The 20 best gay beaches in the world

Waves lapped gently against the shore, the sun beat down and warmed my every fiber, palm trees swayed in the breeze. As I took a sip of my ice-cold mojito, I asked Seby: “Is there anything better than a trip to the beach?”

I had to admit, he was right. Whether it’s the chance to get active in the water, show off your hard work in the gym or simply top up that tan, it’s no secret that many gay guys feel most fabulous at the beach. This has meant that gay beaches have popped up across the world down the years, providing a hotspot for local gay communities and gay tourists too. 

From vibrant city center beaches where summer nightlife lasts well into the early hours or more relaxed, isolated affairs with a cultivated vibe, gay beaches come in as many shapes, sizes, and guises as gay men. Whether you’re searching for the best gay beaches in the United States or fancy visiting a gay beach further afield, our rundown of the twenty best gay beaches in the world has got you covered.

What It’s Like To Be a Gay Little Person

There are about 30,000 little people in America, according to Joanna Campbell, executive director of the largest little people organization in the country, Little People of America. Campbell estimates that the amount of little people are equally divided by sex. If there are 15,000 men with dwarfism in America, and like the general population according to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, five percent of them are predominantly attracted to men, that means there are 750 gay little men in America. That’s .000233 percent of the population, or one in every 430,000 people.

This piece is a companion to the episode of Gawker’s video interview series Rare Lives that features Joey Navedo:

What It's Like To Be a Gay Little Person

A Brief History of Little Richard Grappling With His Sexuality & Religion

Little Richard attends „The Legacy Lounge“ A conversation with CeeLo Green and his inspiration at W Atlanta – Downtown on Sept. 29, 2013 in Atlanta. 

For more than six decades, Little Richard kept people bopping to his signature style of uninhibited rock ’n‘ roll. Besides his music, Little Richard has been known for something else throughout his expansive career: his complicated relationship with his sexual orientation, and his faith’s effect on it.

In a 2017 interview on the Christian-oriented Three Angels Broadcasting Network, Richard reiterated a belief that homosexuality is „unnatural“ while simultaneously reaffirming his strong Christian faith that has followed him for most of his life. „Anybody that comes in show business, they gon‘ say you gay or straight,“ he said. „God made men, men and women, women… You’ve got to live the way God wants you to live… He can save you.“

Those comments were the latest in a decades-long public struggle with reconciling his religious beliefs and his sexual orientation.

Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Ga., in 1932) often acknowledged his lifestyle as a gay man. Charles White’s 1984 biography The Life and Times of Little Richard weaves together anecdotes from Richard himself and people in his life — including a number of other artists — to tell the story of his rise from young Georgia gospel singer to the biggest pioneer in Southern rock ’n‘ roll. In it, he reflected on the sexual experiences from his young life that formed his sexual identity over the years.

From a young age he said he always felt feminine, wearing his mother’s makeup and clothes, before getting kicked out of the house at age 15 by his deacon father. He began performing at different venues around Atlanta and began traveling what became known as the Chitlin‘ Circuit — a number of performance venues throughout the South that were safe and acceptable for black musicians, comedians and other entertainers to perform in during the segregation era.

Following his hit „Tutti Frutti“ reaching No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1956, Richard enjoyed a few years of success as a rock ’n‘ roll performer. (Interestingly enough, the original lyrics of „Tutti Frutti“ were about another gay man: „Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy.“) His single „Long Tall Sally“ reached No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1956, and another recognizable hit, „Good Golly, Miss Molly,“ came out two years later. In a three-year span, Richard had racked up 18 hit songs. By the end of the decade, however, he felt God was telling him to turn away from secular music, and as a result, enrolled in Oakwood College to study theology.

Richard found pleasure in his biblical studies, becoming attracted to the idea of praising God through music. He believed he found peace with God, and that he should live as God intended him to. He also believed that he faced „devils“ while there, too: he was caught asking a deacon’s son to expose himself and resented his „unnatural affections“ that led him to hate who he was. In addition to his homosexual activity, he became involved in voyeurism in his 20s, paying men to let him watch them have sex with women, sometimes forcibly. „My whole gay activities were really into masturbation,“ he said. „I’d always be mad after I finished. Be mad at myself, don’t want to talk about it, don’t wanna answer no questions.“ His voyeuristic escapades eventually led to him being jailed for sexual misconduct after being found with a couple in a car in a Macon gas station.

Richard found himself performing secular music again in 1962 when he was persuaded to tour Europe under the impression that it was a gospel tour. After receiving a tepid audience response to his gospel music, Richard eventually found his way back to rock ’n‘ roll, enjoying three more decades of musical success. In 1995, he proudly told Penthouse, „I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.“ In a 2012 profile in GQ, he candidly discussed partaking in orgies with both men and women, and described himself as „omnisexual“: „We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smörgåsbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for.“

It surprised some, then, to see him sing a different tune (no pun intended) in his interview with Three Angels Broadcasting. He commented on the state of pop culture, its acceptance of queer identities, and its lack of focus on faith: „All these things, so much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.“ Richard seemed to have found solace with God in regards to his sexuality, concluding on the matter saying, „Regardless of whatever you are, he loves you. I don’t care what you are. He loves you and he can save you. All you’ve got to do is say, ‚Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.‘ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.“

Regardless, Little Richard lives on as a legend in every sense of the word. „Tutti Frutti“ is still regarded as one of the greatest rock ’n‘ roll songs of all time — so much so that in 2007, Mojo declared the song as „the sound of the birth of rock ’n‘ roll.“ He straddled the line between secular and gospel music countless times throughout his long, illustrious career. And he became a queer icon for countless people, even inspiring drag impersonations.

A Brief History of Little Richard Grappling With His Sexuality & Religion

The 50 Best LGBTQ Movies Ever Made

Here are the best movies that depict the queer experience in all its complexities.

The good news: this year you have time for some movies.

Under normal circumstances, June busts out all over with Pride Month parties and parades. The gay neighborhood thumps with house music. Your bank, cable company and sandwich shop rush to remind you of their support for the LGBTQ+ community. And if you can bear the crowds, you leave a Pride festival with a draft-beer buzz, an application for a rainbow-flag credit card, and a paper fan with Chelsea Handler’s face on it. It’s a lot, but it’s ours.

This year, the public events of LGBTQ Pride Month—much like sports, school, and life itself—are cancelled. We’re stuck inside unless we’re marching for police reform. The few bars that have reopened are for the reckless and foolish, and let’s be honest: there’s only so much dancing a person can do on Zoom. The conditions are optimal for you to catch up on your queer cinema.

We’ve come a ways in fifty years, from the self-loathing middle-aged men of The Boys In The Band to the peppy teens of Love, Simon. The range runs from the shoestring brilliance of The Watermelon Woman to the big-budget glitter-bomb that is Rocketman. 1982’s tentative Making Love derailed the careers of its two lead actors; 2017’s Call Me By Your Name cemented its pair as movie stars. While gay characters tended until much too recently to be one-dimensional, white, and doomed, in 2018 Barry Jenkins won a Best Picture Oscar telling the layered and hopeful story of a gay Black man in Moonlight.

There’s a lot of history to explore, and there’s never been a better time to do it. Borrow a streaming service password from family– however you define it!–and dive in.

If it feels a bit like a CW version of an Afterschool Special, that’s no mistake: teen-tv super-producer Greg Berlanti makes his feature film directorial debut here. It’s as chaste a love story as you’re likely to see in the 21st century— the hunky gardener who makes the title teen question his sexuality is wearing a long-sleeved shirt, for God’s sake—but you know what? The queer kids of the future need their wholesome entertainment too.

Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine play headmistresses at a school for girls who are accused by a student of being in a lesbian relationship. While the accusation is false, it nearly ruins the women’s standing in their community and threatens their friendship—and forces one of them to reevaluate her own identity.

A gay fantasia on Elton themes. An Elton John biopic was never going to be understated, but this glittering jukebox musical goes way over the top and then keeps going. It might be an overcorrection from the straight-washing of the previous year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but when it’s this much fun, it’s best not to overthink it.

Charming Irish movie that answers the question: “What if John Hughes were Irish and gay?” Misfit Ned struggles at a rugby-obsessed boarding school until a mysterious new kid moves in and an unlikely friendship changes them both. Along the way, a rousing performance from Andrew Scott as an inspiring teacher with a secret of his own, and a rugby game set to a Rufus Wainwright song. Just the thing to lift your spirits.

The life of Cuba’s „transformistas“ is captured beautifully in this father-son story about a boy who wants to perform drag and his father, newly released from prison and unable to accept who his son is. Shot beautifully, with great music and a close look at Havana in all its run-down and colorful glory.

The quintessential ’80s lesbian romantic drama, Desert Hearts follows an English professor and a young sculptor as they fall in love at a Nevada ranch in the 1950s. Unique for its time, it sets its romance in a warm, affirming environment and lets its leads enjoy their relationship without angst or fear of death.

