ISA Guam’s founding members pose behind the LGBT pride flag at Alupang Beach in Tamuning on June 22. From right.
Image courtesy of www.isaguam.org
In the Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Guinea and eastern Australia and also close to Asia lies the island of Guam. Although part of the region of Micronesia, Guam is a US territory so it offers goods available in America. Palm-fringed beaches, rural villages of the native Chamorro and tropical weather result in a popular drawcard for this remote but easily accessible charming paradise, with regular flights from nearby Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines.
Despite being a mainly Catholic country, Guam’s small community appears to be accepting of the gay lifestyle which seems well integrated within the mainstream, with islanders – native and foreign – usually very discreet.
There’s a considerable bi-sexual population as well as a transgender community while a small segment of the young native population, mainly 16 to 25 years, is openly gay. In addition, the large US Air Force and Navy bases also contribute to enhancing the gay scene.
With upmarket boutiques and brand name stores, the main tourist town of Tumon also showcases high-end restaurants and hotels, including the Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott which front the long beach. Its Ypao Beach along with Agat beach at Apra Harbor are reputedly popular places to meet [cruising spots].
Same-sex activity was decriminalised in the late ’70s and gender changes are legal in Guam. Since June 2015, Guam has recognised and performed same-sex marriages, when its Supreme Court ruled to legalise same-sex marriage across the nation. This evolved from Guam Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cruz’s introduction of the Same-sex Civil Union Legislation in 2009. Of note, when Cruz was appointed in 1997 it was claimed that he may have been the USA’s highest-ranking gay judge (who came out before being appointed). This reveals the acceptance of the gay lifestyle here, for Cruz was appointed Guam Chief Justice in 1999, retiring from the bench in 2001 before being appointed Vice Speaker of the 32nd Guam Legislature.
Since the ’90s, there has been a visible LGBT social scene. The most recent organisation is ISA Guam; formed in 2016, it supports and advocates for LGBT rights and equality. Known as ISA Guahan it is the LGBTQ network and produces an informative newsletter and electronic material.
In gay communities worldwide, Pride events are often held in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots – commonly considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement – thus in Guam, LGBTQ Pride Month is usually held in June; ISA Guam’s launch party on May 28 last year was also a pre-Pride celebration welcoming the LGBT Festival of Pacific Arts delegates. Pride in the Pacific was an all-ages LGBTQ Pride event hosted by ISA Guam. Stay tuned to ISA events for June 2017.
A few gay nightclubs and bars are around but they tend to come and go, though some had many years of loyal patronage in the recent past (Denial, Midnight Special).
Guam’s only AIDS service organisation is the Guahan Project which provides free and confidential OraSure HIV counselling, testing, referrals and other health and educational services.