Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Clueless cruising

Cayman Islands: A cruise passenger received a caution from Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis for hyping up the protesters (Caribbean Net News)
As we all know, we all are gay because we have tons of disposable income, love to travel and, at least for gays in the United States, love to make the rest of the world our personal playground, damn the local communities! (Sorta like The Amazing Race, which I actually like, except with rainbow flags pouring outta everything and I'm sorta over the rainbow flag waving myself).

So allow me to make certain connections between two news stories that came my way this month:

Yesterday, Diario Hoy from La Plata, Argentina, reported that a gay cruise ship, Oceania Insignia, will make its arrival in a Buenos Aires, allegedly making it the first gay cruise ship ever to dock in the South American country. The ship, which originally departed from Miami, will eventually travel to Chile and then end its journey in Brazil just in time for Rio de Janeiro's carnival season. With a tripulation of 400 (!?) and an additional 700 travelers, Diario Hoy says that most are United States citizens known as "Dinks" (a term the paper says is widely used everywhere as an acronym for "double incoming no kid" or, I assume, double income, no kids). Now, if you like to butch-it up a little with leather chaps for a 'leather-daddy-for-a-day'-themed sea adventure (but find leather bars such as The Eagle too darn scary), or maybe want to dress in drag for the first time ever for that 'drag fantasia' night (but would rather die than show your drag photos to others once the trip is over), by all means get yourself secuestered in one of these hulking ships for days on end and enjoy! But why make the rest of the world suffer such displays of, ehem, dinkiness?

Argentina, Chile and Brazil might just shrug in puzzlement. The same cannot be said of the Cayman Islands, which is still in uproar after yet another United States gay cruise ship docked in its capital city, George Town, last week with more than 3,200 gay men. Some Caribbean islands unfortunately are still beholden to some of the worst effects of colonial rule which, among other things, brought with it government-enshrined homophobia
(the Cayman Islands are still a Bristih colony) - which some now claim as tradition:

"For the 'true born' Caymanian to welcome a group of tourists that encourages a homosexual lifestyle that is contrary to the predominant culture on these Islands makes no sense in this context," editorialized Cayman Net News chiding the local government for giving permission for the Atlantis Events cruise ship to dock in the island (back in 1998, another gay cruise ship was turned away).

Even before the ship arrived, the Cayman Minister's Association called for a protest (about 100 people showed up) but most of the visiting cruisers were clueless. The Cayman Compass reported that Brad Loase from North Carolina "was shocked by the protestors because a newsletter on board the ship had carried a message that the Minister of Tourism in the Cayman Islands guaranteed that they would be welcome." Another Cayman Compass article reports "some gay cruise passengers emerging from the ship said that they had been told nothing about their presence in Grand Cayman causing a stir."

"We come here because of the same reason other tourists come to the Island," said Atlantis Events CEO Rich Campbell to the Cayman Net News, "It's a beautiful destination, it has great beaches, fantastic shopping, wonderful excursions, excellent facilities and lovely people" (I guess it also makes Mr. Campbell a bigger dink as these cruise lines must make him a pretty penny - sorta explains why some of the passengers were not told they might be in for protests).

Of course, not everyone was unwelcoming. A group of women held 'welcome' signs when the ship arrived and not everyone who was interviewed had bad things to say about the gay tourists according to one of the articles. Others, while not fully accepting of homosexuality, still rejected hostility and homophobia as being truly Christian virtues.

But, even days after the ship had left the Caymans, Education Minister Alden McLaughlin alluded to the cruise ship incident when arguing that he "would not sanction alternative lifestyles programmes being taught in schools."

Don't get me wrong. Gays should be able to travel anywhere, including the Cayman Islands, and I hope that some islands in the Caribbean truly address and stomp out the type of homophobia that killed Lanford "Steve" Harvey in Jamaica but a cruise ship business owner who uses the island for profit while celebrating the trip as a gay-rights issue and a bunch of clueless gay tourists who frolick in the Cayman's beaches and leave without a sense of the social conflicts they have stirred-up are not necessarily what will bring about change.

The least Atlantis Events could do is to donate part of their earnings to gay-rights organizations in the countries they 'sell' to their gay cruise passengers.

UPDATE: "They Even Kissed for the Cameras!" (2/21/06)

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