Ira Sachs’s autobiographical drama packs a hard punch as it follows a filmmaker, Erick, throughout his relationship with a young lawyer, Paul, which begins as a random sexual encounter and implodes following Paul’s drug and sex addiction.

Wong Kar-wai won Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for this film about two Hong Kong men who emigrate to Buenos Aires, after the handover of Hong Kong to China put LGBT lives in jeopardy.

Former SNL head-writer and The Other Two co-creator Chris Kelly makes his directorial debut in a semi-autobiographical account of his mother’s death from cancer. Molly Shannon gives a devastating performance, the tragic qualities of the Sacramento gay bar are hilariously explored, and the viewer is forced to re-evaluate Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.” Given how much you will cry, this is perhaps a risky watch in a time when tissue paper is scarce. We say pull a full-size bath towel out of the cabinet and dive in.

Cheryl Dunye directs and stars in this microbudget indie about an African-American lesbian searching for an uncredited black actress from a 1930s film. Along the way, she falls in and out of love, and meets the real Camille Paglia.

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play lesbian mothers to two teenagers whose blissful modern family is rocked when their kids seek out their sperm-doner father played by Mark Ruffalo. The family unit falls into crisis when his sudden appearance into their lives causes a rift between the two women as well as their kids

Starring Mariel Hemingway and a raft of real-life track and field stars, Personal Best follows a young bisexual pentathlete vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team and exploring a relationship with her lesbian coach—played by Olympic hurdler Patrice Donnelly.

Eliza Hittman’s dark and moody film plays out a bit like a thriller, one in which a Brooklyn teenager named Frankie (a superb Harris Dickinson, in a nearly wordless performance), who spends his idle hours hanging with his delinquent friends, fooling around with his girlfriend, or hooking up with men he meets online. Beach Rats is a provocative look at the personal and secret urges we often fear will come out into the light.

Gus Van Sant’s loose Shakespearean adaptation brought the New Queer Cinema movement into the mainstream, with River Phoenix as a young, narcoleptic hustler and Keanu Reeves as his best friend and unrequited love interest.

„Don’t you know I would have gone through life half-awake if you’d had the decency to leave me alone?“ All the lushness of a Merchant Ivory production, with gay men at its center. Even if this weren’t a beautiful, affecting film, Hugh Grant’s hair alone would earn it a spot on this list.

Peter Jackson was journeying through fantasy worlds long before Lord of the Rings—albeit one conjured up by two very real New Zealand school girls (played by then-newcomers Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) who escape their own realities through their imaginations. But their connection turns intense and dangerous when they conspire to commit murder in one of the most notorious true crime stories of all time.

The first wide-release studio film with a homosexual relationship at its center (and for decades, the last). Making Love follows Michael Ontkean’s Zack, who is married to Claire (Kate Jackson) but exploring his homosexuality with Harry Hamlin’s Bart. It’s not a perfect film, but it took a giant risk, and gives us a rare snapshot of Los Angeles‘ gay life in the moment just before AIDS.

Long before his groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee directed this sweet, comic tale about a Taiwanese immigrant living in New York with his partner. When he offers to marry a Chinese woman so she can obtain a green card, the marriage of convenience spirals out of control when his parents find out and throw a lavish wedding party.

Mike Mills’s sweet 2010 film concerns a Los Angeles artist, played by Ewan MacGregor, building a relationship with his newly-out father (Christopher Plummer) in the last year of the older man’s life. Beginners earned Plummer an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and features a talking Jack Russell terrier. In short, it’s pretty much perfect.

When Megan (Natasha Lyonne) shows more interest in being a vegetarian and female-fronted folk rock, her parents send her away to have her presumed homosexuality cured. Conversion therapy is no joke, but Jamie Babbit’s satire perfectly skewers puritanical homophobia on its head—and it has a joyful, happy ending. (Plus, RuPaul!)

Dee Rees’s gorgeous directorial debut stars Adepero Oduye as Alike, a Brooklyn teenager who comes to terms with her own sexuality and puts the comforts of friends and family at risk as she discovers how to express her identity.

On a scorching August day, Al Pacino’s Sonny attempts to rob a bank in Brooklyn, and…things do not go well. The instant, intense media fame Sonny earns feels more relevant than ever, and things turn surprisingly tender when we learn he plans to use the stolen money for his lover’s gender confirmation surgery.

A Pakistani Brit and his former lover, who has become a fascist street punk, reunite and run a family laundromat. The characters deal with the materialism and anti-immigrant furor of Thatcher’s England—elements that feel just a little bit too relevant at the moment.

Based on the autobiography of gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, Julian Schnabel’s film brought Javier Bardem to the world’s attention and highlighted the cruelty and homophobia of Castro’s Cuba and Reagan’s America

John Cameron Mitchell brings his cult musical about „internationally ignored“ transgender rock star Hedwig to the screen. In this version, Mitchell shows us the backstory he was only able to tell on stage, and introduces us to Michael Pitt’s Tommy Gnosis. The rare rock musical that actually rocks.

Tom Ford’s directorial debut adapts Christopher Isherwood’s novel about an English professor in returning to life a year after the death of his lover. As you would expect from Ford, it is a relentlessly stylish affair, with indelible performances by Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

Some might find this adaptation of Paul Rudnick’s off-Broadway play to be a little dated with its treatment of the dating scene in early to mid-’90s New York City. But Jeffrey’s strength is found in its comic and playful look at a search for love amid the AIDS crisis, offering the kind of unabashed joy most of its contemporaries were unable to match.

Lisa Cholodenko’s chic directorial debut features a revelatory performance from Ally Sheedy as a prematurely retired photographer, and Radha Mitchell as the young woman who can revitalize her career.

Pedro Almodóvar’s comic melodramas are filled to the brim with delightfully absurd characters, and his Oscar-winning All About My Mother offers some of the best. After the death of her son, Manuela seeks out to find his father—who now goes by the name of Lola. Along for the journey is a young nun (played by Penelope Cruz) who is newly pregnant with Lola’s baby.

A group of London LGBT activists form a coalition with striking Welsh miners in Thatcher’s U.K. Stephen Beresford’s Golden Globe-nominated screenplay underscores the need, as urgent as ever, for oppressed groups to join forces. There is power in a union!

Norman Rene’s film follows a group of gay men through the early years of the AIDS crisis, one day per year, starting on the day the New York Times first covered the story of the „gay cancer.“ A deep meditation on grief, gallows humor, and the families we make with our friends.

What do a recently divorced woman and a middle-aged gay man have in common? They’re both having an affair with a charming and stylish artist—and they’re aware that the lover they share in common isn’t exclusive to them. John Schlesinger’s acclaimed drama depicts two people who seek surprising ways to break free of their dull lives and reclaim their untamed youth.

When her older lover, Orlando, dies suddenly, Marina must put her grief on pause as Orlando’s ex-wife and family immediately shun her because she is transgender. The winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, Sebastián Lelio’s drama features a stirring lead performance from actress Daniela Vega.

A closeted Northern Englishman prepares to take over his family farm, with some help from a Romanian farmhand whom his father has hired. A heartbreaking depiction of British repression, with a supporting performance from a newborn lamb that will make you vegan for at least an hour. It’s as delicate and beautiful as it is— let’s be honest here—extremely hot.

Spielberg followed up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with this adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel. In her film debut, Whoopi Goldberg plays Celie, an African-American woman in the early 20th century, who fights her way through oppression and abuse and finds an unexpected love along the way.

This slice of gay life in mid-’80s Manhattan gave Steve Buscemi his first major film role, and tackled the AIDS crisis in a frank, non-sensational, even humorous manner. Along the way, glimpses of a long-forgotten bohemian New York, Reagan-era Fire Island, and a pre-Drew Carey Show Kathy Kinney

Shot on iPhones along Santa Monica Boulevard’s unofficial red light district, Tangerine follows two transgender sex workers and one lovesick cab driver through a particularly eventful Christmas Eve. Director Sean Baker found his leads—two first-time film actors—at the actual donut shop where much of the movie’s action takes place.

Two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transgender woman (Terence Stamp) travel across the barren Australian Outback in a giant pink bus named Priscilla en route to a cabaret gig in Alice Springs. Hilarity ensues as their travels involve misadventure after misadventure, but the trio come together as a family unit as they learn more about each other and their personal lives

This film kept its NC-17 rating for some explicit, passionate sex scenes between leads Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, but it is at its heart a movie about youth, art, heartbreak, and the thrill of exploring one’s identity.

Who among us hasn’t been hanging out in the late 1700s, waiting on our customary proposal portrait to be finished so that we can find a proper spouse, only to fall for our portrait artist of the same sex? Rats! Fooled by queer impulses again. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the most recent additions to the queer canon, and it already boasts quite a reputation for examining the complex relationship between two women who dared to love in an era when their love was absolutely forbidden.

