How two Greeks converted a gay travel platform into the next best thing for hoteliers

How two Greeks converted a gay travel platform into the next best thing for hoteliers

26 June 2019 15:13 BST How did a gay travel website come up with the most successful idea to help hoteliers reach quality travelers, and became one of the most promising travel platforms in the global hospitality industry?

A few years ago, two Greek guys (one from Greece and one from Cyprus) Nikos and Zenios decided to create a modern gay travel website, with the purpose of helping gay travelers find the best hotels for their holidays. The idea was not just to recommend gay-friendly hotels & resorts, but also to help hoteliers understand gay travelers’ needs, thus offer a high-quality experience to this niche market.

In his constant effort towards this goal, Nikos S. Morantis , CEO at Travel by Interest, has written several articles about the subject. One of these is his recent piece in Hotelier Academy (the leading educational media for hoteliers) about How to Reach more Gay & Lesbian Travelers , and has spent countless hours helping hoteliers understand the actual needs of global gay travelers.

The idea has always been to help hoteliers understand the diversity of the audience without distinguishing them from their other guests.

The project soon became a hit among hoteliers around the globe. And, following its recent redesign by Zenios Zeniou , Travel by Interest’s co-founder and Creative Director, the platform was transformed from a gay travel directory to a major travel website for every traveler seeking for more personalized ways to pick a hotel.

But what is the story behind this transformation and how did these two young professionals penetrate the global hotelier market and speak openly about gay travel, even at conservative destinations?

One month before speaking at GNetwork 360, one of the leading LGBTI travel conventions in the world, Nikos S. Morantis & Zenios Zeniou analyze their ‘gay business success story’, showcasing how the LGBTI community can make a difference with real talent and hard work! First things first: how did you come up with the idea of creating a gay travel website that would help hoteliers communicate with LGBTI travelers?

NM: As we are Greeks, tourism and hotels are in our DNA! When I was 25, gay travel was a new thing and everybody was struggling to understand this niche market. However, back then, most people perceived the LGBTI community as a source of quick and easy money.

Realizing this, we decided to invest in creating a better way of treating gay travelers, that would not just focus on money. We decided to create a channel where LGBTI travelers could find useful information and, at the same time, hoteliers could better understand the gay market’s needs and improve their services — always focusing on mutual benefits, both for travelers and hoteliers. This means that you had to speak openly to hoteliers about LGBTI travel and make them understand our habits. Were they open to that information or did you face discrimination and offensive responses?

ZZ: Surprisingly, the acceptance of LGBTI people was much higher than we could ever imagine. Of course, money is a good way to encourage businessmen to hear you, but we always focused on building a good culture for our audience, so we insisted on the services.

The first few years, we delivered a special training course to hotel staff about LGBTI travel, before recommending the property to the gay audience. And we were not just talking about how to treat their gay guests properly, but also about the beauty that lies within diversity and that as gay travelers, we don’t require any special treatment or service!

And we were impressed, especially with Greek hoteliers, who were very open to hear us and happy to speak and educate their staff. Did you ever encounter any weird behavior while speaking about the LGBTI community to the hotel staff? Were there any homophobic people who were not open to what you had to say?

ZZ: We were truly impressed with the training procedure, as people felt really comfortable. As a matter of fact, there were many times when someone from the audience became emotional, as they shared with us some sad stories about friends of theirs who were still in the closet.

As for the ‘less open’ topics, we did encounter some controversy towards transgender people. And we tried really hard to make it clear that any kind of discrimination towards any person is simply unacceptable. The hotel staff training usually turned into an intense discussion around human culture, and I am pretty sure that it even helped in improving the hotels’ entire mentality!

Regarding homophobia among hoteliers, it is really a rare thing. And yes, we did face some stupid behaviors a couple of times, however, you can rest assured that they got just the answer they deserved. How is Travel by Interest helpful for LGBTI travelers?

NM: Think of Travel by Interest as your best gay friend who has been everywhere and is always there to advise you about your trips — either you are searching for a hotel to stay or a destination to visit.

For almost every destination, we have created a special hotel collection with the top gay-friendly hotels – also including major destinations like Mykonos , Bangkok & Lisbon . In the meantime, we are also creating special gay travel guides for major destinations around the world, informing about their gay-friendly attitude and gay nightlife.

Moreover, gay travelers can find more gay-targeted hotel collections, like the best gay-only hotels in the world , or gay-friendly hotels for honeymoons . Almost all hotels confirm their open mentality through their photos, showing single men or even male couples. Each hotel profile is also enriched with gay-popular places nearby, while our TBI Blog special Gay Section features many fascinating gay articles about gay nightlife, gay beaches, etc. Which countries were the most difficult to accept the fact that you represented an LGBTI travel project?

NM: The answer is definitely not what you might expect. Greece , Thailand and Portugal are at the top of the list with the friendliest hotel professionals – they are really open to welcome LGBTI travelers and offer them an upgraded experience. Staying on the bright and surprisingly good side of things, hoteliers from several conservative destinations, like Bali & Maldives, are really open to gay travelers and make an important effort to ensure that their hotel grounds are safe for the LGBTI travelers.

