The long history of the LGBTQ experience is wrapped up in the search for community havens, places of shared experience and safety – locations where queer people, like me, can be fully authentic.

“It’s in our DNA to seek out others like us,” agrees Ed Salvato, a professor at New York University who specializes in tourism. “What often directly connects people, across cultures, across a linguistic or religious barrier, is the fact that we are queer,” he says.

The evening scene at the Ruby Fruit.

Anastasia LaFond/Courtesy of The Ruby Fruit

Despite tremendous progress toward inclusivity in recent years, the need for physical spaces specifically for LGBTQ people remains critical. For example, a recent survey found that 74 percent of trans-identifying travelers say they consider certain destinations off-limits from a safety perspective.

“When traveling, it is essential to have a safe space for all marginalized genders within the queer community,” says Erica Rose, writer/director and co-creator of The Lesbian Bar Project, a TV documentary series about Roku. The show, which Rose co-developed with director Elina Street, highlights the several dozen lesbian bars that still exist in the US – a handful compared to the hundreds that existed decades ago. In fact, bars across the queer spectrum are in danger of closure. According to an academic study, the number of LGBTQ bars in the US fell by 41 percent between 2002 and 2019.

But while IRL venues may be in decline, a digital ecosystem of LGBTQ apps is thriving. Grindr is probably best known to the wider public, partly thanks to its (not entirely undeserved) association with hookup culture. Other identity-driven apps, like Her and Lex, are important tools in the way LGBTQ people see and explore the world.

For example, many Lex users log in to ask others about the latest cultural or queer happenings in a particular city, or to search for recommendations. “People can connect online before they connect in person,” explains Austin Konkle, the app’s head of growth marketing. “That’s true even if no physical spaces that reflect their identity exist at the destination.”

Grindr has become my favorite travel app and the welcome messages flood in when I change my profile to ‘visiting’. Over the years I’ve gotten tips on where to stay in Baja California, Mexico, and restaurant recommendations in Bogotá, Colombia, to name just two examples.

Grindr recently announced that it will be adding a new feature, Roam, which will give users “the ability to select a new location where they can post their profile for up to an hour, allowing them to connect and interact with local users before a trip.” can communicate,” says Grindr. a statement from the company.

For Mara Herbkersman and Emily Bielagus, the co-owners of Ruby Fruit, a wine bar in Los Angeles for lesbian, non-binary, gender non-conforming and transgender people, where having both digital and real spaces is important. “While being online is great for its accessibility, we also need human interaction,” says Herbkersman. “We can’t just exist online; no one can.”

A version of this story first appeared in the June 2024 issue Travel + Leisure under the heading ‘Find your people’.