Brunei Reminds Us of the Perils of LGBTQ Travel

How One Company is Helping Travelers Avoid Homophobic Hotels

On April 3, 2019, Brunei implemented a strict policy which carries the death penalty by stoning for gay sex. The move comes as a result of Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s ongoing efforts to introduce a Sharia-based penal code to the Borneo nation.

While homosexuality was already criminalized in Brunei, the recent legislation entails increased punishments in the form of whippings and death by stoning. The strict law has sparked outrage across the globe, with the UN Human Commission condemning the new measures, claiming that they seriously breach international human rights law.

Many celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John, and Ellen DeGeneres have also displayed their aversion to the recent legislation by calling for boycotts of the Sultan’s Dorchester Collection hotel group.

And we at misterb&b are now initiating a boycott and banning all hotels owned by the Sultan from our platform. As the world’s largest gay travel community operating in 135 countries, we are focused on helping the LGBTQ community feel welcome and travel safely with pride throughout the world. We know how important it is to be able to move about the world without fear of brutal retaliation. 

Sadly, the current issue in Brunei is not a new one, nor an isolated one for the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality has been consistently illegal in a third of the world — and in 11 countries, it is also punishable by death. These include Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, where various measures including death by stoning are standard practice. In addition to these countries, many others are not considered safe in terms of LGBTQ travel, including Malaysia, Jamaica, Indonesia, Senegal or Qatar.

In the United States, hate crime incidents have also increased 17 percent from 2016, with a large portion of these crimes directed at the LGBTQ community. Last year, the Trump administration also attempted to curb transgender recognition in the military and in schools, serving another blow to the community.   

The latest move by Brunei has been met with significant outcry in various destinations across the globe. Last Saturday, hundreds of anti-discrimination protesters in London took to the Dorchester Hotel. Led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, the protestors came with rainbow flags and banners, and demanded homophobia to be stamped out in all its forms, including the recent law in Brunei.

Within this global context of discrimination, LGBTQ travel can carry a series of risks, depending on where you travel and the type of accommodation you choose to stay in. Around the world, gay or trans travelers are often rejected from hotels or forced to hide their identities, book separate rooms or separate beds. Often, the only information available to them about hotels are third-party, unverified, user-generated reviews.

At misterb&b, we are focused on helping LGBTQ folks travel safely, wherever they go, and in light of the current situation in Brunei and other parts of the world, our mission could not be more paramount.

To counter homophobic and transphobic hotels, we are adding 30,000 curated gay-friendly, non-discriminatory hotels to our platform for our community. The hotels have been selected by our editorial team, many with exclusive, and verified reviews from LGBTQ travelers.    

For us, it has been essential to include hotels which are gay or openly recognized as gay-friendly. We have ensured that none of our curated hotels have a reputation for being homophobic or transphobic, and we have added disclaimers for particular countries where it may be more complicated to travel as an LGBTQ person. This is just one of the many ways in which we aim to promote safety and transparency for our community as they travel.

In fact, it was my very own personal experience of LGBTQ discrimination while traveling which led me to create misterb&b.

In 2013, my partner and I booked a private room in Barcelona. After we arrived, it was clear that the host was not comfortable hosting a gay couple. This situation turned our weekend into an awful travel moment. I started misterb&b so no one from the gay community would ever have to face such an experience.   

Despite the growing trend of more and more countries legalizing same-sex marriage, LGBTQ rights continue to be a global fight to this day, and the recent political movements in Brunei are only indicative of the ongoing struggle we face. My purpose is to help the LGBTQ community feel welcome and travel safely wherever they go, and our platform of hosts and our recent curated list of gay and gay-friendly hotels aims to facilitate this on a global scale.

MATTHIEU JOST is the CEO and co-founder of misterb&b, the world’s largest short-term rental marketplace dedicated to the LGBT community. He's been featured on CNN, Forbes, Forbes Travel, New York Business Journal, USA Today, and Logo.

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