It was 2012. I’d just visited Jordan for the third time. While I was in Amman, I did as any other tourist these days does: I looked up cool things to do. And as a gay traveler, I looked for anything gay.
Almost immediately, a guy on Grindr suggested a bar/café—the gay hotspot of the city. Now, I’d been to Amman before and I knew it was a fairly modern city. I felt comfortable going to the gay bar (sort of underground, but not really so secret) and after triple-checking about the area and the venue on whatever websites I could find that mentioned it, I made my way to the gay bar, alone.
There were no problems, of course; I barely remember spending much time there, maybe one drink, browsing some books. I spoke to the owner briefly, snapped a few photos.
I ended up writing about my night at the gay bar in Amman, though. And within a day or two, like everything else with blogging, people seemed interested and excited. I loved that the place existed; that it wasn’t hard to find and it was even pretty cool.
Then I got an email from another gay travel writer: an ominous warning that maybe I shouldn’t have written about the place. I’d heard stories of gay bars being raided based on online tips; and I knew enough about this particular bar to know that it had been raided at least three times in the past—but that was nearly a decade ago. Surely things had changed. I was there, in fact; and the people I met were friendly and open. It wasn’t hidden.
Regardless, I listened to the more seasoned gay traveler and took down any recognizable information. The story lost its appeal, and its usefulness, but this was coming from someone whose advice I valued and trusted.
• • •
That was at the very start of my gay travel writing career. And let me tell you the truth: it’s been equal parts lovely and horrible every year since.
I started covering LGBT travel on my blog when I noticed that many top travel bloggers were gay, but rarely acknowledged their sexuality. This was a time when the USA still didn’t have marriage equality.
Honestly, I don’t know why these other top travel bloggers kept their sexuality private. But, for me, as a young gay traveler, I just found that there was so little information among travel blogs that was written for me. No one was talking about gay travel, so I did what I always tend to do in these situations: I set out to create it myself.
I started a Facebook group for LGBTQ Travel Bloggers & Writers and planned to meet as many people as I could. For a few years, I even started an entire new blog where I paid a handful of travelers to contribute their own gay travel stories. It was as much a passion project as it was a desire for more recognition in an industry that I was desperate to be a part of.
It was a time when bloggers were nonstop talking about their “niche” and yet no one ever mentioned LGBT travel as a relevant niche. This was about the same time that I was starting to make more and more of a name for myself among other travel writers and bloggers, so I used the opportunity to promote LGBT tourism and the unique needs of other LGBT travelers.
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It was an exciting time to get many of the mainstream travel brands talking about LGBT travel. Because, in fact, we do actually travel differently. We use different travel tools and resources, we discover different places, and we even try to meet other LGBT travelers.
• • •
Flash forward another year or two, and after trying my best to be a voice for LGBT travel in the travel blogging industry, someone from the IGLTA (the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) eventually noticed.
It’d take another year before they started actively supporting me and helping me get involved in an already-established part of the industry. It was surprising to me, that suddenly there was this billion-dollar industry, largely controlled and run by the IGLTA organization, and yet there was little to no involvement in the rapidly growing travel blogging (and subsequent media) industry.
It’s taken some time, but in the past two years, LGBT travel has been booming. The IGLTA has gotten more involved with many of the travel blogging conventions, and opportunities for new bloggers have increased.
Meanwhile, my own infatuation to be a successful gay travel writer (and eventually—because writing is dead if you ask any travel brand or media—a successful gay travel influencer), has waned.
It didn’t matter if I wrote well-researched gay guides. Because most gay travel guides are just regurgitated year after year, the editors unable to pay any writers any real rates.
Then there were the LGBT travel companies—many of whom I met through the IGLTA. At least one plagiarized my work; a tour company from Italy stole my logo and words, using them to promote their own brand.
Another LGBT marketer used my name in his marketing collateral for sales pitches—all the while ignoring my requests for collaboration. There were the times I was approached by editors and other writers for sex, and after turning them down, who knows what effect that had on my career.
• • •
There are more stories – ones where I tried desperately to get to know other LGBT writers and producers but was shut out. A German editor who yelled (yes, yelled) at me for sharing some innocuous detail about his company. Other bloggers who liberally borrowed from my work, uncredited of course.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, there was a cyberbully—a gay travel blogger I once called a friend started regularly posting hateful, false, and abusive comments about me across his social media (and at least one physical threat). Many of my same friends part of the IGLTA and other gay travel bloggers laughed at his jokes and even went so far as to share his attacks.
While those relentless attacks (not just on me, but my friends and family) were hard to bear, it was almost impossible to withstand the knowledge that the few people I confided into about this still continued to actively support him. No one publicly stood up for me; in fact many of the people I once thought of as friends and colleagues watched it happen and literally did nothing. Still today: no one has ever apologized.
• • •
Somewhere along the line, as I fell deeper and deeper into an industry I so wanted to love, I just couldn’t do it anymore. At times, I’ve absolutely hated my job, my colleagues and friends, even my sexuality. There’s been a lot of self-doubt along the way—exacerbated by the changing nature of an industry I thought I was a part of.
I’ve gotten a lot of advice trying to make it in this industry—not from current insiders, but from those who’ve seen and heard some of the same things I’ve experienced as a gay travel writer. Other journalists, occasional PRs, friends, and followers; I’ve never been afraid to share my experience with anyone who has asked.
I’m not sharing this here today for sympathy or—honestly—for your comments. It’s for me; I want my story to simply be heard, for someone to listen.
For the time being, I’m still writing about travel. And of course I’m writing where I can about the gay travel experience. My experience as a gay traveler. I’ll continue to focus inward on my own goals and priorities, my own objectives. It’s how I got into covering gay travel from the outset.
