12 gay stories around the world from a straight point of view
We do love a bit of romance. But we never shy away from a party or two. And the LGBT community around the world sure knows how to put on a party. Right?
We wanted to get the opinion from the other side. So we asked a few of our fellow straight blogger buddies about their encounters and gay stories around the world during their travels…
#1 MEETING MALAYSIAN DRAG QUEEN: SHELAH!
By Vanessa Workman of The Island Drum
A few years ago I had the opportunity to see the first comeback performance of Malaysia’s infamous Drag Queen Shelah!
And I got to meet her backstage.
Being backstage always stirs the closet thespian in me, so meeting Shelah (AKA Edwin Sumun) pre-performance had me immediately lured into one of my ‘I wish I was a star’ moments.
But hearing Edwin speak openly about his own career ups and downs, as well as the harsh realities of local ‘politics’, I could immediately sense the greater importance of Shelah’s art-imitating-life comedy, monologues and theatrical persona beyond simple celebrity.
It also helps when the persona is 6-feet high in heel, with a platinum blond afro, but you just don’t forget Edwin or Shelah either way.
Funny, insightful and entertaining, Shelah! inspires straights as well as gays to follow their heart.
If you’re in Kuala Lumpur be sure to check out one of her shows!
#2 A RANDOM TURKISH GAY GATHERING IN ISTANBUL
By Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across the World
I hardly have to look for gay bars wherever I go. They just seem to find me…and each time I have a blast!
When I visited Istanbul in 2012, I met Julien at my hostel and together we set out to discover the city.
Hours went by and as we were making our way back to the hostel at 1 am we heard some (great) music in the distance. We followed the sound and reached a bar.
The few people there invited us to join their table. Beer was poured. Eventually more people passed by and they joined us too. The last to arrive, intrigued by the quick chatter, asked us how long Julien and I knew each other. That’s when we realised that nobody knew anyone there. We had just randomly gathered.
And that’s when it also became clear that the only straight people at the bar were Julien and I.
Soon after, the owner suggested that we all move to a gay club. So we did, with a bunch of random people and partied the night away.
I boarded the flight a few hours later with one of the biggest hangovers I can remember. Julien and I have remained in touch since and we still laugh at that story.
#3 EXPERIENCING KOREAN PRIDE IN SEOUL
By Chris Backe of One Weird Globe
Pride in Korea is a curious thing.
During my time in Korea (2008-2013), I attended multiple Pride events, although the photos have been intentionally blurred to avoid outing anyone (an actual requirement of photographers at these events).
Homosexuality, while not yet accepted by the mainstream and religious majorities, is slowly becoming a reality amongst the younger, less traditional generations. That said, being outed means you risk losing your job and problems with your family, made harder by the fact that there are very few support systems in place.
The annual Pride parade in Seoul is the needle that threads the dozens of patchwork organisations together, and as such is perhaps the best place to learn about the support systems available.
Unfortunately, more recent events have seen protests by a resilient conservative Christian following. The 2015 Pride parade was lucky to even go ahead.
If you do attend Seoul Pride, be mindful of the resistance, but keep a cool head. You will be with excellent company.
#4 MEETING THAI LADYBOYS IN BANGKOK
By Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller
We met an American man in a bar in Bangkok who introduced us to his soon to be wife. She was a ladyboy, which is not uncommon in Thailand and Southeast Asia generally.
“Kathoey” is the Thai term for a transgender woman or an effeminate gay male in Thailand.
The American man is gay and was unable to tell his religious family in the States about this, despite being over 60. He intended to take his lady friend home to the US as his wife, and because she did not look like a man, the problem was solved for him.
She introduced us to many of the ladyboys at the bar. She explained that because of the hormones, the penis shrank considerably, and they just tied a small cork on the end and inserted it into their rectum. We asked one ladyboy whether she had had the surgery. The woman promptly whipped her G-string aside to show us her vagina and said ‘very good doctor.’ We complimented her and had to admit that yes, her doctor was very skilled, indeed!
#5 MARCHING IN SAN FRANCISCO PRIDE
By Megan MacNee of Traveling Nine to Fiver
San Francisco is one of my favourite cities. There’s always something going on and plenty to do.
One of my favourite experiences was walking in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 2013 just two days after the US Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8, legalising same-sex marriage in California. The energy that filled this huge city was spectacular and amazing to be a part of.
We had State elects dancing in leather pants, and young and old singing along to Macklemore’s Same Love.
We danced and sang, shouted and cheered!
After the parade, the city was still out and about, excited to celebrate. We ran into old friends, made plenty of new ones and celebrations continued on the BART (subway) ride back home.
It was an amazing day as well as an incredible opportunity to be a part of a big step forward for California: a decision, which helped pave the way for a much bigger nationwide moment (gay marriage) several years later!
#6 WELCOME TO GLASGOW…OR SHOULD I SAY GLASGAY…!
By Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
I spent much of my twenties in gay bars. Most notably the now defunct, “Utter Gutter” in Glasgow. This was the alternative queer disco night, playing the best electro music in the city. It was also an excuse for my friend Gordon to wear hot pants and leggings. I used to join in of course: the more glitter the better!
Another event which holds a special place in my heart in good old Glasgay is the drag fashion show / ball held at the Barras Art and Design (BAaD). I wore a plastic tartan dress with bouffant sleeves. My friend Nicola wore a Russian-esque fur hat and Gordon had terrible hair. Lady Munter (Menergy) compered and the media snapped hard.
#7 A SPANISH AND FRENCH PRIDE EXPERIENCE AT MURCIA AND MARSEILLE
By Nat and Rob of Love and Road
We are a big fan of gay clubs and bars. Last summer in Europe, we travelled around France and Spain, which nicely coincided with the summer Pride festivities.
