Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Merida, Mexico: The Yucatan Capital of Gay & Day Drinking

Cathedral in Merida
Merida Cathedral

The new buzzy destination topping everybody’s lists these days is Merida.  Mexico’s new IT girl is enjoying quite a moment, with accolades and coverage in major travel publications, including Condé Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Award for “World’s Best Small City.”

IQ’s Merida Gay Travel Guide

Though it is the capital and largest city of Mexico’s Yucatan State, Merida is pedestrian-friendly and compact, with most tourism centered around the Centro Historico (historic center). It is accessible by direct flights from Miami, Houston and Tijuana/San Diego; and only a three-hour drive from the Cancun airport, with flight options from major cities all over the world. And you’ll feel comfortable here. After all, Merida was voted the second safest city in all of North America by CEOWorld Magazine—ranked above any city in the United States. 

Merida Centro Historico is a pedestrian friendly city
Pedestrian-friendly Merida

Also, Merida has potential to evolve into Mexico’s newest LGBTQ+ destination. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco Marques, the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) and Queer Destinations signed a “Letter of Intent” to further promote LGBTQ+ tourism to Mexico. The first action in this new effort, engaging and instructing the tourism private sector in Yucatan, was held in Merida. 

DAYS FOR DRINKING

La Negrita Cantina is Merida's most popular cantina
La Negrita Cantina

Liver be damned: Merida is a day drinking city! The parties center around its cantina culture, starting at noon and closing at 10pm. Though many locals have their favorite neighborhood spot, the most popular cantina in Merida is La Negrita. Literally, every single person I asked for a recommendation mentioned La Negrita. Expect fantastic live Cuban music, dancing and a very friendly crowd. It’s the type of place where, if you are fortunate to get a table (and for that, you should arrive early), you’ll instantly spark a conversation with your neighbor. The musical vibe of Merida has a strong Caribbean influence and salsa dancing reigns supreme, so this Cuban boy felt quite at home. 

For day-drinking with a side of man muscle visit Cantina Bullpen, Merida’s gay cantina featuring go-go boys throughout the day. In keeping with traditional cantina hours, Bullpen closes at 10pm, so it’s a great place to start the party. 

NIGHTS FOR GO-GOS

Strippers in Merida Mexico
Papis Dancer Struts

Nighttime is Papi time. The stripper bar Papis does its name juicy justice, with a plentiful selection of muscular muchachos strutting on the bar and leaving little to the imagination. The cheesiness of their costumes is part of the charm. During my visit, I saw a cowboy, fireman, cop and construction worker—all started fully dressed and ended with a fully erect lasso, firehose, billy-club and hammer. Yes, you will see penis. And though the audience was mainly gay men, the crowd had a nice mix of adoring ladies enjoying the show as well. Apparently straight women like hot, naked men too.  

The largest LGBTQ+ club in Merida is Blue Gay Club, about a ten-minute drive from the Centro. Ubers are inexpensive and plentiful in Merida, so travel within the city is very easy to navigate. My night started with a drag performance that was challenging to follow even though I speak Spanish. I’d suggest arriving closer to midnight, when the focus shifts to a more traditional club night, with go-go boys and dancing. You should know the crowd was also pretty mixed, so all will feel welcome. For a change of scene, Deseo is next door and also owned by Blue. The bar feels more intimate and has an outdoor patio (and also go-go boys). And though I did not partake of their company, it was clear that private dances were available from the fellas at both bars. 

MERIDA GAY TOURS

Once you recover from your evening, you’ll be quite busy. Merida is a perfect base from which to explore the Yucatan State’s most unique and revered sights, including 19 Mayan archeological sites and countless cenotes: fresh-water sinkholes and underground rivers. 

Cute and sweet gay tour guide of Merida, Mexico. Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours
Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours

You’ll need some wheels to explore beyond the city. Why not add an adorable, knowledgeable gay guide? The boys of Merida Gay Tours can help plan your entire trip and customize an adventure suited just for you. Created by a gay couple interested in growing the city’s LGBTQ+  tourism, David and Ricardo can arrange sightseeing tours of Merida, recommend specific gay-friendly nightlife spots or create a multi-day itinerary throughout the state. Their packaged experiences include days at the beach, Mayan archeological sites and visits to nearby “Magical Towns.” They are accommodating, sweet and will instantly make you feel like you’ve reconnected with a long-lost friend. Have I mentioned they’re adorable? They can also help orient you toward roving nightlife events that aren’t held in large clubs. The weekend I visited we ended up at a “house ball” hosted by La Fantasía Salón, complete with voguing battles and plentiful cheap tequila. Category was Merida Friendliness and these kids slayed.