And for that reason, after we were sure of their welcoming character, we tried to help them connect with gay audiences. In any case, it is still a fact that there are places where homosexuality is not accepted, but that doesn’t mean that gay travelers must not visit those places as well — of course, always having in mind the local situation and mentality. So far so good, but how did you transform a gay travel website into a global platform that covers all travel categories and travel interests?

NM: To be perfectly honest, it felt a little bit ‘miserable’ to isolate gay travelers into a specific website. So, since there are many more niche, interesting markets, we decided to evolve the platform into the ‘Travel by Interest’ concept.

The first step was to change our name from Destsetters (gay travelers are trendsetters, so our initial travel project was named Destsetters – Destination Settters) to www.travelbyinterest.com , and open more categories like Food, Wellness and Luxury.

For all these new markets, we applied the same recipe, offering to travelers selected hotels per travel category, as well as useful guides and articles that help them organize their trips. Of course, hoteliers loved the idea and supported the project even more. And now what? LGBTI travelers are not your thing anymore?

ZZ: On the contrary! The global gay travel market is still our main target group and our strongest competitive advantage. This year, we will invest in creating much more content that will help gay travelers get even better booking decisions.

But we love the project’s diversity as well as the fact that the gay category stands out, being always at the top of our lists. And we really don’t care if homophobic people leave our website for that. Travel By Interest is made for modern travelers, with love for culture and people. So what comes next for Travel by Interest?

ZZ: Now we are working on further improving the website’s content and user experience. Our main focus is to find more hotels to offer to our audience. Last year, we launched even more specific hotel collections like hotels for gay wedding ceremonies or hotels with handsome men in their photo shooting.

This makes our hotel content more playful and useful, which helps us build an even closer relationship with our audience. Lastly, we urge you to register at Travel by Interest, so that you can save your favorite collections, articles, and hotels, and book your future trips easier and more organized!

This article was sponsored by Travel by Interest.

Prince William: It would be ‘absolutely fine by me’ if George, Charlotte or Louis were LGBT

Prince William: It would be 'absolutely fine by me' if George, Charlotte or Louis were LGBT

The Duke of Cambridge has said he will support his three children if they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the future, insisting he would "fully support" their decision.

During a visit to a charity that helps LGBT homeless young people, the Duke said that it would be “absolutely fine by me” if Prince George, five, Princess Charlotte, four, or one-year-old Prince Louis later identified as LGBT.

He also spoke of his fears about a “backlash”, admitting he would be nervous about any “hate” and “persecution” they might face because of their position in the Royal Family.

"I’d fully support whatever decisions they make," he said. "It worries me how many barriers, persecution and hate they’d face. But that’s for all of us to try and correct.”

Meeting young people who have faced homelessness and mental issues as a result of their sexuality, he emphasised how important it is for families to support their children whatever their sexuality.

He also spoke of being left "appalled" by the recent homophobic attack on a London bus, underlining how shocking it is that "stuff like that still happens".

One of the young people he met said afterwards: "To hear him say ‘I’d support my own children if they were in the LGBT community’ was great, and to hear how much awareness he has of how difficult things are, and the awareness he has of the suicide issue, which is a massive, massive issue for the community. To know that someone that important has your back is huge." Prince William and Prince Louis, who is one Credit: Kensington Palace The Duke was officially opening a new services centre for akt [Albert Kennedy Trust], in Hoxton, east London this morning, taking part in a group conversation with several young people who are currently being supported by the charity.

One young man, who is gay and asked not to be identified by name, asked the Duke: “If your child one day in the future said ‘oh I’m gay, oh I’m lesbian’ whatever, how would you react?”

Prince William replied: “Do you know what, I’ve been giving that some thought recently because a couple of other parents said that to me as well.

"I think you really don’t start thinking about that until you are a parent, and I think: obviously absolutely fine by me.

He went on to admit: “The one thing I’d be worried about is how they – particularly the roles my children fill – is how that is going to be interpreted and seen.

“So Catherine and I where doing a lot of talking about it to make sure they were prepared.

"I think communication is so important with everything, in order to help understand it you’ve got to talk a lot about stuff and make sure how to support each other and how to go through the process.

“It worries me, not because of them being gay, it worries me as to how everyone else will react and perceive it and then the pressure is then on them.” The Cambridge family Credit: Getty The Duke also took part in a group discussion with several akt ambassadors: young people who have been supported by the charity and now mentor others using its services.

Faz Bukhari, 28, from east London, experienced problems at home from the age of 24 when he began to identify as transgender, finding support and accommodation through the charity’s Purple Door refuge scheme.

Reiterating the earlier conversation, he asked William: “You coming here is a great opportunity and platform, what would you think about it if one your children was LGBT?”

The Duke said: “I’ve only started thinking about it since I’ve had children. It is something I’m nervous about, not because I’m worried about them being gay or anything.

"It’s more about the fact I’m worried about the pressure – as you all know – they’re going to face and how much harder their life could be.

"So from a parent point of you, that’s the angle I worry about.

