The owner of The Dog House cottage talks to DIVA about the importance of feeling safe on holiday as a queer person 

BY JEN LEMEN

We all love a good holiday, but it’s not always easy as an LGBTQIA individual, couple or family. This ranges from the awkward conversation with reception about wanting a double bed and not two singles, to the far more serious fears over personal safety. 

On the widest level, we have to consider which countries we can safely visit. When someone raves about their latest holiday to Jamaica, did they realise that same-sex activity between men is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment with hard labour? Probably not. Or that in the UAE, same-sex sexual activity is prohibited with the death penalty possible under Sharia law? Again, probably not.

However, as an LGBTQIA individual, these facts hit hard and affect our choice of where we can safely visit. 

Even in countries with anti-discrimination laws, such as the UK – we still need to consider where we go on holiday. This might rule out certain parts of cities where we may feel unsafe holding hands or showing each other affection, or even more remote locations where we feel watched and potentially singled out for being “the only gay in the village”. It is no fun going on holiday feeling constantly on guard and needing to be vigilant. 

On a much narrower level, we all want to stay in holiday accommodation that is inclusive and safe. This means being able to relax and be yourself, without fear of judgement or discrimination. 

As the owner of a holiday cottage, my wife and I have been very aware of making our space feel safe. A key way that we have done this is by clearly stating on our website and marketing material that we are LGBTQIA-friendly. 

We also use inclusive images and photographs to reaffirm that we provide a safe space to stay in.

Despite this, we have still received emails to check that we welcome LGBTQIA couples, particularly because of negative past experiences. 

As a result, when we see guests in the garden, we say hello – but respect their right to privacy and only chat further if they are keen to. As we know first-hand the anxiety and fears that holidays can engender, we leave our guests to enjoy their holiday in peace and only offer warm, helpful assistance, when requested. 

We also have a list of LGBTQIA-friendly places to visit in the local area, including details of any local events such as pride or community gatherings. 

On a physical safety level, we have a smart lock on the front door with a PIN code that is changed for each guest. Alongside a PIN-coded gate and well-lit parking area, garden path, patio and front door, this means that our guests feel that the space is theirs to enjoy during their stay. 

Feeling both physically and mentally safe on holiday is vital. It gives us peace of mind, allows us to relax and allows us to be our true selves away from home. Hopefully, this is something we have managed to achieve at the Dog House and something we hope to see more accommodation providers succeeding in too. 

If you’re interested in staying at the Dog House, check out the link here: https://www.thedoghousemere.co.uk/ 

DIVA magazine celebrates 29 years in print in 2023. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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