Jesse Monteagudo

Gays By the Sea

Filed By Jesse Monteagudo | May 22, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: beach, Daytona Beach, Florida, Fort Lauderdale Beach, gay beach, Key West, Pensacola Beach, South Beach, St. Petersburg Beach

As a South Floridian, I am blessed by this region's warm climate and proximity to some of our best beaches.beach.jpg

Sadly, most of my LGBT sisters and brothers are not as fortunate.

Therefore, it is not surprising that during the summer months many lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people vacation by the sea. Some of the most popular gay destinations in the world are gay resort towns and small cities near or on the water, Andrew Collins writes in gaytravel.about.com.

The calm of breezy seaside locales and pristine beaches is a tremendous draw among gay revelers. Many waterfront communities with sizable gay followings have gay-friendly B&Bs and clothing-optional resorts, not to mention festive open-air discos and bars.

All things being equal, queer vacationers choose the beach.

Wayne R. Dynes, writing about "Resorts" in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990), analyzed the gay affinity for seaside frolic: "Resorts frequented by homosexual men -- and to a lesser extent by lesbians -- tend to be at the shore. A few inland exceptions, such as Palm Springs and Russian River in California occur, but winter resorts, such as skiing sites, have rarely developed a visible homosexual presence....An interesting contrast is that between nude beaches, which attract a gay clientele, and nudist camps, which rarely do."

Sexual minorities have flocked to the seashore since time immemorial.

For centuries, Capri, "the island of pleasure" off the Bay of Naples, was the vacation spot of choice for queer tourists from Tiberius to Fritz Krupp. Other historically popular hotspots for Europe's gay elite include the English port of Brighton, the Greek Isles of Mykonos and Crete and the Spanish Mediterranean resorts of Sitges, Ibiza and Torremolinos. Collins, writing in gaytravel.about.com, lists the world's gay-friendliest towns and small cities on the water, including Provincetown, Key West, Ibiza, Fire Island, Mykonos, Cairns (Australia), Laguna Beach, Sitges, Quepos (Costa Rica), and Rehoboth Beach.

Why are seaside resorts so popular with LGBT vacationers?

Dynes, again writing in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, speculates that "this specialization lies probably in the association of sun and sensuality, and [the fact that] gay resorts function more clearly as places of sexual assignation than those favored...by family groups." (What happens on Fire Island, stays on Fire Island.) But a resort doesn't have to be beside a body of water to be cruisy.

There is another reason why gay people flock to the shore whenever we want to get away from it all.

As out-of-the-way places that depend on the tourist trade for their economic existence, beach resorts have developed a "live and let live" attitude as far as visitors are concerned. Beach resorts allow closeted tourists to "let their hair down" and to openly express themselves.

"Distance leads enchantment," Dynes noted, "or at least a sense of security inasmuch as those employed in such conservative occupations as banking and law often do not feel that they can truly relax except far from their business associates and family."

For fifty years Cherry Grove on Fire Island gave LGBT people a sense of freedom that we often lacked back home. Places like Provincetown and Key West, traditionally havens for artists, outlaws and other marginal elements, easily adapted themselves to an influx of affluent lesbian and gay vacationers.

To many of us, beaches are oases of freedom in a homophobic desert.

John Alan Lee, writing about "Beaches" for The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, pointed out that "a gay beach may be more capable of defense against intruding or threatening heterosexuals than other territories such as a park or main cruising street. Teenagers intent on harassment at a crowded gay beach are likely to find themselves surrounded by a silent but menacing group of gay men. This added element of safety, even if only tacitly understood, often encourages gay men and lesbians to more outrageous behavior for their own entertainment on a gay beach than in other public spaces. This in turn helps establish the beach in heterosexual minds as a gay beach." Half the world knows that Cherry Grove and Mykonos are queer territory.

As a Floridian, I am well aware of our state's popularity with vacationers of all sexual orientations. Gay and lesbian tourists in particular come to places like Key West, South Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Daytona Beach, St. Petersburg Beach and Pensacola Beach, to enjoy the amenities that those of us who live here often take for granted. Whether or not Florida continues to be a favorite with LGBT vacationers depends on the way that we treat them (and Florida).

After all is said and done, what draws our sisters and brothers to the beach resorts is the company of friendly, compatible women and men. That's us, folks. Let's live up to our visitors' expectations.

Jesse Monteagudo is a regular contributor and a semi-native Floridian who has lived in the Sunshine State since 1964. Contact him at jessemonteagudo@aol.com.


Recent Entries Filed under Entertainment:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


A. J. Lopp | May 22, 2010 9:38 PM

I think it is fine when people like to go to the beach.

However, I am not comfortable with perpetuating the stereotype that gay people like the beach more than any other group of people. First, I think it is not necessarily statistically true, and secondly, I think it plays into the over-dominant "looks-ism" that is an undeniable facet of modern "gay culture".

(The connection is obvious, that we go to the beach not only to enjoy the water, but to show off and look at our young, georgeous bodies. There's nothing wrong with this, except when the implication is made that gay people do it more than straights. That also is not true --- straights do it obsessively just as we do!)

I don't deny that I have enjoyed going to the beach a few times --- but it is a rare occasion, and I certainly don't plan an entire vacation around it!

A. J. Lopp | May 22, 2010 9:39 PM

I think it is fine when people like to go to the beach.

However, I am not comfortable with perpetuating the stereotype that gay people like the beach more than any other group of people. First, I think it is not necessarily statistically true, and secondly, I think it plays into the over-dominant "looks-ism" that is an undeniable facet of modern "gay culture".

(The connection is obvious, that we go to the beach not only to enjoy the water, but to show off and look at our young, georgeous bodies. There's nothing wrong with this, except when the implication is made that gay people do it more than straights. That also is not true --- straights do it obsessively just as we do!)

I don't deny that I have enjoyed going to the beach a few times --- but it is a rare occasion, and I certainly don't plan an entire vacation around it!

Jesse Monteagudo | May 23, 2010 12:02 PM

First of all, I want to thank A. J. Lopp for taking time to read my "Journal" article and to comment about it. However, I disagree with Lopp's opinion that my article "plays into the over-dominant "looks-ism" that is an undeniable facet of modern "gay culture"." Though the presence of attractive, scantily-clad bodies helps to make beaches popular with gay people, the same can be said about the ballet, Broadway, fashion, movies, music, pride parades, sports or anything else that LGBT people might be interested in. As I mentioned in my article, seaside resorts are popular with our community members primarily because they "are oases of freedom in a homophobic desert." "Looks-ism," as a reason for going to the beach, is only secondary.