"I wish we lived in a world where, like you said Faz, it’s really normal and cool. But particularly for my family and the position that we are in, that’s the bit I’m nervous about.

"I support whatever decision they make, but it does worry me from a parent’s point of view how many barriers, hateful words, persecution and discrimination that might come. That’s the bit that troubles me a little bit.

"That’s for all of us to try and help correct, to put that in the past and not come back to that sort of stuff."

During his conversation with the charity’s ambassadors, he also joked about the Attitude magazine cover he did in 2016.

“I did my Attitude magazine cover which was a good day. But I’d seen some of the previous front covers and I was a bit nervous about what they might ask me to do,” he laughed. The Duke of Cambridge at akt Credit: Reuters “Thankfully there were no small briefs for me!”

After the chat, Faz said: “I thought his answer was so good, to hear him talk about having fears about what people might think of his children and how they might take to them, if they were identified as LGBT.

"That he recognises that, and is aware there could be a backlash, he understands the issues and hopefully with his comments we can get more awareness across to more parents of the issues.”

During his visit, the Duke spoke of how “stifling” many young people find the burden of coming out to their families and also of his concerns about young LGBT people taking their own lives.

"It’s a real pressure to live under,” he said during a conversation with Cath Hall, akt’s founder.

“I’ve been looking into issues around suicide and I imagine that the figures in the LGBT community are high, because of all the barriers and stigma around acceptance.” Prince William meets akt ambassadors Credit: Reuters Another young person using akt’s services who spoke with William was Claire Evans, 26, from Newcastle, who came out to her parents as a lesbian aged 16, which caused friction at home as her parents were not initially accepting.

She came across akt when she was 22, and the charity helped her deal with tensions with her parents, and later also supported her when she lost both her father to cancer in 2015 and her mother in 2017.

She told the Duke: “It is so difficult, with family members, who aren’t always accepting and it’s hard to know where to go, so akt has been like a family to so many of us. There is often the feeling that you can’t turn to anyone, and you feel isolated.”

“Did some of you find it hard coming to terms with who you are?" the Duke asked young people. "Was it daunting, worrying about society possibly judging you?”

Bridie Honour, 22, who identifies as non-binary, told him: “There’s a massive stigma around homelessness and LGBT and it brings a lot of mental health issues as you come to terms with who you are. I was badly bullied at school, people told me they didn’t want to be around me. Prince William unveils a plaque at akt Credit: Reuters "Even now, walking down the street holding my partner’s hand, I get nasty comments from older people, I’ve been spat at. Akt gives you so much support with all of that.

Shaking his head, the Duke said: “I’m so sad for you guys that persecution like that is still there. Things have progressed, but not nearly as much as they need to.”

The second-in-line to the throne also told the group how shocked he had been by the recent bus attack on the lesbian couple in London.

“I was really appalled by that attack,” he said. “That stuff like that still happens.”

After the visit, Claire said: “It was fantastic to get his input, and hear him relating to his own life. He’s under a lot of pressure, being in the spotlight. To hear him say ‘I’d support my own children if they were in the LGBT community’ was great, and to hear how much awareness he has of how difficult things are, and the awareness he has of the suicide issue, which is a massive, massive issue for the community. To know that someone that important has your back is huge.” Prince William and Harry learned about homelessness during visits to The Passage with their mother Diana The Duke was visiting akt’s new headquarters in Hoxton ahead of the annual Pride in London parade next weekend and to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.

As patron of the homelessness charities Centrepoint and The Passage, he also heard more about LGBT issues and youth homelessness, and the work undertaken by akt through its “prevention and early action” approach.

Akt is the national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity, providing safe homes and better futures for LGBTQ+ young people. Almost one quarter of the 150,000 young people facing or experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, and 77 per cent of those cite rejection or abuse from their families as what has led them to being so.

At the end of the visit, William unveiled a plaque, formally opening akt’s new services centre in Hoxton which hosts drop-in sessions for young people.

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Register After the visit, akt’s chief executive, Tim Sigswort, said: “I was incredibly impressed. I was first impressed by his level of knowledge already but his empathy and appreciation of the struggles and challenges faced by LGBT people was incredible to me.

“And just his willingness to learn from the young people, his willingness to challenge his own perceptions and his willingness to come out in support of LGBT people in such a personal way as to refer to his children – that will make a massive difference.

Mr Sigswort, who is gay, said: “I was personally rejected by my mum, and the idea that the future monarch is saying they would support their children if they came out as LGBT is a message to the whole of society really, a message that we need to support and we need to empower LGBT people.”

50 greatest LGBT moments in pop culture since Stonewall

50 greatest LGBT moments in pop culture since Stonewall

In the 50 years since the Stonewall riots , the visibility of the LGBT community in public life has increased exponentially. Petitions, protests and politics have all played a key role in this, but the representation of LGBT people in music, film, art, TV and other areas of modern pop culture has been arguably as important for changing hearts and minds.

As with many other minority groups, it is remarkable how consistently the art created by LGBT people so skilfully coats powerful political messages in the guise of contemporary entertainment, which is often at the very centre of the zeitgeist.

