It’s clearly historic.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau created a campaign specifically to encourage trans people to enjoy a little fun in the sun on the beaches in and around Fort Lauderdale — in peace and safety.
While its long been a welcoming place for gay and lesbian travelers (and locals), the emphasis on transgender people is something wonderful and new.
Having visited Florida just last year, as a trans traveler myself, I was curious about South Florida’s campaign. I wanted to find out the key to Fort Lauderdale’s flowering multiculturalism, so I reached Misty Eyez, a transgender Fort Lauderdale-area entertainer, artist, and performer at Lips, a popular drag dining venue.
Misty Eyez has been a resident of the Fort Lauderdale area since 2001. She has watched it evolve, up close and personal.
She was kind enough to sit down with GayCities just a couple weeks after her wedding and share some of the best that is Fort Lauderdale.
Before we get started, I just wanted to say congratulations on your recent wedding! Would you mind sharing a bit about the big day?
It was magical! Of course, there were things that went awry: There was a flash-flood warning, but it didn’t dampen our day. I was worried I was going to end up getting my dress wet, and I was planning how to get from the dressing room to the altar, but the rain stopped just before. It was a blessing to have all your loved ones coming together to help, decorate the night before, and tear down after. It was amazing,
Where do you and your new hubby hail from — and what drew you to the area?
I lived in the heart of Wilton Manors, but I recently moved to Oakland Park, where we found an apartment we love. It’s just the next town over.
To get to the heart of things: Fort Lauderdale has rolled out the welcome mat not just for gay travel but for LGB with an emphasis on T.
I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where everyone is either white or native Alaskan. How I got here is a tricky question, but everything happens for a reason, so why question it, right? I grew up in an evangelical Christian family, and I went to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My senior year, I was kicked out of school for being “gay,” and when I called home to ask my mother for money for a plane ticket, she told me I could come home when I came back to Jesus. I was devastated. Long story short, Florida is the farthest you can get from Alaska without leaving the United States.
South Florida is just very welcoming and very accepting. When you’re in the checkout line in the grocery store, the person behind you, in front of you, the checker, and everyone are almost always of a different race, creed, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, veteran status, even disability — a different, unique, and diverse person. This makes everyone so warm and accepting. I’ve just felt so comfortable here. The diversity here is so amazing. Fort Lauderdale has always been welcoming for LGBT+ people in general, yes, but I do feel that globally the T is often forgotten about, and the ignored letter from this abbreviation. We have grown so much already, and clearly ahead of the times now. I cannot wait to see how warm and loving we will be in the next decade.
Where do you like to hang out?
My husband and I — we like to do all kinds of things. The beach is a big attraction for us. The salt water is very healthy for your skin. We also love the zoo. We also like to go to this ship, the Jungle Queen, and cruise around the river.
Lips is my home bar. I’ve worked there for almost 11 years. It is a Fort Lauderdale staple and should be on everyone’s must-see or must-do list. Obviously, it’s the ultimate in drag dining — or, in layman’s terms, it’s a dinner theater, where the girls who wait on your table also performs. If you want to see me, I perform at Lips on Saturday night, for the 5 o’clock show, the 9 o’clock show, and the midnight show. Request my section, and I’ll gladly serve you and entertain you. You can also catch me there on many Fridays, too.
I also work at SunServe during the week as an educator, trainer, and case manager. As an educator, I go into corporate America, hospitals, clinics, and police stations doing diversity and sensitivity training. As a case manager, the organization helps link the trans community to trans-competent care for PrEP, mental-health therapy, hormone-replacement therapy, surgical care, and so much more. I’m just here to help our brothers and sisters find all the resources that they need. SunServe is a non-profit agency that started in 2002 as a mental-health organization catering to those couldn’t otherwise afford to get their needs met.
You mentioned the beach. What’s your favorite?
My husband and I like to go to Oakland Park Beach, which is very private, but if you want an LGBT+-friendly beach, you want to go to Sebastian Street Beach, which is so much fun. There’s also a Fat Tuesday’s there where you can get a frozen margarita and come back to the beach. Oh, and also there’s Häagen-Dazs there, too.
Where do you like to grab a bite to eat? And where’s a great spot for a romantic night out?
There’s also Fabio The Venetian, a wine bar and restaurant. Fabio The Venetian is a little hole in the wall that a friend found by accident. They have the best apple appetizer: It’s a rose-shaped appetizer, I can’t remember the name. Apple Rose, maybe? It’s a green apple with caramelized onions, brie cheese, prosciutto, and gorgonzola cream. Also known as #Heaven. It’s so good. We’ve been back several times to get it. It’s sooo amazing, a hidden gem.
You mentioned your home bar earlier. We know you’re a popular host and performer in the area.
Here in South Florida, you have any and all kinds of nightlife. We have an LGBT+ country-western bar. We have the typical discoteca or dance bars like The Manor, Hunters, and Southern Nights. We also have niche bars like Gym Bar (a sports bar) . We have probably 20 different LGBT+ bars in the area. Anything you can imagine, we have it for you.
There is even Club Xtra, a stripper bar in Hollywood that features girls with “something extra.” And it obviously caters to the trans admirer–for the men that like girls like us, but it is definitely not a drag show.
While we’re at it, mind recommending hotels/resorts?
That is a tougher question. We do have a plethora of LGBT+ guesthouses. Most of them are adults only, so if you’re traveling with a family and children, that may be an issue. I don’t know of any that are specific to the T of LGBT+, but they’re all friendly. The Cabanas is a good one. The Grand is another good one. Check out Inn On The Drive, Island Sands Inn, Calypso Inn, Pineapple Point and Worthington Guest House. They’re all in the heart of it all. Especially when you’re a baby trans, or new in your transition, you will feel the safest being in the heart of it all — we like to be within the comfort of the pride flag — so I’d definitely recommend staying in Wilton Manors.
What’s the best way to tap into queer travel resources?
Any nightclub you go to, you’re going to find several local magazines like the Hotspot or OutClique at the front door of every nightclub and business — and that will be your resource for what’s happening in what club. When I was first in the area, I’d grab a Hotspot and leave just so I could see what was happening. There’s plenty of support groups for people who want to network and meet other people like you. There’s also Equality Park, which has several events. There’s always something happening over there for members of our community.
Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
We’re a very warm, loving community, like one big family — and we’re comfortable walking down the street because we’re not ostracized, we’re not heckled. It’s just an awesome place to be. Come visit South Florida, where we are greater together.
You can learn more about visiting Fort Lauderdale at sunny.org.
Photos courtesy of Misty Eyez