I’ve recently had conversations with several gay men in their 20’s about the necessity, or lack thereof, of the “gay hotel.” First, I think it is truly amazing that many of our younger gay peers feel so completely comfortable in their skin in any surrounding. I think it is tangible evidence of progress. And one I celebrate—wholeheartedly—as I toast with my frozen cosmopolitan, pomegranate margarita or glass of crisp sauvignon blanc. But these conversations have made me examine why I personally am still drawn to the congregation of gay. Now, I love to travel often and on many different types of trips, frequented by many different types of people. And I don’t ever want that to change. But yet I find myself consistently drawn to the comradery of the gay hotel.
I’d guess this is greatly generational. Perhaps it’s the childhood years of being schooled in the appropriate ways boys gesture. Or the exhausting energy expended in youth hoping no one will figure you out. Or the many times you heard the f-word and continued walking pretending you weren’t the subject. And I am thrilled if kids these days don’t grow up with any of these same concerns. Because though I have never been targeted or mocked as a traveling adult, this well-adjusted gay New Yorker still can’t wait to return to Puerto Vallarta or Key West or Provincetown.
There is a world of difference between not feeling endangered and feeling truly welcome. I am so accustomed to my life in New York City, where I never worry about holding my boyfriend’s hand as we stroll through Hell’s Kitchen or fret if my shorts are the appropriate length on a hot, summer day (I’m bringing the 5” inseam back!). With so many elements of which to keep track on vacation—currency exchanges, language barriers, convoluted directions—watching yourself so you are not watched seems like wasted energy.
I prefer to spend that time meeting new friends—many of whom, especially now in the age of social media, will continue to be part of my life beyond my departure from the destination. I have been fortunate to share unforgettable moments with some pretty fantastic people who I may or may not ever see again. But if I ever visit their home cities, I guarantee you they will be my first call. Because they are now part of my community.
So, I will continue to travel everywhere and stay anywhere, but I will always have a soft spot for the gay hotel. And I hope all of our generations can join in the spirited, tipsy conversations which could never be replicated on an app or anywhere else, other than at that pool, with that fruity cocktail in hand, while blasting that Deborah Cox remix that will forever give us life.