The first mainstream queer film of the new millennium, Brokeback Mountain ushered its themes into the mainstream. Heath Ledger’s shy Ennis del Mar falls in what he cannot articulate as love with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist over a long, lonely winter, and their lives bounce off each other’s for years afterward. Ang Lee and screenwriter Larry McMurtry expand Annie Proulx’s short story into a film without one false moment.

Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Lee Israel, a caustic celebrity biographer who turns to literary forgery when her career stalls. Richard E. Grant is wonderful as her co-conspirator, but it’s McCarthy’s attempt at romance with Dolly Wells’ shy bookstore owner that gives the movie its heart.

The greatest, most achingly beautiful gay male romance movie. Timothée Chalamet plays the precocious Elio, a teenager living in Italy who becomes infatuated with an older American student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is staying with his family for the summer. What begins as a contentious friendship turns into a full-blown love affair as the two young men spend their idle summer days in the lush Mediterranean locale, bracing themselves for an inevitable heartbreak.

If any film can be credited with kicking off our cultural conversation on gender, this is it. Hilary Swank’s breakthrough performance anchors Kimberly Peirce’s film about the murder of Nesbraskan trans man Brandon Teena. Boys Don’t Cry was originally given an NC-17 for even addressing trans issues, but was later downgraded to an R.

Mike Nichols’s American remake of La Cage aux Folles features Robin Williams as a gay nightclub owner whose son announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician. In typical farce style, his partner (Nathan Lane)—the star of his club’s drag show—poses as his dowdy wife in order to convince his son’s future in-laws that they’re a wholesome American family.

Set in the early ’90s, this energetic and emotional drama follows a group of activists in Paris fighting the government and its slow-moving efforts to battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While highlighting the dramatic and powerful work from ACT UP, the film also depicts the personal stories of those fighting for their lives, delivering a human and urgent remembrance of the plague that afflicted millions across the globe—and continues on today.

Todd Haynes brings Patricia Highsmith’s cult novel to the big screen in this lush and seductive film following a young shopgirl named Therese (Rooney Mara) who finds herself charmed by an alluring older woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett). The two set out on a road trip on which they consummate an unspoken passion for each other—one that ultimately brings ruin to Carol’s marriage and awakens dark desires within Therese.

Tom Hanks won his first Oscar for his performance as Andrew Beckett, a successful lawyer who is fired from his firm once the senior partners discover he has AIDS. Jonathan Demme’s searing drama was the first mainstream film to tackle the AIDS crisis, and it gave a familiar face and voice to a marginalized community often ignored by their neighbors and left to suffer because of an intolerant society.

Based on the play by Mart Crawley, and released less than a year after the Stonewall riots, The Boys in the Band perfectly depicts the complex experience of being a gay man at the time—at times joyful, often times confusing, painful, and informed by self-loathing. This comedy still manages to balance the bite and the tenderness for its collection of characters, with its group of young gay men in New York City falling in and out of love (and friendship), and unknowingly on the brink of a cultural revolution.

The only film on this list to earn an Oscar for Best Picture—and deservedly so. Barry Jenkins explores masculinity and repression in his study of Chiron, a young man coming of age in Miami (and played by three different actors at various stages of his life) who grapples with his sexual identity amid his troubled relationship with his crack-addicted mother. Chiron longs to break free of the predetermined path set out for himself by his environment, a journey set into motion by encounter with one of his male peers

The 50 Best LGBTQ Movies Ever Made

Gay teen describes experience in so-called gay conversion camp

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

Patrick McAlvey says he saw a therapist for 10 years in an attempt to change his attraction to men.

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1. Fire Island Pines gay beach in New York, USA

Fire Island is a thin sliver of land running parallel to the south shore of Long Island in New York. It’s a serious gay mecca on the east coast, where the Manhattan gay boys come to party during summer. The main gay areas are predominantly located around Cherry Grove (or “the Grove” for short) and Fire Island Pines (aka “the Pines”). The beaches around here are gay as hell.

The Grove and the Pines have been gay havens since the 1960s and have largely been left alone as self-governing communities. This has allowed an “anything goes” attitude to flourish here, which makes for some wild fun as well as some of the skimpiest swimsuits we’ve ever seen! Spots such as Pavilion are ideal for drinks in the sun before moving on to more hedonistic establishments such as Sip n Twirl.

Our favorite spot is located on the wild stretch of beach between the Grove and the Pines, separated by a large forest. As you enter the forest between the two communities, continue heading towards the beach ahead and there you’ll find it. The total walk from either the Grove or the Pines ferry dock is around half a mile. Check out why we also rate Fire Island as one of the best vacation spots in the US.

How to get to the gay beach of Fire Island: The most convenient way to reach Fire Island from New York is by car but keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for the parking as you cannot use your car on Fire Island. Otherwise, you can take the train then the ferry. For more info on directions, timetables and different means of transports, check out this page.

2. Hilton gay beach in Tel Aviv, Israel

This sandy beach in central Tel Aviv is the de-facto epicentre of the city’s gay scene: this is also where the massive Tel Aviv Pride festival takes place every June. There are plenty of bars and cafes around Hilton Beach serving refreshing cocktails and snacks. We particularly loved Hilton Bay, which is a chic place to enjoy a drink right there on the sand. 

With calm, clean Mediterranean waters, Hilton Beach is an ideal spot to make like the locals and try your hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), which is something of a tradition in this super-sporty city.

For those who are not so athletically minded, grabbing a cocktail at one of the many terrace bars here is a rite of passage at Hilton Beach. Bring your sunglasses, your eyes will be darting every way as you try to keep track of all of the muscled men that patrol this section of the beach wearing only the tightest of trunks!

How to get to the Hilton gay beach of Tel Aviv: the gay beach is located in a prime area of Tel Aviv. Take the 55 bus to the stop HaYarkon/Arlozorov – you can’t miss the Hilton Hotel, which stands opposite the stop. Then, the beach sits right in front of the hotel. Remember, the central part of the beach is the main gay area, with the north more for a dog walking scene and the south the preserve of local surfers.

3. Mar Bella gay beach in Barcelona, Spain

Truly a gay beach like no other, Barcelona’s Mar Bella benefits from a location that is both secluded and close to the city center. Cozy, intimate yet not without its fair share of glamor, the gay beach of Mar Bella offers visitors the best of both worlds.

Right there on the beach is the BeGay bar-restaurant, which during summer stays open from early in the morning until, well, early in the morning! Serving great food and delicious cocktails, it’s easy to while away hour after hour sitting on the bar’s vibrant terrace area, chatting with the cosmopolitan crowd that gathers here. 

For extra supplies, like sun lotion or shades, there are a few small supermarkets just 10 minutes up the road from Mar Bella, as well as endless options for food and drink.

This beach famously hosts the epic every August, which is one of the main annual gay events in Barcelona. Though it does make finding a spot to sunbathe a real pain, which is why it’s important to go there early if you’re there in the peak summer months.

How to get to the Mar Bella gay beach of Barcelona: To reach Mar Bella hop on the metro to Poblenou. From there it’s a 10-minute walk down to the sea. Mar Bella attracts a mixed crowd of all ages including both locals and foreigners. We spotted guys throwing beach balls, playing music, and chilling out under the sun.

4. Miami 12th Street gay beach, Florida, USA

Miami’s South Beach is world-renowned as a hotbed of glitz, glamor and beautiful people. Nowhere is this more true than at the city’s 12th Street beach, where gay Miami really comes to the fore. 

This is where America’s most unapologetically flamboyant come to strut their stuff and have fun. We found the 12th Street beach to host some of the most gorgeous guys we have seen anywhere in Miami, which really is saying something!

One of the best things about 12th Street beach is that it is located in one of Miami’s most exciting parks: Lummus Park. This sprawling green space is filled with volleyball courts, outdoor gyms, and more, meaning you’ll have no shortage of activities to enjoy on and around the beach.

This gay hotspot in Miami is home to the annual Winter Party Festival, the Circuit Party and the Miami Beach Pride. If you’re not planning to visit for one of these events, not to worry, as 12th Street beach is close to all manner of top bars and restaurants including the famous Palace Bar which sits just a couple of blocks away.

How to get to the 12th Street gay beach of Miami: The clue’s in the name – head over to the coastal end of 12th Street, past the intersection with the famous Ocean Drive street and voila! If you’re driving, park up at the city garage located nearby at the intersection of 13th Street and Collins. 

5. Bondi gay beach in Sydney, Australia

When you think of Sydney beaches, you probably think of hot Aussie surfers, lifeguards, and endless nights of partying. Well, that’s exactly what Bondi Beach has to offer for gay travelers looking to enjoy Australia’s most famous stretch of sand.