This list could go on and on, but below are 50 such moments when culture helped wider audiences gain a greater appreciation of the differences which mark us out as LGBT, as well as an understanding of our desire to be treated as equally as everyone else.

50. My Beautiful Launderette (1985)

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in this cult film about the relationship between two young men in 1980s London, exploring race, class and sexuality along the way.

49. Panti Bliss addresses Ireland (2014)

When Ireland’s most famous drag queen delivered this powerful monologue about homophobia at the Abbey Theatre, the video became a global sensation – setting the tone for the country’s referendum on same-sex marriage.

48. A Little Life (2015)

This tome of a novel from Hanya Yanagihara explored the blurring boundaries of relationships between men at the advent of the 21st century, but be warned – its dark subject matter makes for a gut-wrenching read.

47. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

This film about two drag queens and a transgender woman venturing across Australia has become a major cult hit, with a stage version that plays in countries across the world.

46. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Portraying the real-life murder of transgender man Brandon Teena, Hilary Swank’s performance shone a light on violence against LGBT people, at a time when the US was also reeling from the murder of Matthew Shepard.

45. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Something about this love story between a teenager and an older student staying at his house in 1980s Italy struck right at the heart of the experience of young gay people – as well as the most profound scene between a father and his gay son ever written.

44. Bette Midler – The Divine Miss M (1972)

After years of performing cabaret at gay bathhouses in New York with piano accompanist Barry Manilow, Midler immortalised the show into her much-loved debut album.

43. Eastenders gives soap its first gay kiss (1987)

Played by Michael Cashman , Colin was Eastenders ’ first gay character. When he pecked boyfriend Barry on the forehead in 1987 it caused a tabloid backlash and MPs discussed whether it was ‘irresponsible’ in the context of the Aids crisis. The show pushed on, and continued to break new ground with similar characters.

42. Hayley arrives on Coronation Street (1998)

ITV broke new ground with transgender character Hayley (portrayed by the endearing Julie Hesmondhalgh), who earned a special place in the hearts of the nation.

41. Cabaret (1972)

The musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin novels explored the queer culture of Weimar Germany, with Liza Minnelli in an unforgettable performance.

40. The Line of Beauty (2004)

A masterful depiction of gay life in Thatcher’s Britain, Alan Hollinghurst’s Booker Prize-winning novel is a must-read.

39. Leave Britney Alone (2007)

This viral video may seem like an odd inclusion, but Chris Crocker’s impassioned defence of Britney Spears during her most difficult period perfectly sums up the gay community’s fierce loyalty to its heroes, and is an early example of our dominance in internet fandom.

38. The Village People (1978)

Dressed as popular gay macho stereotypes like the leather biker and the construction worker, The Village People produced tongue-in-cheek gay hits, like “Y.M.C.A.” and “In the Navy”.

37. Brookside ’s lesbian kiss (1994)

Beth and Margaret’s pre-watershed kiss was big news in 1994 , but its impact went much further when it was included during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – being broadcast uncensored to five billion people, including many countries where homosexuality remains illegal.

36. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Richard O’Brien’s cult musical is an explosion of androgyny, sexually ambiguous shenanigans, and Tim Curry in fishnets. Enough said.

35. Elsa sings “Let It Go” (2013)

It’s the standout moment in Frozen , as Elsa runs away from home to unleash and embrace the secret part of her that society sought to oppress. Many in the LGBT community saw a perfect metaphor for coming out. Is Elsa a gay Disney princess? The film’s director said her narrative is open to interpretation.

34. Scissor Sisters’ debut album (2004)

Jake Shears and friends broke into the mainstream with homoerotic imagery and an album filled with disco hits like “Take Your Mama” and “Filthy/Gorgeous” which spoke unashamedly about the gay experience.

33. Ziggy Stardust on Top of the Pops (1972)

When David Bowie presented as his alien alter-ego on prime time BBC TV, 1970s Britain didn’t know what to make of it. The unmistakable queerness of Ziggy that night has been cited as an inspiration by many of the New Romantics who would make a similar impact in the 1980s.

32. Rent (1996)

A modern-day rock remake of La bohème, this beloved musical presented the gay and transgender creatives of New York’s East Village living in the shadow of the Aids crisis at the turn of the millennium.

31. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax” (1984)

After being banned by the BBC for its explicit lyrics, “Relax” cruised all the way to number one, ironically becoming an inescapable hit, with Holly Johnson and his Liverpudlian bandmates as symbols of youth rebellion.

30. Tales of the City (1976)

Currently enjoying a Netflix revival, readers have been enjoying Armistead Maupin’s stories of LGBT life in San Francisco for decades.

