New App Will Cater to Black LGBTQ Travelers

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 28, 2020

New App Will Cater to Black LGBTQ Travelers
  (Source:Getty Images)

Most white, heterosexual, cisgender people aren't compelled to think about how they might be received when and where they travel. On the other side of the coin, it is often necessary for LGBTQ travelers — especially LGBTQ people of color — to carefully consider which destinations are safest. Homosexuality remains illegal in over 70 countries; trans people are often forced to contend with transphobia while traveling; and segments of the community battle outdated stereotypes.

Paula Akpan, a Black British lesbian journalist and historian, is developing The Black Queer Travel Guide, as recently reported in PinkNews.

Currently in a crowdfunding stage, Akpan hopes to produce a fully downloadable version of The Black Queer Travel Guide widely available within five years.

The idea for the app came from an experience of attempting to plan a vacation with her girlfriend, nixing potential destinations because of threats of violence based on racism and/or homophobia. The couple was left with what they felt were only a few safe options.

Akpan told PinkNews, "for the longest time I wanted to go to Italy until I saw Black people being like: 'No!'" She discovered that despite the romanticized notions of non-Italians may have of the country, racism in Italy is a big problem

Also informing her ideas for the app, Akpan explains, "I'm very dependent on what other people — specifically Black people, and ideally, Black queer people — have to say about places that they've been. When you're having a gay bar being described to you, it's like, but is it white? Is this a space that I'll feel comfortable with?"

READ: Will Colombia be 2021's Most Popular LGBTQ Travel Destination?

The Black Queer Travel Guide provides articles by queer Black authors in specific locales to make travel and exploration while queer and Black safe and enjoyable.

Akpan also aims to make the app easy to use, explaining, "you have 24 hours in Rio de Janeiro, here are the places that you need to go. And all of these places are Black queer-friendly or Black queer-owned." Not just that, but also facilitating connections across the diaspora, where travelers can find community in countries their lineage extends to. "In a country where it's criminalized to be queer, then, of course, you're going to be somewhat underground, or will be using language or platforms in a way that isn't as easily accessible," Akpan says. "If you don't know where to look, it can feel like you are the only Black queer person in a country."

Akpan has so far created a web app to host The Black Queer Travel Guide with a group of developers. She is currently crowdfunding to commission Black queer travel writers internationally who will provide unique and specific information to Black queer travelers using the app. Funding will be applied to moderating the guide and eventually toward developing the full-fledged, downloadable app.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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