Information and concerns for gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual travelers in the U.K.
Much of the U.K. (and Europe) has grown to accept same-sex couples over the past few decades.
As you might expect, smaller towns tend to be less accepting than cities—and there are small-minded idiots everywhere.
To be on the safe side, do a bit of research on the city or area you're planning to visit.
What are the gay-friendliest places in Britain?
The centers of U.K. gay culture tend to be, as you'd expect, the big cities, including the three capitals
- London - Everywhere, though Soho and Vauxhall are the nightlife centers.
- Edinburgh - The “Pink Triangle” is at the north end of Leith Street and Broughton Street.
- Cardiff - Though, no, Anglo-American hottie John Barrowman and his sexually adventurous Torchwood crew don't actually work in a secret facility under Roald Dahl Plass. You want the bars around Churchill Way and the Cardiff Cathedral.
- Manchester - The original, British version of Queer As Folk took place here, and Canal Street remains the gay hub in town.
- Brighton - The famed seaside resort also hosts a fabulous Gay Pride parade.
- Birmingham - Head to Hurst Street.
Is homosexuality legal in Britain?
Between 1967 and 2003, homosexual sexual acts went through a slow, torturous process to be declared to be legal and on an equal footing with opposite-sex sexual acts. (It took a while for the age of consent for "buggery" to be lowered from 21 to 18 to 16, so as to be commensurate with the legal age of consent for opposite-sex couplings.)
(Interestingly, lesbian acts were never outlawed—not that they weren't often punished anyway—but in 2001 were expressly written into the appropriate laws as allowed so as to remove any legal confusion.)
Again, the age of consent in Britain is 16.
What is the legal standing of the transgender in Great Britain?
British transgender people have been able since 2005 to have their chosen gender recognized under the law—though they do have to jump through some hoops (including waiting at least two years after they transition to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate—and, yes, they have to apply for one, and get it approved).
Of course, that all applies to British citizens and residents. For visitors, legally, officially, in Britain you will be treated as whatever gender it says on your passport. However, since your legal gender is not an issue that comes up very often on vacation, you should be good to go.
Is there same-sex marriage in the U.K.?
Since 2004, Civil Partnerships have been legally recognized across the entire U.K.
England and Wales have recognized and allowed same-sex marriage since 2004, Scotland since 2005.
In Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage remains illegal (in 2015 a slim majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly actually voted for a proposed legislation to legalize it, but a legal maneuver kept the legalization from advancing; can't be long, now). Same-sex marriages are, however, recognized as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland, which affords pretty much all the same rights.
- iglta.org - The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is the best all-around resource, with Members ($100 to join, plus $150 a year) get a newsletter, advice on specialist travel agencies (you can search for local ones on the Website), and a membership directory.
- Outtraveler.com - The permier gay travel magazine, part of The Advocate family of publications.
- Gaycities.com - Crowdsourced guides to cities like London, Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool, Cardiff, and Glasgow.
- Purpleroofs.com - Loads of gay-friendly lodgings around the world—and, amazingly enough, the listings actually link you directly to the hotel's own Website (most travel sites out there, especially accommodations ones, try their darndest never to give you the opportunity to click off their site).
- Spartacus International Gay Guides - You gotta take the whole world at once with this thick tome (couldn't they do separate Europe, USA, Asia, etc. editions?), but it is the industry standard of gay guidebooks. They also have editions devoted just to hotels, restaurant, and saunas.
- Travelgayeurope.com - Lots of good intel on Britian's major cities, inlcuding hotels, bars, club, saunas, and more.
- Lghei.org -
Stay in a gay-friendly home for free. 500 listings in 30 countries.
Membership: €25. No fee, donation, or gratuity for hosts.
Requirements: It doesn't say you have to be gay, but I assume that's a bit of a given.
- Gaytway.eu - Gay travel blog
- Bestgaytravelguide.com - Gay travel blog. Sadly, not indexed—so you just have to scroll through seraching for handy stuff.
- Womentravel.info - Travel blog aimed at women in general, but with a strong lesbian presence as well.
- Outsavvy.com - Gay events, clubs, and ticketing guide (and app), focused on the U.K.
- Gaytimes.co.uk - British gay monthly magazine; the website has some good tips in what's going on in the Culture section (the Travel section is more aimed at international travel, though there are some local British articles in there as well).
- Davidtours.com - Large selection of trips all across the globe. Based in Corona del Mar, CA.
- Hetravel.com - Gay trips around the world.
- Black-kilt-tours.org - Scottish tour company with a focus on gay and lesbian travel, as well as mini-guides.
- Tototours.com - Tours and cruises all over the world, as well as personal travel itineraries. Based in Chicago (not Kansas?)
- Rfamilyvacations.com - Tour company co-founded by Kelli O'Donnell (a.k.a. Kelli Carpenter, most famous as the ex-Mrs. Rosie O'Donnell). Tours, trips, and cruises for the entire GLBT community—gays, lesbians, and their families.
- Abovebeyondtours.com - Mainly Australia, but plenty of Europe as well. Based in Palm Springs.
- Brandgvacations.com - Mostly river cruises.
- Olivia.com - The famous lesbian travel company does more than just cruises—though that's what they're most famous for (they're not an actual cruise line; they charter ships from various companies to resell as their own lesbian cruises).