Featured in the April/ May 2018 Travel Issue of Compete Magazine
“Gay Paree” … the term meant something completely different when it was coined at the turn of the 20th century. The French capital has always wooed visitors with its reputation for fine dining, high fashion, love and romance …. all things “the gays” are known to admire.
With the decriminalization of homosexual relations in 1791, one could say France has historically been keen on LGTBQ+ acceptance. Since it hosted EuroPride in 1997, Paris (and the rest of France) has been working hard to promote and sell itself as a leading destination for gay travelers. In fact, in 2001 Paris elected Mayor Bertrand Delanoe as its first openly gay mayor. He led that year’s Pride parade that had a record 500,000 attendees; today it now draws over a million.
There are many areas of the city where the community can enjoy all the specialties of French culture: the Marais, a residential and entertainment district for the LGBTQ+ community; Pigalle and its former lesbian cabarets; the Palais Royal, the place for male encounters in the 18th century, and even Père Lachaise cemetery with its tombs of well-known gay icons. Gay Paris has existed for a very long time and a range of guided tours now enables visitors to discover its proud heritage.
Extending a welcoming attitude to all foreign visitors, Paris now has one of the biggest gay scenes in all of Europe, including gay-oriented spots for going out, hundreds of excellent restaurants and bars and even more opportunities to be guided and welcomed in the city’s beautiful historic center. And with same-sex marriage legalized in 2013, Paris officials are “encouraged by a trend toward greater tolerance,” according to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
As a travel agent, I am a long-time member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). Founded in 1983, IGLTA is the world’s leading network of LGBTQ+-welcoming tourism businesses. Personally, I have experienced a rise in the amount and quality of incoming LGBTQ+ tour operators and travel agencies from France. The rise has been so significant that the Paris CVB has become an official IGLTA-featured destination. Its website, en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/themed-guides/gay-and-lesbian-paris is full of important and handy information.
The effort from French tourism officials, particularly in Paris to promote it as a welcoming LGBTQ+-friendly travel destination has been so prominent that Paris won the bidding to host this year’s Gay Games. Since the first Gay Games in 1982, the Federation of Gay Games has promoted equality in and by sport and culture and ensured that the Gay Games take place every four years under its founding principles of participation, inclusion and personal best.
Taking place in Paris from August 4-12 for a Celebration of Diversity, Gay Games X will offer 36 sports, 500 competitions and 15,000 participants representing 70+ countries. This year’s games are being organized by Paris 2018, a non-profit organization with a primary focus to promote, organize and deliver a sporting and cultural event open to all that is a model of social cohesion, mutual aid and sharing. It enables gay people from around the world to attend an event that values diversity, equality and solidarity.
While in Paris this past November I had the pleasure of meeting with the exclusive incoming operator handling all the tourism logistics for the entire Gay Games, hotel accommodations, airport transfers, pre and post tours, etc. I am one of the few agencies in the U.S. to partner with them and extend their resources and services to all those wishing to go to Paris during this time or any other.
Whether your goal is to attend the Gay Games, visit Paris for the first time or to return for further exploration, I can help you get there and take care of it all from A to Z! Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or call 347-915-4287, Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (EST).
By Aurelio Giordano