BY MERRYN JOHNS
You know times are changing when India, historically a country with a complicated relationship to same-sex relationships, shows keen interest in the lesbian travel market. Well, one tour company in particular is extending a warm welcome to lesbian travelers who wish to visit the land of silk saris and exotic spices. In November of last year, I joined the first LGBT press trip organized by Out Journeys (their tagline is “Come Out in India”) and was curious as to exactly how gay they could make our itinerary. The answer is … not very.
But perhaps the expectation was unreasonable. India is so vast and diverse, and the experience it offers travelers is so intense, that to insist on a queering of the subcontinent seems persnickety, if not naive. Sure, there is a thriving LGBT community in Mumbai, there is a gay presence in Delhi, and Goa is becoming a resort town that attracts gay men. But Western expectations of a rainbow-flag welcome should be left at home. Nevertheless, a cosmopolitan, friendly, and women-focused vacation is now possible, if you place yourself in the capable hands of Out Journeys. These guys (and just to be clear, they are all guys, albeit sensitive ones) have taken the time and trouble to understand American lesbians. They were there at the First Asian Symposium on Gay and Lesbian Tourism, presented by Community Marketing Inc. in Delhi, a conference that aimed to raise the profile of the LGBT market segment in a land where business owners crave hard facts about the legendary “pink dollar.” If you’ve been paying attention to global economics, you know that India (along with Brazil) is on the rise, fiscally; its middle class is thriving and the country now has many Western symptoms of prosperity: huge malls, luxury cars, much real estate development. The chance to snatch at the low-hanging fruits of capitalism has led to open minds in India, as well as open wallets. So if you’ve longed to visit the land of the Taj Mahal but didn’t dare, now is your time to venture forth among open-minded people, with tour guides who are respectful of your sexual preference or gender identity — important in a country known for heaping a bewildering array of challenges on you even before you even get out of the airport!
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