Lesbians Be Damned

When the locals talk about gay travel in SoFla, they mean men

This is indicative of the kind of thinking that hurts the gay and lesbian community, says Sandra Norton, the recently appointed executive director of the GLCC. "White gay men maybe are more aware of discrimination than white straight men, but that still doesn't mean they want to share the power," Norton says. "White men make decisions for everyone else, and that's true in the gay community too. It's a mirror image, with some distortions, of the straight community. A gay, male travel agent told me the other day that lesbians only want to backpack and go camping. Well, I don't."

Norton has lived in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, as well as other cities across the country. She says gay communities in other areas are not as splintered. "It's much different here than any other place I've lived. It's definitely a puzzle. Maybe this factionalization is a Florida thing. I lived in New England for a while and it's not like that there. I perceive real factions here."

A closer look at the 2001 Community Marketing Inc. survey that named Fort Lauderdale the number-three destination (and received huge press attention across the country), however, reveals that lack of concern for lesbian interests may be more widespread than Norton and others think. Only 89 of the 1,485 respondents were lesbian, casting doubt on the results' relevance to that market.

For Parker, the lack of attention to lesbian issues is particularly apparent in Fort Lauderdale, and she thinks it's intentional. "What makes me angry is the gender bias they exhibit," Parker says. "They think there are no women here. Come on, we have a multigendered community. It's not just men. Some of the male-led organizations won't even advertise in women's magazines. They feel like it's a waste of money."

Mauro Montoya, a board member of Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale, admits that the community is divided. "For men, this is a place where they come to party -- they don't come here to settle down. Women here are more settled, Montoya says. You don't see the same party streak in women as you see in men. There's probably 25 men's bars and only three women's bars. Women do other things, though. They have their softball teams."

Responds Parker: "We can't expect the men to do things for us. We need to plant our feet and refuse to move. We need to say, 'This community is not just about you.'"

As for the Rainbow Guide, the bureau's Mason acknowledges that there is room for improvement. "Perhaps we can make the guide better next year, but we haven't heard any complaints here about it," she says. "It's only been out for a few weeks, and the hotels and guesthouses listed are already telling us that they're getting bookings off it."

But if the information in the Rainbow Guide is any indication, those bookings are most likely from gay men.

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