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Op-Ed: Why Protecting LGBT Travelers from Discrimination Needs to Matter

LGBT travel misterb&b
Jessica Wright/Unsplash

The chief executive of misterb&b talks about the barriers keeping queer vacationers from getting the most out of their trips.

A few years ago, my partner and I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, where we rented a room from some locals.

After arriving at our new, temporary home, we immediately had an awkward encounter with the host who realized that we, two gay men, would sleep together in the same bed. And she didn't like that.

While we weren't harmed during our stay, the discrimination we faced led me to found misterb&b, an alternative short-term rental website that is dedicated to gay travelers. Because we still need, and deserve, a safe place where we can travel or host without fear of being ourselves.

My partner and I knew about this bias against LGBTQ travelers through our own experiences. We knew it still existed, even in countries where same-sex marriage had become legal. And we knew that we still needed safe spaces for all of us in the LGBTQ community.

I believe other companies can be gay-friendly -- but sometimes friendly is not enough.

What about the hosts or the travelers? What about disclosing your sexual orientation every time you request a booking, just to make sure there won't be a problem upon arrival? And as a host, what about hiding the pictures of you and your partner displayed around the house, because "you never know" who will be staying at your place?

When we launched misterb&b in 2013, we faced several challenges because people weren't asking these questions. We had to face what we called "the gay penalty," where we had to explain that misterb&b was an answer to a discrimination that few would acknowledge or even understand. We faced the condescending smiles of potential investors who compared us to gambling websites or questioned us about our policy against prostitution and orgies.

Along the way, though, we were encouraged by members of our community, who all knew personally about discrimination. LGBTQ travelers don't have to waste time searching for hosts that would accept them for they were. They don't have to worry in a world where we feel like we must worry constantly.

As more LGBTQ consumers take part in the sharing economy, companies have a responsibility to engage in business practices that protect all hosts and guests alike. These companies need to implement inclusive policies and take claims of discrimination seriously. For my part, as the leader of a primarily gay-men focused business, I know that misterb&b now needs to ensure we only become even more inclusive of the LGBTQ community as a whole.

All LGBT people deserve to go out and experience the world without any awkward moments like mine, or ever feeling an ounce of discrimination, while on vacation--especially with the person they love.

Matthieu Jost is chief executive officer and the co-founder of misterb&b.

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