The Municipal Palace in Merida in Yucatan State in Mexico
Municipal Palace in Merida

Merida is a contemporary city with reverence to its Mayan and Spanish colonial history. It’s a great home base for your explorations and it’s the LGBTQ+ center of the Yucatan State. Merida is also fun, beautiful and exploding in popularity. Get thee there pronto and witness this jewel of a city evolving into Mexico’s newest queer destination.

For travel info on Merida, visit the websites of Yucatan Tourism and Merida Gay Tours.

And to learn more, read my article on Mexico’s Yucatan State.

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True Colours Cava: LGBTQ+ Activism with a Colorful Sparkle

True Colours Cava bottles

Don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Owning our true colors has been a theme of self-acceptance in the LGBTQ+ community for nearly half a century. 

In 1978, artist Gilbert Baker unveiled the original rainbow flag in San Francisco, as a new symbol to celebrate the love, beauty and diversity of our community. 

In 1986, Cyndi Lauper’s song became an anthem for people struggling to be true to themselves. 

Today, the celebration of our true colors continues with a toast. 

Highland Imports introduced European favorite True Colours Cava to the U.S. last year, inviting the Spanish sparkling wine to celebrate love on our shores. 

In keeping with Altia’s (its original distributor) commitment to support LGBTQ+ rights with every True Colours Cava bottle, Highland Imports pledged to donate at least $100,000 to GLAAD in its first year of U.S. distribution. As True Colours Cava expands its availability in more states this year, it is also expanding its promise by planning to support additional LGBTQ+ organizations from the sale of every bottle.   

True Colours Cava rainbow bottles
(Courtesy of True Colours Cava Instagram)

Challenging other beer and wine brands that only unveil LGBTQ-themed products during Pride season, True Colours Cava’s commitment is year-round and unwavering. “Highland Imports is boldly displaying their support for LGBTQ people at a time when the community needs brands to stand up proudly and loudly,” says Zeke Stokes, GLAAD Vice President of Programs. 

It is also just damn delicious. And beautifully presented.

With a bright, crisp flavor and a rainbow colored bottle, True Colours Cava sparkles with activism at any event. It’s Estate bottled, 100% sustainably farmed and sold in select wine stores throughout the country in both the standard 750 ML bottle and the mini quarter-sized bottle. 

Visit the “Find Us” tab at TrueColoursCava.com to learn where it is available near you. And propose a more accepting, truthful and colorful LGBTQ+ world with your next toast. 

Ivan Quintanilla (Traveling IQ) and Matthew Montelongo enjoy True Colours Cava in the park

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Sarasota is Coming OUT!

Man Swimmer on beach in Sarasota Florida
Photo courtesy of VisitSarasota.com

IQ’s Sarasota Gay Travel Guide

Sarasota County borders 40 miles of shoreline on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida and includes the City of Sarasota, several neighboring cities and a string of eight barrier islands. With a population of about 417,000 permanent residents and many more snow birds during winter months, it’s an area often associated with an older, affluent demographic.

But today’s Sarasota is expanding, evolving and enticing LGBTQ travelers of all ages to visit its powdery-sand beaches, world-class art institutions and growing gay (and gay-friendly) social scene.

Sarasota’s beaches are world-renowned. Perhaps the most famous, Siesta Key, has enjoyed multiple years on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award for the 25 Best Beaches in North America, including a coveted spot on the 2019 list. And it is welcoming to all.

The popular gay beach with the locals, however, is North Lido Beach. Walk about 10 minutes north of the main Lido Beach entrance, off St. Armands Circle, for a less-trafficked shore and dune-hidden trails that might embrace more private… conversations.

Hot guys playing on the beach
Photo by Pixabay courtesy of Pexels.com

Should you work up an appetite from all that spirited sea-splashing (…and conversation) make your way to the south end of Lido Beach, where the no-frills Lido Beach Restaurant serves delicious beachside food and drinks. Try the Lobster Roll and sip on a cocktail while you tan. It’s legal to drink alcohol on Sarasota beaches

Ca' d'Zan mansion. Photo courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Càd’ZanPhoto courtesy of The Ringling

Culture aficionados will love that Sarasota is home to nine performing art organizations less than a mile from Downtown Sarasota and a private art collection that rivals European capitals. First, head to the Ringling Estate. The Godfather of the American Circus (Ringling Bros. and later Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) fell in love with Sarasota in the early 20th century and chose the city for the 66-acre estate that houses his winter home Càd’Zan, a waterfront mansion completed in 1926 and built to resemble a Venetian Gothic palace, and the expansive Ringling Museum of Art and Ringling Circus Museum. You truly can spend an entire day roaming around these gorgeous grounds.