The de-facto gay area of the beach is north Bondi, where the speedos are tighter and the abs more chiseled than in any other zone. North Bondi even has its own LGBTQ lifeguard force numbering over a thousand! If you’re lucky enough to be in town for Sydney Gay Mardi Gras in March, you’ll see north Bondi transformed into a zone of wild partying that goes on well into the early hours of the morning.

On that note, it’s worth remembering that drinks are banned on Bondi beach and that this rule is strictly enforced by local authorities. Luckily, the boardwalk area directly behind the beach is packed with cool bars, cafes, and restaurants serving everything from cold beers to deliciously fruity cocktails and ice-cold Aussie white wines.

How to get to the Bondi gay beach of Sydney: You can go either by train/bus or bus all the way. By train head to Bondi Junction and then either walk the final 2 km to the beach or take a short bus ride. By bus from downtown Sydney, jump on the #380 which will take you directly to Bondi beach. Driving is not recommended because of parking limitations at the beach. 

6. Atlantic Beach in Condado, Puerto Rico, USA

With a strong gay scene made up of both locals and tourists, San Juan is home to a string of gay beaches, with the best of all located at Condado.

The gay area of Condado sits in front of the Atlantic Hotel, whose bar is a hub for gay men looking to sip cocktails and mingle in the sun. The Happy Hour here is legendary, taking place daily from 5-9 pm when mixer drinks can be enjoyed for as little as $4 each, with cocktails only slightly pricier. If you’re the kind of guy that seeks nothing more than sun, sea, and cheap drinks, then this is the place for you!

Alternatively, you can rent a sun lounger and enjoy being waited on hand and foot right there on the sand as you watch the boys pass by. Atlantic Beach is home to the kind of relaxed, carefree attitude that means you’re sure to meet plenty of fun, interesting folks during your time here. It is no wonder why we rate Puerto Rico as one of the !

How to get to the Condado gay beach of Puerto Rico: the easiest way to reach Condado beach is by Uber, which takes around 10 minutes from downtown San Juan. Tip: be sure to tell the driver you want to be dropped at the Atlantic Beach area in the center of Condado, which sprawls for some way in either direction.

7. Black’s gay beach in San Diego, California, USA

A gorgeously secluded section of Torrey Pines State Beach, Black’s Beach is perhaps the most famous nudist beach in the United States. This enormous stretch of sand is home to a sizeable gay area at the north end of the beach, where you will find gay surfers, beach bums and straight-up posers quite literally rubbing shoulders.

When we say that Black’s Beach is long we mean really, really long, two and a half miles to be precise. As such, you’re sure to feel the immense sense of freedom and seclusion that Black’s has to offer whether you’re here to surf, sunbathe, or just run around in your birthday suit!

As one of the premier surf destinations on the West Coast, Black’s Beach is a prime spot for meeting and at the very least eyeing-up the scores of beautiful surfer boys that flock here every day of the week. If that doesn’t do it for you, keep an eye out for the schools of dolphins that call this stretch of the coastline home, they’re known to get extremely close to the shore.

How to get to the Black’s gay beach of San Diego: simply put the destination “Torrey Pines Glider Port” in your GPS and follow the directions. Once you arrive, continue through the driveway. There is a parking lot where the path ends – you’ll know you’ve reached it when you spot the ‘Danger’ signs.

8. Maspalomas Kiosk #7 gay beach in Gran Canaria, Spain

Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands in Spain, located just off the coast of West Africa. The island is a gay haven with a massive gay scene around the Yumbo Centre in Playa del Ingles. Just south of this is the gay beach of Maspalomas close to kiosk #7, which sits hidden by the island’s famous sand dunes.

The beach itself is a lot of fun, with sun loungers available for rent and guys of all ages enjoying themselves. Mainly, the gay beach attracts tourists from North Europe on their gay vacation in Gran Canaria. 

The only downside about the Maspalomas gay beach is that when it gets windy here, the sand goes EVERYWHERE! So be prepared for this or avoid going on a very windy day. Gran Canaria has tons of gay accommodations to choose from and to suit all budgets, you won’t be disappointed!

How to get to the gay beach of Maspalomas: Head over to the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas and from there cross through the Sand Dunes following the path marked with wooden posts. The walk through the sand dunes is around 15 minutes.

9. Herring Cove gay beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA

Herring Cove is a part of the wider Cape Cod National Seashore, a stunning national park located in the northeast United States. This is the most popular gay beach in Provincetown as well as being an unofficial spot for nudists – though be aware that nudism is technically illegal here. The authorities just turn a blind eye to it…!

The dunes just behind the beach are a hotspot for cruising and a bit of rumpy-pumpy, so it’s worth being careful where you tread! Herring Cove attracts a diverse gay and lesbian crowd that can stick around until very late indeed during hot summer nights when the atmosphere gets downright hedonistic.

How to get to the Herring Cove gay beach of Provincetown: Take the beach shuttle from downtown Provincetown. If you’re driving, head south out of town just a couple of miles and follow the signposts. You will be able to park up right there in front of the dunes.

10. Elia gay beach in Mykonos, Greece

Elia Beach is our favorite gay beach on Mykonos Island in Greece.

It has a super cool gay section – lookout for the rainbow flags waving in the wind. The water is warm, the sand soft and the facilities exceptional. The beach is generally very quiet in the morning, so if you’re just looking for a place to relax, then use this time to do it! Things start to get a little bit more active in the afternoon with tons of gorgeous gay men descending onto the beach for a day of socializing, partying, and swimming.

The busiest period is during the XLSIOR gay festival which takes place at the end of August and early September. Read more about it in our . 

How to get to the Elia gay beach of Mykonos: Elia beach is located 6.2 miles (10km) south from Mykonos Town at the southern tip of the island. The best way to reach it is to drive down in your rental car or buggy. There is a public bus but it runs on limited hours and take ages! Sometimes scheduled boat services can take you here during the peak summer seasons.

11. Sandy Bay gay beach in Cape Town, South Africa

Sandy Bay Beach is renowned as the best gay beach in South Africa, and we wholeheartedly agree! 

This beach is quite secluded from the rest of Cape Town and as such, it can be rather difficult to reach. Tucked away beside a hidden road half-way between Cape Town and Cape Point, Sandy Bay doesn’t like to make its presence known too loudly. Yet, if we’re being honest, this only adds to the mysterious charm and tranquil vibe that this place has in bucketloads.

12. Sebastian Street gay beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Sebastian Street Beach is one of America’s best-known gay beaches for a reason. That is – it’s absolutely awesome! Whether you come for the sun, the warm water or the eye-candy, Sebastian Street is a must-visit for gay guys in the Fort Lauderdale area.

The vibe is quite low-key at this LGBTQ hotspot, with refreshingly little posing going on. Not that we’re against posing, it’s just that there’s a time and a place – we’re looking at you, Miami! In Fort Lauderdale, the pouts turn to easy-going smiles…you’re sure to find the crowd here friendly, open and accessible in comparison. 

The nightlife around Sebastian Street gay beach is more dinner and cocktails than wild, endless beach parties. Again, if that’s what you want, head to nearby Miami or sashay over to the for one of the best gay nights out of your life! In terms of gay accommodation, there are plenty of excellent with some of them close to Sebastian Street Beach.

How to get to the Sebastian Street gay beach of Fort Lauderdale: The best way to get around anywhere in Fort Lauderdale is by Uber or Lyft. Otherwise, you can reach it by public transport by jumping on bus number #11 or #40 from downtown, which will drop you right there by the sand.

13. Will Rogers State gay beach in Santa Monica, California, USA

Situated in the gay mecca of Santa Monica, Will Rogers State Beach is one of California’s most fabulous places to be. After all, as Katy Perry once said, “California is fine, fresh, and fierce!”

This is one of the best gay beaches in the US, located near lifeguard tower 18 in Pacific Palisades on the Santa Monica Bay. Will Rogers is fondly nicknamed “Ginger Rogers Beach” and it is famous for being the filming location of Baywatch before it was moved to Hawaii. Need we go on?!

The beach is well maintained, so it’s always very clean, whilst the crowd here tends to be extremely laid back, which of course is true of much of the West Coast. In what is a famous surfing spot in the region, you can hit those waves in between games of volleyball or gymnastics. Everywhere you look there is a hive of activity going on, with people just embracing the bodies they were born, in the most shame-free and California fashion.

Nearby you can enjoy a bike or hiking trail, which meanders right across the beach and around the coastline. Close by is a totally lush gay bar called “The Birdcage” – yes, just like the movie. The bar throws a Beach Club party every weekend with great music, drinks, and no shortage of fun.

How to get to the Will Rogers State gay beach of Santa Monica: The best (and only!) way to reach it is by car, bound for Pacific Palisades on the Santa Monica Bay. When you arrive, look out for the rainbow painted lifeguard tower #18.

