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Gay rights in Colombia opend up tourism market

Over the past decade, the enhancement of gay rights in Colombia has meant that the once underground LGBT scene has come out of the shadows and is now openly visited and advertised

While South America has been a burgeoning gay destination for several decades, most visitors have flocked to Brazil, Argentina and Peru. However, in recent years Colombia has established itself as a strong contender in the competitive market. It has finally managed to shake off its bad boy image and is now one of the most visited destinations in the region.

A report in 2013 found that 300,000 LGBT travellers visit Colombia every year – and the number has been steadily increasing ever since. Last year it was voted as the best emerging LGBT destination by FITUR – a well-respected tourism authority.

The flourish in tourism activity is in no small part due to gay rights in Colombia supporting and enhancing the lives of the local community. For a decade now, LGBT citizens have had the same rights as heterosexual people and in 2016 the country legalized same-sex marriage. There is also discrimination protection in place – though this is specifically for sexual orientation, rather than for gender identity.

While the country is far from perfect, Colombia has made huge strides and is fast becoming equal to even the most progressive countries when it comes to legal protection, even if social attitudes have yet to catch up in the more rural and ostensibly conservative areas.

In an odd but charming quirk of the Colombian system, three men became the first in the world to join in a union – legally recognised by the state.

Over the past decade, the enhancement of gay rights in Colombia has meant that the once underground LGBT scene has come out of the shadows and is now openly visited and advertised – particularly in the large cities such as Bogota and Medellin, and Pride festivals are LGBT rights protests are now held openly on a regular basis.

It would be churlish not to acknowledge the challenges still facing the LGBT community in Colombia but its pace of progression certainly seems to be accelerating. With ever-increasing equal rights, an open and accepting public and plenty of gay venues to visit, Colombia is certainly on the way up and likely to become a firm favourite with the LGBT community in the coming years.

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A gay guide to Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is the most popular gay destination in the Canary Islands and with beautiful beaches, plenty of bars, cheap beer and good food, it is easy to see why.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary Islands and lies of the western coast of Africa, some 1000 miles from Mainland Spain. The subtropical climate provides year-round warm weather, though winter months are best spent in the capital Las Palmas, as December and January can be a little too chilly for the beach.

Gran Canaria is well served by its own international airport which is functional and well-located if a little tired inside. Transport, eating and drinking are substantially cheaper than most places in Europe and your average beer will set you back around €2 – some of the touristy places might be more expensive.

Gay visitors to Gran Canaria have two main options. The first is to head to the Maspalomas, primarily a beach destination, or to head to the eclectic capital city, Las Palmas. Both are easily reached with Gran Canaria airport transfers. Each destination has its own unique quirks and it depends if you’re seeking uninterrupted sunshine or fancy a little cultural foray on the side.

Maspalomas

Famed for its vast expanse of sand dunes, Maspalomas has mainly developed around the tourism industry. Despite this, its policy of urbanisation has avoided mass high-rise hotels and instead, the area tends to offer visitors bungalow accommodation, preserving the aesthetic beauty of the area as much as is possible in a tourist hot spot.

There are a number of gay-only hotels and resorts in Las Palmas, many of which are clothing optional. They are often fully0booked in high season so advised to book well in advance.

The gay bars in Maspalomas are fairly busy all year round though summer sees a dramatic increase in the number of clientele. Most of the action takes place around Estados Unidos where you’ll find , multiple bars and clubs. A few of the firm favourites include Diamonds Bar, Buddies Bar and Fiction.

Las Palmas

Despite being situated on a tiny island, Las Palmas is one of the largest cities in Spain and has a population of almost 400,000 people. There are two main areas of interest to visitors, the first being the commercial centre close to where the cruise ships dock and the second being the Old Town located roughly 5km to the south. On a pleasant day the walk between the two takes around an hour, alternatively, bus number 17 happily connects the two localities and comes at regular intervals.

Most of the tourist attractions are located in the Old Town, known locally as Vegueta. Here you’ll find the cathedral, Columbus House, the Modern Art Centre and cute shops and eateries lining the Colonial-style streets. If you’re in town on Thursday then all the bars and restaurants here serve beer and tapas for one euro. Away from the Old Town, attractions worth exploring are the Botanical Gardens, the Central Market and the main commercial street called Triana.

There are a few gay bars in Las Palmas, though many of them are closed in the week and are unpredictably quiet, even at the weekends. Peach is a popular standard bar and Black Door has a cruisy vibe and has themed events on certain nights – check their website for details.

