This spring, the city of New York is spending $1.9million to advertise Manhattan as the gay tourist hot-spot of the summer. Basing their campaign around the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, tourism officials are teaming with various online travel sites to create special packages for gay travelers from across the country and beyond (advertising extends to Europe as well). Hitting NYC is apparently a “rite of passage” for the LGBT traveler, turning the city into sort of a gay mecca, culminating in the week-long pride celebration at the end of June. According to the NY Times, “10 percent of the city’s 47 million visitors last year were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender…out-of-town visitors spent $30 billion in the city last year”.
So what? Calling in the gays to boost the economy…this strikes me as problematic for several reasons. Firstly, as the article points out, it’s a little funny to use “an event associated with violence and resistance as the centerpiece of a marketing campaign”. Secondly, assuming that gays still have the money to travel during the recession sort of promotes and legitimizes the stereotype that gays are middle-class (and white) and more well-to-do than others because they typically have two-income houses without children. This seems to be a sort of classist and presumptive campaign, which I suppose is true for most advertisements related to travel, but this one targets a specific group of people which then are associated with a certain class and family structure. Moreover, it irks me that “tourism officials” (whatever that means) are calling all queers but, oops, sorry, can’t get married! They can lure us in the boost the economy but won’t treat us as equal citizens!
On the other hand, it’s going to be the gayest summer ever in New York and Pride week is going to be booming! I think it would be great if we had a swelling community to gather in solidarity of the Stonewall Riots and to celebrate all the progress that has been made since. John D’Emilio is quoted in that same NY Times article: “Forty-plus years ago, a newspaper like The New York Times had front-page articles alerting the city to the growing problem of ‘overt homosexuality’. Within living memory, something has been turned around. People who were seen as an unwelcome presence are now encouraged to arrive”. Though we were once shunned and ghettoized (ok, maybe we’re still ghettoized), the city is now opening it’s doors to LGBT travelers to celebrate their history. Regardless of its problems, I’m excited to be here this summer, too. Check out more at nycgo.com/gay.