Fort Lauderdale Steps-Up for Trans Travelers
By Jude Samson
While vacationing can be a lot of fun or just simply relaxing, it can certainly be just as hectic. Planning the trip, arranging funds, scheduling the flight, getting to the airport or cruise terminal on time can all be frazzle-worthy. Not to mention the inevitable time-sucker of going through security, regardless of where you start or end. Adding the potential of getting arrested; beaten up; or, at a minimum, harassed just because you need to use a public restroom is the last thing you want to worry about before packing your bags.
Expedia has long been ahead of the game by offering an LGBT travel page for over six years (and their 2012 lesbian-centric commercial – yes, that’s Jill and Nikki from The Real L World) but it is the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) that has truly spearheaded safe LGB travel since the early 80s but makes a point to state that transgender folks aren’t being marketed towards. Despite the monumental changes they’ve helped create to allow for safe travel in the LGB community, the Trans-community requires some additional protections and guidance – most especially while we’re currently such a public hot topic.
“AS OUR COMMUNITY COMES MORE INTO THE LIGHT AND WE ARE CLAIMING OUR INDEPENDENCE, SOME PLACES ARE RESPONDING BY OPENING THEIR DOORS.”
Since so many transgender people live in fear, many haven’t responded to attempts at surveys or have given skewed responses to protect themselves. As a result many businesses and groups have determined that we’re not a marketable group worth catering to. John Tanzella, CEO of IGLTA told Travel Weekly in 2013 “Perhaps in one of our upcoming conventions we will do a general session on transgender travel.” Apparently this hasn’t seemed like an important issue for the IGLTA because there’s still no trans-specific section on their page. As our community comes more into the light and we are claiming our independence, some places are responding by opening their doors.
While you may think the South is off-limits right now, Florida (as they shot down an anti-LGBT bill), more specifically Fort Lauderdale, is making it known – loud and proud – that they support not just the LGB but the T community as well. While Southern Florida is home to Trans-Activist Jazz Jennings it is also laying the foundation and showing the country – and world – that by being open and accepting to all people you increase local revenue. While North Carolina and states that followed by enacting hate-bills have lost not millions, but billions, of dollars in state revenue from government resources, new job development, construction development, and overall sales Fort Lauderdale is booming business with major events like the Southern Comfort Conference, which has left its long-term home of Atlanta, GA because of how Trans-friendly Fort Lauderdale has become and has hosted almost 19,000 convention-goers over the years.
Richard Gray, managing director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau’s LGBT Market told the NY Times “We now welcome 1.3 million L.G.B.T. travelers who spend approximately $1.5 billion in the area.” Just thirty miles away Transgender Vacations is headquartered and working hard to serve the specialized needs of the transgender community.
“WE SHOULD SHOW OUR SUPPORT FOR A COMMUNITY THAT IS SUPPORTING US AND GIVE PLACES LIKE FORT LAUDERDALE A FAIR CHANCE.”
We should show our support for a community that is supporting us and give places like Fort Lauderdale a fair chance. Maybe by being visible in safe havens like this, more companies will realize we do count and will go that extra step to make a little extra room for us too.