Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered and Cruising to the Bahamas? Think Again.

This weekend, the “Bahamas Pride Freedom Weekend” was scheduled to take place at a resort on Grand Bahama.

Beginning last Friday, the four-day festival was intended to celebrate and strengthen support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.

According to the Tribune newspaper, the event was organized to "underscore the critical need for outreach and empowerment" within the LGBT community. The event's organizer, Victor Rollins, says that the LGBT community is often "stigmatised, manipulated or exploited."

This weekend was designed to feature a variety of parties and festivities, as well as a memorial to Bahamas LGBT remember LGBT individuals who were victims of hate crimes or HIV. The events were scheduled to take place at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort.

But the Nassau Guardian reports that the festivities and memorial were canceled "out of fear" of violence from "irate" members of the public. The organizer Mr. Rollins reportedly received death threats. The newspaper also reported that local talk shows included vitriolic comments by those Bahamians who wished the LGBT community harm and suggested that God would condemn the LGBT members. 

A religious leader, Dr Myles Munroe, of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International, added fuel to the anti-LGBT sentiment. He has made numerous public denouncements of homosexuality. After learning of the LGBT events, he issued a press statement that homosexuality dismantles "the very core of the natural existence of humanity.”

According to the Tribune, Dr. Munroe claims that "90 per cent of the Bahamas and Bahamians consider (homosexuality) unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values." He characterized gay and lesbian men and women as "selfish," possessing "unnatural preferences," and engaging in "unnatural human-destroying behaviour."

You can read a letter to the editor of the Tribune entitled the Homosexual And Bisexual Plague to understand this view of the LGBT community in the Bahamas.  Or you can read this Bahamian minister's view on his Facebook page - "the Bahamas has to be careful that we don't inherit a reputation as a 'Gay Destination.'"

Frommer's says that the Bahamas is "increasingly gay-friendly," but "single gays and gay couples should still travel with discretion."

Some say that over 10% of cruisers are affiliated with the LGBT community. But whatever the number may be, why would anyone chose to cruise to such a hateful place?  

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.   

Photo Credit: The Tribune.

Transgender Cruise to Roatan: What About Lele?

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.'" 

Transgender CruiseAt 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." 

Who Will Be The First Drag Queen Kicked Off The Carnival Glory?

Carnival Cruise Drag QueenThe America Blog published an article ("Carnival Cruises Bans 'Drag' on Drag Cruise") this evening about Carnival's bizarre decision to threaten to kick any of their guests who dress in drag off of the December 2nd cruise aboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship.

The particularly strange part of the story is that the sailing is a Drag Stars at Sea cruise!

The travel agency organizing the event promises "Drag Stars at Sea: The Largest Gathering in HISTORY! . . . This is the first event of its kind in the world."

Well, if Carnival goes through with its plan to manhandle drag queens down the gangway in their high heels into Caribbean ports of call, the cruise may well be the first and last event of its kind in the world.

The threats came in the form of a letter dated today sent by Carnival to the guests looking to board the Glory in Miami this weekend.  Now, this seems like a rather rude thing for Carnival to do.  Aren't the guests receiving the materially-altered conditions for the cruise a little bit late? After all, the prospective passengers have already packed their dresses and make-up for the trip, not to mention that they booked their now non-refundable cruise tickets months ago. 

The letter was signed by Carnival representative Vicki Ray who our law firm knows as the smiling face of the cruise industry at Congressional crime hearings over the last many years. Her letter starts out upbeat: "Greetings Fun Seekers!" (exclamation in original) but four paragraphs later the real purpose of the letter is revealed:

Carnival Cruise Drag Queen"These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag in the theater. Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public area at any time during the cruise."

Then comes the threat. Anyone violating the edict . . .  "will be disembarked at their own expense and no refunds given."  

Wow, that's some serious chutzpah! Take money from your guests for a drag queen cruise and tell them that, uh, they can't dress like a drag queen.

