The moment I read about this San Antonio travel alert issued by Get EQUAL Texas, I was shocked and truly confused. In San Antonio there is currently a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance being debated and waiting to be voted on, and it's possible that this media advisory might be an attempt to garner more attention toward it. But are they helping their cause at all?
San Antonio is actually one of the only cities in Texas, aside from Austin, that I feel welcomed in as a gay man. Their mayor is Julian Castro, an outspoken advocate of gay rights. His brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), another advocate, was quoted saying, "This is a town that celebrates and embraces diversity of every kind. We want everybody to feel very welcome in San Antonio."
Get EQUAL Texas might have taken this all a step too far. Putting out a media alert advising LGBT travelers to avoid San Antonio, or to avoid traveling alone if they have to go, is utterly ridiculous and not doing anything more than promote the ignorance and hatred that may indeed be present within parts of the San Antonio community. But doesn't every community have those haters? Instead of promoting an avoidance of the city, activists should be promoting the opposite.
San Antonio is a welcoming city, and if there is currently an ordinance on the table, ready to be voted on, they should be rallying together by promoting how much of an inclusive city San Antonio is, and promoting LGBT tourism. It's a shame that it took this long to get something on the table to be voted on, but it only shows that the city is progressing.
As someone who has visited San Antonio and is openly gay, I can wholeheartedly say that I have never had any issues there. The LGBT community is thriving, and although I spent the majority of my time in non-gay bars, which I find a testament to the city, I never encountered any name calling or even strange looks when I held hands with another man. Of course, this was my personal experience, and I don't doubt that Jay Morris, co-lead organizer for Get EQUAL Texas, who claims to have had incidents, hasn't had them, as he lives there full-time, but the advisory issued today will do nothing but set the city back.
Promoting LGBT tourism helps open the minds of those who might be on the fence. Issuing statements to discourage travel to a city will only have a negative impact on businesses and will not help the overall cause in San Antonio or Texas.
I was thrilled when I first visited San Antonio and found out that even at their annual Fiesta celebrations, LGBT events were taking place, and city officials were stopping by to greet attendees. I personally worked directly with their convention and visitors bureau and was welcomed with open arms when I came to discover their city.
It's a shame when the media quickly exhaust every possible angle of some "breaking" news, especially when it's really not that breaking or really even news. What's news is that the city is set to vote on an ordinance that will be in favor of the LGBT movement as well as basic human and civil rights. What's news is that San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan is quite possibly a bigot. What's not news is that San Antonio is unwelcoming and should be avoided at all costs by the LGBT community. That's just fiction.