The Courtyard at The John and Mable Ringling Art Museum at The Ringling in Sarasota
Photo courtesy of The Ringling

Don’t miss the Rubens Galleries and the Howard Bros. Circus Model, the largest circus model in the world, with 42,000 miniature pieces. On site is also the Asolo Theater, an 18thcentury playhouse dismantled from the Italian original and reassembled in Sarasota in the 1950’s.

Howard Bros. Circus Model in the Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota
Howard Bros. Circus Model — Photo courtesy of The Ringling

Beyond The Ringling, Sarasota is home to the Florida Studio Theatre, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Sarasota Ballet (the only professional ballet company on Florida’s Gulf Coast), Sarasota Opera House and Sarasota Orchestra, to name a few of their cultural institutions. And there’s more on the way. This December, the Sarasota Museum of Art will open its new home at the historic Sarasota High School, with 15,000 square feet of gallery space showcasing rotating exhibits of contemporary art.

Got your culture? Good. Let’s dance.

Gay Bars in Sarasota
Photo by Mauricio Mascaro on Pexels.com

I always say I need my cities to have at least one gay bar. (Sarasota has two). It’s important for me to interact with my community and I usually learn much from half-drunken conversations with the locals. Lucky for us all Sarasota has Oasis. Oasis is owned by adult entertainer cutie Hunter Vance and features some very attractive go-go boys (and girls too!) on weekend nights. And what’s better than a really hot go-go boy? Well, a really friendly, hot go-go boy. And I’m happy to report the dancers of Oasis are lovely in every way. Catch a glimpse on my Instagram below (including a video peek when you click through).

TravelingIQ at Oasis gay bar in Sarasota with go-go boy

Beyond the performers, the crowd at Oasis was a true mixture of our LGBTQ community and allies, all coming together for a great time. And it was at Oasis that I met the “gay mayor” of Sarasota, Joshua Beadle. I would later learn the title is unofficial but well-deserved. In 2016, Joshua launched SarasotaOUT.com, to promote Sarasota as a welcoming LGBTQ destination for visitors, businesses and residents alike. He partners with community organizations, local non-profits and the tourism industry to host events throughout the year. According to Joshua: “Sarasota is coming out of the closet.”

Sarasota PridePhoto courtesy of SarasotaPride.org

SarasotaOUT.com’s Gay Group Happy Hour (G2H2) takes place the first Thursday of every month at a new LGBTQ-friendly location. G2H2 brings the community together to network and have a great time—all while raising money for local and national charities. On June 9, SarasotaOUT.com is taking the party to North Lido Beach for its annual Big Gay Beach Party, a day of fun-in-the-sun, with beach games, contests and, yes, even jello-shots!.

Sarasota Big Gay Beach Party from SarasotaOUT.com
Big Gay Beach Party — Photo courtesy of SarasotaOUT.com

Other LGBTQ events to consider when planning your Sarasota visit include the Harvey Milk Festival in May; the Fabulous Independent Film Festival in September; Tea Dance at (the fab!) The Sarasota Modern Hotel, held on the first Sunday of the month; and Sarasota Pride in January 2020, which is adding a Sunset Pride Cruise to the events next year.

Sarasota, Florida, may not be the first place you think of when planning a gay vacation. But with gorgeous beaches, a thriving cultural scene, and a growing LGBTQ community focused on activism and a good time, Sarasota will make you rethink Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

*For more information head to VisitSarasota.org
*For all your LGBTQ event and social planning head to SarasotaOUT.com

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Filed under Events, Gay/ LGBTQ, Travel News, U.S.A.

Sipping for a Cause

IMG_8685Want to fight LGBTQ discrimination? There’s a wine for that. Want to empower girls to grow into strong women? There’s a wine for that. Want to celebrate the women’s suffrage movement ahead of the mid-term elections? There’s a wine for that too.

Jim Obergefell, who in 2015 fought for the recognition of his marriage all the way to the Supreme Court–resulting in the landmark ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land–has continued his fight for equality.