Can Carnival really enforce this ban as a practical matter?  There are 35 drag queen performers listed for the cruise, like Delta Work, Venus D Lite, and Phi Phi O'Hara (photos).  If someone in drag walks from his cabin to the theater will Carnival security really try to detain him? How can ship security distinguish the audience members in drag from the performers or, for that matter, attractive buxom women dressed up for the night?

How can the dozen or so Carnival security guards think they can possibly handle several hundred men (anyone remember the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City?) if they try and arrest everyone in drag who is on the cruise?

The duplicitous aspect of Carnival's conduct is that this cruise line has one of the worst reputations for permitting kids to run wild and drunks to disrupt the cruising experience of guests, all the while looking the other way when fights or sexual violence occurs.  Consider this video about a drunken brawl erupting during a Carnival cruise.  

Carnival Drag CruiseFor years, Carnival and their subsidiary cruise lines have hosted "cougar cruises," "swinger cruises" and "nude cruises" where men and women dress in provocative clothing or no clothing for that matter and engage in sexually promiscuous behavior in and around the cruise ship. What's the beef against drag queens walking around the cruise ship?  Just take a look at the sexually charged and semi-nude advertising for straight "swinger cruises" offered by other cruise lines.  

Is Carnival's intent really to protect children from seeing men dressed in women's clothing?  My kids laughed throughout Robin Williams' performance in Ms. Doubtfire and they somehow managed to survive The Birdcage with Nathan Lane.

America Blog has offered opinions about the basis for a lawsuit against Carnival if the cruise line proceeds with its threats. Although a lawyer, I offer no opinions here about that, except to say that there must be something unlawful about kicking a guest who has paid his full fare off a cruise for dressing in drag on a drag queen cruise.

Let's hope that Carnival comes to its senses.  If not, I'm afraid that next week I will be watching the ugly spectacle on a YouTube video which is eventually shown to a jury in a court of law.

Carnival President Gerry CahillNovember 27 2012 Update:  Under pressure, Carnival claims that there was just a "mistake" in communication, changes course and withdraws ban on dressing in drag.  According to Cruise Critic, the president of Carnival issued the following statement:

"When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events," Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, said in an e-mail to passengers booked on the December 2 sailing. "However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so."

Smart move by Carnival, otherwise it would have faced a riot on the high seas. 

The Carnival statement continues:

"At Carnival, we are proud to carry more than 4.5 million guests every year and we welcome them all aboard. We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication and for any unintended offense we have caused."

Cahill further stated that anyone booked on the cruise who wants to cancel "for any reason may do so and will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as reimbursement for any non-refundable travel related expenses."

Carnival Letter - Vicki Rey

Who's covering this story?  

Daily Kos: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Their "Drag Stars At Sea" Cruise

Think Progress: Drag Cruise Refuses To Let Passengers Dress In Drag

America Blog (story # 1): Carnival Cruises Bans “Drag” on Drag Cruise

America Blog (story # 2): Carnival Ban on “Drag” During “Drag Cruise” is not Anti-Gay, it’s Cuz of 9/11

Huffington Post: AlandChuck.Travel: No Drag for Passengers on Drag at Sea Cruise?!   

Queerty: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Upcoming Drag Cruise

Village Voice: Carnival Bans Drag Patrons From Drag Cruise!

Miami New Times: Carnival Bans Drag Costumes from RuPaul's Drag Race Themed Cruise

USA Today: Carnival's Ban On Drag Costumes Sparks Controversy

Crushable (WTF Blog): Carnival Forbids People From Dressing In Drag On ‘Drag Stars At Sea’ Cruise

SFist: Carnival Cruises Forbids Drag Queens During Drag Cruise

NYMag: Carnival Bans Guests in Drag on RuPaul’s Cruise

Passport Magazine: Carnival Cruise Lines in Hot Water Over Drag Ban on a Drag Cruise!

Advocate: Drag Ban Creates Rough Sailing for Drag Star Cruise

Miami Herald: Carnival Apologizes and Says Cruise Passengers May Dress in Drag

 

 

Story credit: John Aravosis / America Blog

Photos: Al and Chuck Travel

Carnival letter: America Blog  ("Gay - A Great Nation Deserves A Great Debate")