Making Airbnb more LGBT+ friendly

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I really love using Airbnb whenever I travel and wherever I go. I have met extremely accepting and helpful hosts in numerous countries, and I can’t say that I’ve really had a negative experience of the service. This is why I found it quite surprising and upsetting when I read a story about a homophobic host. Two men were refused by a host in the US simply because they were in town for a Pride event and they are a couple.

Of course, there are homophobes in the world. There are intolerant people with misguided and misinformed attitudes. However, for a person to open their home and then selectively close it off for such a closed-minded reason is concerning. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that the LGBT+ users of Airbnb are now calling for an “LGBT+ friendly” option when searching for places to stay.

For a person to open their home and then selectively close it off for such a closed-minded reason is concerning

My initial reaction was agreement. I believe in many respects that there should be an “LGBT+ friendly” option on the site. If I book an apartment or room, I want to know that I am staying with a respectful host that wouldn’t discriminate. It would even comfort members of the LGBT+ community to know that when they stay in a strangers’ home they won’t face abuse, or even harm, just because of who they are or who they love.

In all honesty, I would most likely use this function. It adds another blanket of security when you’re entering a different environment, especially if you were to be there with a partner. However, it also strikes me that this “LGBT+ friendly” option may also be somewhat detrimental to the cause.

On face value, it is a very useful option which provides safety and comfort to LGBT+ travellers. However, it also suggests that it is okay to refuse the LGBT+ community if a host doesn’t classify under the “friendly” option. In reality, homophobia and intolerance should have no place in such a service in the first place.

Ideally, Airbnb should start employing a no-tolerance policy on any instances such as that of homophobia which sparked this debate. Clauses against discrimination, homophobic or racial and the like, should be included on the hosting standards of the website. It should be made clear from the start that if you harbour such views and act on them toward your guests, you will be removed from the site as a host.

Clauses against discrimination, homophobic or racial and the like, should be included on the hosting standards of the website

The service has so much to offer, however it has so far been blighted by discrimination against LGBT+ and BME users. Unless this radically changes, I fear for the future of Airbnb. CEO of the company, Brian Chesky, has made a statement claiming that changes are being made to avoid these instances of discrimination in the future.

For now though, perhaps the “LGBT+ friendly” option is the way forward. It does though beg the question of where will it end? How many intolerances have to receive filtering option before the service accepts it needs to more readily terminate accounts of discriminatory hosts? I will continue to use the service, however what would really comfort me more than filters is support from a company which will not tolerate any discrimination.

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My name is Emma Johnson, and I'm a Classics undergrad at the University of Warwick. Between studying though I always find time to travel, make music and write.