LGBTQ travelers, we decided to create a comprehensive gay guide to the city and its neighboring gay resort town Viña del Mar. From the most gay-friendly places to stay to the wildest gay bars and clubs, we will cover it all in our guide to Chile’s coolest city.
Our gaydar went absolutely crazy on the beaches in Puglia. Everywhere we looked, these metrosexual studs were posing and just looking absolutely ripped…Italian men sure know how to take care of themselves!
Puglia is located in the southeastern region of Italy – the heel of the country’s boot. It’s a popular holiday retreat and a prime hotspot for gay travellers, particularly Gallipoli. It’s also stunning, full of UNESCO sites like Alberobello, pretty cities like Lecce, lush landscapes like the Grotta della Poesia, and some of the best food of the entire country…orecchiete anyone?
To get a flavour of gay Puglia, we recommend watching the 2010 Italian movie, Loose Cannons (“Mine Vaganti”) about a bourgeoise family in Lecce coming to terms with their two gay sons… You’ll laugh your socks off, but will also get some fantastic inspiration about the region. We also help to inspire you with our detailed gay guide to Puglia setting out our first-hand experience of the gay scene out here, the best gay hotels to stay, beaches, events and more.
Is Gay Puglia safe for LGBTQ+ travellers?
Yes it is! Whilst Italy is a conservative country with regards to LGBTQ rights, over the years, Puglia has become a bohemian playground for gay travellers. There are a handful of gay beaches across the region, as well as many gay hangouts in the main cities, particularly Gallipoli.
The hottest men of France are officially from Lyon!
According to me, of course. Well obviously, I’m biased – this is Seby’s home ground, the city he was born and raised.
As well as the abundance of smokin’ hot French lovers, Lyon is also the foodie capital of France with a really pretty UNESCO listed Old Town (Vieux Lyon). Lyon has been a flourishing trading city since the Romans thanks to its strategic location at the confluence between two major rivers – the Rhône and Saône. The heart of city lies right at this point, an island-like peninsula called the Presqu’île…which is also where the bulk of the city’s gay scene can be found.
The southern section of the Presqu’île is the actual confluence point between the two rivers and is more residential. The northern side of the Presqu’île has a more commercial feel and has the main gay bars and clubs of Lyon, particularly between the two streets called: Place des Terreaux and Cordeliers. The Presqu’île is our favourite part of the city. Not only do the best gay parties happen right here, it’s also an exciting place to get lost in during the day, with cute narrow cobblestone streets, Renaissance-era mansions to awe at, hidden courtyards to explore and an abundance of excellent restaurants (called “bouchons”) everywhere!
Following our many trips to France’s gastronomical capital, we’ve put together our gay travel guide to Lyon featuring the best gay hotels to stay, the best bars, clubs, events, things to do, and many more practical tips for LGBTQ travellers.
Is Lyon safe for gay travellers?
Absolutely! France ranks as one of the gayest countries in the world. The French are famous for their “laissez-faire” attitude towards our LGBTQ community, namely, not interfering in matters that may seem too personal, and respecting the privacy of others.
All locals we met in Lyon did not bat an eyelid whenever they saw us holding hands or displaying other PDAs, particularly in the touristic areas – the Presqu’île and Vieux Lyon. To add to that, Lyon has a large student population with people from all over the world, which gives it an air of tolerance, open-mindedness and diversity.
Over the past few decades, Fort Lauderdale has evolved massively to become the gay capital of Florida as well as one of the top LGBTQ destinations in the USA. The city has everything to suit all LGBTQ travellers including clothing-optional male-only resorts, gay beaches, many gay events taking place throughout the year and of course the gay scene of Wilton Manors!
We’ve been several times to Fort Lauderdale, either as a stopover for a cruise, or to go to one of the many gay parties they have here throughout the year like “Wicked Manors” on Halloween. We always love coming here, particularly as it’s a 365 day destination. There’s always something happening and you’re almost always guaranteed gorgeous sunny weather.
This is our detailed gay guide to Fort Lauderdale featuring highlights from the gay scene of Wilton Manors, the best gay beaches, events and gay hotels to stay. Read why we included Fort Lauderdale in our detailed guide to the best vacation places in the world for LGBTQ travelers.
Is “Gay Fort Lauderdale” Really Gay Friendly?
Fort Lauderdale has evolved so much over the past few decades to become one of the gayest places in the entire country, especially Wilton Manors. It’s so gay that in the 2010 US Census it was ranked as the second gayest place in the USA after Provincetown for most gays couples per 1,000.
Even the community leaders of Wilton Manors are predominantly gay. The city’s first openly gay mayor was John Fiore who was elected in 2000. He was then succeeded by Jim Stork in 2002, making Wilton Manors the first city in the United States to elect two consecutive openly gay mayors. More recently, Justin Flippen was the openly gay mayor of Wilton Manors, who sadly died in early 2020 from a brain aneurysm.