As winter continues most Canadians think of travelling far away from slush and wind-chill factors. Whether you are looking for queer getaways or prefer to see the world from the comfort of your chesterfields, you might want to check out Canada’s gay and lesbian travel show Bump. The third season begins with cohosts Shannon McDonough and Charlie David heading off to destinations like Portland, Calgary, Buenos Aires and Stockholm.
It seems that queer travel is increasing: There are gay travel agencies, women’s and men’s weeks popping up everywhere and, of course, gay cruises as infamously immortalized in that Cuba Gooding Jr movie. Tourism boards from New York and Toronto are beginning to market their cities directly to gay and lesbian travellers in hopes of attracting the much ballyhooed “pink dollar” (a dollar which unfortunately not all members of the queer community possess in equal amounts).
Into this setting comes Bump (coproduced by Xtra.ca’s publisher Pink Triangle Press), a show aimed at travelling queer folk who want information on things beyond the well-worn tourist standards, gay-friendly sorts of things. The show tackles the requisite gay clubs, which often seem the same no matter where you go. But we also get to meet the local lesbian dragon boat racing team in Portland and walk the roofs of Stockholm. We even get to see host David compete in the mystifying gay rodeo event of goat-dressing.
Being the show host is a sweet job, if you can get it. “The great thing about the show and about travel in general,” says David, “is that when we step out into the world and into different places we often step outside of our comfort zone. So it’s a great way to challenge yourself with new experiences.” Like when he got his first tattoo on-camera in Seattle. Likewise, McDonough got to parasail in Palm Springs and meet the Lady Chablis in Savannah, Georgia.
McDonough says shooting the show makes her feel like she’s the ambassador of “the greatest gay country in the world.” Of course, travelling as a Canadian wouldn’t be complete without encountering some stereotypes of Canada. McDonough says that people always say two things when they hear she’s Canadian: “Isn’t it cold there?” and “You speak English very well.” So it seems in the eyes of the world we’re all cold weather, Celine Dion and gay marriage. Not the worst things we could be.
Thus far the show has tended to stick to destinations in North and South America and Europe, although David hopes that they’ll be able to expand to Asia soon. As McDonough describes it, Bump tries to guide gay and lesbian travellers to places where they know they will be welcomed, where they’re going to feel comfortable in their hotel and know there’s a place to go out dancing.
Then there’s the opportunity to discover queer culture in less obvious places. Certainly, I now have more of an interest in Portland, Oregon than I ever did before. “Everyone knows San Francisco, everyone knows New York, everyone knows London,” says McDonough. “But it was really neat to find the gems that I didn’t realize how gay they were.” Apparently, one of the best lesbian bars she went to was in Phoenix. And she liked Puerto Vallarta so much she’s running a Women’s Week called Vallarta Heat there at the end of February (Vallartaheat.com).
Meanwhile David suggests that Canada can learn from places like Scandinavia and Buenos Aires where the queer communities are often very spread out with no particular gay village but many venues across a generally gay-friendly city.
While the tourism boards sometimes seem to want us only for our money, it’s nice to know there are places we can go where the people are friendly, the businesses are gay-run and the rodeos are just gay.