Spartacus International Gay Guide

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 23, 2012

Spartacus International Gay Guide

From Albania to Zimbabwe, nearly every nation in the world is included in the "2012-2013 Spartacus International Gay Guide." This super-comprehensive guidebook contains all of the information the gay male traveler needs to make informed choices.

Each country is described, including its laws, customs and treatment of LGBT inhabitants -- and visitors, as well as local gay organizations. All of the major cities have their own sub-section within each country; some of these, such as New York, Berlin and London, could form a nice-sized booklet on their own.

In the more gay-friendly or larger nations, the businesses listed cater primarily to a gay clientele or gay traveler. In other countries and cities, the gay-friendlyest accommodations are listed.

Other categories range from cinema, shows and "blue movies" to escorts and "house of boys," which is pretty much what it sounds like. There's also a lot about gay-oriented private accommodations, and, yea, cruising spots.

Although the paper is printed on ultra-thin stock, the pages are not see-through. Nevertheless, the book is larger than that ubiquitous traveler's tome, "Gideon's Bible." This is mostly because it is so complete; the descriptions themselves are short and use lots of abbreviations.

But it's also because the book is printed in five languages. English, however, is the fallback language for descriptions. Almost all the ads are in English, which either testifies to its truly becoming a universal language or the wealth of English-language tourists.

It's hard to believe that Spartacus has been continuously published since 1970, a year after Stonewall. I can only imagine the book must have been considerably thinner.

Since then, much of the world has made great strides in recognizing gay rights. Even more, businesses recognize the gay dollar. Whereas a business may once have resented being in "Spartacus," most are clamoring to be included.

Of course, there are all-too many nations where people don't enjoy the rights and privileges we do here. One of the most interesting -- if depressing -- aspects of rummaging through the 2012-2013 guide is seeing the juxtapositions. Russia-Serbia-Singapore-Slovakia-Slovenia-South Africa-Spain follows an almost direct trajectory of "terrible for gay men" to "fabulous for gay men."

As an editor, I can speculate at the work that must go into compiling a guide of this size and scope. Spartacus employs an extensive network of editors throughout the world who try to keep up with the swift pace of new and folding businesses.

Nevertheless, everyone will probably find his favorite watering hole, guesthouse, apartment complex or gym omitted. A cursory glance revealed to me that the "Fire Island" section omitted one out of three hotels. Still, such omissions are rare -- and inevitable in a guidebook that covers the Western democracies, the industrializing world, the developing world and the most-outlying areas.

Will the Internet or mobile devices (of which Spartacus has one -- on the iPhone, of course; this is a gay travel book, after all) make this guidebook eventually obsolete? I'm not sure. What I do know is that this book remains as essential -- probably more so -- as it was when the first edition was assembled.

"The Spartacus Guide" is published annually by German publisher Bruno GmŁnder for $33, a deal considering its 1,300 pages.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).