29. Brian Dowling wins Big Brother (2001) Big Brother played a crucial role in inviting people from all walks of life into living rooms across the country, and presenting them simply as they are. Brian was one of the first gay contestants, and his win represented shifting waves in public opinion. 28. Nadia wins Big Brother (2004) Portuguese Nadia was the first transgender winner of Big Brother , and like Brian Dowling before her, went some way to broadening the minds of British TV viewers. 27. Elton John eulogises Princess Diana (1997) Given that she was a staunch ally of the gay community and an advocate for those affected by HIV/Aids, it was remarkably fitting that Diana’s send-off included her friend Elton John ’s unforgettable reworking of “Candle in the Wind”, referencing how she had “whispered to those in pain”. The recording became the bestselling single of all time. 26. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” (1978) With its dancefloor hits celebrating triumph over adversity, disco was practically a soundtrack for gay men in the 1970s, and “I Will Survive” is perhaps the ultimate anthem.Click through to the gallery below to reveal the top 25 LGBT moments:The final tickets are on sale for The Independent’s Pride event on 4 July. Get your tickets here.

Support for Plymouth school children to get LGBT education

Support for Plymouth school children to get LGBT education

A giant 50-metre long rainbow flag at Plymouth Pride Festival Children’s education in Plymouth should include awareness of LGBT+ relationships, councillors have declared.

The city council unanimously backed a proposal stating its support for children receiving “high quality, age-appropriate and rights-based Relationships and Sex Education that is inclusive of LGBT+ relationships”.

LGBT+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual plus, with the plus meaning inclusive of other groups.

Labour cabinet member Jon Taylor said the proposal had been brought forward following weeks of protests in Birmingham against LGBT education at a primary school and a recent hate-crime when two women were victims of a widely-publicised homophobic attack on a bus in London.

He also referred to recent comments from Devon-based politician Ann Widdecombe, who triggered an outcry after telling Sky News she thought science might “produce an answer” to being gay.

Cllr Taylor said: I don’t think we are going back to the bad old days, but I do think unless you stand up and be counted, there is a risk these horrific incidents could rise – that is why we have to push back.”

The motion backed Plymouth City Council at a meeting on Monday afternoon said children should “have access to education about, and awareness of, the diverse world we and they inhabit” including the mix of family types common in modern Britain.

It added that children were entitled to relationships and sex education inclusive of LGBT+ relationships, and stated it was important for schools to have a “clear dialogue with parents about the necessity of inclusive education.”

The council asked Labour cabinet member for education to commit to supporting Plymouth schools which undertake “this necessary part of preparing young people for the world around them and which don’t give in to bigotry of any kind”.

The proposals included issuing advice to schools on teaching an inclusive curriculum, promoting School Diversity Week in July, supporting and sharing good practice on inclusive equality education, and supporting staff to work free from discrimination and harassment.

VIDEO PREMIERE: SOFTEE – “OH NO”

VIDEO PREMIERE: SOFTEE – “OH NO”

Celebrate Pride with the premiere of the LGBT DIY popstar’s “queer prom fantasy” music video for her first single “Oh No”. “What’s gayer than being in love with your three best friends in high school?” asks Softee.

LGBT self-proclaimed “DIY popstar” Softee has made her own “queer prom fantasy” come to life in a new music video for her first single “Oh No”. The Minnesotan NY-based artist’s new track is an 80s-inspired synth bop – drawing influences from Charli XCX, Gwen Stefani, Kate Bush and Robyn.

After studying drama at the famed Juilliard School, she did a Vevo session with Lorde and made her Broadway debut in The Iceman Cometh starring Denzel Washington. Off the back of this, she’s decided to work on her own EP – “Oh No” being the first song to drop from the album.

“I wrote this song because to me it’s the ultimate lesbian emotive cycle: having a crush, fantasising about said crush to no end, being unsure if the feelings are reciprocated, and ultimately never making a move,” explains Softee. “The entire song is my inner narrative on a first date – a series of unresolved what ifs. Maybe this is my way of saying that if you are a queer woman and you think you’re flirting, you probably are so just go for it.”

Watch the video below directed by Johan Anderson with art direction and styling by Alexandra Dorschner…

Report: Young adults less LGBT tolerant

Report: Young adults less LGBT tolerant

NEW YORK (BP) — America’s younger generation is becoming less comfortable with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals, according to a report released Monday (June 24). The Accelerating Acceptance report, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD, showed that respondents age 18-34 were much less tolerant of LGBT people than in the prior two years’ surveys.

GLAAD first launched the report to gauge "the state of America’s hearts and minds when it comes to accepting LGBT people," according to their website, glaad.org.

Released just before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City that started the LGBT movement, this year’s results surprised advocates, as the younger generation has typically been known as more open and progressive. Overall, only 45 percent of non-LGBT respondents in the younger bracket said they were "very" or "somewhat" comfortable around LGBTQ people or with LGBT issues in 2018 — a sharp decline from 53 percent in 2017 and 63 percent in 2016.

In 2018, the biggest drop from the previous year happened among young women — from 64 percent in 2017 to 52 percent in 2018. It had dropped only 1 point — from 65 to 64 percent — the year before.

But across all three years, the decline was especially noticeable among young males, dropping from 62 percent in 2016 to 40 percent in 2017, then 35 percent in 2018.

"While young people are identifying as LGBT in higher rates than ever before, there has also been an uptick in non-LGBT young people pushing back against acceptance," Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, wrote in the report.

