WE EXIST: AN OPEN LETTER

So it's well known that I have a background in trade shows ⚡️ But as progressive as I was even then, I didn't have a platform to speak out on a lot of the industry bullsh*t that comes with them. 

My recent post on LinkedIn about being groped at a trade event, and having my guests and colleagues subjected to backwards comments and behaviour (do NOT touch a black persons hair without their consent, ffs) received lots of attention, and even more DM's of people sharing their stories with me but were afraid to speak out. Like a LOT of people. 

This got me thinking about event/ trade shows responsibility to the people within the industry to provide a SAFE SPACE FOR ALL their attendees. This includes the queer community, LGBTQ+, women, and the BAME community. It got me thinking....the location alone of these events and the actions of the organisers when it comes to providing platforms and education for underrepresented groups in travel leads a lot to be desired...

TFEST just happened in Dubai - a country with questionable womens rights and one where there are still many ant-lgbt laws.Seeing everyone have a lovely time at TFest got me thinking..... HOW IS IT RIGHT TO HOLD A LEADING TRAVEL EVENT GLAMOURISING A NOTORIOUSLY ANTI-LGBT COUNTRY WITH QUESTIONABLE WOMENS RIGHTS?!

To give context, here's some examples of anti LGBT behaviour you can find where we have these luxe, invite only, trade shows: 

TFest: Dubai - Canadian YouTuber and model Gigi Gorgeous, who is a transgender woman, was detained for five hours by officials at Dubai International Airport on 9 August 2016 due to authorities not recognizing her gender as legitimate. In October 2017, Jamie Harron from Stirling, Scotland, faced a three-year jail sentence after putting his hand on a man in a bar so as to not "bump and spill drinks". He was arrested for public indecency after touching the man's hip.

PURE: Morrocco - A British man was jailed as recently as 2014 in Marrakech for 'homosexual acts'. In April, 2020 the Human Rights Watch reported of a campaign of online harassment in Morocco where people would go on same-sex dating apps to out other users. Despite the country becoming more progressive, it is still illegal to be gay and same sex sexual activity is punishable by up to 3 years in jail. 

Further East: Bali - As recently as 2020 tried to push queer people into treatment to 'cure' their sexual orientation. In January 2018, transgender women were arrested, stripped naked, had their heads shaved, and were publicly shamed in the province of Aceh.[50] Later in March, the Jakarta Social Agency declared waria to be socially dysfunctional. Just this year a gay couple were publicly lashed 77 times. It's illegal to have gay sex and there is a growing anti-gay movement here.

ILTM Singapore: It is still illegal to be gay in Singapore and the country remains outwardly conservative and anti-lgbt. Ironically this was a law introduced by british colonials, the very same ones who introduced gender binaries.

Just because there is REPRESENTATION in terms of out and proud LGBTQ+ folk in the industry, does not mean there is equality. The sheer existence of these trade events in countries that hold such anti-lgbt stances shows that the industries actions doesn't match its chat. The sheer fact that an LGBTQ+ trade show needs to exist in the form of PROUD Experiences is testament to the lack of safe spaces provided by the industry for it's LGBTQ+ comrades.

The issue here isn't simply for the LGBTQ+ community either, it's the wider issue of SAFETY at these events for women, with booze flowing and wedding rings disappearing, it's time that event organisers took accountability for bad behaviour at these shows and provided a 'safety point' or 'safe space' where attendees can report behaviour. Too often things aren't reported, or it's too late.

Lastly, i know the logistics behind organising these events. I'm not asking for them all to be moved overnight. I just need people to recognise the fight and do something about it. This also applies to the BAME community and womens rights in the industry too. The lack of f*cks given about these communities can be seen through representation with speakers, unwillingness to pay speaking fees, lack of actions to highlight issues or support worthy causes making change. We want this industry to be BETTER and ignoring these issues is not how to do that.

Over the coming months we will be being vocal about the lack of diversity in the industry. We'll be providing resources open to ALL in how to be better. We're going to teach y'all how to behave at trade shows and networking events. We're going to educate you on the issues faced by BAME travellers, by women and by the LGBTQ+ community. 

Yours sincerely,

A Queer person highlighting that not everyone has the same rights as a cis het white westerner ⚡️

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Chris King

18th October