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9 Reasons to travel solo as a gay guy

While travelling solo might seem a little daunting, the world is a much friendlier and more hospitable place than the headlines would have you believe. Gay solo travel has numerable benefits, from discovering something about yourself to going to that club your friends refuse to visit!

1. Be the enigmatic solo traveller

Gay solo travel permits you to be that enigmatic character, sat alone in a cafe, looking calm, cool and collected – even if, in reality, you are nursing a biblical hangover wishing you were in bed. There is something utterly liberating about travelling alone and you increase your chances of meeting new people.

2. Make your own schedule

There’s nothing worse than dragging yourself out of bed with a hangover when all you want to do is sleep off last night’s mojitos. Gay solo travel lets you curate your own itinerary and utilise your time as best fits your preferences.

3. Save money

Finding that slim window when you and your friend or partner can travel together always seems to be when the flights to your chosen destination seem to be at their priciest. If you only have to work around your own schedule then you can normally source a much cheaper deal and save some money for the trip.

4. Stories to tell

One of the best facets of travelling is regaling your friends and family with the sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying stories, of your trip. Not only are solo stories more interesting but you can also throw in a few extra details for dramatic effect and nobody need ever know.

5. Meet cute boys

Gay solo travel permits you to do what you want when you want. If you happened to fall in love over a sangria in Spain and want to spend the rest of the trip cocooned in your holiday fling’s apartment – who’s stopping you?

6. Personal growth

From increasing your confidence and learning how to problem solve, gay solo travel gives you the time, space and opportunity to develop as an individual and have a fantastic time while you’re doing it.

7. You’ll see a place in a different way

Travelling alone gives you the opportunity to really see a place without the distraction of another person. You’ll have more time to watch the locals, soak up the atmosphere and get under the skin of a new and exciting destination.

8. Go to that club

You know that club that you wanted to go to in Berlin that your friend would be too scared to visit? Not a problem.

9. Improve your mental health

Studies have shown that travelling alone can actually improve your mental wellbeing. Having time to reflect and appreciate your own company and interact with new people can all increase your sense of fulfilment and happiness.

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Russia Insists Gay Visitors Will Not Face Arrest at 2018 World Cup

Russian officials have said that gay fans will not face arrest if they travel to Russia for the World Cup in 2018. They also insisted that gay people would be allowed to carry the rainbow flag and hold hands, despite Russia’s draconian LGBTQ laws.

Russia has a law which prevents ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.’ Under normal circumstances, public displays of homosexuality such as carrying the flag or kissing could lead to arrest. An official for the Russian football association said ‘There will definitely be no ban on wearing rainbow symbols in Russia. It’s clear you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings.’ He added ‘The law is about propaganda to minors… I can’t imagine that anyone is going to go to a school and speak.’

A spokesperson for the equality in football group Fare welcomed the news saying He’s giving some reassurances and I think in the end that’s all that people want. People want to know that they can come here safely, that they will be protected, that they are wanted.’ This is not the first time the Russian state has declared visitors will be seemingly exempt from laws imposed on locals. Back in 2014, President Putin said LGBT visitors to the country would be welcome for the Sochi Winter Olympics.

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Gay Men Afraid to Hold Partner’s Hand in Public

A survey by the advocacy group Stonewall has found that half of gay men in Britain would not feel comfortable holdings hands with their partner in the street. The research also revealed that one in five people who identify as LGBT have been the victim of a hate crime in the last 12 months.
The survey, which questioned 5000 LGBTQ individuals, also showed that 81% of those who experienced a hate crime did not report it to the authorities. The Home Office said that all hate crime was ‘completely unacceptable’ and that it ‘should be met with the full force of the law.’ It is also believed that despite hate crimes are being more accurately recorded and that there has been a genuine increase.

The figure for hate crime was even higher for transgender individuals, with 41% becoming a victim in the last year. It also found that those living in the North East of the country, 35%, were significantly more likely to be the subject of a hate crime compared to those living in the North West and Yorkshire where the figure was 18%.

Stonewall said that despite the UK being apparently one of the most progressive countries in the world, we still have a great deal of work to do before everyone ‘can feel safe, included and free to be themselves.’

Baroness Williams, the minister for combating extremism, commented on the findings saying that there is no excuse for people being targeted because of their sexuality. ‘We are clear there can be absolutely no excuse for targeting someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We put victims at the heart of everything we do, which is why we work closely with partners to support victims of LGBT hate crime.’

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Professional Wrestler Mike Parrow Comes Out as Gay

Professional wrestler Mike Parrow has revealed in an interview that he is gay. The sportsman admitted that he always knew he was homosexual but has tried conversion therapies in the past.