14. Playa de los Muertos gay beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Translating quite literally as “Daed Man’s Beach”, Playa de Los Muertos is ironically one of Mexico’s most vibrant, life-filled beaches that has become a hive of LGBTQ activity.

This is a true downtown beach, located just off the main seafront drag in , a beautiful town and a key part of Mexican tourism. As such, the party never stops at Playa de Los Muertos! Grab a tropical cocktail (Piña Colada, anyone?) at literally any time of day, settle down in a lounge chair and watch the whole carnival-like situation unfold before your very eyes.

Whether it’s speedo-clad gay guys showing off their chiseled abs or local traders selling everything from fresh fruit to handicrafts, Playa de Los Muertos offers a true feast for the eyes. With beautiful white sand, crystal clear waters, and a glut of trendy bars, this awesome gay beach has everything you need to spend a few days getting lost in the festival atmosphere.

How to get to Playa de Los Muertos gay beach of Puerto Vallarta: From Zona Romantica, either grab a taxi over, or jump on the Centro Bus and get off at the Playa Los Arcos Hotel, which is 2/3 blocks away from the gay beach.

15. Farme Ipanema gay beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Not only is the beach of Ipanema a big part of the LGBTQ scene in Rio, but there is an entire district of the same name that has become a gay hub in its own right.

Let’s face it though, you came to Rio for the beaches and this one does not disappoint. Situated toward the eastern end of Ipanema between ‘Postos’ 9 and 8, this fabulously gay-friendly area is filled with queens both local and foreign. In fact, in Rio, they use the term ‘Barbies’ to describe musclemen! This particular stretch of beach is packed with Barbie Boys in all their tanned, skimpy-shorted glory!

There are always plenty of games happening – even if you’re not that into sports, the crowds here are so inviting and engaging that you’ll feel yourself becoming the next Sporty Spice within minutes! Try your hand at surfing, the waves here are to di…ve for, and the blue waters feel so relaxing underneath the piping hot sun.

How to get to the Farme gay beach of Ipanema in Rio: Jump on to the metro line #1 or #4 and take it to the General Osório stop. From there it’s a 5-minute walk down to the sand. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot all the rainbow flags.

16. Poodle gay beach in Rehoboth, Delaware, USA

Part of the wider Rehoboth Beach area, Poodle Beach is Delaware’s gayest patch of sand and a hub for the area’s vibrant LGBTQ scene. Located at the southern end of the Rehoboth Boardwalk, the gay section of the beach is unmissable due to the rainbow parasols and throngs of guys who come in every conceivable shape and size.

Poodle Beach is known to have some of the cleanest water of any beach in America, making this a hotspot for swimming and watersports. If you would rather kick back on the sand and work on that tan, there are plenty of bars and cafes nearby to grab an ice-cold cocktail or beer from. 

The crowd here is incredibly friendly and open, with none of the pretentiousness that blights many other gay beaches in the world. As long as you turn up with a smile and the cutest bathing suit you can find, you’re sure to make plenty of new friends at Poodle Beach.

How to get to gay Poodle Beach of Rehoboth, Delaware: Drive over to Rehoboth Beach and keep heading south on the Rehoboth Boardwalk until you spot the gays and the rainbows!

17. Praia #19 gay beach in Lisbon, Portugal

Renowned through the city as a popular nudist beach, ‘Praia 19’ as it is known locally, is one of the largest and best gay beaches in Europe. It is situated just across the River Tagus from downtown Lisbon, part of the wider Costa da Caparica coastline.

Praia 19 will blow you away on arrival, the sheer scope of this beach is enormous. The huge waves of the Atlantic ocean, are truly a sight to behold. Yet it’s not just the natural scenery here that’s amazing. Praia 19 is known for anything-goes-hanky-panky in the dunes and forest area just behind the sand. You will find all kinds of gay boys enjoying themselves at this enormous beach, with both locals and gay tourists frequenting it.

18. Bassa Rodona gay beach in Sitges, Spain

Platja de la Bassa Rodona is the main official beach of Sitges, with rainbow flags proudly flying in the wind.

Sitges is one of the best gay resort towns we’ve ever been to. Located around 27.3 miles (44km) south from Barcelona, this has to be one of our favorite gay destinations on the planet. Throughout the town, you will see the rainbow flag flying proudly outside windows, bars, and restaurants. We rate it as one of the gayest cities in Europe!

Platja de la Bassa Rodona sits in front of the town and is one of many beaches in Sitges. Undoubtedly though, this is the most popular gay area and it’s here that you will find the buffest guys in the skimpiest swimsuits. The water is warm, clean, and perfect for swimming, just be sure to get here early during summer as it can get really packed.

Owing to it being so close to town, Platja de la Bassa Rodona is backed by many bars, cafes, and restaurants, many of which are gay owned. We particularly love Picnic, which offers delicious snacks and cocktails that are perfect to take away and enjoy right there on the beach.

How to get to the Bassa Rodona gay beach of Sitges: the gay beach is super easy to reach. From Sitges train station, just head south, through Sitges main town, cross over the promenade and voila – spot the rainbows!

19. Little Beach in Hawaii, USA

Little Beach is located in the gorgeous Makena State Park of Maui and is one of the island’s most popular nudist spots. Officially named Puʻu Olai, you will be able to fulfill all of your tropical fantasies at this stunning, paradise beach.

The gay area of Little Beach tends to be at the far end, where you will find all types of queens frolicking on the crystal-clear waters and sunning themselves on the sand. Be sure to bring plenty of supplies to this remote beach as there are certainly no swanky cafes here. Also, be careful in the water because the currents can be quite unpredictable and get strong without any warning.

How to get to the Little Beach gay beach of Hawaii: Little Beach can be tough to get to and rewards only the most adventurous minds. First of all, enter the Maui Prince Hotel on your GPS. Once you arrive here keep driving until the sign for Makena State Park when you will want to turn right. Leave the car in the nearby parking lot before walking down to Big Beach. Turn right and head all the way to the volcanic rocks at the end, hike over these and you will see the most beautiful little bay ever. This is Little Beach!

20. Cavallet gay beach in Ibiza, Spain

Just like the Venga Boys said, “We’re going to Ibiza”. And we sure love it on this Spanish party island!

Ibiza is synonymous with mega-clubs, some of the best we’ve ever been to. However, it’s not all about partying here. Ibiza also has some stunning beaches to check out including one just for us called Platja Es Cavallet, located in the south of the island.

Cavallet beach is a super chilled place to hang out during the day after a night out partying in one of the island’s mega clubs. This was also the first gay beach we ever went to together as a young gay couple, many, many moons ago. We remember standing behind the dunes, peeking out onto the horizon where Seb swears he could spy Formentera…

On our visit, it was peak summer period in July, so the beach was packed full of gay guys of all ages from all around the world. It’s also where you will find the club flyer boys hanging around and giving out discounts to that evening’s biggest parties. Yet, despite the crowds, we love that you can always find a quiet spot all to yourself at Cavallet.

How to get to the Cavallet gay beach of Ibiza: you can reach the gay beach either by driving here or via a long bus ride from Ibiza Town, followed by another good 20-minute walk through the forest.

Have some gay fun in the sun

If you’re looking to combine sand and sea with a little culture, join . We particularly love their Croatia: Gay Dalmatia Cruise itinerary, perfectly merging daily swim stops with tours of the country’s famous medieval ports and towns. But other options include their big gay Colombian getaway, either of their Cuba tours, and of course their signature Thailand adventure.

Go wild in South Africa

Okay, okay, okay. We talk up Out Adventures‘ gay tours A LOT. But in our defence, their gay travel packages are the best on the market. Take their classic Southern Africa tour for example. The luxurious adventure begins in Zimbabwe where you’ll witness the power and beauty of Victoria Falls. Then it’s off to Botswana and South Africa for authentic safaris in private game reserves. Finally, you’ll spend four full days soaking up the culture and cuisine of gorgeous (and gay-friendly!) Cape Town. If that itinerary doesn’t spark your sense of adventure, we don’t know what will.

With stunning coastline views, plenty of caves to explore, plus a fantastic mix of people both old and young, Sandy Bay is the kind of place to visit when you want nothing more than to get firmly off the beaten track. Surrounding the beach is also a stunning hiking trail, which you can explore if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous. There are guided tours available that take you along the sights by the beach, as well as through the Cape Peninsula and Winelands. Read more in our guide to the highlights of Cape Town for gay travelers.

How to get to the Sandy Bay gay beach of Cape Town: Sandy Bay is quite secluded, so the best way to reach it is by car. Just follow your GPS to the endpoint before making the 20-minute hike down to the beach.