The drop in comfort showed up over a variety of scenarios. For example, 39 percent of non-LGBT respondents in the 18-34 age group in 2018 said they would be "very" or "somewhat" uncomfortable learning that their child had been taught a lesson on LGBT history in school, compared with 27 percent in 2016. When it comes to their child having an LGBT teacher, 33 percent were uncomfortable, compared to 25 percent from two years before.

Other scenarios — such as learning that a family member or their doctor is LGBT — also logged a 10 points or more growth in discomfort.

Across American adults of all ages, comfort with LGBT individuals remained stable. So did backing for equal rights, with 8 out of 10 adults in support.

According to GLAAD, the survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll from Jan. 8-11 among 1,970 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, including 1,754 who were classified as non-LGBT adults.

To read the full report, visit glaad.org/publications/accelerating-acceptance-2019.

“The Deceased Can’t Speak for Herself:” Violence Against LGBT People in Malaysia

“The Deceased Can’t Speak for Herself:” Violence Against LGBT People in Malaysia

The New Year rang in little cheer for transgender women in Malaysia. On January 1, a trans woman was killed in Klang, a Kuala Lumpur suburb, the third such killing in Malaysia in fewer than two months. Her death remains under police investigation. Like so many trans women in Malaysia excluded from the formal employment sector, this woman was a sex worker. She died falling—or was possibly thrown—from a moving vehicle. The driver, presumably her client, was arrested in connection with the death. He told police she jumped from the car after stealing his mobile phone. Trans sex workers in Klang, however, are convinced she was murdered.

Just three weeks earlier, also in Klang, another trans sex worker was beaten to death. While police have opened investigations into both cases, they hastily determined that the killings were not hate crimes. Rights advocates are skeptical, but as one trans activist put it, “the deceased can’t speak for herself.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Malaysia face violence from both state authorities and civilian actors. In September 2018, a Sharia court sentenced two women to caning for purportedly attempting to engage in homosexual relations. State religious officials and police officers have also physically and sexually assaulted transgender women arrested during raids to enforce Sharia laws that prohibit “a male posing as a female.”

Several Malaysian trans women have reported abusive arrests have diminished since an appeals court struck down as unconstitutional a state “cross-dressing” law in 2014. Malaysia’s highest court overturned the ruling on a technicality, but trans women say advocacy and awareness-raising have restrained officials. Now, trans women primarily fear violence from ordinary people: clients, partners, or strangers, including vigilante groups seeking to rid the streets of trans women. But even when state agents are not the culprits of violence, they bear responsibility for propagating discriminatory beliefs that may lead to hate crimes and for failing to denounce violence when it takes place.

Malaysia held a historic election in May 2018, in which the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) party, in power since independence in 1957, was massively defeated. Fed up with abuses of power, voters cast their ballots for change. The new coalition government, led by the Pakatan Harapan party, has delivered to a certain extent, dropping politically motivated charges against many activists and investigating corrupt officials. Yet, it has pointedly refused to embrace LGBT equality. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has described “LGBT” as among “ things we cannot accept ,” while Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim has called for mobilization against “LGBT tendencies and their ideas.” Furthermore, the deputy home minister has condemned LGBT “culture,” and religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa has promoted the scientifically discredited idea that LGBT people should and could “change” their sexual orientation or gender identity and return to the “right path.”

Malaysia’s federal penal code, which dates back to British colonialism, punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to twenty years in prison. The country’s thirteen states and federal territories each have their own Sharia criminal enactment, applicable to Muslims. Almost all such state laws prohibit same-sex relations. They also prohibit “posing” as someone of a different sex, making Malaysia one of the few countries in the world that locks people up simply for being transgender.

When religious authorities in Terengganu state, which is run by the opposition Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), caned two women for lesbian acts, some ruling party officials voiced objections regarding the nature of the punishment, and PH leader Anwar Ibrahim suggested that same-sex relations should be decriminalized . Anwar should know: as the most famous casualty of Malaysia’s “unnatural offenses” law, he was twice imprisoned between 1999 and 2018 on politically-motivated sodomy charges. However, his party has taken no steps toward decriminalizing sodomy, nor toward persuading states to repeal anti-LGBT provisions in their Sharia enactments.

Instead, the current administration continues its predecessor’s anti-LGBT policies, focusing on “rehabilitation” and prohibition of so-called “ promotion of LGBT culture ” (any form of LGBT visibility), while maintaining the threat of sanction through state and federal laws. The ethnically and religiously diverse Pakatan Harapan coalition appears determined to legitimize its Islamic credentials to bolster support among Malay Muslims, many of whom voted in favor of the long-ruling UMNO party or Islamist opposition parties in 2018. This battle for the Malay heartland, presumed to be socially and religiously conservative, causes politicians from across the political spectrum to emphatically adopt anti-LGBT positions. Activists argue that Pakatan Harapan’s unwillingness to ally itself with LGBT people’s struggle for equal rights and its silence in the face of hate crimes renders it complicit in those crimes, and that jockeying by politicians to avoid being seen as pro-LGBT fuels hate. One clear battleground is online. Multiple LGBT people and rights activists have reported a spike in anti-LGBT hate speech on the Internet since the elections. In August, one trans-led group filed a police complaint about social media posts promoting anti-LGBT violence. Six months later, they had still not received a response

In this context, when eight men in Seremban assaulted a trans woman known as Suki in August 2018, beating her so severely that doctors had to remove her spleen, police who interviewed her in the hospital asked her why she thought she had been attacked. She responded with outrage: “They’re in the police station. Shouldn’t you be asking them instead of me?” In December, attackers pulled two men from a car in Kuala Lumpur and beat them for allegedly engaging in same-sex intimacy, then circulated a video of the assault on social media.