He told Gay Star News ‘I’ve always known I’m gay… That was never a question in my mind.’ Parrow also admitted that he found it difficult because he didn’t recognise anybody who was like him growing up. ‘The only exposure I saw of any gay culture was extremely effeminate and that was what was on TV. I’m not like Jack on Will and Grace, so I’m not gay.’

The wrestler said that he tried to hide his sexuality for years and tried to focus on doing ‘manly things’ instead. He said that he gravitated towards sports and ‘competitive stuff’ in order to mask his true identity.

After having a string of bad experiences in his late twenties, Parrow said he felt suicidal and even tried conversion therapy – he has since described the practice as an ‘absolute joke.’ He added that cruel taunts from inside the gay community made it more difficult for him to come out.

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A Quarter of Homeless People Identify as LGBT

Figures released on Christmas Day show that more than 10,000 LGBT people were made homeless in 2017. Out of 45,000 18-24 year-olds, data shows that over 25% of them identified as LGBT.

The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats under a freedom of information request. However, 100 local authorities did not provide the information meaning that the actual number of young homeless is actually much higher than the statistics demonstrate. The Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity working with LGBT people who are homeless, estimates that a quarter of all homeless people identify as LGBT.

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, called the situation ‘a national scandal’ adding that ‘These figures reveal the hidden homelessness crisis affecting young people.’ Cable went on to say ‘The situation is being made worse by recent government decisions, stripping young people of housing benefit.’

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80% Fall in HIV Diagnoses at Europe’s Largest Clinic

Europe’s largest sexual health clinic has seen an 80% reduction in HIV transmissions.

London’s 56 Dean Street saw monthly diagnoses in HIV fall from 72 a month to just 11 in September 2017. They are continuing to test the same number of people.

Doctors are now attempting to emulate the San Francisco model and are rolling out their ‘Getting To Zero’. They now believe it will be possible to reduce transmissions to zero within the next five years. It is thought that the reduction in transmissions is down to the drug PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis if taken regularly is thought to be highly effective at preventing the transmission of HIV. The drug has been offered free to residents of San Francisco while those in London still have to buy their medication privately or from an online supplier. NHS England is currently trialling the drug.

Doctors were still keen to stress the importance of regular testing and starting treatment as soon as possible. ‘It is crucial that those who do contract HIV are diagnosed and treated at the earliest opportunity to improve their health. Late diagnosis can cause significant and avoidable health complications.’

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Egyptian Authorities Continue Crackdown on LGBT Citizens

The authorities in Egypt have arrested more than 20 individuals over the last 4 days as they continue their crackdown on LGBT citizens.
According to Amnesty International, thirty-two men and one woman have been detained since a rainbow flag was displayed at a pop concert in the capital, Cairo, last month. It has also been reported that anal examinations have been carried out on 5 of the individuals who have been arrested by the Egyptian authorities.

Despite not technically being illegal in Egypt, it is not uncommon for police to arrest LGBT citizens engaging in consensual acts on the ground of immorality or debauchery. The Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered the security services to crack down on homosexuality after somebody raised an LGBT flag at a concert played by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila. The lead singer in the band is openly gay.

One man who was arrested the day after the concert was last week sentenced to six years in prison for debauchery. A spokesperson for Amnesty added ‘Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture – there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances.’

‘The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country. Instead of stepping up arrests and carrying out anal examinations, the authorities must urgently halt this ruthless crackdown and release all those arrested immediately and unconditionally.’

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LGBT Student and Activist Shot Dead on University Campus

An investigation has been launched after an LGBT activist was shot dead in the state of Georgia.
Police confronted Scout Schultz at a university campus after they received a call about a ‘person with a knife and a gun’ late on Saturday night. A video showing the man refusing to obey police commands has surfaced online.

A lawyer acting on behalf of the family said Schultz was holding a closed device and said the police should not have acted with such force. Her father said ‘Why did you have to shoot?’ Adding ‘That’s the question, I mean that’s the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son.’

The videos shows Schultz saying to the police ‘shoot me’ as he walked towards the officers. The police can be heard saying ‘Drop the knife, man, come on.’ Another officer added ‘Nobody wants to hurt you.’ Despite initial speculation, the investigation said that Schultz didn’t appear to be holding a gun.

The engineering student was taken to hospital but later died from their injuries. Schultz identified as intersex as was active in a range of causes – especially those pertaining to the LGBTQ community. The group Pride Alliance at the university said ‘We are all deeply saddened by what has occurred.’