Portugal LGBTQ tour

Want to visit the land of cod, custard tarts and Cristiano Ronaldo? Well, our friends at Out Adventures are hosting a sumptuous journey that ticks off Lisbon, Porto and the Douro Valley. Highlights include a private tour of Sintra, a day sipping & supping in wine country, historic tram tours and an invigorating speed boat experience. For all the nitty-gritty details, jump over to their site. And don’t forget to mention we sent you—you just might get a special deal. *wink*

For such a wild beach, Praia 19 is blessed with amazing facilities that you will be thankful for after a long day in the sun. Bars, restaurants, and cafes line the area at Fonte da Telha beach just a short walk south, with many of these spots ideal for meeting new friends and finding out where the latest gay party will be happening that evening.

How to get to the gay beach of Lisbon: The quickest way to drive down from Lisbon if you’re renting a car, or taxi. Otherwise, you can take a train and/or bus, but it takes around 1/5-2 hours. You’re aiming to reach the southern end of Costa da Caparica, which is where the #19 gay beach is.

Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more .

Aww thanks Jim! And we sure love you you very soon again one day my darling 🙂

Hello, Bonjour and Welcome to our travel blog. We are Stefan and Sebastien a French/Greek gay couple from London. Together, we have been travelling the world for over 10 years. Nomadic Boys is our gay travel blog showcasing all our travel adventures as a gay couple.

A legal business with a history

The urisen (rent boy) industry dates back to Japan’s growth years of the 1960s and ’70s, though its roots are thought to be found in Edo Period Japan (1603 -1868), when bisexuality was commonplace and male concubines found favor even with shoguns.

It continues to exist today thanks to a loophole in Japan’s Anti-Prostitution Law, which mentions nothing about paid sex between men. According to experts, the government has no plan to revise this, although it came under some scrutiny in 2015 when Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Takaya Muto was accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 19-year-old male prostitute on a number of occasions — a case that never went to court due to a lack of legal recourse.

While urisen clients are invariably homosexual, urisen themselves are mostly straight, though even those who are gay are told to pretend they are heterosexual as it provides an enticing challenge for many clients, according to Shingo, 28, a manager at First Dash who until recently worked as an urisen.

“We have 42 boys here, aged between 18 and 20,” says Shingo, passing over an iPad showing pictures and profiles of each of them. None of them knows exactly what’s required until they come for an interview, and some even have the impression that they will be paid to have sex with women, he says.

“Usually you can tell straightaway which ones will be able to do the work required of them. Money talk sometimes convinces some of the more reticent ones.”

Some decide it’s not for them and turn to jobs such as construction work paying ¥5,000 to ¥8,000 a day, he says. “Those who accept can earn that in an hour here,” he adds.

A former urisen who goes by the name of “Ko” says that this is one example of how management continues to find ways to deceive new intakes. While his monthly income could reach as much as ¥800,000, including “tips,” the situation is not always so rosy for some in the industry today, he says.

“The place I worked at employed about 100 urisen, 10 of whom, including me, were gay, the rest straight,” says Ko, who spent three years as an urisen and whose tip size would depend on what he was prepared to do.

“Regardless of sexual orientation, though, financial problems along with criminal convictions were common reasons for going into this work, though the pay is not what it used to be and turnover these days is pretty high. It’s clear in some cases that good looks are no longer a priority,” he says, for employers. “Some of the urisen look frankly ugly and really badly off, but the key question in this business is: Can you hack the work?”

First Dash’s Hiroshi says his average income is ¥10,000 per day, which he supplements with a daytime job. Another urisen, who uses the name “Shota” and works independently, says monthly income can be as little as ¥150,000. “It depends on the client — some are just regular salarymen types with little extra cash to burn, others lawyers, doctors, even teachers. I’ve even heard of well-known politicians and celebrities, Japanese and foreign, going to urisen for sex. To all of them, we are just a product.”

In ‘Boys for Sale,’ animation sequences depict scenes described by the interviewees. | ROB GILHOOLY

Film’s disturbing revelations

“Boys for Sale” includes interviews with two young men — one from Fukushima Prefecture, the other from Iwate — who have both ended up as urisen due to the loss of their homes and livelihoods following the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Both moved to Tokyo to find work and accommodation and were scouted off the streets as they arrived fresh off the train in the capital. According to Ash, one of them told him he heard the words “money” and “dorm,” and that had been enough to convince him to sign up.

According to one NPO in the devastated region, this is not an uncommon trend, and one that is not limited to young men. “I have heard of young women affected by the disasters who have been forced into sex work in Tokyo,” says Yuko Kusano of Miyagi Jonetto.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the film is how poorly schooled interviewees are in sexual health matters. Some appear to have no or only a vague notion as to what sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are or how they can be transmitted. Soap, mouthwash and brushing teeth are cited as being effective ways to prevent them. One urisen is unsure if men can even get STDs.

Ash says he is occasionally asked by film viewers if he ever attempted to educate the urisen.

“These are people who don’t even possess the vocab to describe parts of their body or substances that come out of it,” Ash says of the urisen interviewees, whom he and fellow producer and director of photography Adrian Storey put in front of the camera — some with masks to conceal their identities — for one hour each within the confined space of a typical room where they would fornicate with their clients. “So you’re not going to get far trying to make them understand why it’s dangerous to brush your teeth before oral sex.”

Indeed, the same lack of awareness is apparent with regard to HIV/AIDS. First Dash’s Hiroshi admits to sometimes having unprotected sex, both at work and in private life, but is unconcerned about contracting AIDS. “It’s curable now, right?” he says.

Yuzuru Ikushima, executive director of Place Tokyo, which offers information on HIV prevention and supports people living with HIV. | ROB GILHOOLY

Statistics show that this lack of concern about HIV/AIDS among young Japanese is part of a new and worrying trend.

“Many young people, not just those working in the sex industry, do not know about HIV/AIDS,” says Yuzuru Ikushima, executive director of Place Tokyo, which offers information on HIV prevention, supports people who have contracted HIV and also conducts surveys of HIV and AIDS prevalence among gay and bisexual men. “This is different from older age groups — even people in their 30s and 40s — who are aware of the dangers largely due to AIDS panics and incidents that have gone before.”

An example, he says, is the scandal that rocked Japan in the 1980s and ’90s, where up to 2,000 hemophilia patients contracted HIV via tainted blood products. “Since then there have been no such incidents in the news, and anyone under the age of 25 is oblivious to the dangers of AIDS. When it comes to prevention all they are told about at school is condoms, but even then, they are poorly educated in how to use them.”

Particularly vulnerable are those in the sex industry, especially those who are in a weak position, financially or physically, such as urisen — who fit the AIDS-unaware age profile almost too well.

“If a bar operator has a strict condom policy, that’s one thing, but … as there is money being exchanged, if the customer wants unprotected sex, I can imagine sex workers might find it difficult to say no. In the case of urisen, the boys are young and customers are invariably gay men, so this is another layer of concern that needs to be addressed,” Ikushima says.

Instilling a sense of responsibility among bar managers and owners is also essential, Ikushima says, although this concern is not confined to the urisen industry. Indeed, a similar lack of instruction on sexual health would seem to exist in host clubs, an industry that traditionally pairs handsome young men with female clientele, though not officially for sex.

“We never mention such matters as sexual health, STDs or HIV to our staff at interviews,” says Ryo Tachibana of Goldman Club in Shinjuku. “I’m sure unprotected sex is also requested. You just assume, for their own sakes, they will be careful.”

One host, who requested anonymity, said to his knowledge unprotected sex was “not unusual” among hosts.

Kota Iwahashi, president of akta, an NPO that works to raise awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. | ROB GILHOOLY

The wider STD knowledge gap

An organization that has been searching for a solution to this problem since its inauguration over a decade ago is akta, an HIV/AIDS awareness NPO based in the heart of Ni-chome.

One of its main projects is an outreach program that delivers condoms and flyers about HIV testing and prevention to gay bars and cruising spots known as hattenba in the district. Every week, volunteers deliver to around half of the gay establishments in the area that are participating in the NPO’s Delivery Boys program, says akta President Kohta Iwahashi.

“Awareness has changed since we started operations in 2003,” he says. “Then it was difficult to gain cooperation among gay-bar operators whose customers questioned why contraceptives were being placed in a bar frequented almost entirely by gay men, or there would be the attitude of ‘Don’t bring talk of diseases to a district where people have come to enjoy themselves.’”

According to Iwahashi, one change is the gradual increase in the number of MSM (men who have sex with men) getting tested, which has risen 10 percent over the past decade. “Those getting tested for HIV now stand at around 30-35 percent, which is low compared with some Western nations but increasing nonetheless.”

There is now also talk of the arrival in Japan of an HIV-prevention drug for high-risk people known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which has been available in the U.S. since 2012 and been approved for use in Britain.

Reflecting Ikushima’s observations about a lack of HIV/AIDS awareness among the under-25s, however, are worrying statistics that show an increase in HIV diagnoses among that age group, from 65 cases in 2002 to 141 last year, according to health ministry data.

While incidences of HIV among Japanese aged 30 and over are still high, they have leveled out over the past decade, Iwahashi says. However, when it comes to the under-25s, surveys have unveiled a steep upward curve “of the kind never seen before,” he says.