And this time he’s getting a little help from the grapes.

In 2016, Mr. Obergefell partnered with Matt Grove to create Equality Vines, the world’s first cause wine portfolio dedicated to equality for all people. To date, Equality Vines has launched lines supporting LGBTQ causes, women’s empowerment and voting rights, donating a portion of sales to organizations associated with each cause.

LoveWins

“Love Wins” Series

The inaugural “Love Wins” series is anchored by The Decision Pinot Noir (celebrating the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling) and Stonewall Zinfandel, with sales contributing to SAGE, an organization that tirelessly advocates for LGBTQ elders. As stated on their website, “SAGE stands proudly with the LGBT pioneers across the country who’ve been fighting for decades for their right to live with dignity and respect.” Earlier this year, the series launched two new sparkling wines: the Love Wins Blanc de Noirs and Love Wins Sparkling Rosé, benefitting the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the U.S. and one that (near to my heart) in 1965 protested Fidel Castro’s internment camps for homosexuals in Cuba. Today the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. conducts archive activism, “identifying, conserving and interpreting the LGBT historical record.”

19thAmendment

19th Amendment Sauvignon Blanc

The first releases of the “Empowerment” series celebrate the women’s suffrage movement and are named after the constitutional amendment which gave women the right to vote, in 1920.  Sales of the 19thAmendment Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay benefit the League of Women Voters, the nonpartisan organization that believes in the “power of women to create a more perfect democracy.” Especially now, as the U.S. nears the November 6 elections, I will happily drink to that! Also of note, the 19thAmendment Sauvignon Blanc is handcrafted by Alison Doran-Green, one of the first female winemakers in the United States.

Respect Wine

“Respect” Series

To find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to Equality Vines, look no further than their latest partnership with the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Five dollars from every bottle sold of the “Respect” series ensures the YWCA can continue serving its community. “YWCA Metropolitan Chicago does great work to positively impact the lives of women and families, and Equality Vines is honored to partner with them on this wine to help fund their many services and advocacy work,” said Mr. Obergefell. “Women deserve equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity and this new wine allows customers to participate in making that a reality.”

Now you can use your drinking for good and uncork your activism with your next wine purchase. Order the limited releases through the Equality Vines website (they can ship to 44 states as allowed by current shipping laws), sign up for the wine club or visit their California tasting room. Just this year, they’ve donated over $17,000 to some exceptionally worthy causes. And you can help, one sip at a time.

IMG_9327
All photos courtesy of Equality Vines

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Dominican Republic Celebrates Caribbean Pride

TravelingIQ-CariubbeanPrideJPG

Is the Dominican Republic ready for its gay close-up? It’s a slow zoom, increasingly coming into focus.

Last month, the CHIC Punta Cana, the all-inclusive resort (or “all-exclusive” as the brand boasts) hosted the second annual Caribbean Pride. For one week, the expansive resort turns into an adult playground packed with pool parties, drag shows, culinary workshops, and a slew of fitness activities—all geared toward the LGBTQ traveler…

Learn more about Caribbean Pride and how the Dominican Republic is emerging as a gay travel destination, by reading the rest of my article, published in EDGE Media Network.

EDGE-Dominican Republic

 

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Filed under Caribbean, Events, Gay/ LGBTQ, Hotels, Photos, Publications

A Queens’ Museum in Great Britain

QueenEngland

There is more than one Queen in England.

And soon their histories will find national representation.

Queer Britain is working to establish the UK’s first national LGBTQ+ museum.  With an anticipated opening in 2021, the brick- and-mortar museum will host permanent and temporary exhibits, with an innovative digital presence.  It will feature objects and records from the worlds of art, fashion, film, literature, TV, theatre, news, music, diaries, letters, photographs and legal records.

According to London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, “As Mayor, it’s so important to me that London is seen as a city where LGBTQ+ people feel valued, happy and safe – this sends a clear message to the world that London is a beacon of diversity.”

Queer Britain hopes its museum extends beyond celebrating  modern-day gay London and creates historical context.   As its website further explains, “Many young people now have a strong sense of freedom about identity, but not how these were formed or the lives of those who came before them. A healthy plant needs deep roots.”

For more information, visit QueerBritain.org.uk.

QueerBritainIMAGES COURTESY OF BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE / (CC) LSE / NAPOLEON SARONY / JANE MCCORMICK SMITH / BEX WADE / ROBERT TAYLOR (via Queer Britain)

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