In the sharing economy, the average traveler can use a host of apps to bypass the traditional headaches that traveling once caused. Uber is a great way to get from point A to point B no matter where you are. Apps like MiFlight and Fleet can help you navigate the airport and get through security in record time. Foodspotting can point you to the best local cuisine all over the globe. But perhaps Airbnb has provided the biggest travel hack of all. Instead of dealing with the bureaucracy, fees, and outrageous expenses of hotel stays, you can stay in a local apartment and get a true taste of the city you’re visiting. Additionally, you can help small-scale entrepreneurs earn extra income through your bookings. There’s just one problem: LGBT discrimination runs rampant through Airbnb’s network of hosts. As a gay person traveling domestically or abroad, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be safe.
Instances of Airbnb Gay Discrimination
On July 7, The Advocate reported that Airbnb-based discrimination had taken place in Texas. Buddy Fisher of Houston had booked a stay in Austin for the city’s Pride festivities. The host asked Fisher about the reason for his visit. Fisher shared that he was coming to Austin to celebrate Pride. Within in an hour, his reservation was canceled and the host sent a message stating, “No LGBT people, please. I do not support people who are against humanity. Sorry.”
In June, Shadi Petosky, producer of popular children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba”, shared a tweet about the discrimination she’d faced using the service. After disclosing to a host that she was transgender, the host denied her reservation and stated that her son would feel uncomfortable around a trans person. When Petosky reported the incident back in 2015, Airbnb did nothing to help her. In fact, that same host was promoted to ‘super host’. It was only after her June tweet went viral that the company stepped in to remove the host from their platform.
Buzzfeed reported that Airbnb hosts are able to join the network without reading or acknowledging the company’s zero-tolerance policy. Though the host signup process is extensive with 24 parts and roughly 15 minutes of paperwork, the zero-tolerance policy is not a part of this introduction and screening. The only place to read the full policy is on the Community Guidelines page which can only be accessed by reading through the lengthy Terms of Service.
No Federal Protection Against Housing Discrimination
Though Airbnb has a discrimination policy, there’s no federal legislation that forces them to. Only 22 of the 50 United States have laws on the books that ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. 20 of those states include gender identity in their laws. Texas, where Buddy Fisher was denied a reservation, is one of the states that does not have a housing discrimination law in effect. So technically, what happened to Fisher was perfectly legal and all he can do is file a complaint.
Is Airbnb Doing Enough?
It’s clear that Airbnb’s discrimination policy isn’t working. It isn’t a mandatory part of the host signup process, and it isn’t stopping discrimination from taking place across its network. The Daily Beast published a deep dive into the company’s anti-discrimination efforts on July 20. The resulting article revealed some troubling information.
In most cases of discrimination, Airbnb acted swiftly after the incidents had taken place. And each complaint is handled on a case-by-case basis. The Daily Beast even took a closer look at the anti-discrimination policy. That policy doesn’t specifically outline that sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination is against its policies. It instead directs users to familiarize themselves with local laws and regulations. Despite calls for more intense action, the company seems hesitant to make their policy more visible or add it to the host orientation.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder has joined forces with Airbnb to help craft a new anti-discrimination policy. But with that announcement just being released on July 20, it could be some time before this policy goes into effect and is enforced across the board.
GayStay Is The Perfect Alternative
As an LGBT traveler, your utmost concern is your safety, and you need assurance that your hospitality arrangements won’t put you at risk. You also need assurance that your plans won’t fall through because of unwarranted discrimination. With Airbnb offering change sometime in the future, you can’t afford to wait.
GayStay is a travel accommodation site that’s gay owned and operated. It’s an LGBT-focused online marketplace to find great places to stay that will welcome as you are all the time. With GayStay, you’ll find the same ease of use and friendliness as any other sharing economy life hack. But here, you’re guaranteed to be accepted for who you are. And a portion of the profits from GayStay is used to benefit LGBT youth organizations. So not only are you finding safe spaces to rent, but you’re also giving back to your community.
For gay travelers looking for safe alternatives to avoid discrimination, GayStay is the way to go.