“Whichever way you look at it, in Japan HIV/AIDS is a predominantly MSM problem and 73 percent of those who contracted HIV in 2016 were Japanese MSM,” says Iwahashi. “When you look at where the major movements are, it’s among younger MSM. And the background to that is the awareness issue.”

For all the apparent downsides of the industry, many urisen comment on a unique camaraderie that exists. “At one point there were so many urisen boys cramped into the small dorm room I lived in you couldn’t lie down to sleep and we’d take turns sleeping outside the toilet,” says Ko. “But that was all part of the fun.”

First Dash’s Hiroshi agrees. “There’s a special bond,” he says. “No matter how bad it gets, we’re in it together.”

Men pass an HIV/AIDS awareness poster in Shinjuku’s Ni-chome. | ROB GILHOOLY

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by Rob Gilhooly

At a glance, First Dash is just a regular Tokyo bar. Customers laugh and drink, their animated chatter competing with the monotonous beat of techno thumping through speakers hovering somewhere above dimmed, orange-tinted lights.

When a customer enters, however, a row of eight fresh-faced young men who had previously been gathered around the bar counter glued to their smartphones suddenly rise to their feet and in unison bark out a well-rehearsed greeting: “Irasshaimase!”

The customer — a portly, balding middle-aged man in a nondescript suit — shuffles over to a table followed by a slightly built teenage lad, ruffled locks partly shielding a furtive, floor-fixed stare.

“He’s here for an interview … and kenshū,” says bar manager Toshiyuki Matsuura, using a Japanese term for “training” that in everyday parlance would do little to raise any eyebrows.

On this occasion, however, the stocky customer is the instructor, and the “trainee” has been put through a rigorous day-long test to see if he can perform the job at hand, work in which many of the other staffers — who are referred to in this part of Shinjuku’s Ni-chome district as “boys” — are already well-versed.

They are known as urisen and their job is to “entertain” First Dash’s customers, who are almost entirely men.

Urisen to offer: Toshiyuki Matsuura is a manager at First Dash in Shinjuku’s Ni-chome district. | ROB GILHOOLY

“I think of myself as a kind of hedonist — I’ll do anything if it makes me feel good,” says “Hiroshi,” a strong-jawed 18-year-old “boy” from Chiba who, at 187 centimeters tall, is forced to stoop slightly as he makes his way across the floor of the cramped bar. “The clients I have served are aged between around 30 and 65. Usually they are masochists who want me to be, well, you know, domineering.”

For over 35 years, men have visited the bar, one of around 400 gay establishments in Shinjuku Ni-chome — Japan’s indubitable gay hub — to purchase the services of hundreds of young men like Hiroshi. While some want nothing more than a bit of company over dinner, others want a whole lot more, performing acts that in some cases could be argued verge on abuse, even rape.

“There are guidelines as to what I’m required to do,” says Hiroshi, who entered the business partly for the money, partly in an attempt to work out his sexual orientation. “But I’m willing to keep an open mind. I have no problem with gay people and don’t understand those who do. My sister is lesbian, and so is my aunt. … I can tolerate pretty much anyone — except rorikon (adults sexually attracted to children). They disgust me.”

Ian Thomas Ash, executive producer of the ‘Boys for Sale’ documentary. | ROB GILHOOLY

The subject of urisen is at the center of a film titled “Baibai Boizu” (“Boys for Sale”), whose production was led by two foreign Japan residents. Since its release earlier this year, the documentary, directed by the singularly named Itako, has been screened in over 25 film festivals around the globe, including London’s Raindance and Los Angeles’ Outfest.

Many urisen interviewed for the film, whose more intimate on-the-job moments are cleverly represented by often-explicit animation sequences, are uneducated, occasionally homeless young men who cite financial hardships, even crippling debts, for taking on the work. It also highlights how some bar owners and managers willfully conceal crucial information about the nature of the work and potential health risks.

“I think the film tells a lot about the vulnerability of young people, particularly when they are economically disadvantaged and how they can be taken advantage of,” says Ian Thomas Ash, a Tokyo-based filmmaker from New York and executive producer of the film, which will make its Japan premiere on Nov. 26 during Tokyo AIDS Week.

“But we didn’t want viewers to go away thinking these guys are being victimized. Sure, there’s a willful holding back of information by owners, but there is also an almost willful ignorance on the part of the urisen.”

A sign outside a gay bar in the Shinjuku Ni-chome district of Tokyo. | ROB GILHOOLY

A Conversation With Joey Navedo, a Gay Little Person

As a gay little person, Joey Navedo, 30, lives one of the rarest of lives. Despite the incredibly…

“My disability has more of a chance of being laughed at than any other disability,” David Funes told me over lunch of lobster rolls and sweet tequila cocktails earlier this year. “If a person is missing a hand or a foot, your mindset is feeling pity toward them. If a person sees a little person, he knows he’s capable of everything, he’s just funny in height.”

Funes, who’s 4”3’, pointed out that in the 1800s, practically the only shot a little person had at employment was being the object of ridicule in a circus or some similar showcase. In 2015, little people have more options. Funes, nonetheless, is an entertainer. He’s a nightlife personality/dancer who goes by Nano (named after the iPod, but also because “nano” means dwarf in Greek)—check his Captain America, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dionysus. He is handsome and his frequent shirtlessness reveals a ripped physique. David is hot by any standard. He’s currently studying to be an accountant, and in the meantime has strict boundaries between which entertainment gigs he will and won’t take.

“There are jobs that are so demeaning: dwarf tossing, midget bowling,” he said. “That’s something I wouldn’t do. Even if you offered me $500. That would make me feel objectified and not able to express myself. As an entertainer, you should be able to express yourself. When you’re doing midget bowling, you’re only there for one purpose: Be the ball.”

Funes, 25, lives in Astoria with his parents, as he has his whole life. His parents grew up in Argentina and moved to the U.S. in 1979. They realized he had dwarfism as soon as he was born. Giving birth to the only known member of their family with dwarfism was initially “devastating” to his parents and used by his father’s family in rural Argentina as fodder for conflict (his mother’s and father’s families have a longstanding rivalry in their hometown of Mendoza). Like many little people, Funes uses the word “overprotective” to describe his mother’s parenting. She did not let him go outside much until he was in junior high.

“There were moments that were sad,” he said of his childhood. “There were moments that I stared in the mirror hoping that one day I would change. It really depends on the mood I was feeling that day. There was an era I was depressed, around 14.”

I wondered if he was as strict about objectification in his love life as he was in his career. I was inspired to seek out him and his fellow interview subject, Joey Navedo, after I watched an episode of , Lifetime’s Real Housewives-esque reality franchise that throws together a bunch of little people for nominal sociological reasons (but mostly just to have them argue endlessly for entertainment). In this particular episode, cast member Lila Call talked about setting up an online dating profile but leaving blank the field that asked for her height—not because she was embarrassed of her dwarfism, she said, but to stave off fetishists who only would want to date her because she’s a little person.

It struck me, though, that the situation is probably different for men, specifically gay ones and particularly those who are interested in hooking up. In a superficial, no-strings-attached sex scenario, objectification is the name of the game. You use what you’ve got to get what you want. In the gay world, there isn’t just somebody for everybody; there are multiple potential partners for whatever type you inhabit.

“There are people that contact me for fetishes, like, ‘Oh my god, I always wanted to try a little guy,’” Funes told me. “If they look really good, I’ll be like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ You know what I mean?” He grinned subtly and devilishly when he said that.

Does he indulge people’s fantasies? “It depends on how the conversation goes,” he said. “If it’s just all about talking about me being little, and that’s all he wants to see, then it gets kind of annoying. But if it’s like, ‘We got that out of the way, you found a little guy,’ and then we start sharing our common interests, that’s more acceptable. That’s more like, ‘OK, you can talk to this guy. He’s not insane.’ It varies.”

Funes tends to meet guys on geolocation apps like Grindr. Though he works in nightlife, connecting with an average-sized person (the only type of person Funes has slept with) IRL can be difficult from a logistical standpoint. “They’re all the way up there and I’m here and I need to yell to get their attention,” he said of his interactions in clubs. “When it’s crowded all I see is butts. Butts and crotches.”

Fuenes described himself as “very selective” when it comes to the guys he hooks up with. He said he attracts guys on the dominant side.

“Because I’m little, I’m very easy to maneuver,” he explained. “I’m very easy to throw around. They feel a sense of dominance. They feel I’m going to say yes. They think I’m desperate, but I’m not. That gives them that sense of confidence to walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to bed,’ you know what I mean? That’s a really big turn-off.”