Police have made arrests in some of the recent hate-crimes cases. Two killings from 2017—one of a trans woman named Sameera Krishnan, stabbed and shot to death in Kuantan, and another of 18-year-old student T. Nhaveen in Penang, beaten to death by high school classmates who had bullied him for being “effeminate”—have resulted in ongoing prosecutions. Yet, when police refuse to acknowledge that acts of violence might be bias-motivated crimes, as they have with the killings of trans women in Klang, and when the authorities fail to condemn attacks, LGBT people are left feeling that the state does not support them. Even if perpetrators are brought to justice, a strictly punitive approach without a prevention strategy or meaningful change in political leaders’ approach to LGBT rights are all unlikely to stem the violence. A punitive approach also raises its own human rights concerns; a murder conviction, for instance, carries the death penalty in Malaysia. Many of the alleged assailants in these cases are young people who have been molded by societal and state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia. As long as authorities shut down positive portrayals of LGBT people while promoting a harmful “change” narrative, school textbooks portray LGBT people as deviant, and Malaysian law considers them criminals, impressionable young Malaysians may choose to take the law into their own hands.

Pakatan Harapan’s campaign manifesto promised to “make [Malaysia’s] human rights record respected by the world.” Malaysia must prioritize the right to life and the right to be free from violence—rights which currently elude many LGBT people. If Malaysia’s government wishes to address anti-LGBT violence, it must condemn the attacks and recognize that many of them are hate crimes. It should roll out a multi-pronged prevention plan, to include promoting public discussion of LGBT rights, removing harmful stereotypes from textbooks, discontinuing anti-LGBT state programs, and initiating legal reforms to advance LGBT equality. The police should undergo training in recognizing and investigating anti-LGBT hate crimes. Denial may be politically expedient, but lives are at stake. The deceased demand to be heard.

* Thilaga Sulathireh is with Justice for Sisters, an advocacy group working on human rights of trans and LGBTIQ+ persons in Malaysia. Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

50 years after Stonewall, queers spaces are still not safe for all of us

50 years after Stonewall, queers spaces are still not safe for all of us

Libby Baxter-Williams (Photo: Supplied) New York’s City’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s was a buzzing bohemia. Home to avant-garde cabaret and off-off-Broadway scenes, artists hangouts and the progressive political thinkers and organisers of the anti-war movement, it seemed to embody the rejection of cozy, middle class conservative values.

Little surprise then, that in 1967 organised crime family the Genoveses decided to open a gay bar there. The Stonewall Inn , situated in on Christopher Street and close to the heart of Greenwich Village, was the spot.

It seems unlikely, the partnership between the gay community and organised crime. However, the story was retold in bars all over New York.

It was a mutually beneficial arrangement: in exchange for putting their money over the bar, the Genovese family bribed the NYPD to the tune of $1,200 a month to stay away and let queer patrons drink in peace.

Drinks were watered down, severely marked up served in dirty glasses. Indeed, the Stonewall was blamed for an outbreak of hepatitis – and richer, closeted patrons blackmailed over their sexuality.

Nevertheless, it was worth it. To drink in relative safety, to have a space to meet like-minded individuals, to conduct torrid affaires du coeur or just du night safe in the knowledge that they’d be tipped off should police be about to raid. It should have been a safe space.

It was not. The Stonewall riots

Most of us know what happened on that night in 1969. Tension between The Stonewall’s patrons and raiding police erupted into violence, a spontaneous rebellion against oppression. The most marginalised are thought to have led the rioting: sex workers and the street homeless, people of colour and butch lesbians.

Things have come a long way since then, apparently. We no longer fear police brutality, in the main, for simply being who we are. We are liberated, aren’t we?

It would be churlish and hyperbolic of me to suggest queer people in cities like London, where I live, have cause to fear the same things that our forbears did. By comparison we are lucky.

We have won the right to marry our same-gender partners. We still fear hate crime, but we are fairly certain that hate crimes against us will be treated seriously. We’re unlikely to be extorted (even if the drinks are sometimes still watered down). But bars, cafes and clubs are still not safe. Bisexuals often face biphobia on the scene

Biphobia is rampant in the queer community. So is transphobia. So are ableism and racism.

We may no longer fear police brutality (at least if we are cisgender and white) but that is a low bar to set. Instead, we fear each other. We have fought so hard to protect ourselves from the hate of outsiders but forgotten about the beast within.

