This morning I read an article in Travel Agent Central about a cruise in December aboard the Navigator of the Seas which is being advertised for transgender travelers.
Out Traveler first reported about what is being called the first ever cruise for "trans travelers." Out Traveler explains that Transgender Vacations organized the cruise so that 'both transgender individuals as well as those who crossdress (but don’t necessarily identify as trans) can take a vacation and be themselves . . . for us to feel comfortable with who we are.'"
At first blush, I thought what a great idea. But then I looked at the itinerary and cringed. The first port of call was Roatan, Honduras.
I have written a series of articles about the high crime rate in Roatan. There's a tendency in the local tourism industry to gloss over the armed robberies and murders there and falsely characterize the Honduran island as "paradise."
A concerned expatriate living in Roatan told me about the vicious death of a transgender mute, named Lele, who was tied to a tree and beaten to death on the island last year.
The Bay Island Voice, one of the few publications on Roatan, wrote a rather unflattering article about the heinous murder of who it alternated between calling a "transvestite" and a "transgender," saying the victim "... was deaf and could speak only a few words, was a familiar sight along the road between French Harbour and Coxen Hole parading about in hotpants and a tube top and similarly flamboyant transgender apparel. His body was found beaten to death and wrapped in a sheet on the roadside near Juticalpa on Roatan’s East End July 18. He was 22."
The article explained that Lele experienced a "history of suffering abuse" and had been "beaten by groups of young men multiple times."
The murderers of Lele were arrested and then soon set free, notwithstanding substantial evidence implicating them in the crime.
Is this really where the "first transgender cruise" wants to go?
The organizer of the cruise, "Stephanie," knows nothing of this, I'm sure. She writes: "My suggestion to you is to do the shore excursions with the group so you will feel safe. If you want venture on your own, please use common sense . . . My recommendation is to stay around others and you will be fine."
Let's hope so. But the story raises the issue of how LGBT's are treated during cruises and ashore in the ports of call in the Caribbean.
Two years ago we wrote about bizarre behavior of Carnival responding to a drag queen cruise - Who Will Be The First Drag Queen Kicked Off The Carnival Glory? - as well as a gay couple arrested on a gay cruise to Dominica - Rouges & Vagabonds:" Gay Cruise Couple Fined, Insulted & Deported From Dominica.
Being a LGBT traveler in the Caribbean is not easy. Jamaica, Caymans, Bahamas, Dominica, Honduras, and St. Lucia are begrudgingly tolerant at best and openly hostile at worst to LGBT visitors.
Is there anywhere in the Caribbean with open arms to the LGBT community?
Interested in this topic? We suggest reading: Travel Weekly's Go or no? Should LGBT travelers visit hostile places? ("I will get pressured by journalists wanting to cover Roatan, in Honduras," she said. "I've been there; it's a beautiful place. But four transsexual women were murdered [in Honduras], and activists were beaten. ...")
August 13 2014 Update: Reports of murdered trans people in 26 countries in the last 12 months, with the majority from Brazil (95), Mexico (40), the USA (16), and Venezuela (15), followed by Honduras (12), Colombia (12), and El Salvador (5).
According to planetransgender.com, "while Brazil, Mexico, and the USA have the highest absolute numbers, the relative numbers show even more worrisome results for some countries with smaller population sizes. Honduras, for instance, has a rate of 1.5 reported trans killings per million inhabitants, for El Salvador the rate is 0.71, while for Brazil the rate is 0.49, for Mexico the rate is 0.36, and for the USA the rate is 0.05."