When Funes describes his use of Grindr—some persistent creeps, some sessions in which he contacts multiple guys only to get back not a word in response—his experience verges on the universal. Until, that is, he reveals that there have been “many, many, many” times in which he has been called a “midget.” It’s a pejorative that Funes doesn’t mind in certain situations (“If you’re my friend, you can use it”) but views as a sign of disrespect overall.

And yet, Funes can relate to those who voice curiosity about hooking up with someone of his height. That is because he shares it. “My fantasy was always to fuck a little person,” he said. “That’s the first time I’d ever be able to dominate someone. Sometimes I get the urge to top.”

Funes knew he was gay his “entire life” but was forced to acknowledge it out loud when he was 16 and his older sister spotted some gay porn on his computer. Soon after, he came out to his parents. That was the first and last conversation he had with them regarding his sexuality. “My parents never gave me shit about it,” he said. “They just never brought it up again.” He remains close to them.

He told me that he started hooking up with guys when he was a senior in high school via Adam4Adam. He was 19 or 20 when he had his first boyfriend, who was 27. And then at 22 or 23 when he started dating a 50-year-old that he fell in love with.

“We had more of a daddy/son relationship,” he said. “I loved it. It drove me wild. We would spend hours watching TV and I would just be there like a little son, right next to him like that. It was the kind of a relationship you can’t explain to anybody.”

It’s a double-edged sword to be a person with special needs in New York. The city is not nearly as accessible as it should be for its citizens with disabilities, but it’s also full of people who either by nature or through the experience of having seen it all are more accepting than in most other places. It’s less a melting pot than a salad bowl of distinct cultures. But regardless of diversity and ensuing philosophies, it’s a place with a lot of people, period. There are more open eyes than minds—eyes that pry, stare, and remind a person of his differences.

“It’s a very low class thing to do, to stare,” said Funes on those eyes.

“The first thing I told [my 50-year-old ex] was, ‘We’re going to have a lot of people staring at us, and I want to make sure you’re OK with that,’” said Funes. “That was one of the reasons he was attracted to me—I took into consideration his feelings. I didn’t think much of it. I just didn’t want him to be uncomfortable.”

After a year, Funes and his boyfriend broke up. He said he doesn’t have many gay friends, nor many little people friends—he isn’t at all involved in the best-known little people organization in the country, Little People of America. In fact, he said he feels awkward when he encounters another little person on the street (he knows his fellow subject in this piece, Joey Navedo, but not very well). When he walks down the street, he almost always wears headphones.

“Most of the time, I’m not even listening to music,” he said. “I wear them because there are many times people are going to come up to me. Drunk people, late at night, or homeless people: ‘Hey, hey shorty.’ I pay no mind, I go the other way.”

Funes says he uses his dwarfism to his advantage when finding work, and implies he’ll do as much when hooking up, but he’s more LTR-oriented than anything. He told me he was looking for love, but wasn’t exactly sure what settling down would look like.

“There’s a higher chance of me making a little guy,” he said, regarding having kids one day. “Do I want to bring him into the world? I lean toward no. I know what it felt like to be raised as one. I don’t want him to go through that. Even if I did have an average-sized son, for him to have a little guy as a father, I know he’d be embarrassed of me one day in his life. It won’t be consistent, but it will happen one day. I don’t want him to go through that. I don’t want him to feel like, ‘I have to be ashamed of my father.’ I was never ashamed of my father. As a little kid, all you want is to be liked and have as many friends as possible. I don’t want him to miss out on that opportunity.”

“I will not be used as a prop,” Joey Navedo told me, exhibiting his trademark assertiveness, over lunch at 4 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen earlier this year. The requests for him to be just that come from all sides—from party-throwers who want to hire the entertainer/dancer to be the ball in so-called “midget bowling” events to the “kinda cute” guy who approached him at midtown gay nightclub XL years ago and told Navedo that he wanted to fist him.

“He was like, ‘I really want to put my hand in you and for you to be my puppet.’ He was a total creep about it,” Navedo recalled. “There’s kinkiness and there’s crazy.”

When I met Navedo this spring, he told me he was just back from Savannah, Georgia, where he broke things off with a military guy he was seeing. Navedo was looking forward to a summer on Fire Island, working as the assistant to hoteliers Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, who set off a firestorm when they hosted a reception for and donated to the virulently anti-gay Senator Ted Cruz.

“I have some past hook-ups I want to revisit,” explained Navedo on bidding adieu to his military man. “It’s kind of the brat in me, saying I want to whore around.”

Navedo, 30 and Puerto Rican, told me that he often surprises people with the amount of dick he gets. He shared a story about meeting a guy out one night on Fire Island and bringing him around his friend group the next day. Half of Navedo’s friends assumed the guy was a rent boy. “‘How rude,’ I thought,” Navedo recalled.

“I don’t see myself as having an issue with my height,” said Navedo, who is 4’4”. “I’ve never come to a blockage where my height is an issue in a relationship. Someone told me one day, ‘You literally walk around and you come across like you’re 6’2”.’ It’s true. It’s sad. I’m supposed to acknowledge who I am, but I don’t really see it. People think I must have an issue or it must be hard.”

Navedo told me that it’s been relatively smooth sailing throughout his 30 years on earth. He was born in New York grew up in Long Island City. His dad was in the picture until Navedo was 5, and his mother was “overprotective.” When he was 12 or 13, they moved to Texas, where he got his first taste of bullying over his height.

“It was really nasty, and I was in a fancy private school,” he said. “Here, at public school, it was not an issue.”

After four years they returned to New York. He moved out of his mother’s place at 19, and has lived alone, aside from a roommate here or there, since then. He says he lost his virginity at age 14 to his friend’s crush. “She went home and it was late and we went to the basement of his building,” he said.

Like David Funes, Navedo tolerates a certain amount of curiosity in his potential sex partners—he’s been crossed off a few bucket lists. He identifies as a submissive power bottom (“It’s on my Grindr”), but like most gay men, will vers-ify as needed.

“A lot of guys are like, ‘Can you top me?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah,’” he said. “I do it when they ask me. I won’t say, ‘My turn.’ If they don’t then I continue to be the bottom that I am.”

Navedo told me that he “never” hears rude things about his height on Grindr and loves that his size makes him easy to pick up and toss around. “I get off on it,” he says. He’s had four boyfriends, all lasting over a year (his first lasted four years). He has been out as gay all of his life.

“I never had to tell anybody I was gay,” he recalled. “I just lived my life out loud. I wasn’t being dramatic, I would live my life. If you asked me, I would tell you, but I never had to announce it. That’s what gave me the self-esteem I have now.”

If I closed my eyes while Navedo was talking, I would have heard the words of a confident gay man who is very much on the scene and invested in nightlife. He said his work is a far bigger hindrance to relationships than his height. “When someone doesn’t understand nightlife, and just sees pictures, his mind gets cluttered,” he said of potential mates.

When he talked about other little people, though, he reminded me of a different type of gay—one who adamantly does not get along with his brothers. I sympathize with guys who say they don’t like other gay guys—the scene can be a catty place and I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking one look at it and then running in the other direction—but I also think they just haven’t met the right gay guys. For Joey Navedo, the answer (if he even needs one) isn’t as simple. There just aren’t that many little people around, let alone gay little people.

“You know, I don’t get along with little people,” he said. “When I work with little people, I have a different energy than they do. When people hire me, I’m not a hype person, I dance my ass off. When you put me and someone else together, they look at me like I’m overdoing it, but I’m doing my job. They’ll let themselves get disrespected. I’m not going to get called the m-word. I’m not going to get disrespected. I earn the respect that I get. I always get into fights with little people who are like, ‘You’re too much.’ No, I’m dancing. If you’re twentysomething and you’re still battling self-esteem as a little person, you don’t need to be on a reality show, you need to be in therapy. It wasn’t easy being little and being gay. I dealt with that in junior high, and it was done.”

Like many in nightlife, Navedo talks at length about wanting out. He said that foresees a 9-to-5 job in his future, like the internship he had when he studied to be a veterinary technician at LaGuardia.

“My manager didn’t even look at me in the eyes, because she heard some rumor that if she looked a little person in the eyes, her kids are going to turn out little in the future,” he told me. After a year there, she finally looked at him in the eyes.

“I still walk through doors and get that, but it’s my job to prove them wrong,” he says. “And I do, because I know I am going to. And I get satisfaction when I leave a certain situation that I proved that person wrong.”

He doesn’t know exactly what is next but that it will be a journey to get there.

“Eat, Pray, Love, have you seen it?” he asked. “I need you to go watch it. I’m serious. I can’t swear enough on it. Everything that she had in her life goes to shit. She needs to reevaluate how she lives her life. I feel like once my 10th year [in nightlife] is done, I’m going to reevaluate how I live my life. I’m going to reevaluate now how I can be living not in nightlife. That’s my next challenge. That’s my issue. That’s what my current situation is.”

[Images via David Funes’s Instagram and Joey Navedo’s Instagram; Top image design by Tara Jacoby]