When it comes to LGBTQ clubs, pubs and bars bisexual people, and bi women in particular, report feeling unwelcome at best and fearing violence at worse.

Their fears are not unfounded: an anonymous bi woman living in West Yorkshire told me that she was physically attacked and called a tourist by a drunk woman in a club. Several more told me they were sexually assaulted.

And that’s only when we can get in through the door: as of 2017 there were no fully accessible queer venues in the whole of central London.

Trans people too have legitimate reason to fear the bar scene. With anti-trans activists, increasingly legitimized by a morally redundant mainstream press, and active in our community spaces, nowhere is truly safe.

One trans friend of mine reported being groped, another having slurs shouted at her. Still others tell stories of simply being denied entry. ‘Our safe spaces are not safe’

Things are getting worse for all of us. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse is on the rise , but instead of standing together in the face of hate we have split: assimilationists versus liberationists, inclusionists versus exclusionists, those who think bi and trans people belong in the community, and those who virulently do not. Our safe spaces are not safe. We have made them so.

It is time to show prejudice the door. Our community that has long been judged by people who think they understand our genders and sexualities better than us. There is no reason for us to do the same to one another.

Libby ( @monstrousfemme ) is a Stonewall Rolemodel and director of Biscuit ( @we_are_biscuit ), the organisation for anyone at the intersection of biphobia and misogyny. She’s been involved in bi plus activism for 15 years, and last year she brought the first ever bisexual pride float to Pride in London.

Libby is co-promoter of Bijou , London’s only bisexual club night, taking place at The Apple Tree, Farringdon on 29 June 2019. Stonewall 50

Gay Star News is commemorating 2019 as the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots . Our Stonewall 50 Voices series will bring you 50 guest writers from all around the world. They will be discussing the past, present and future of our struggle for love and liberation. See also

Also known as the Stonewall uprising, this seminal moment in the history of LGBTI rights in the US ignited in the early hours of 28 June 1969

U.S. not where it needs to be on LGBT employment: Fed’s Williams

U.S. not where it needs to be on LGBT employment: Fed's Williams

FILE PHOTO: A rainbow pride flag is seen with the U.S. national flag at a building ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, in New York, U.S., June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States is “not where we need to be” on increasing employment levels of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, a top economic policymaker said on Tuesday.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said at an LGBT finance industry event that unemployment rates are nearly double the national average for people of those sexual orientations.

“As President of a Federal Reserve Bank, I am focused on two vital economic goals: maximum employment and stable prices for the U.S. economy,” Williams said in remarks prepared for delivery in New York. “These statistics paint a clear picture of why conferences like this one are so important: We are not where we need to be.”

Williams’ comments come as celebrations take place around the world to mark the Stonewall uprising in New York 50 years ago when patrons of a gay bar fought back against police harassment, which is seen as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. Gay pride parades will also be celebrated around the world on June 30.

Williams did not comment on his economic or policy outlook less than a week after the Fed signaled it could cut interest rates by as much as half a percentage point over the remainder of this year in response to increased economic uncertainty and a drop in expected inflation. Yet one argument for keeping rates lower for longer is that doing so can bring more marginalized people into the workforce.

Rep. Brown introduces bill to ensure equal pay for LGBT workers

Rep. Brown introduces bill to ensure equal pay for LGBT workers

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced the Fair Pay For All Act. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers) Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at ensuring equal pay for LGBT workers, which are shown in a recent survey to struggle with achieving financial parity with their non-LGBT counterparts.

The legislation, known as the Fair Pay for All Act, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to expand the definition of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“While the Trump administration wages a multi-front assault on the livelihoods of LGBTQ Americans, Congress has to act to ensure all Americans have a fair chance to earn a living,” Brown said in a statement. “This bill will enshrine equality in the Fair Labor Standards Act and will ensure all Americans receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of who they are or who they love.”

Brown introduces the bill on the heels of offering an amendment with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to defense spending legislation that would defund President Trump’s transgender military ban. The amendment passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 243-183.

Joining Brown in introducing the Fair Pay for All Act as original co-sponsors are Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who are gay and co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“As Americans, we are raised to believe that ‘all men are created equal,’” Cicilline said in a statement. “However, for far too many in a majority of states in our country, full equality under the law remains a goal, not a guarantee. This important legislation will finally put an end to pay discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community and bring them one step closer to full equality.”

According to a 2018 survey from LendingTree of student loan borrowers , LGBT workers are more likely than the general population to make less than $50,000.

Wage inequality is particularly true for women in same-sex relationships. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, a couple made up of two lesbian workers “usually has less household income than a heterosexual couple because of the gender wage gap,” although women in same-sex relationships report having more income than women in different-sex relationships.

Wage disparities are “even more drastic” for transgender people, especially transgender people of color women of color, because they “have to contend with lower pay based on racial inequality in addition to stigma around their identity,” a statement from Brown’s office says.

Among the supporters of the legislation is PFLAG National, the first and largest organizations for parents, families and allies of LGBT people.

“On behalf of our 200,000 members and supporters across the country, PFLAG National supports this bill to end pay discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity because harming one family member harms all,” Bond said in a statement.