For much of the past century gay men have compiled lists of gay or gay-friendly venues: bars, baths, hotels, restaurants, resorts, and cruisy places, among others.
According to Wayne R. Dynes, writing in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, “the earliest surviving example” of the genre is “The Gay Girl’s Guide, a male-oriented publication with a directory of ‘where to make contacts,’ that apparently began in 1949. It was succeeded by the international Guide Gris, first published in San Francisco in 1958. … In the 1960s, the Incognito Guide, published in Paris, enjoyed fairly wide circulation. In 1972, ‘John Francis Hunter’ [John Paul Hudson] published a heroic one-man job of 629 pages, The Gay Insider USA. While these and other guides are now obsolete, they are useful for the historian.”
Though it was not the first, the most enduring gay travel guide is Bob Damron’s Address Book, (now Damron Men’s Travel Guide). According to the website [damron.com], “In 1964 a traveling businessman, Bob Damron, decided to print and publish a list of the many bars he visited,” (and he claimed to have visited all of them). “For an underground society, as ours was then, it was just what people needed, since bars were about the only social outlet available to homosexuals. … Damron's Guide grew from a booklet smaller than a cigarette pack to a much larger inch & half reference, but it still fits easily in a travel bag. It was successful, was refined and remains popular even today as two annual editions, The Damron Men's Travel Guide and The Women's Travel Guide.” In more than five decades this “little black book of Gay Travel” has expanded its scope to include bookstores, circuit parties, gyms and health clubs, publications, and retail shops.
Though Damron’s books were essential for anyone traveling in the U.S. or Canada, international travelers relied upon the Spartacus International Gay Guide. According to Wikipedia, Spartacus “was founded by John D. Stamford in 1970 as a printed guide, before being bought by Bruno Gmϋnder in 1987 following investigations into Stamford's tax violations and promotion of pedophilia. It was sold to current owners GayGuide UG in 2017, whereupon the guide became digital-only, with the printed version ceasing publication.” This most recent printed edition is multi-lingual (English, German, French, Spanish and Italian) and lists every country from Albania to Zimbabwe. We are told which places to enjoy and which places to avoid; and hotspots like Berlin and Tel Aviv are listed alongside places where we would be in mortal danger, like Tehran.
Other historically famous travel guides include the Gayellow Pages (1973-2016); Gaia’s Guide (for women); Ferrari’s Places for Men and Women (1994); Fedor’s Gay Guide (1997); The Gay Vacation Guide (1997) by Mark Chesnut; The Q guide to gay beaches (2008) by David Allyn; The Gay Travel Guide for Tops and Bottoms (2011) by Drew Blancs and, dear to my heart, Naked Places: A Guide for Gay Men to Nude Recreation and Travel (1997-2006) by Michael Boyd. All of them are now obsolete, which is why travelers here and abroad now prefer more up-to-date websites or apps to find out where to go and what to do. Still, these travel guides from the past are still valuable reference material, especially for those of us who want to learn what queer life was like “way back when.”
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.