Falling into the rabbit hole of an industry that has been slow to adapt, and even at times one that’s rude to ignore some of the changes, it’s been a distraction. If you’ve been following my recent adventures on Twitter and Instagram, you’ve seen and heard me speak up about my work, my stress, my life. And I’m taking the time (finally!) to refocus.
It’s why I’ve gotten super personal on this blog today. I forgot that’s why I started writing in the first place—to share my truth, my experiences, my reality. I’ve been doing that for a long time on social media (especially Twitter), but it’s time I let some of that spill back into my blog—a place I’ve been afraid to write and share too much. But not anymore!
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PS: If you think today’s blog post is grim, please know I’m actually quite happy to be sharing these experiences. It’s almost therapeutic to write—and while my most personal writing is in my secret journal, it’s 2018 and why shouldn’t we get real here on the internet, too. Peace, love, whatever, bye xoxo
Thank you for sharing. Danny and I don’t really ‘gay blog’ (if I can turn into a verb for a moment), but gayness is never far away on http://www.tripbytrip.org.
But I have been an LGBT journalist for 15 or so years with various media. In March I (re)started on my own, with http://www.beout.be.
If it’s any consolation, threats, being ignored, being yelled at, … is also something I get from time to time. The gay scene is small in the end and people are susceptible. They can’t handle a critical approach on gay news and events. It’s very childish at times.
And yes, it weighs on motivation.
But I’ve been following your blog recently and I’m telling you: it’s fine work. You’re doing great!
Thanks for sharing Timothy – glad to have you following along my journey.
I love it. Love that it’s so raw and honest. Keep writing. Live life ?
Thank you Dawn – yep, that’s the idea. Just live my life and be as raw and honest as I damn please!
Good for you for sharing this.
Thanks Emily, felt it needed to be said…
I’m sorry about your negative experiences (and blatant copying of your work), but I do think the Internet needs your voice. At the end of the day, the travelers reading your posts are more important than the industry folks. Thank you for your voice and your consummate honesty! Glad to have you as a colleague in this crazy industry.
Thank you very much Caroline. It’s true – the blog is mine and I want to make sure to remember it and to keep it real. I really appreciate your comment here and I’m very glad that there are still many positive aspects part of the travel industry!
Hi, Adam, and thanks for sharing! I’m sorry you were treated badly. Sometimes people are so cruel. As you said, you are trying to refocus. It takes a lot to move past hurtful people and not take it personally. I always try to practice compassion-even to those who don’t deserve it. It helps me to forgive them and move forward. Also, I try to completely block these people from my life. I hope this helps! Going forward, surround yourself only with those people that support you 100%! And they are always out there. We just have to keep going and keep reaching out! I wish you the best!!! :-)
Thank you John – you’re right, I’m only sticking with those people who have supported me 100% and unfortunately that means cutting a lot of ties to the gay travel industry, but I know it’s going to be much better for me in the long run. Thanks for sharing your comment here
Adam, I’ve been reading and following you for a bit now and kudos to you for putting this out there. Even when branding ourselves for our blogs, we cannot ignore who we are – you’ve embraced that more so than myself and many other gay bloggers. Keep it up! By not backing down (as long as safety isn’t an issue), your voice and the voice of other fellow gay travelers will be heard even louder. We’re still fighting to be unique and our else, even within our own communities. How fitting that it’s Pride month for most of the world. Stand up and let your voice be heard!
Hey Michael – thanks for the comment and nice words. And yep, I’m really having a great pride month which is why I finally felt comfortable sharing my story!
Sending you much love Adam ❤️❤️❤️ I went through something eerily similar in my personal life a few years ago, so I completely get what you mean about the effect these attacks can have on you. Let’s swap stories next time we bump into each other on our travels ?
Hey hey! 100% always happy to have a chat about these kinds of challenges – it’s not easy and can make you feel like you’re totally alone in the world. A lot of people (including many friends from the industry) have stayed silent through this whole ordeal, but I’ve also heard from so many others with similar stories and it’s been simultaneously heartbreaking and encouraging.
Look forward to catching up somewhere around the world!
Adam, you said you weren’t writing this for comments, but forgive me for being compelled to respond.
I am so glad you wrote this. It feels truly authentic. Being part of the influencer *industry* (be it gay or travel or gay travel) is nothing to aspire to. What you are is a leader in the influencer *community*, and that is something to be proud of.
I’m just one of the many bodies floating in space that managed to get caught in your gravitational pull (to use a slightly weird analogy). And yet you have always made me feel like I have a personal connection with you. I’m sure you do that with so many others, and that’s a gift. Thank you for sharing it, and screw anyone who doesn’t respect what you bring to the world of gay travel.
Hi Lane – Thank you so much for the kind and sweet words – I do honestly appreciate it! And what a compliment! I’ve always been a human and always have tried to feel like a human, and for me blogging has always been about the personal connections – it’s why I got hooked on all of this from the very moment I began!
Thank you <3 xoxo
‘So sorry to hear about your experience Adam. I remember how upset you were with the cyber bullying. Nobody has a right to be so nasty. And worse, to get away with it too!
I understand how awful you must have felt especially when one would feel that support would be warranted, rather than an attack. Sadly, the gay community is small, and jealously is rife.
As a person who has met you in real-life and use to regularly bump into you on the train, on the pavement, or simply swishing by as a fellow blogger-journalist in Berlin, it’s always been a pleasure to know you!
I’ve always considered you to be one of the most popular and out-spoken writers in the blogging community, and a fire-brand for gay-values.
Don’t be discouraged. Surround yourself with the people who love you, and keep doing what you’re doing.
You’re doing brilliantly!
Thank you Victoria – really appreciate the positive words – always great to hear from you xx