We went to Murcia, a small city in Southeast Spain, to visit a friend. Whilst out and about exploring the old medieval town, we stumbled upon a large group of beautiful girls and guys all dressed up, with really intense makeup, dancing away in what can be described as a sound truck! A lot of effort went into those costumes.
A month later we visited Marseille hoping to enjoy the French summer by the sea. The day we decided to visit the famous Vieux Port, we were pleasantly surprised to discover it coincided with the Marseille Pride Party. No doubt we got plenty of rosé and danced our socks off during the whole afternoon.
#8 STRAIGHT ALLIES AT COLOGNE PRIDE IN GERMANY
By Margherita The Crowded Planet
Last summer, my husband and I took part in the #mygaypride campaign as ‘straight allies’.
I had been to several Prides before, but for him it was the first time and he didn’t hide the fact that he was quite nervous.
We joined two Prides, one in Berlin and then in Cologne. Berlin Pride was fun, but Cologne was even better. It’s hard to say why – the atmosphere was more joyful and careless. It felt like the whole city just wanted to have a good time.
Plus, we got to ride on the back of a float. It was hot, sweaty and cramped, but we danced like crazy for the whole afternoon. And we don’t usually like dancing!
If you fancy having a great weekend, make sure you don’t miss it! To read more, check out our post about Cologne Pride.
#9 SPOTTING SIR IAN MCKELLEN AT NEW YORK CITY PRIDE
By Carole Meyers of Berkeley and Beyond
The first Gay Pride Parade I saw was in New York City. I remember loving the Dykes on Bikes.
Since then I’ve also seen the parade several times in San Francisco, my home town. Last summer I happened to be in NYC again during pride season and headed out to see it once more.
This was a particularly festive parade because it coincided with the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision extending same-sex marriage rights to all 50 states.
I found a prime spot at the crossing between Christopher and Hudson streets. Although I didn’t see the Dykes on Bikes this time, I did see Grand Marshall Sir Ian McKellen ride up late to join in mid-parade to do his honorary duties.
Unfortunately the only image I captured of him was his waving arm hiding his face as he stood through the open roof of a white VW. But the car does have a banner proclaiming that it is indeed him!
The sidewalks were packed, and I was proud to be among the celebrants along with my husband and daughter’s family.
#10 CANADIAN STILETTO RACES AT FIERTE MONTREAL PRIDE
By Susan Moore of Solo Trips and Tips
I love Montréal for its sheer diversity of people. My first trip there in August 2011 happened to coincide with the huge Fierté Montréal Pride, a week-long celebration of the LGBT community.
Thousands of spectators line the streets on parade day. I loved that it was a family friendly event with people of all ages and walks of life.
Some of my favourites from the parade were the guys dressed up as royalty, like the Queen waving to all her peasants. I was amazed by very tall guys (with great legs!) walking/running around in stiletto heels – how on earth do they do that?!
My all-time fave was the banjo playing dude wearing nothing but a canoe!
You don’t have to be gay or parle français to enjoy Fierte Montréal Pride.
#11 A WILD NIGHT OUT AT SYDNEY’S MARDI GRAS
By Stuart and Eloise of Am I Nearly There Yet?
When you’re living in Sydney, it’s impossible not to be drawn into one of its largest annual events! The Sydney Mardi Gras is the annual LGBT pride event held every March and attended by hundreds and thousands of people from all over.
Sydney’s Oxford Street is the focal point for the packed bars, saucy shows and everything in-between!
Armed with rainbow flags and a bottle of vodka, we hit the strip on the Saturday for a show before the main parade began. It was in full swing by 5pm. We saw a drag show (a first for both of us), then got totally immersed with the outside crowd, watching the passing floats and enjoying the chaos.
It was such an amazing night out.
Get down there early if you want a spot at the front. And prepare yourself for a wild night!
#12 THAT TIME I ENDED UP IN A KOREAN GAY SAUNA IN SEOUL
By Josh Sterrett of Days of Wandermust
I was hanging out with an expat friend at the gay bar in Itaewon, Seoul in South Korea one evening.
I met another businessman while I was drinking at the bar. He told me that despite being married, he enjoyed the ‘gay nightlife scene’ because it was more open and relaxed, which I certainly agree with.
We talked for a while about our travels and after several drinks he suggested we go to a jimjilbang he knew.
A jimjilbang is a Korean bath house where many people go after a night of drinking to relax in a variety of pools with different temperatures and sleep off the hangover.
I figured, why not?
So the businessman took me down some gritty side streets until we came to this very discreet, old building that just happened to have a bath house. Hmmmmmmmm…
Once inside, the businessman got undressed and disappeared into the sleeping area. As I was getting undressed, an American G.I. I recognised from the gay bar earlier started checking me out and gave an approving nod towards my member and said “That’ll do!”.
I rushed to find my businessman friend who reassured me that the GI was just a pervert and suggested we go to the baths together.
There was in fact only one bath in this jimjilbang with any water in it and it was only half full and lukewarm. Typically in a jimjilbang, the room is full of naked guys chatting away, resting in the tubs, or soaping themselves.
This place however was devoid of anyone except for me and the businessman.
We got into the tub and I sat back to relax. Suddenly, I noticed a hand touching my leg, creeping up my thigh.
I grabbed his hand and pushed it away telling him I was uncomfortable. The businessman was a bit blue-balled but then tried to convince me to let him pleasure me saying no one would ever find out. I declined and got up to leave.
Once back in the changing room I saw a man head upstairs to the sleeping area and take a peak. I asked him what was going on up there. He whispered to me “It’s pitch black but sounds like an orgy – do you want to see?”
By this point I’d had enough. I quickly got dressed and left…