Fort Lauderdale has long encouraged gay and lesbian travelers from around the world to explore their sunny side on the rainbow-ready shores of southern Florida. So it should come as no surprise that the sandy safe haven has just become one of the nation’s first cities to market expressly to transgender travelers.
The coastal city is home to hundreds of LGBT-owned business, from bars and clubs to restaurants and attractions. Last year, Fort Lauderdale’s “progressive, diverse citizenry” earned top marks among “America’s Top 100 Best Places to Live, Work and Play.”
This year, for the first time, Fort Lauderdale will host the Southern Comfort Conference, the largest transgender conference in the country, on September 29.
Much of the credit, The New York Times writes, belongs to Richard Gray, Managing Director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. Mr. Gray, 57, focuses on the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender outreach, and also serves on the board of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).
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“It was during a run less than two years ago that I really started to think about the T in L.G.B.T. It’s really the forgotten T,” Gray told The Times. “I realized I knew nothing about transgender travelers, and, as a gay man, I knew nothing about the transgender community. I researched and saw they had this conference that had been in Atlanta for 24 years, and I contacted their president, Lexi Dee. No one had ever courted them or paid them any attention before. They liked our commitment of raising the bar for trans inclusion.”
When asked how Fort Lauderdale is reaching out to transgender travelers, Gray responded: “We’re rolling out a new campaign called “Where Happy Meets Go Lucky,” which includes a landing page on our website devoted to transgender visitors — sunny.org/TLGB. I put the T first because I want transgender travelers to know we are committed to them and respect them.”